Nālandā was one of the largest mahāvihāras, a word that often gets translated something like “[Buddhist] monastic university.” These were enormous complexes home to upwards of 10,000 monks, plus attending lay staff, spread out in a network across northeast India and Bengal. The organization and character of these great monastic institutions is one focus of my current research.
Navya means “new.”
What is the significance of this title? When I registered the domain space some time ago, I was only trying to come up with a cute name for a quiet little corner of the Internet where a Buddhist monarchist could write anonymously about politics and culture. Of course I will write about these things and more besides, but the campus protests of the past few months have helped to clarify my vision for this space. It strikes me that, ideology aside, my single greatest critique of the campus protestors concerns their vision of what a university is or ought to be. In the West, the university grew out of monastic education centers, right around the time (ca. 1000-1100 CE) of the final flowering of the mahāvihāras. Over time, the religious character of centers of higher learning has been progressively abandoned in the West, as monastic and academic institutions have gone their separate ways. In the Buddhist world, however, this never really happened, except very recently in certain limited contexts as a result of globalization.
So what am I doing here? My intent is to probe the assumptions and the practices that govern the modern state, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which education (broadly conceived) figures into the process of social and political organization. For, in the Buddhist world, kingship, political dominion, monasteries, and military and economic power have always operated closely together. In thinking through and writing about these issues, I hope to begin articulating a new vision for the university, to renew our moribund and decadent society—serving, perhaps, much the same role as Christian monastic scholars did after the collapse of the Western Roman Empire—creating a truly new Nālandā, a new university, for the new dark age.
Buddhaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi
Dharmaṃ śaraṇaṃ gacchāmi
Saṅghaṃ śaraṇam gacchāmi
Bhavatu sarva maṅgalam