Bodh Gaya, India — Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard and former master of Trinity College, Cambridge, was last year appointed as the first chancellor of the proposed Nalanda International University on the site of the ancient Buddhist institution. YOJANA SHARMA spoke to him about the project located in India’s impoverished Bihar state not far from Bodh Gaya, where Buddha is said to have received enlightenment.
Sen had served as chair of the Nalanda Mentor Group, which brought together eminent international academics and policy-makers to help revive the ancient centre of learning that dominated Asia from the 5th to 10th centuries.
UWN: How did you become involved in the project for the new Nalanda university?
Sen: I’d been interested in Nalanda University as one of the major heritages of the world and possibly the most outstanding educational achievement, at the organisational level, in the history of India.
I went to see the Nalanda campus when I was about 12 and remember being thrilled by it. I read translations of the Chinese accounts of it as well as whatever little fragmentary accounts exist about Nalanda within India. When I wrote a book called The Argumentative Indian, I had a fairly extensive discussion of Nalanda in it.
Some of the people who were enthusiastic about Nalanda in Thailand and Singapore had seen my discussion in the book. So I got linked [to the Nalanda project], making the world aware of the major achievement of a university that was already 600 years old when the oldest European university, namely Bologna, was being founded.
Nalanda survived for 700 years. It was destroyed [by Muslim invaders] shortly after Oxford was founded and shortly before Cambridge would be founded. It was a university of higher learning of very great distinction – an historical achievement of quite remarkable extraordinariness.
My admiration for Nalanda was very much present in my writing, so when people in the East Asian summit – mainly initially Singaporeans and Japanese – were involved in it, they thought it seemed natural to ask me to chair the mentor committee. I was asked and I thought it was a privilege, so I agreed.
UWN: Starting from scratch is daunting. Is there a plan for an old Nalanda that you can base it on?
Sen: There’s no alternative to building the university from scratch. There was nothing there after it was destroyed in the 1190s. It lingered on for a little while – some people noticed there was some teaching going on there from time to time in the following couple of hundred years – but it wasn’t anything like the university had been.
Now there is absolutely nothing. We acquired some land and were given some land, but we have to start from scratch.
You can’t base the new university on old Nalanda. You can be inspired by the fact that old Nalanda was the avant garde establishment of higher education of its time and it didn’t make compromises – it looked for academic rigour of the highest distinction.
When Nalanda was being established in the 5th century, and when it was flourishing, there were no other universities. It was one of the most flourishing citadels of intellectual pursuit in the world and there wasn’t any doubt that it would have to be a world-class university.
It wanted to attract students from elsewhere and indeed they came plentifully from Japan, Korea, from China and Mongolia. It’s worth mentioning that Nalanda University was the only establishment of higher education in which any ancient Chinese had ever studied outside China, including some of the finest academics of the time. That in itself is such a tribute to the establishment, because the Chinese had very high standards.
UWN: What will be the model for the new Nalanda to become a world-class university?
Sen: The university has to be of the highest level of rigour and international standard. Not just the Indian standard, not just the Asian standard but world standard, because that was what Nalanda was at the time.
We are beginning with six faculties. The first two faculties will be the school of history and the school of environmental ecology. In each of these schools we have to offer education that reflects the state of knowledge in the world today, although the focus will be somewhat different.
We will have general courses on history and so on, but the focus will particularly be on Asian history and especially on the links between Asian countries. Nalanda was very distinct in linking up Asian countries.
Similarly, when it comes to ecology and the environment we will be concerned in dealing with environmental problems at the world level – like climate change – but particularly the environmental problems that Asian countries in general, and this region of India in particular, will face.
In history, particularly for Asian history, we will be drawing on Chulalongkorn University in Thailand and Seoul University and the Korean Academy in Korea, and Peking University, which has shown a great interest in collaborating with us.
UWN: Will Nalanda be an Asian institution or will it go beyond that to be world class?
Sen: Knowledge is not confined regionally. The focus is on Asia, so absolutely it is an Asian institution. But people who train there, for example in ecology and the environment, should be able to practise whether they are in Asia or Africa or Latin America or the United States or Europe. We will draw on the best talent everywhere.
It so happens that the leading universities in the world today are disproportionately more in Europe and America than in Asia, and in India even more so. So we will draw on them not on the grounds that they are Western, but on the grounds that they are the best universities from which we can learn.
Nalanda’s ‘Asianness’ is in terms of involving Asian countries – ASEAN countries of South East Asia but also China, Japan, India, Korea and even Australia and New Zealand. These are also participants of the East Asian Summit, and we are hoping that other countries [of the East Asian summit] too will be involved.
