India has made ambitious plans to revitalize Buddhism in recent years. With its strong soft power resources, India has been competing with China for world Buddhist culture center and with Nepal for “Cradleland of Buddhism”. It can be seen from many indications such as the “Global Buddhist Conference” in November 2011 in New Delhi the “International Buddhist Conference” in September 2014, the “Buddhism in the 21st Century” International Conference in March 2017 in Nalanda as well as the “Buddhist Corridor” developed in Andrah Pradesh that India’s strategy of enhancing its aggregate national strength with cultural soft power is being consolidated during the Modi administration.
Indian Buddhism possesses long history and abundant resources. Many holy lands including Bodh Gaya —the place of Buddha’s insight, Sarnath—the place of Buddha’s first dharma, and Nalanda monastery where Buddhist classics are handed down from age to age, not only leave valuable wealth for India, but also lay a solid foundation for the revitalization of Buddhism in India. However, that may be easier said than done. It seems that the great talkers are always the least doers. For India, after Nalanda monastery was listed as a world heritage site, the government intended to rebuild it into a “Buddhist Holy Land” to restore her historical glory. But the project was suspended due to fund shortage. Report said that there were only 11 teachers and 15 students at the Nalanda University when its teaching operated in 2014. At present, the university still faces problems that enrollment quantity, the construction of school buildings and the management are far from what it expected.
Indian peoples have grandiose aims but puny abilities” causes the brand of its own world cultural heritage — “Nalanda monastery” (Nalanda University) is used by external groups. Sources said that the living Buddha Kirti, a prominent figure from the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism, living in Dharamsala now, had planned to invest heavily for the construction of a magnificent “Nalanda Buddha College” in India. The 14th Dalai Lama, India’s distinguished guest and the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, and Lobsang Sangay, the leader of the Tibetan Executive Central Committee, were present to support the project. It is said that their actions aim to promote the superiority of Tibetan Buddhism.
Tibetan monks group in exile may have the consideration of carrying on Buddhist culture, but it will bring about a series of problems. In the perspective of law, it is suspected to violate the legitimate rights of Indian governments constructing the new Nalanda University in Bihar, and it may also violate the protection of the trademark rights of the world cultural heritage (Nalanda monastery/Nalanda University), which probably results in the disputes over the right of reputation. In the perspective of sense, the construction of Nalanda University is the glory of revitalizing Buddhism for India, but the exiled Tibetans living here are now taking the lead, with the intention of turning from a guest to a host. Looking at the exiled Tibetans, they are keeping building Buddhist temples in India. Dharamsala, needless to say, is like a Buddhist country. The magnificent palaces of Gaden Monastery, Drepung Monastery and Sera Monastery, covering nearly 100 acres and with thousands of monks seem to tell people that Tibetan Buddhism is flourishing on Indias land. In revitalizing Buddhism, the guest’s style far outweighs the host’s. Nowadays, the appetite of the guest seems getting bigger and bigger.
As the saying goes that a straw shows which way the wind blows. From a trivial event, it can be seen that the ability and performance of the Indian government can hardly support its ambition to build a world Buddhist center. Looking back on the past, India even looked for a topic on Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha. It also used the Dalai Lama’s words to express its own views, which aroused criticism in Nepal’s mass media. Prime Minister Ollie also spoke publicly. Now, judging from the construction of Nalanda Buddhist Academy, the Indian government may need to reflect on itself in order to realize the grand vision of revitalizing Buddhism. The Indian government had better do well in its own affairs before looking at the whole world. Dalai Lama has repeatedly claimed that “Tibetan Buddhism derives from the ancient tradition of Nalanda in India”. India is unable to carry forward Buddhism. Should the exiled Tibetans carry the banner and shoulder the heavy responsibility? Indian government officials who like to talk big and have inefficient administration might as well learn from Tibetan monks group in exile to be pragmatic.
With the financial support of the west, exiled Tibetans in India are engaged to promote own brand of Buddhism pushing back original Indian Buddhist fundamentals. Distortions and deviations in Buddhism introduced by Dalai Lama’s followers to give ground to play by infiltrated western design against original Tibetan and original Indian doctrine and practices. Indian authorities may feel necessity of new measures to curve outside interferences against her glorious past and not to allow distortions in original Indian contributions in Buddhism. Guest should not overtake host’s originality and historical contributions, to serve western masters.
(Mr. Shrestha is a senior Diplomat or former Ambassador of Nepal to Russia)Hiranya Lal Shrestha