A wall of Buddhas on the main temple at Nalanda, the world's first great international monastic university. The lineages of Nagarjuna and Asanga were both centered here by the early fifth century. Other great buddhists associated with Nalanda include Rahulabhadra, aka, the Mahasiddha Saraha The Arrow Maker. He went into samadhi one day while waiting for his consort to fix him a bowl of radish curry. When he returned to normal consciousness twelve years later, the first thing he asked about was the curry. His wife indicated the futility of such a samadhi. Saraha later became Abbot of Nalanda and ordained Nagarjuna, four centuries after the Buddha's Mahaparinirvana. Nagarjuna was an alchemist who lived for six hundred years. This gave him enough time not simply to bring forth the Prajnaparamita Sutras, but to develop the Buddha's argument to its logic-transcending conclusion through the Madhyamika dialectic. His often terse presentations were explicated by his heart son Aryadeva, another one who happened to be born from a lotus. Buddhapalita and Bhaviviveka (5th-6th c.) refined the Madhyamika arguments. This trend was perfected by the Prasangika Madhyamika of Candrakirti (7th c.) who also provided milk for the monastery by milking a two-dimensional cow painted into a picture. Candrakirti would regularly debate with the layman Candragomin. So well matched were these two that their debates always ended in a draw. When confronted with difficult points, Candragomin had the annoying habit of saying he wanted to continue the exchange the following day. After dark, he was secretly coached in his room by Avalokitesvara. Asvaghosa (1st c.) was a very skilful poet who wrote the Buddhacarita, a beautiful telling of the life of the Buddha, as well as another famous work known in English as the Awakening of Faith. Some traditions hold that Asvaghosa actually lived later and was converted to Buddhism after being defeated in argument by Aryadeva. The brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu (4th c.) were successive Abbots of Nalanda. Together, they virtually developed the Cittamatra, merged it with Vijnanavada, and transformed the entire early Yogacarin tradition. Santideva (7th-8th c.), the monk whose reputation for laziness led to the presentation of the Bodhicaryavatara, The Way of the Bodhisattva, one of the most beloved and popular scriptures studied in Tibet. Santarakshita (8th. c.), another brilliant Abbot from Nalanda who helped Guru Padmasambhava bring Buddhism to Tibet. Nalanda's monastery library contained the main collection of Mahayana texts in the ancient world. The name of Nalanda is associated with a strong tradition of study, practice and debate.
Stone carvings like the piece on the right suggest that the tantric tradition was practiced at Nalanda.
TURTLE HILL © 2000