Articles and tweets about Amartya Sen which I do not really understand

by on February 20, 2015 at 7:34 am in Current Affairs, Economics, Education | Permalink

Here is one account:

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, today withdrew his candidature for a second term as Nalanda University chancellor. He blamed this on the Government’s delay in approving his candidature. He also alleged that the Government is using its political might to “interfere in academic matters“. He was helped by fellow “liberals” on Twitter, in playing the victim of political vendetta.

Here is Sen’s full letter of protest.  Here is the matter trending on Twitter.  Many of the opinions expressed are rather strong.

1 TheNewGuy February 20, 2015 at 8:05 am

When the university formally opened for its first academic session last September, Sen did not turn up for the event.
Second, Amartya Sen has not distinguished his tenure as chairman of the board (and de facto chancellor) by setting any great example of high-minded governance. In fact, the key appointments to the university have been dogged by controversies relating to nepotism and non-transparency.
For example, the Vice-Chancellor, Gopa Sabharwal, was just a reader at Delhi’s Lady Shriram College when she was appointed to the top job and given a salary of over Rs 5 lakh per month. While this may not be objectionable in a university that has a global mandate, this salary was nearly twice what the Delhi University VC was getting. The brouhaha forced her to take a cut. But despite the fact that NU is based in Rajgir, where a 450-acre campus is being planned, she is reported to be functioning out of Delhi.
Third, many key appointments appeared to point to the influence of Upinder Singh, a historian and daughter of Sen’s friend Manmohan Singh. Soon after Gopa was appointed VC, Upinder was appointed as guest faculty at the University.
According to this Bihar Times report, Sabharwal appointed another friend, Anjana Sharma, as officer on special duty, again with a hefty salary.
Bihar Times lists Upinder Singh, Anjana Sharma, Gopa Sabharwal and Nayanjot Lahiri as four “sahelis” from Delhi who are closely associated with Nalanda.

http://www.firstpost.com/india/amartya-sens-exit-on-a-sour-note-from-nalanda-university-does-him-no-credit-2110977.html

Amartya Sen threatens to quit Nalanda univ over funds queries
The provocation for the crisis, sources said, was the huge expenditure being incurred on maintaining the governing body of the university, known earlier as the Nalanda Mentor Group, as well as the tax-free salaries to the tune of $80,000 dollars per year to some of the top functionaries of the university.
Faculty salary packages range around $50,000-55,000 per year.
Upset by these queries, Sen – who is part of the 12-member governing body – conveyed to the MEA at the highest levels that he would resign if such objections were not opposed and quashed, source said.
He is learnt to have given a similar message to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Planning Commission.

http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/amartya-sen-threatens-to-quit-nalanda-univ-over-funds-queries/

This was one year ago when “friends” of Amartya Sen were in power.

2 Alexander February 20, 2015 at 8:51 am

A nobel prize is won through politics, a chancellorship is lost through politics, so it goes ;D

3 shrikanthk February 20, 2015 at 8:52 am

Firstly the government must not be in the business of imparting education, or facilitating institutions.

And when they do that, it is rather unpragmatic to yearn for absolutely zero interference.

At any rate this university seems a colossal waste of time and money. Rajgir. That’s a godforsaken overgrown village in Bihar. Such an inappropriate place for a major university.

But I understand symbols count for more than common sense. People want to nurse their fantasies of the ancient Rajagriha – one of the bigger cities in the world circa 500 BC. It’s about time these fantasists return to 21st century reality.

4 Alexander February 20, 2015 at 8:54 am

interesting!

5 TheNewGuy February 20, 2015 at 9:11 am

The building of the university that supposedly has more than $400 million dollars in funding (with pledges of more from Japan, China) is also positively ugly. I’ve seen post offices in India vastly better looking than this.
https://pbs.twimg.com/media/B-Sc072CEAAruXI.jpg

Or the ancient Nalanda ruins. They look far better.
https://encrypted-tbn1.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcRk4R6A1ws02PQE1sme1V8g5a8KEZArgMSqr8YmBVw1yA6gparA

6 Dan in Euroland February 20, 2015 at 10:33 am

San Diego State opened an Indian campus?

7 TheNewGuy February 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm

@Dan in Euroland
Does San Diego state also cost $400 million and have 15 students and 11 faculty members? http://www.indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/nalanda-univ-starts-today-from-a-convention-centre-with-15-students-lodged-in-a-hotel/

8 Go Kings Go February 20, 2015 at 1:16 pm

That sounds more like UC Irvine’s new law school.

