We had some very interesting queries in the past two weeks, and here is an attempt to answer them. Some of these questions would be further elaborated and explained as we continue to unfold stories...
What's the need to discover Buddha/ why did you choose Buddhism?
Well, it’s a very valid question and the answer is, no we are not here to discover Buddha.
It is our desire is to explore the history of Nalanda and find our roots but as we stated earlier, our commitment lies with the development of the community. We’ll explore everything from arts and crafts, to agriculture to fisheries… whatever resources we have and however the community can benefit from it.
So, in short we did not choose Buddhism. Buddha chose Nalanda and we are trying to figure out why?
In future topics we’ll also be talking about Jain traditions of the area and the connection between Nalanda and the epic Mahabharata and a lot more.
Why do we depend on Chinese literature, where is Indian literature?
We don’t know where is the written Indian history of the area is?
It may be burned or thrown in the river but as we know it today, there are no traces of it. All that we have discovered so far is from Chinese literature, Pali scripts, Tibetan sources and local folklores.
It may surprise you but for the longest time we didn’t know if king Ashoka was a real Indian king or a creation of fiction. His achievements were so great that it seemed impossible for any king to achieve it. And even today when we know what a great king Ashoka was, out of ignorance or lack of hard work, popular media portrays him a lover boy and layman believes it… That is how history is distorted when it’s not propagated correctly and when we glorify the myths.
It is understood that Xuanzang helped Buddhism to spread in China but it is not clear how he helped in evolving the ongoing journey of Buddha Discovery.
Xuanzang was a spirit that is very complex to understand, he was born in a Confucius family and though we haven’t done much research in the religion we understand that its teachings promote the familial loyalty, to stay within the moral boundaries of the state that would benefit the society as a whole. But after mastering the rituals and teachings of Confucianism at an early age he decided to pursue the teachings of Buddhism that emphasizes the enlightenment of the soul and life after death for each individual.
The example of being able to break the ties with which one was born and follow his own instinct is an inspiration in itself. It doesn’t matter who is inspired a Chinese or an Indian, a Buddhist or a Christian, the whole humankind can benefit from it.
That said the more perceivable help that he has provided is the detailed travelogue of his journey to India. He has mentioned in extensive details the location of the Stupas, the traditions followed in each monastery, the exact locations of pillars and water tanks with precision in Li (Chinese unit of measurement), and a layout of the Nalanda University in words.
Since there is no indigenous literature giving us the details of the area, these travelogues are all we have that we can use to resurrect what was once here.
In the up coming posts you’ll see examples of how it was put to use.
You've also mentioned about vandalism of Buddhist sites.
I've read somewhere that Fanatic Hindu Kings had vandalized most of the Buddhist Sites in India long back. And in revenge of that even some Buddhist people helped Mughals when they invaded India. How true is it?
Vandalism as mentioned in the posts here so far is mostly caused by the ignorance of the people and by unorganized working styles of the explorers.
Like, opening up of stupas and structures in hope of discovering some relics, some precious finds at its core and in an effort to reach it, the bricks and pillars were randomly removed and there was no documentation of the process to be able to put it back together.
There are many instances where the sites were disturbed and were completely lost in due time. The stupa at Amravati was completely lost in a decade after its discovery in 1797. Similarly the stupa at sarnath was queried for the bricks by a local raja.
Again the intention was not bad, it was the lack of knowledge about the treasure that they were destroying; from all intent and purposes, they were putting a pile of rubble to better use.
Vandalism by Hindu rulers was not very rampant.
Though there are a few incidences of damage done to prove the supremacy of one religion over the other but for the most part the two religions coexisted well because of the similarities in their faith and belief system. The monasteries prospered with support of local population for almost 10 centuries and seen a lots of ups and downs in the economic and political scenarios. It was with the advent of Bakhtiyar Khilji, that the University of Nalanda was destroyed and Buddhism in India saw a decline that it could not revive from.
In one of later topics we’ll be discussing a scenario of how Nalanda University was destroyed in 13th century.