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Take delight in heedfulness. Guard your mind well. Draw yourselves out of the evil way just as the elephant sunk in the mud draws himself out.
- Nagavagga - (verse 327)

Plans afoot for international university at Nalanda

The long-awaited dream of setting up an international university at Nalanda is about to come true. The detailed project report (DPR) is ready, land acquisition is going on and a bill on the university will be tabled shortly in the Bihar assembly.

The proposed university will be fully residential like the ancient Nalanda seat of learning. In the first phase it will have seven different schools with 46 foreign faculty members and over 400 Indian academics, states the final DPR, which was submitted to Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in February.

Ruins of Nalanda University

The university will impart courses in science, philosophy and spiritualism along with other subjects. An internationally known scholar will be the chancellor of the university.

Bihar Human Resources Development Commissioner M. Jha said the idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s but it was President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam’s initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project.

The excavated remains at Nalanda are protected as a site of national importance. The university, a 5th century architectural marvel, was home to over 10,000 students and nearly 2,000 teachers.

Nalanda is the Sanskrit name for ‘giver of knowledge’. Nalanda University, which existed until 1197 AD, attracted students and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey, besides being a pedestal of higher education in India.

Though it was devoted to Buddhist studies, it also trained students in subjects like fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics and the art of war.

The DPR states that in its first phase the university will offer only post-graduate, research, doctoral and post-doctoral degrees. However, the DPR is also in favour of offering undergraduate courses in specific areas. Some 1,137 students from both India and abroad will be enrolled in the first year.

By the fifth year the number will go up to 4,530. In the second phase, the enrolment of students will increase to 5,812. The university, on a sprawling 500-acre campus, will have a 1:10 faculty-student ratio and 46 international faculty members.

The Bihar government plans to take the advice of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen for setting up the university. Japan and Singapore have shown interest in investing about Rs.4.5 billion (about $100 million) for the varsity.

The state cabinet approved the University of Nalanda Bill last week. The bill will be introduced in the state assembly shortly. The draft of the bill stated that the international university would strive to create a world free of war, terror and violence.

Educational Consultants of India, a consulting company under the union ministry of human resource development, has prepared the DPR of the International Nalanda University. ‘The government has received a DPR of the university and will hand it over to the Overseas Development Agency (ODA) of Japan for developing it,’ officials told IANS.

(Courtesy: The Buddhist Channel)


A Buddhist life is a Green Life

The term ‘desertification’ refers not to the spread of existing deserts, but the creation of new ones through the degradation of susceptible arid or dry land ecosystems, which extend over a third of the Earth’s land surface.

Buddhism has something fundamental to say on the environmental issue, because it addresses the basic human attitudes that lie at the heart of our planet’s problems.

The root cause of our problems - personal and planetary - is our view of ourselves as separate, isolated individuals, walled off from the universe around us. This view leads us to see selfishness as necessary.

It leads us to put narrow limits on what we see as our responsibility. And it leads us to live a life that is out of harmony with the universe, so that we suffer, and the world suffers with us.

But the Dharma tells us that this view of ourselves is mistaken. Our idea of separate selfhood is a delusion, and a profoundly damaging delusion. We are all part of each other and the world we inhabit, and whenever we harm another being or injure our environment, what we are hurting is ourselves.

Buddhism exists to help us break out of the prison of isolated selfhood and wake up to the true nature of reality - to help us become Enlightened. The Enlightened person is fully aware that everything in the universe is inter-connected, not just as an intellectual concept, but in every fibre of their being.

Such a person will inevitably live in harmony with the world around him. He will no more willingly hurt another being or desecrate the environment-no matter how far away the damage takes place-than they will willingly hurt themselves.

In the short term Buddhism helps us live a more harmonious life in two main ways. Firstly, it offers us a vision of what it means to be a human being that is very different from the one our society trains us to accept - a vision in which life is a spiritual quest rather than a fight for survival or material goods.

Simply changing our image of ourselves in this way does not add up to Enlightenment, but it helps. We may not be able to transcend our egotism in one bound, but we can quite quickly refine our image of ourselves so that we judge our richness by what we are rather than by what we own or consume.

And this change is vital. The only real answer to our planet’s problems is for all of us - all those who enjoy the affluent life to own and consume much, much less. Our most important environmental problems are the result of the sheer level of economic activity in our societies.

The prosperity that we largely take for granted is based on making major changes to the composition of our planet’s atmosphere, and hoping that future generations will find some way of dealing with the problems we cause.

But as long as we see ourselves as essentially material beings, judging the richness of our lives by our material ‘standard of living’, we will never willingly give up even a little of this prosperity. Before we can persuade people to let go of the myth of economic growth as the way to human happiness we need to put something in its place - something spiritual rather than physical.