9 So Much for Subtlety February 20, 2015 at 4:34 pm

shrikanthk February 20, 2015 at 8:52 am

Firstly the government must not be in the business of imparting education, or facilitating institutions.

The problem that is that then no one has an interest in quality. Some universities you can leave to the academics and they will be run properly, but that requires self-restraint and public spirit. Usually the academics just loot the institution by giving themselves massive salaries and buying off all the students with high marks. Look at the UK.

At any rate this university seems a colossal waste of time and money. Rajgir. That’s a godforsaken overgrown village in Bihar. Such an inappropriate place for a major university.

At least they didn’t build it in the middle of a swamp. Although in fairness building a university in a godforsaken overgrown village in the middle of a swamp did kind of work out for Cambridge.

10 dearieme February 20, 2015 at 9:21 am

A fellow I know, who had experience of Sen as Master of Trinity, Cambridge, takes a dim view of him. As in sighing and eye-rolling – that dim.

11 Alexander February 20, 2015 at 10:48 am

IS there a systemic reason that causes India (without a doubt a country with much genius) to exalt so many idiots and mediocre thinkers?
Think Modi, Amartya Sen, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, etc…

Seems very unlike East Asia in this regard. I think there is an interesting theory to be made along the lines about the many MANY indirect effects of a nations median citizen IQ.

12 TheNewGuy February 20, 2015 at 11:51 am

@Alexander
How is Mao worship better than Gandhi worship?

13 JWatts February 20, 2015 at 11:54 am

East Asia would include Japan and South Korea. Those two countries are hardly bastions of Communism. Indeed, I assume that Alexander was specifically referring to the non-Communist countries.

14 TheNewGuy February 20, 2015 at 12:16 pm

@JWatts
They make up around 13% of Total East Asian population (including China & North Korea). So no, their supposed nature idolizing genius can’t be generalized to the entire East Asia.

15 JWatts February 20, 2015 at 3:22 pm

But Mao worship can? It seems like you can’t see the trees because the forest is in the way.

16 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 1:44 am

@JWatts

No. Mao worship can’t be generalized to the entire East Asia. Nor can Gandhi worship to all Indians.

17 Alexander February 20, 2015 at 12:47 pm

Because Mao worship was enforced by the state

18 TheNewGuy February 20, 2015 at 1:13 pm

@Alexander

The chinese state isn’t run by mediocre Indians. Isn’t Gandhi worship enforced by the state in India? So is Amartya Sen worship. How do you think he became the Chancellor of Nalanda?

19 Seriously February 20, 2015 at 2:12 pm

You lumped a right wing politician, a mediocre technocrat from minority community who was selected for ceremonial posts later and an eminent left leaning economist together, for reasons sane minds will fail to comprehend.

In the same breath, you wish someone came up with a theory about how median Indians have low IQ unlike East Asians. You are a unique type of idiot that America creates these days, and one day the likes of you will bring this country to the level of middle east.

20 Cliff February 20, 2015 at 9:27 pm

That’s quite a jump you make in your last sentence. In what sense will the U.S. be like the Middle East?

21 CD February 20, 2015 at 2:56 pm

You’re grouping Sen with Modi?

You haven’t read Sen or any of the scholarly literature about Sen’s work, have you?

22 anon February 20, 2015 at 11:40 am

How old is this guy?80-85?
He should anyways not be appointed as chancellor on age grounds. They should have go in for someone younger.

23 anon February 20, 2015 at 11:43 am

“Faculty salary packages range around $50,000-55,000 per year”

Just to place this in context, the per capita income in India is around $1,500 per annum.
These guys

24 TheNewGuy February 20, 2015 at 11:49 am

@Alexander
How is Mao worship better than Gandhi worship?

25 Sanjeev Sabhlok February 20, 2015 at 3:50 pm

I have no sympathy with the squabbles and politics of government owned universities. Sen should never have taken up a role in a government owned university.

Let ALL Indian unis be fully privatised. Why is the appointment of a university chancellor the business of governments/ bureaucrats? !

