Nalanda and the Bamboo Grove
October 27 - 28, 2008
A short ride from Rajgir, one arrives at Nalanda, where is found the vast red brick ruins of a great Buddhist university, and one of the first institutions of higher learning in the world, dating back to 400 AD. Flourishing under Emperor Harsha in the 600's, Nalanda received a visit from the Chinese monk Hiuen Tsang who reported that several thousand students of many nationalities were in attendance. Nalanda, taken from one of the Buddha's names meaning 'insatiable in giving,' enjoyed a reputation around the world. Well known was the strict gatekeeper who administered a test right at the entrance denying admission to 80% of applicants.
By this time, Buddhism was already in decline in India, and was found concentrated in only a few places where there were powerful patrons. Many differing philosophical schools of Buddhism were at variance, the lively yet peaceful debates were like "contending utterances rising like the angry waves of the sea," noted the pilgrim. Even within the Mahayana, there were multiple factions, and some that took on the character of Tantricism. Mathematics, astrology, and medicine were among the many secular subjects studied as well.