It’s Asian in inspiration, and Asian in motivation, but it is not Asian in terms of knowledge or the range or expertise, whether in terms of personal involvement or in terms of communications and contacts. If the knowledge works in Asia, it ought to work in Africa as well.
UWN: How much money do you need to raise for the university to be viable and how will it be raised?
Sen: The viability of a university is not independent of its size. We’d love to have a billion dollars.
George [Yeo, former Singaporean foreign minister], who chairs the international advisory board for Nalanda, is a visionary man, very committed to Nalanda. And there is also a separate fundraising committee chaired by NK Singh, a member of parliament in India.
We hope we will get large sums of money. We have some money initially from the government of India to survive the core plans that we have at the moment. We will start with six faculties, and as and when we have the money, we will expand. We have to make sure the quality of education in those areas is extremely high.
The six faculties are environment, information technology, economics and management, history, linguistics, and international relations. One of the problems many newly created universities face, especially in India, is this idea that you have to begin with absolutely every department.
That’s not the way we have to see it. We have to expand faculty by faculty to be financially comfortable. Within the finances we will try to provide curriculum reach and coverage as we can, subject to maintaining the highest quality of experts that the world can offer.
There is no such number like US$1 billion to be viable. We can be viable at a smaller level, at a bigger level and a still bigger level.
UWN: To provide that high quality you will have to pay high salaries, so how will you ensure you have enough to attract those kinds of people?
Sen: Salary is an important issue, and that to some extent is a concern when the money is coming from the government of India. Some people who are part of the ministries involved were very concerned that the salaries may look more like those of civil servants. But they were to a certain extent mistaken, because we have to offer salaries to attract people to come.
[Academic] Salary levels in the world are widely varied. The question becomes difficult when you want to attract faculty from elsewhere. There is a need for a rather higher salary than Indian universities have. That point has been very well accepted although it caused resistance at first. It is a point that has been taken.
There is a big gap between US salaries, let’s say five to 10 times Indian universities salaries. If the Indian salaries are doubled, it won’t give you five times, but it will still give you a level of affluence in India.
And some people are looking for challenges. Some people are not only concerned with an affluent lifestyle. It’s a much more complex story than simple salary comparisons.
There are other factors. Some people will have a special interest in coming to India; for example, historians will have the old Nalanda university close by. It is a huge site. Only about 10% of the old university has so far been dug up. An archaeologist can build a lifetime’s reputation there.
UWN: Can you build a world-class university in underdeveloped Bihar? What are the challenges?
Sen: We intend it to have some local benefits as well.
One of the reasons for choosing environmental studies has been the fact that it particularly benefits this locality and this place. The next two faculties that we will start, namely information technology and management and economics, will be of particular interest to people in what is after all a very backward region of India, to let them have the job opportunities to catch up with the rest of India.
So would it help Bihar? We very much hope it will.
Is it possible to have a world-class university of outstanding standards in a rural setting? First of all, a large number of universities in the world have been deliberately placed not in the metropolitan locality but elsewhere.
Some of them were in the centre of town – the best example is Paris. But Padua is quite some distance from Venice. Oxford and Cambridge were not in the centre of London but easy to reach by car.
The second point that it is important to note is that communication is a lot easier today than it was in the earlier days. There’s the internet, there is rapid transport and I think the barrier of transport is easy to overestimate. I don’t really think that’s going to be a problem.
The problem will be of course that we have to build up the facilities. You need schools for the children of the teachers, you need hospitals, medical services, to provide the kind of security and safety without which you won’t be able to attract academics to come here.
You have to have technological connections so that they are well linked to all the modern communication devices that the internet has made possible. That requires money and that requires time.
We are about 50 miles – I don’t know the exact distance – from Bodh Gaya and some miles from Patna. It’s not terribly beyond Oxford and Cambridge compared with London. I don’t really give much credence to that argument.
[The state government of] Bihar has done absolutely everything they promised, with the utmost rapidity. On the other hand, very few of the things the government of India promised went through quickly. We are actually hoping to advertise the [academic and research] posts this summer, and beginning the first appointments in the fall, starting in a small way in 2014.
Our job is to get the university going and to establish the teaching. But this is just the beginning – the old Nalanda took 200 years to come to a flourishing state. We may not take 200 years but it will take some decades I think. Courtesy by Yojana Sharma, 20 July 2013 Issue No:281
Singapore — Delegates from Singapore and overseas attended the two-day 8th Global Conference on Buddhism, held in Singapore on 6 and 7 July 2013. Drawing on the presence of 1,200 delegates from the various Buddhist traditions, the Conference culminated in the passing of two resolutions concerning the on-going violence against Muslims in Buddhist countries, and the bombing of the MahaBodhi Temple in Bodhgaya, India on 7 July 2013.