26 NK42 February 20, 2015 at 5:11 pm

The salaries of $50,000 to $55,000 per year seem pretty reasonable for full professors. In fact getting someone good (ie who is capable of landing a job in a research university anywhere in the world) for that salary in a new startup university is a pretty good deal for the university Also, 5 lakhs per month for the Vice-chancellor (the US equivalent is Provost) which works out to about $100,000 a year is also a steal. A big problem that all the top Indian universities have today, including the IIMs and IITs, is difficulty in attracting talent as faculty. And the reason they have this problem is that they are public universities and the government is subject to haranguing by people like TheNewGuy. The government then prevents Universities from competing in the market for talent either with the private sector in India or with the education sector globally through salary caps at ridiculously low levels. The government also doesn’t want to step out of the way by either allowing existing public universities to become autonomous (the IIMs have been trying for a long time) or by allowing new private universities to be setup by foreign players. Finally, nobody in India objects if Indian cricket team rejects are paid $2.6 million for 6 weeks of work (google yuvraj singh), but paying an educator $50K a year is the end of the world.

27 shrikanthk February 20, 2015 at 11:44 pm

There is such a thing called “Purchasing power parity”.

500,000 per month is equivalent to earning something in the range of $250,000 – $300,000 in US. (and not $100k as you mentioned).

28 Kris February 21, 2015 at 1:06 am

NK42 is right. 500,000 per month is 6,000,000 per year. At 60 Indian Rupees to a US Dollar, that translates to $100k.

29 shrikanthk February 21, 2015 at 1:12 am

Rs 60 is the market exchange rate.

In terms of purchasing power, one dollar is more like Rs 20. So with 5 lacs per month, you get to lead a lifestyle more akin to someone earning $250K-$300K a year in US

30 NK42 February 20, 2015 at 5:20 pm

Tyler, the subtext is that Amartya Sen has come out strongly against Modi and his treatment of minorities before Mod’s election. Its payback time now. Or at least that’s what Sen thinks is going on — the slow pace on decisions might just be the usual Indian governments glacial speed. But Amartya Sen’s past ant-Modi statements have certainly inspired all the ridiculous tweets from Modi fans that you have linked to. Whatever you may think of his politics, Sen is a top economist, and has spend time in top education institutions across the world. Someone of his stature would be very useful in convincing new faculty/students to join Nalanda and his leaving is going to be loss for the project.

31 Contemplationist February 20, 2015 at 10:23 pm

So I suppose you haven’t seen the budget allocation of a ridiculous amount of money to build, what looks like a public restroom (http://media2.intoday.in/indiatoday/images/stories/nalanda-univ_350_010514050930.jpg). Perhaps you also missed the part about Sen pushing out the originator of the idea of reviving Nalanda – Dr. Kalam (http://www.rediff.com/news/report/in-letter-to-krishna-kalam-slams-amartya-sen/20120619.htm)

No I suppose it’s all about ‘political revenge.’

32 Barkley Rosser February 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm

Wow, this is some of the dumbest commentary I have seen here yet. I am not going to comment on most of it, just abysmally silly and embarrassing.

I shall simply note that there is an obvious reason why this new university is located in Bihar. There is a developmental angle involved here, Bihar being India’s poorest (or almost poorest) state. A good university would hopefully help get economic growth going for obvious reasons, which might even justify (eeeek) public funding and support for such an enterprise. Also, there has been a change of government in Bihar, long ruled by some of th most corrupt politicians in all of India, to a more reformist bunch, with some hope that public investment in growth-enhancing infrastruture might actually yield a payoff.

Sen may be old and maybe not the best administrator, but he is certainly one of, if not the most, widely respected intellectual figure in India right now. He is an obvious choice to have as someone heading up a new university, especially one that is seekiing international recognitinon and financiaql support. I shall not comment on the politics of this or how ugly the buildings there reputedly are, the latter clearly a very important detail.

33 So Much for Subtlety February 20, 2015 at 5:31 pm

Barkley Rosser February 20, 2015 at 5:23 pm

I shall simply note that there is an obvious reason why this new university is located in Bihar. There is a developmental angle involved here, Bihar being India’s poorest (or almost poorest) state. A good university would hopefully help get economic growth going for obvious reasons, which might even justify (eeeek) public funding and support for such an enterprise.

Sorry but can you explain to me why another Indian university would be likely to contribute one little thing to Bihar’s development? I don’t think the track record of universities is all that good. Yes, Silicon Valley. But the point about Silicon Valley is that it was a nice place to live. The University of Chicago is not doing a lot for Chicago. Princeton is hardly improving New Jersey.

The obvious reason for building it there is the obvious one – Indian nationalism. It is an article of faith to a lot of Indians that Nalanda was a center of great learning way back when the British were still painting themselves blue. I mean, it is not true, but it is important to Indians to think so. Hence the modern university. Oddly enough you would think this is a project that would sit well with Modi.

