Shan State Buddhist University: A Concept Paper

 


by Venerable Prof. Dr. Dhammasami
Dhammacariya, MA, MPhil (Kelaniya), DPhil (Oxford)
Aggamaha-saddhammajotikadhaja

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Historical Background

Buddhist Sangha (monks) was among those to have set up the earliest universities in the world. Nalanda University (5th – 12th centuries) came into existence seven hundred years before Oxford

University, the first to have been established in the English speaking world and the third in the West. Nalanda was followed by four other big universities: Wickramashila University, Somapura Univer-sity (now in Bangladesh and a world heritage site), Odantapuri University and Jaggadala University. Those Buddhist universities had a close intellectual connection and working relationship with each other; they reached their peak under the Pala Dynasty (8th – 12th CE). These universities were responsible for spreading Buddhism in Indonesia, China and Tibet. Some had more than ten thousand students; the student-teacher ratio was one teacher to five students, or two thousand lecturers for ten thousand students at Nalanda, a much better ration than one at top universities in the world today which count one teacher to eight students. But largely due to external circumstances those universities disappeared in India.

Beyond India, only within 150 years that Buddhist monks and nuns in various countries began setting up universities, and most of the current Buddhist universities have been inspired mainly by the celebrations of the 2500th Years of Buddhism “Buddha Jayanti” (1954-1956), which heralded a revival of Buddhism and Buddhist higher education throughout the Buddhist world, particularly in the Theravada nations.

Today, Buddhist colleges and universities can be found in Laos (since 1953), Myanmar (since 1954), Sri Lanka (since 1958), Cambodia (since 1959), Thailand (since late 1950s, though Mahamakut Buddhist University and Mahachulalongkorn University were set up in 1887 and 1890 respectively, it was not until 1950s that they attempted to run them as a proper university.), Korea (since 1953), Japan (since 1949), India (Tibetan universities since 1967 and Nava Nalanda Maha Vihara since 1956). There have been some setbacks in the 1960s.

However, a new generation of Buddhist universities came into existence in many countries since 1980, and many of them emphasize the teaching in the English medium. They are: in Sri Lanka Buddhist and Pali University (1985), Sangha College of Vientiane (1986), University of the West in California, USA (Taiwanese: 1991); in Myanmar, State Pariyatti Sasana University (Yangon & Mandalay:1986), Buddhist University (Mandalay: 1994), International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University (Yangon: 1999), Sitagu International Buddhist Academy (Sagaing: 1999), Zanabazar Buddhist University (Mongolia: re-est. 1990s), Buddhist College in Konchangone (2000s); in Cambodia, Sihamuni Raja Buddhist University (2006); in Korea, Jong-ang Buddhist Sangha University (1989/ 1996), Wonkwang University (2000/1), Guemkang University (Chungnam: 2003); in Taiwan, Xiang Guang Buddhist College in Taiwan (for nuns:1980), Chung-Hwa Institute of Buddhist Studies (Taiwan:1985), Hua Fan University (1990), Nan Hua University (Taiwan: 1999), Dharma Drum Sangha University (2002), Fo Guang University (2000); in Singapore ,Buddhist and Pali College of Singapore (1994), Buddhist College of Singapore (2005); in Malaysia, International Buddhist College (main campus in Hatyai, Thailand: 2000); in Indonesia, Nalanda Buddhist College (Jakarta: 1977), Smaratungga Buddhist College (East Java: 1986), Kertarajasa College (Malang: 2000), Jinarakkhita College (2000), Bodhi Dharma Buddhist College (Medan: 2000), Maha Prajna Buddhist College (Jakarta: 2000), Siriwijaya Buddhist College (2000) and Syailendra Buddhist College (2000); in Hungary, The Dharma Gate Buddhist College (A Tan Kapuja Buddhista Foiskola, Budapest: 1991); France, a virtual Buddhist learning institution called European Buddhist University (1995); in Austria, a virtual Buddhist college (2006); in England, Dharmapala College (Birmingham: 2000); in Russia, Buddhist university of Republic of Buryatia (2005); in Japan, The International College of Postgraduate Buddhist Studies (2002). There are more than fifty Buddhist universities in Japan today. There are also around fifty Buddhist colleges in China and more than two dozen in Vietnam with the main ones as Vietnam Buddhist University of Hanoi and Vietnam Buddhist University of Ho Chi Minh City.

 

Shan State Buddhist University (SSBU) & Its Origin

SSBU is a working name (ITBMU Rector Sayadaw Dr. Nandamalabhivamsa is considering naming SSBU after a great disciple of the Buddha.) for the first Buddhist University to be established in the history of Shan State and will be led by myself who have been working interna-tionally as a Buddhist scholar-monk since 1987. Inspired by the progress of Buddhist universities at home and abroad, I have been dreaming about setting up a Buddhist university for those interested in the in-depth study of Theravada Buddhist teaching and its application to daily life from both Shan State and other parts of the Union of Myanmar as well as overseas. Not only that a Buddhist university has been a trend for the study of Buddhism at the higher education level, a Buddhist university is the place where the best and brightest students can be trained properly for the future of Buddhism itself and that of mankind.

 

Founder of SSBU:

Born in Laikha/ Lecha, Shan State, the Union of Myanmar, the Venerable Prof. Dr. Dhammasami, now known as Oxford Sayadaw, is professor at International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University, Yangon (since 2006) and Fellow (since 2009) and Board member (from 2004) at the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, Oxford University, Britain where he received his PhD in 2004. Since 2007 he has helped bring together many Buddhist universities as well as secular universities with Buddhist studies to form two association: International Association of Theravada Buddhist University (IATBU) (www.atbu.org) and International Association of Buddhist Universities (www.iabu.org); from its inception, he has been the Secretary General of both.

 

He has also served Secretary General of the International Council for the United Nations Day of Vesak (ICUNDV) from 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010 and is still on the Executive Council. The UNDV originates from the UN Assembly’s 1999 December’s resolution to recognize the Buddha’s Birthday as international holiday; it first met at the UN HQs in New York and then at the UN Regional Office/ Conference Centre for Asia and Pacific in Bangkok. Since 2013, this ICUNV, renamed as ICDV, has now been an official observer in the UN’s economic and social policies planning body. Venerable Sayadaw Dr. Dhammasami is also a visiting professor at Buddhist universities in Hungary, Thailand, Sri Lanka, India and Indonesia; and a member of the Governing Council at the Somaiya Centre for Buddhist Studies, University of Mumbai, India.

 

The Government of Myanmar has awarded two religious titles, Maha-saddhammajotika-dhaja (2009) and Aggamaha-saddhammajotika-dhaja (2012), for his work in promoting Buddhist universities worldwide and meditation teaching in Europe and Asia. Mahachulalongkron University of Thailand also confers on him an honorary PhD (2011) for his service to the Buddhist world and Buddhist higher education.