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India Aims to Become Buddhist Studies Hub

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Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in India. From indianexpress.com
Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) in India. From indianexpress.com

With the goal of highlighting the nation’s rich Buddhist past along with its growing scholarly strength, India’s University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked universities to contribute to a new database creating a central source for Buddhist studies in the country. The database will host information on courses and research, the names and institutions of active scholars, experts, and alumni, as well as events such as seminars and conferences on the topic of Buddhist studies and related fields.

In a letter addressed to vice-chancellors of universities, UGC secretary Rajnish Jain asked for details on courses, numbers of students and research scholars, and other information to better understand and highlight the state of Buddhist studies in India. Many colleges and universities across India teach courses on Buddhist philosophy, art and archaeology, and Pali studies, including Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU), Deccan College Post Graduate and Research Institute, Nalanda University, and Gautam Buddha University.

Remarking on the move, Sunaina Singh, vice chancellor of Nalanda University said: “The society is getting increasingly consumerist and is ridden with xenophobic anxiety. A coherent, symmetric understanding and values of brotherhood has vanished and there is a need to build peace and harmony, and Buddhist studies is the best way to do it.” (The Times of India)

Singh added that India’s great monastic traditions might benefit from further review to become more relevant to today’s world. “A kind of enlightened approach is required,” she said. “Which will also help in shaping the psyche of the youngsters.” (The Times of India)

Sunaina Singh. From dnaindia.com
Sunaina Singh. From dnaindia.com

Another looming factor is the growing influence in the region of China, which also has an extensive history of Buddhism and has invested heavily in the development of its universities in recent years.

“[The] government has two objectives: first to develop India as an educational hub and the other is to counter China, which is trying to become a torch-bearer of the Buddhist nations,” observed Anand Singh, dean of international relations at Nalanda University. (Times of India)

Singh also noted that boosting Buddhist studies would help the economy through tourism and related activities, and emphasize India’s rich cultural history. In these areas, she thinks, India cannot only compete with China but possibly dominate.

An important element in growing its Buddhist studies reputation would be attracting international scholars and students. “India has a strong bond with the Southeast Asian countries. If we upgrade these courses and offer quality education then we can attract more international students,” suggested Bhagwati Prakash Sharma, vice chancellor of Gautam Buddha University. (The Times of India) While many students visit India each year on study-abroad programs and trips, most are hosted and coordinated by overseas institutions.

Students from Smith College meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From smith.edu
Students from Smith College meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. From smith.edu

On 7 March, member of parliament for India’s northwestern region of Ladakh, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, suggested the inclusion of highly regarded Buddhists outside of academia. In a letter, he requested that the Human Resource Development Ministry collect data on non-governmental Buddhist institutions across India, noting the possibility of promoting topics such as tourism studies and better understanding of the Pali language.

“. . . there are hundreds of NGO’s Buddhist institutions across India that facilitate higher Buddhist studies for thousands of Himalayan Buddhist aspirant monks and nun students, and these private monastic institutions disseminate the ancient Nalanda tradition Buddhist studies and produces hundreds of highly learned scholars. It would be of great benefit if the feedback is also collected from the high ranked rinpoches, lamas, as well as highly qualified scholars from the Nalanda tradition institutions based in India,” Namgyal said. (Outlook India)

See more

India can be a hub for Buddhist Studies (The Times of India)
Involve NGOs, Rinpoche, Lama To Prepare Database On Buddhist Scholars: Ladakh MP (Outlook India)
To boost Buddhism, UGC plans ambitious database on courses, scholars and research (The Indian Express)

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