Sen may be old and maybe not the best administrator, but he is certainly one of, if not the most, widely respected intellectual figure in India right now.

Although that is a sad comment on India.

He is an obvious choice to have as someone heading up a new university, especially one that is seekiing international recognitinon and financiaql support.

If, in fact, he was a good leader. A well known but disruptive figure is unlikely to be a good leader. The British always stressed the importance of team sports – and being a good player of something involving grass is still an excellent indicator of success in the English speaking world. Other countries do not have similar traditions. So it is a mistake to think the rules of the English speaking world will apply to countries like India. They need to pick leaders for their own reasons, not Anglosphere ones.

34 Barkley Rosser February 21, 2015 at 12:11 am

Excuse me, SMfS, but are you a completely ignorant idiot?
The literature on how institutions of higher ed can enhance economic growth in a region is simply vast. If you are unaware of it, well, please, educate yourself before you make a bigger fool of yourself publicly, although as one of the all too many people who use phoney monikers to communicate with others publicly, I have no respect for you, cool as you worthless unmentionables think you are.

I will waste everybody’s time by speaking of my own personal experience. I am an old fart prof at a third tier state uni in VA in Harrisonburg, VA. This city is now one of the most rapidly growing in the entire Commonwealth of VA. I have no doubt that the main reason for this is that James Madison University is here and has been growing and expanding over the time period that I have been here. I do not think this is an accident.

35 Larry Siegel February 21, 2015 at 1:53 am

If you are really Barkley Rosser, please moderate your language. You are well known in retirement policy circles and people look up to you. Let’s keep it that way…

36 So Much for Subtlety February 21, 2015 at 5:02 am

Barkley Rosser February 21, 2015 at 12:11 am

I didn’t ask if the literature existed, I asked why you believed it. Especially as it applies to India. You see the obvious problem with all this literature – Academics insisting that they bring massive benefits to their communities and so can they have some more money please? Why do you think it is credible?

Please do bring up your own experience. Harrisonburg has three universities and a population under 50,000. James Madison University has been around since 1908. I am sure the spending power of 20,000 students has a big impact. Not sure why this experience is applicable to Bihar – a different cultural and regulatory environment.

Whatever JMU is doing for Harrisonburg, it is not doing it very fast.

It is true that I post under a pseudonym. I hope you’re a troll posting under someone else’s name.

37 Barkley Rosser February 21, 2015 at 2:10 pm

Sorry, Larry. I shall try to avoid calling myself an “old fart” anymore. I agree that is not good language.

SMfS,

Obviously the JMU case does not carry over to India directly, although it is a mid-tier kind of place. But, quite aside from providing general employment stability in the area, there are in fact several high tech firms located here that are spinoffs from JMU, with Rosetta Stone probably the most prominent, although its HQ is now in Arlington. However, Harrisonburg still hosts its largest production facility. BTW, it was actually a joint spinoff of both JMU and EMU here.

I do not know about the University of Chicago, but I do know that there are also quite a few high tech and other firms located in Princeton due to the university, including the longtime econoimics consulting firm, Mathematica.

In India, for such spinoffs one would hope to have a high quality university. It seems that this is what the intent is with this Nalanda place. Maybe they are going to fail or already have failed. But offhand I do not think that the criticisms mounted here have come close to establishing that, and it is quite new. if they can get strong international support, and apparently they have some, that might improve the chances for foreign investment coming into the area. This does not seem all that unreasonable or unlikely, although it may not happen, especially if they get rid of Sen and do not replace him with someone suitably competent. In any case, complaining about the buildings being ugly strikes me as completely irrelevant to the issue here, which is the people they can get there.

38 Thomas February 21, 2015 at 4:28 pm

Claiming that JMU or Princeton or U Chicago are causing these start ups is rather silly. At best any given University provides some academics with some freedom to create, but it doesn’t create anything by itself. Further, what is the evidence that if JMU disappeared off the face of the earth, that ODU or any other college wouldn’t take up whatever demand is left unfulfilled for whatever it is that JMU provides to the area?

39 Thomas February 21, 2015 at 4:30 pm

In fact, the propensity of Universities to depend on government spending demonstrates that some portion of Universities do not justify their own existence through productivity. Princeton and U Chicago may make the cut, but would JMU and Barkley Rosser? I know which way I’d bet. Sorry if that hurts your enormous ego, Barkley.

