Nalanda is a word known across the world and for centuries. It stands for a university which attracted students and scholars from across Asia and even farther away. It was a centre of excellence not only for Buddhist studies and philosophy but for medicine and mathematics as well. After teaching thousands of students for centuries, Nalanda ceased its existence just as universities were opening up in Bologna, Paris and Oxford at the beginning of the second millennium CE. The shift of centres of knowledge from East to West was symbolic of the eventual transfer of power which followed within half a millennium.
There is now a perfect opportunity to recreate the hallowed universalism of Nalanda as a centre of knowledge. The second millennium CE ended with a tremendous resurgence of Asia after centuries of stagnation, division and decline. Asia is today synonymous with a dynamic entrepreneurial and innovative culture, based on knowledge and enterprise not forgetful of its past yet not afraid to face the future. Asian countries are coming together to forge a continent based on the foundations of peace and harmony. The decision of the East Asian Summit in 2007, at its meeting in Cebu, Philippines, to endorse the plan to re-establish the Nalanda University underscores the commitment to these values.
Our challenge is to match the excellence of Nalanda of the first millennium CE for the third millennium CE. A university of the third millennium has to be universalist in its outlook, open to currents of thought and practice from around the globe, and it has to respond to the needs of a world which has miles to travel before it can ensure peace and prosperity with equity and hope for all the people of the world.
Above all, Nalanda must be a centre of knowledge and a most excellent one. Its primary function must be to harness the best talents for the creation and dissemination of new knowledge as well as for the recovery and restoration of valuable old insights which have suffered unintended neglect. Nalanda has to be open to students from across the world chosen for their desire for and capacity to absorb knowledge in diverse fields. It must have once again, as it did before, the best scholars and researchers to create and recreate knowledge. It must afford them a vibrant living environment which will also be suitable for the nurture of the next generation – the children of those creating and recreating the centre of excellence. It must be adapted to the rhythm of Nature where it is located and enrich the lives of the people in the neighbourhood.
Nalanda will be new but it will aspire to be as good as its old self, if not better. Its name must reverberate across the world as a place where people go to seek as well as to add to the fund of knowledge and to go away from it disseminating its fruits everywhere. It must draw upon the best resources of Asia and indeed the world and repay manifold in the coinage of new and valuable insights on making the world better for all.
Nalanda will be Universalist in its outlook, open to currents of thought and practice from the globe. It will respond to the needs of a world which has miles to travel before it can ensure peace & prosperity with equity & hope for all the people of the world
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