The resolutions were a response from the Buddhist community towards these international incidents, and passed with an overwhelming majority of more than 95% voting in favour.
Resolution on the violence against Muslims in Buddhist countries
“We hereby wish to inform our Muslim brothers and sisters that as Buddhists, we are deeply concerned by the violent treatment of Muslims at the hands of people claiming to be Buddhists.
Islam is a religion of peace and Buddhism a religion of non-violence. These are ideals for all mankind, regardless of differences in beliefs and customs. We call upon the leaders of the Buddhist and Muslim communities to condemn all acts of violence and to use their influence to encourage all to be gentle and act with compassion. We also call on governments to take firm measures against murder, assault, arson, rape and other acts of violence and incitement to violence, and take the appropriate action against offenders, whatever their social status.”
Resolution on the bombing in India
“We are deeply saddened but we forgive those responsible for bombing the Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya.
You may damage the most important temple in Buddhism but you will not destroy our faith in forgiveness and compassion. “
“Buddhism is a religion of compassion and wisdom,” said Ms Angie Chew Monksfield, organising chairperson of the Global Conference on Buddhism and President of Buddhist Fellowship, said: “While we are saddened by the violence in Myanmar and the bombings in India, we recognise that the only lasting solution towards such acts of violence is forgiveness. The resolutions are a concrete way of demonstrating our commitment to peace. We hope that these resolutions will contribute towards resolving the conflicts in a peaceful and effective manner.”
Datuk Dr Victor Wee, President of Buddhist Gem Fellowship Malaysia, said: “I am heartened to see Buddhists from all traditions using this opportunity to engage each other on current issues of critical importance. We have discussed and passed public resolutions on these two issues, based on the Buddhist principles of kindness and wisdom.”
The Conference included topics and presenters such as “Search Inside Yourself” by Mr Tan Chade-Meng of Google, “Challenges to Buddhism: Taking the Buddha Seriously” by Professor Richard Gombrich of Oxford University, and “Buddhist Bioethics in Medicine and Research” by Dr Ho Eu Chin.
About the Organiser of the Conference – Buddhist Fellowship
Buddhist Fellowship is a non-sectarian English speaking Buddhist group that focuses on the learning of the Buddha’s Teachings and the practice of meditation. It has over 5,000 members and has been a dynamic force in the Buddhist community in advocating modernization and bringing issues into the open for discussion and resolution.
A Peaceful Rally in Lowell in front of U.S. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ office, Massachusetts United States of America Friday the 5th Waxing Moon of Āsāḷha B.E.2557 equivalent to July 12, A.D.2013 Year of the Snake. Khmers from Rhode Island and Massachusetts gathered to demand Cambodia respects the Constitution, human rights, reform N.E.C., electoral procedures, apply genuine democracy, request U.S. intervention via the representative.
Raw Clip: A Peaceful Rally in Lowell in front of U.S. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ office, Massachusetts United States of America Friday the 5th Waxing Moon of Āsāḷha B.E.2557 equivalent to July 12, A.D.2013 Year of the Snake. Khmers from Rhode Island and Massachusetts gathered to demand Cambodia respects the Constitution, human rights, reform N.E.C., electoral procedures, apply genuine democracy, request U.S. intervention via the representative. Watch other rally raw clips and previous videos
Slideshows: A Peaceful Rally in Lowell in front of U.S. Congresswoman Niki Tsongas’ office, Massachusetts United States of America Friday the 5th Waxing Moon of Āsāḷha B.E.2557 equivalent to July 12, A.D.2013 Year of the Snake. Khmers from Rhode Island and Massachusetts gathered to demand Cambodia respects the Constitution, human rights, reform N.E.C., electoral procedures, apply genuine democracy, request U.S. intervention via the representative
“It is our duty to make people with weak faith to have stronger faith… Monks are the only method to make [them] have strong faith… The monks shouldn’t act carelessly.” – Ven. Dr Sandavarabivamsa
Yangon, Myanmar — Esteemed monks from Mogok Vipassana League called for monks to preach in accordance to Buddhist teachings and not resort to hurting other religions. Over 150 monks from Mogok Vipassana League attended the ceremony on protecting nationality, religion and Sassana which was held at their headquarters in Yangon on Wednesday.
“[Monks] need to prioritise our own nationality, religion and Sassana and preach to make people believe while ensuring not to disturb other people and hurt other religions. We all need to avoid extremism and act in accordance with the truthful doctrine of the Buddha,” said venerable monk Agga Nyana.
