From the Jacket
Nalanda as a monastic institution in the time of Buddha emerged into the greatest academic and spiritual centre of Asia in the early medieval times. This alludes to successive stages of development in Buddhism from naïve realism of the early monastic order to developed metaphysics of the Prajnaparamita and Yogacara philosophies which revolutionized the capacity of thinking of men.
The Tibetan and Chinese histories aver five sciences taught at the Mahavihara as had been prescribed by Asanga. These have been enumerated as (i) Sabda-vidya (grammar, lexicography); (ii) Silpasthana-vidya (arts); (iii) Cikitsa-vidya (medical science); (iv) Hetu-vidya (logic, meta-physics); and (v) Adhyatma-vidya (the cosmic sciences, philosophy). A mass of secret teaching and modes of worship are contained in Tantric texts.
Nalanda also ushered in a new school of art. It is acceded that Indian art in the earliest stage was based in six centres as Gandhara Mathura, Sanchi, Sarnath, Ajanta and Amaravati. If the Gandhara school has analogies with the antique-Etruscan intermixed with the Greco-Roman, from which the art of Italy flashed in Christian art and similarly other centres flourished with composite features, the Nalanda school like the other five schools, being purely Indian in conception, traces its roots into the sculptures of Sarnath and Mathura. It has its own ethos and historical development.
The book, an outcome of the research papers presented in the International Conference on 'The Heritage of Nalanda' held at Nalanda (February 12 to 14, 2006), a landmark in the field of scholarship, in its six parts with its critical delineation, has a veritable coverage as: (i) History, (ii) Art and Archaeology, (iii) Early Medieval Scholasticism: Logic, Philosophy and Esoterism, (iv) Literature, (v) Monastic Education: Ideals of Nalanda Mahavihara, and (vi) Nalanda Experience.
The strikingly illustrated book is a significant contribution to the field of Buddhist studies and is valuable for a general interest reader as well as an academician.
About the Author
Asoka Mission, founded in Delhi by the eminent Cambodian monk Samdach Prah Vira Bellong Dharmawara Mahathera in 1948 with support from distinguished Indians led by Mata Rameshwari Nehru, aims towards promoting friendly relations, under-standing and peace amongst men through education, health care, social and religious services and economic uplift. Its library contains complete sets of Tripitaka in Pali and Cambodian. Over the years it has been the centre of Buddhist activities and has been visited by dignitaries from across the globe. Asoka Mission, spread over 12.5 acres of land with some old structures was reorganized in 1980s by Ven. Lama Lobzang as President and sustained efforts were made to revitalize it.
Prof. C. Mani (born 1923), a Senior Fellow of the Indian Council of Historical Research, is a historian and art historian. He taught history for over twenty years at the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarnath of which he is a founder member. Based in classical studies, he has written over a hundred innovative essays and tracts and translated the works of savants like N.N. Ghosh, C. Rajagopalachari, S.A. Dange and Rustam Masani. Prof. Mani has a number of books on the Buddhist philosophy and art to his credit, some of the titles being The Social Philosophy of Buddhism, Madhyamika Dialectic and the Philosophy of Nagarjuna, Arya Asanga and Vijnanavada, The Basic Rhythms of Buddhist Philosophy, A Biographical Memoir of Acarya Padmasambhava, A Comparative Study of the Iconography of Brahmanical Deities in Buddhist Pantheon, etc. Further, he has edited a new edition of the well-known book, A Manual of Indian Buddhism by H. Kern (New Delhi, 1992).
I am privileged to write a foreword to this illustrious volume on the 'Heritage of Nalanda', famous in the world's history of education and liberal arts and held on 12-14 February 2006, which was blessed by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and to which I have been closely associated, I am glad to see the Conference material with few additional papers of substantive merit published in the form of a treatise.
The Buddhist literature, both in the northern and southern schools, speaks eulogisingly of the high academic standards and rigorous discipline of the great vihara which were transmitted to other countries as found in accentuated form in the Chinese classics, particularly the Chinese Buddhist Tripitaka, compiled by Samuel Beal and Bunjiu Nanjio.
Starting with the Mulasarvastivada and Sarvastivada Vinaya, a large number of works of the four orders, more generally belonging to the Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophies, the Prajna Paramita Sastra of Nagarjuna the Mahayana Sutralankara of Silabhadra with its Chinese translation and a new work on Satyasidhi Sastra by Silabhadra's Chinese disciple Xuanzang are some of the great works of the Nalanda school that were once preserved in its Library, in its three blocks of lofty pavilion and flying buttresses. Esoterism played a dominant part during the rule of the Pala kings, who encouraged the scholars, sculptors and painters to produce some of the best replicas of the Nalanda school.
Turning to the Tantric texts of a superior order we draw on the works of the Mahasiddhas, the Guhyasamaja, the Advayavajra-Sangraha, the Sadhanamala texts, the Tattva Sangraha, the Hevajra Tantras, the Kalacakra Tantra, et al. These works being essential accessories to realization of the deity by meditational practices are supportive of all sciences, which established religious and commercial links in the subcontinent.
Besides aforementioned works there are various recensions of Prajnaparamita, Karandavyuha, Bodhicaryavatara and Pancaraksa manuscripts illustrated with miniature paintings on them. They are most essential parts of iconographic studies. Severally studied are the Buddhist images, stucco figures, bronzes and other metallic icons. The Nalanda School of Art if reckoned to be among the best of the artistic creations coeval with the art of Gandhara, Mathura and Ajanta. Attempts are being made to bring the shadow of this school to art sequences in further India, as far east as Java in Indonesia and Cambodia.
In so far as I know, there is no such other scholarly book on the subject which is capable of taking the Nalanda experience round the world. It is a classic, to be treasured and disseminated.
I congratulate my esteemed friend Venerable Lama Lobzang to have envisioned the work and publish it with the editorial expertise of Professor C. Mani. I have deep appreciation for the perceptive essays of the scholars.
With obeisance to the Three Gems and the Dalai Lama's blessing, I wish happiness to all living beings.
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend