One of the world’s oldest centers of systematic and rational academic inquiry, Nalanda University attracted students from as far away as Persia, Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, and China. Located in the northeast of India in what is now the state of Bihar, Nalanda was valued deeply by the India emperor Ashoka the Great, who supported it as a center of learning in the 3rd century BCE.
Various systems of philosophy were taught in detail at Nalanda in addition to the fine arts, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, politics, logic, grammar, literature, and metaphysics. Famed almost as much for its methods of inquiry as it was for the topics investigated, Nalanda’s scholars were relentless in their pursuit of understanding through the tools of critical analysis.
For more than 1000 years, Nalanda University produced many of the greatest masters of both Indian Buddhism and secular knowledge, laying the foundation of a historic intellectual tradition spanning Buddhist philosophy, logic, ethics and contemplative practice. These included the two “Supreme Ones,” Nagarjuna (2nd century CE), one of the most influential
Buddhist philosophers and the founder of the Madhyamaka school, and Asanga (4th century CE),
who also established a great philosophical lineage, as well as the master commentator and debater Dignaga (6th century CE); Shantideva (7th century CE), the author of the beloved text “Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Path”; and the great epistemologist, Dharmakirti (7th century CE).
The cross-‐cultural, interreligious, and interdisciplinary approach of Nalanda University was diligently preserved in Tibet after Nalanda’s destruction by invaders around 1200 CE.