As well as giving us a vision of what it means to be a human being that makes a return to a sustainable life-style possible, Buddhism also offers a set of practical guidelines to help us live in concord with our surroundings. The first - and most important - of these training principles is to refrain from harming other living beings, and instead to engage in acts of loving-kindness.

This precept is basic to the Buddhist approach to life, and it is also basic to any solution to the world’s environmental problems. It encourages us to soften our usual antagonism towards what is foreign to ourselves, and instead develop an attitude of caring, nurturing concern for the world around us.

Traditionally the Dharma encourages us to cultivate this attitude mainly towards other sentient beings - human and animal - starting with those near to us, then extending our goodwill to the global and even cosmic plane. But loving-kindness does not confine itself even to what we normally recognize as sentient beings.

It is a basic attitude of heart, which expresses itself in our relationship with everything that lies outside the boundaries of the self. We express it by caring for and nurturing our friends, our colleagues, our garden, our local countryside, its wildlife - and our planet.

It is an attitude that springs from a deep reverence for the entire universe, from realizing that the world we live in is an astonishing miracle, and from seeing every part of it as holy.

At the practical level this precept has one clear implication for our everyday behaviour, which could have far-reaching effects: that we should be vegetarian.

If we are trying to develop and express loving-kindness towards other beings - including animals - we might do well to start by doing them the favour of not eating them. And if enough people made this gesture of goodwill towards their fellow beings this would bring important environmental benefits.

The second of the Buddhist training principles asks us to refrain from taking anything which is not freely given to us, and instead to cultivate and express an attitude of open-handed generosity. Taking the not-given covers not only outright theft but all forms of exploitation. It includes all use of power - political, economic, or personal - from which we get benefits at the expense of others.

The first and second precepts go hand in hand. To the extent that our basic response to our environment is not one of cherishing and caring, it is usually one of antagonism and exploitation, in which we feel justified in using whatever lies outside the boundaries of the self for our own purposes, simply because it is within our power to do so.

It is this attitude, which leads people to destroy a rain forest for their own benefit, stealing it from the people and animals that already live there because they have no power to resist.

It is this attitude, which leads people to feel justified in exploiting animals for economic ends, often in ways, which are horribly cruel, because they are more intelligent than their victims. It is this attitude which leads businesses and governments to discharge poisons into oceans which - if they belong to anybody - belong to all the beings on our planet, and especially to those that live in them.

The use of power is so much a part of our history that to many people the suggestion that we should cease to take the not given seems too radical to be taken seriously. And it is radical. It asks us to make a clean break with our past, and move on to another level of consciousness. It asks us to take the next step in our evolution.

It takes a major effort of awareness to look beyond the humdrum routine of our lives to the great issues beyond, and to see that we ourselves have an important part to play in the saga of our age.

We tend to think that heroic tasks are reserved for characters in fantasy novels. But the situation we face is just as dramatic and clear-cut as any myth. The earth and mankind face catastrophe. To avert disaster we need to forge a new kind of society, and we ourselves need to become a new kind of people.

This is the great task facing our generation. It will require heroes willing to rise above petty personal concerns and act from a much wider, nobler perspective. It will require courage, strength, sacrifice, and personal change.

The temptation will always be to back away from the challenge and opt for comfort and security. But the fate of the world quite literally depends upon our response

Courtesy: The Friends of the Buddhist Order


Ven. Kahaththewela Chandajothi Thera visits UK

Ven. Kahaththewela
Chandajothi Thera

The Parivenadhipathi of Sri Vidyaloka Pirivena of Kotmale, Ven. Kahaththewela Chandajothi Thera left for the United Kingdom recently on an invitation of the chief incumbent of Thames Buddhist Vihara and the Chief Sanganayake of the UK, Most Ven. Pahalagama Somarathana Thera.

Ven. Kahaththewela Chandajothi Thera is the son of E. M. Appuhami and R. M. Lokumenika of Kahaththewela, Bandarawela. He had his junior education at Kotmale Wataddara Sri Gnanaloka Maha Pirivena and secondary education at Vidyaraveendra Pirivena, Gampaha.

He entered the University of Kelaniya in 1980 and received his BA degree in 1983. He is the chief incumbent of nine Buddhist temples in Kotmale area and also the General Secretary of the Sasanaraksaka Balalamandalaya of Kotmale.

Apart from the religious activities for which he gives the priority, he is also engaged in a lot of social activities, launched for the welfare of the people of the area.

During his stay abroad Ven. Chandajothi Thera hopes to fulfil his commitment towards the religious requirements there and also to initiate the proposed school which will be built in Kotmale area for the benefit of orphans. People of Sri Lanka wish him all the best.

Alex Perera
Hali Ela group correspondent


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