40 Kris February 21, 2015 at 12:45 am

It is an article of faith to a lot of Indians that Nalanda was a center of great learning way back when the British were still painting themselves blue. I mean, it is not true, but it is important to Indians to think so.

Not true? “Great” is a subjective word, but Nalanda was most definitely a university, and a center of learning. Chinese knew about it, and traveled long distances to visit and spend some time there. There seems to be some controversy about how it stopped being a center of learning, but ruins have been excavated, and historians seem to agree that the Turkish Khiljis (who were expanding their domain across northern India in the 12th century) were most likely responsible for destroying it.

I know modern Indian nationalists say a lot of incredibly silly and ignorant things about India’s past (knowledge of nuclear energy, plastic surgery on Ganesh, etc.) but that doesn’t mean everything we know about Indian history from Indian sources is a lie. In the case of Nalanda, the facts are corroborated by foreign sources too.

41 shrikanthk February 21, 2015 at 12:49 am

The fact that Nalanda was a very famous university is not wrong.

However the notion of Indian nationalists that at the time of Nalanda Europe was just an uncivilised landmass is totally wrong. Yes, the dark ages had set post decline of Roman empire. But the darkness of the dark ages is overstated. Not too long after Nalanda’s decline we had Oxford and Cambridge being established in England (12th century I think).

42 Kris February 21, 2015 at 12:57 am

I completely agree. These nationalistic (many Hindutva) blowhards are characterized by in-curiousness and lack of scientific temper. History to them is all about self-aggrandizement, and they seem to pride themselves on being uninformed about the history of the rest of the world. They have some knowledge of Indian history, but only enough to indulge in myth-making and not enough to understand the nuances. To most of these people, any study of Indian history by foreign scholars is to be treated with suspicion and painted as a conspiracy, especially if it is a critical study.

43 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 1:39 am

@Kris @shrikanthk

Agree with you guys. Indian nationalists are just idiots. ‘Right Wing’ Indian nationalists awarded Amartya Sen the highest civilian award of India (Bharat Ratna) in 1999 for covering up the role of British in the Bengal famine (Sen’s theory states richer Bengalis ate so much food that there was none left for the poor Bengalis or the poor Brits serving India. His “data” says rich Bengalis increased food consumption 20 times in 1943 but returned to baseline the next year.) The stupidity of Indian nationalists is more apparent if we look at Sen’s views on Hindus. He believes there was never any Hindu civilization or Hindu Rashtra (Nation).

44 Thomas February 21, 2015 at 4:35 pm

While Europeans were living in caves… every aggrieved group has some claim to greatness.

45 shrikanthk February 21, 2015 at 1:11 am

Yes

Also thanks to these blowhards, there is a knee-jerk tendency especially among the liberal left to take fashionably anti-Hindu stances and even deny genuine Indian accomplishments. This is a vicious circle of sorts, with the left’s deliberate irreverence towards the Hindu past further aggravating insecurities among the Hindu right.

It is sad that these rabid nationalists are giving conservatism a bad name. It’s hard to be a conservative in India and yet be respected for one’s intellectual probity and rigour.

46 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 1:23 am

@Kris
plastic surgery on Ganesh

Yes, though not plastic surgery itself.

There seems to be some controversy about how it stopped being a center of learning, but ruins have been excavated, and historians seem to agree that the Turkish Khiljis (who were expanding their domain across northern India in the 12th century) were most likely responsible for destroying it.

Yes. The last inscriptions from the Nalanda site date to 100 years before (mid 11th Century) its destruction. Nalanda’s decline was likely due to the Pala patronage of their capital Odantapuri (some 11 kms away from Nalanda) and the establishments there. Nalanda was well past its peak status as a great Mahavihara as Vikramashila and Odantapuri had taken over pre-eminent positions on the eve of Muslim invasions.

It is the Odantapuri Mahavihara that is described as having been destroyed (massacring everyone down to the last monk who could read the texts) by Muhammad-I-Bhaktiyar in Tabaqir-i-Nasiri.

47 shrikanthk February 21, 2015 at 1:43 am

Thanks for the dope on Odantapuri. Interesting.

Yes, the claim of ancient plastic surgery is not false. Even Mr Basham agrees that plastic surgery was prevalent in Gupta period.

The liberal left in India is just as ignorant of Indian history as the Hindu Right. The left’s adamant refusal to acknowledge the genuine accomplishments and unwillingness to confront the deleterious impact of Muslim rule on Indian civilisation fuels rabid passions and child-like insecurity among the nationalists.

