News at Tipitaka Network
Nalanda dream gets thumbs up at Tokyo meet
Compiled by Tipitaka Network Newsdesk, Sunday, December 23, 2007
India's dream of reviving Nalanda, the ancient seat of Buddhist learning, moved a step closer to reality with the mentor group headed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen fleshing out the details of the proposed international university which will act as a bridge between East Asia and South Asia.
"The Mentor Group agreed that Nalanda University should be an international university enjoying academic autonomy. It would be a secular academic institution," the Indian external affairs ministry said in New Delhi on Monday in a statement after the second meeting of the group in Tokyo last week.
The mentor group underlined the importance of the project in the context of "an Asian renaissance" as they firmed up the details of the university, which will be guided by "a global philosophy while maintaining local relevance."
According to the blueprint envisaged by the mentor group, the university will have six schools: Buddhist Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Religions; Historical studies, International Relations and Peace Studies; Business Management and Development Studies; Languages and Literature; and Ecology and Environmental Studies.
The university may also consider expanding its curriculum to include some subjects like the neurosciences at the frontier of scientific research.
Experts from Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Korea, China and India are working on curricula and academic structure of the proposed university. A framework for the proposed university will be finalised for discussion at the next East Asia Summit in Thailand next year.
The mentor group also endorsed a proposal to establish a research and teaching entity in Singapore, to be called the Srivijaya Centre, which would work in cooperation with the Nalanda University.
The Nalanda Mentor Group held its first meeting in Singapore in July during the East Asia Summit, attended by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The mentor group, constituted by the Indian external affairs ministry at the request of the government of Bihar, is aimed at spurring the revival of Nalanda as a Centre of Intellectual Excellence. The group is being supported by Singapore, China and Japan.
The group, headed by Sen, comprises Singapore's Foreign Minister George Yeo, Harvard historian Sugata Bose, academic and writer Lord Meghnad Desai, and government officials and scholars from Japan and China. The group would hold its next meeting in China, and later in India.
Indian government has already started acquiring some 500 acres of land for the fully residential university. The university, to be located in Bihar, will have 46 faculty members hired from abroad. There would be 582 faculty members at the end of the 10-year project.
The idea of the university was first mooted in the late 1990s, but it was former Indian President APJ Abdul Kalam's initiative in early 2006 that gave shape to the project.
The historical Nalanda University was set up near present-day Patna in the fifth century AD and destroyed by Turkish general Bakhtiyar Khilji in 1197 AD. At its peak, it could house up to 10,000 students. At one time, Chinese monk-scholar Xuanzang (or Hsuan Tsang) was among them.
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