The meeting comes as Buddhist monks have come under the scrutiny of the international press. TIME magazine’s July cover featured controversial Mandalay monk, U Wirathu citing cases of religious hatred and extremism. The article was met with strong condemnation in Myanmar, which is a majority Buddhist country, leading the government to ban the issue over fear of inciting more hatred.
“The world has accused us of being religious and social extremists. We have to keep denying this. We also have to prevent ourselves [from becoming extremists]. We have to build trust in Sassana. If we do this, our Sassana will not disappear in our lifetime,” said senior monk Ven. Dr
Religious violence between Buddhists and Muslims has spread across different towns and cities in Myanmar this year, often fuelled by rumours and hate speech. But as Myanmar embarks on a series of reforms opening up to the outside world many Buddhists feel that their time-old traditions are under threat.
This has led to numerous debates in the media about whether there should be law to protect religion. During the ceremony, Dr Sandavarabivamsa echoed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in saying that building peoples faith more than laws was what was important to maintain religion.
“It is our duty to make people with weak faith to have stronger faith. We have to make our devotees have strong faith in Sassana. Monks are the only method to make [them] have strong faith… The monks shouldn’t act carelessly. We have to give sermons about religion,” he added.
Bribery & Corruption are against the 5 Buddhist rules.
July 09, 2013
LONDON — Corruption and bribery are perceived to be getting worse in many countries, and trust in governments is falling worldwide, according to a survey by the group Transparency International.
The Global Corruption Barometer 2013 paints a bleak picture. One in every four people paid a bribe in the last 12 months when accessing public institutions and services, according to Transparency International’s report.
Robert Barrington is Executive Director.
“In terms of bribe paying, there are a couple of countries where three in four people say they have had to pay bribes in the past year. That’s Sierra Leone and Liberia,” said Barrington.
Globally, political parties are seen to be the most corrupt institution. Map via the 2013 Transparency International report.Transparency International interviewed 114,000 people in 107 countries and found that more than half believe corruption and bribery has worsened in the last two years.
Again, Robert Barrington:
“Ultimately our target has to be policymakers because leadership from the top is critical in this. And when you look at the countries that have improved, perhaps Georgia and Rwanda compared to past surveys, it’s generally been politically-driven governments that want to do something about corruption that’s made the change,” he said.
All too often a leader’s drive to tackle corruption fades, says Bertrand de Speville who heads an anticorruption consulting firm that has advised more than 50 governments.
“It suddenly dawns on him that that might affect colleagues, friends, political allies, family, maybe even himself. And time and again I’ve seen the light of that political will die while you’re talking to him,” said de Speville.
In India in 2011, social activist Anna Hazare gained worldwide fame after leading a hunger strike against corruption.
“I want the poor to get justice. I want the money back that we have lost to corruption,” said Hazare.
Hundreds of supporters joined him in the hunger strike, and the government agreed to introduce anti-corruption legislation. But the so-called Lokpal Bill has yet to be passed.
De Speville says the poor suffer the most – and bribery must be tackled on every level.
“You only have to think of the fields of security or public health to realize the truth of that. One small bribe can have disastrous consequences,” he said.
But, says de Speville, advice on tackling corruption by institutions such as the World Bank have had little effect.
“Given the amount of resources that have been devoted to the problem, in my view, it is little short of scandalous. I don’t believe it is that difficult. And indeed, places like Hong Kong and Singapore have demonstrated that it’s not that difficult,” he said.
Transparency International says those surveyed appeared eager to take on corruption themselves – with more than half of respondents saying they would be willing to report an incident of bribery. Courtesy VOA
A Dhamma Talk on Vipassana and mindfulness meditation by Vipassana Gossalaya Jotannano Hong Keo, Vipassana Buddhist Master during a 10-Day Meditation & Vipassana Retreats at the Buddhist Meditation Center, Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam on the 11th Waxing Moon – 7th Waning Moon of Jeṭṭha B.E.2560 equivalent to June 15 – 26, A.D.2016 in Leverett, Massachusetts, U.S.A. in 2016.
ក្រុងសាវត្ថី Sāvatthī or Śrāvastī
Vipassana chanting by Meditation Master Ketodhammo Som Bunthoeun. Footages from 2016 Vipassana classes at the Buddhist Meditation Center – Wat Kiryvongsa Bopharam in Leverett, Massachusetts, USA.
SAMDECH CHUON NATH
Khmer literature and Dhamma talk by His Holiness Jotannano Chuon Nath, the Supreme Patriarch of Cambodia Buddhism. His Holiness was born on March 11, 1883; passed away on September 25, 1969
MAHA GHOSANANDA SERVICES
Extraordinary Funeral and Memorial Services for His Holiness Samdech Dr. Maha Ghosananda