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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

PAGES FROM HISTORY: NALANDA EDUCATED TIBETAN NAROPA

April 13, 2009

Star of Mysore (India)
April 11, 2009

By Prof. A.V. Narasimha Murthy, former Head,
Department of Ancient History & Archaeology, University of Mysore.

Recently, Dr. Sudarshan Kapur, founder of
Department of Peace Studies in Naropa University,
USA, delivered a lecture at Bharatiya Vidya
Bhavan, Mysore and his subject was the American
call for the emergence of a Black Gandhi.

The visit of the Professor was arranged by the
American Consulate in Chennai as part of the
celebrations of the golden jubilee of the visit
of Martin Luther King Jr. to India in 1959. He
delivered an impressive lecture touching on many
aspects of our own Mahatma Gandhi. What impressed
me most was that USA has a full-fledged
Department for Peace Studies. A very rare dept.
indeed in the midst of noise made by Departments of Technology and IT.

Right from the period of Rigveda, peace has been
the watch-word of our culture and no religious
function takes place without chanting the mantra
for peace. But peace has been eluding not only us
but also the entire world. That is a different topic altogether.

While introducing this Professor to the audience,
one particular point thrilled me most; that he is
from Naropa University, USA. Naropa had
fascinated me years ago when I was writing a book
on Indian culture abroad and particularly the
history of Tibet and the part played by Naropa in it.

Naropa

Naropa was one of the most celebrated Buddhist
scholars of ancient Tibet. Scholars from Tibet
used to visit India right from the fifth century
AD for the sake of learning Buddhist philosophy
and translating Buddhist texts into Tibetan
language. Many of them came and stayed at
Nalanda, Vikramashila and Kashi Universities
which were famous centres for religious studies
and carried with them cartloads of palm leaf
manuscripts to Tibet. In fact many rare Buddhist
manuscripts which are not available in India are
available either in Tibet or China.

Nalanda University

Naropa (9th century AD) came to Nalanda
University and studied Buddhist philosophy and
also translated many Pali texts into Tibetan
language. When he was at Nalanda, his teacher
told him that unless he had a Guru, he cannot understand the philosophy.

One night he was studying a Buddhist text in his
monastery and suddenly a female voice accosted
him and asked him, 'Can you read this text?'
Naropa was astonished but calmly answered 'Yes, I
can study.' Again the female voice asked, 'Can
you understand this text?' This time Naropa
really got frightened but with composure replied, 'Yes, I can understand.'

The female voice laughed and said 'Your answer to
the first question was true; but your reply to
the second question was false. Without the
guidance of a Guru you cannot understand any
Buddhist text. Naropa felt sorry and remembered
his teacher at Nalanda who had asked him to take guidance at the feet of Guru.

In search of Guru

Naropa went in search of a Guru and met a great
Buddhist scholar Tilopa, and requested him to be
his Guru. Tilopa wanted to test if this person
was capable of understanding the intricacies of
Buddhist philosophy. He asked Naropa to meet him
after sometime. Naropa was going in a forest and
saw a dead dog on his way. Out of disgust, the
avoided the dog and took another road to proceed
further. Immediately a heavenly voice said,
'Naropa ! I was present in the dead dog and you
went ahead without even looking at me. You are
not yet enlightened.' Naropa felt sorry and continued his journey further.

He was passing through a crematorium. He saw a
man collecting bones. That man requested Naropa's
help in collecting bones. Naropa refused to help
him and said, "I am a monk in search of a Guru
and truth; How can I help you?" Immediately that
old man said, "I am Tilopa and you have failed in
the second test also." Highly dejected over his
ignorance in recognising his Guru, he continued his journey further.

The sun had set in and it was dark everywhere and
naturally Naropa thought of spending that night
in some house. He saw a small hut nearby and went
inside to camp there for that night. Immediately
Naropa noticed that the old man was cooking meat.
Naropa became disgusted and decided not to stay at this hut as it was impure.

He walked out of this house with great contempt
for the old man. Immediately Tilopa said, "You
have failed to recognise me even this time; You
are not yet ripe for knowledge of the Buddha.
However, I am impressed by your sincerity of
purpose and dedication and hence I take
compassion on you as Buddha had preached long ago
and accept you as my disciple."

Tilopa's disciple

Naropa was supremely happy that Tilopa had
accepted him as his disciple and made
arrangements for the ritual of becoming Tilopa's
disciple, as per the norms of tantric Buddhism.
Naropa wrote a mandala (a geometric holy design)
by his own blood: he cut his fingers and placed
them in four corners and contemplated on the
truth as ordained by his Guru Tilopa. At this
point, Tilopa taught him the secrets of tantric Buddhism.

By his magical powers, the fingers of Naropa were
restored and he became a realised self as per the
magico-religious Buddhist texts. Thus Naropa
became a reputed religious teacher and many miracles are attributed to him.

Living legend

Many scholars believe that originally he belonged
to Bihar and from there he went to Tibet.
Practically he became a living legend in Tibetan
Buddhism. Many later Buddhist teachers assumed
the holy name Naropa. He lived till a ripe old
age and adopted Marpa as his disclipe. The latter
had another disciple Milarepa. This monk was very
famous and was elevated to the level of a god in
Tibet and many bronze images of Milarepa are worshipped in Tibet.

Thus Naropa introduced the elements of Lamaism in
Buddhist thought which became dominant later.
Thus Naropa stands as a bridge between India and
Tibet in spreading Buddhism. Such a person has
been commemorated in USA and not in India.

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