48 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 2:12 am

@shrikanthk
Even Mr Basham agrees that plastic surgery was prevalent in Gupta period.

Much older than Guptas. Ritualists conducting Vedic animal sacrifices had to be deeply knowledgeable about animal anatomy. Sacrificed animals were meticulously cut up and each part used for a specific purpose. Surgery in India most likely had its origins in this. Rise of Buddhism and Jainism and the popularity of their prohibitions on killing of animals for sacrifices probably didn’t help in the progress of surgery. By the time of the Guptas, plastic surgery was known in India for at least a millenium.

49 So Much for Subtlety February 21, 2015 at 5:13 am

Kris February 21, 2015 at 12:45 am

I do not dispute the center of learning. I dispute the word “university”. Chinese monks went to India to study Buddhism and some studied Buddhism there. Did it teach anything else? It appears not. So Mount Athos has been a great center for the study of Orthodox Christianity. It has attracted students from all over the Orthodox world. But it is not a university and never has been.

Nalanda seems mainly known from foreign sources actually. There doesn’t appear to be much in any Indian source that has survived. You link to Wikipedia. Their primary sources are Chinese, Korean and Tibetan. That doesn’t mean they are trustworthy or otherwise. But where do they give the slightest impression that Nalanda was a university?

50 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 7:55 am

@So Much for Subtlety

I dispute the word “university”. Chinese monks went to India to study Buddhism and some studied Buddhism there. Did it teach anything else? It appears not.

Nalanda accommodated about 1,500 teachers and 10,000 resident monk scholars during its heyday. The process of admission to the Mahāvihāra was elaborate and tough with only one or two out of 10 getting admitted. Once admitted, monks and scholars studied works related to Mahāyāna, Hīnayāna (18 sects), the Vedas and the five traditional areas of knowledge (pancvidyå), namely Hetuvada (logic), Śabdavidya (grammar and philosophy), Cikitsāvidya (medicine), Silpakarmavidya (fine arts) and Adhyātmavidya (metaphysics). There was also an observational tower in Nalanda for astronomic purposes.

The historic discourse between Lord Mahavira and Gosala took place at Nālandā. So it has a central place in Jainism too. Nālandā came into the limelight when the Gupta King Kumargupta I (5th Century CE) selected the place for building a monastery. By the middle of the 6 th century CE, under the successive patronage of different Gupta rulers (who were orthodox Hindus), it developed into a Mahāvihāra with a huge campus. Likewise, Vikramashila was a center for kaumara and shaiva shAsana (Hindu schools) along with being a prominent center for Buddhism.

51 shrikanthk February 21, 2015 at 8:58 am

NewGuy : Thanks again. I presume most of the details we know is from Hieun Tsang’s memoirs. Is that right?

Also were non Buddhists (let’s say Brahmans) admitted to study in the university?

52 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 10:32 am

@shrikanthk

I presume most of the details we know is from Hieun Tsang’s memoirs. Is that right?
In addition to Xuanzang, Faxian and Yijing (who translated into Chinese many sutras on medicine that he learned) provide accounts of Nalanda. Indian sources include charters, inscriptions, literary compositions and religious texts spanning Buddhist, Jain and Hindu traditions.

Also were non Buddhists (let’s say Brahmans) admitted to study in the university?

Yes. Tradition puts the Brahmins Nagarjuna (also incidentally, renowned as a physician and an alchemist) as having studied at Nalanda and Kautilya & Panini as having studied in Takshashila. Hindu Kings patronized MahavihAras and a Hindu center of learning often preceded the Buddhist one. Even in the Buddhist ones, some Hindu and Jain schools were often present than not.

53 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 11:05 am

@shrikanthk

Also, when talking of Brahmins specifically (rather than Hindus in general) and Buddhism or Jainism it is important to keep in the Buddhist Brahmins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_Bráhmans

And the Jaina Brahmins http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jain_Bráhman

54 So Much for Subtlety February 21, 2015 at 4:59 pm

TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 7:55 am

Nalanda accommodated about 1,500 teachers and 10,000 resident monk scholars during its heyday.

Even today Mount Athos has some 2000 monks. So this was smaller? Notice that the Chinese visitors gave much lower numbers for students.

Once admitted, monks and scholars studied works related to Mahāyāna, Hīnayāna (18 sects), the Vedas and the five traditional areas of knowledge (pancvidyå), namely Hetuvada (logic), Śabdavidya (grammar and philosophy), Cikitsāvidya (medicine), Silpakarmavidya (fine arts) and Adhyātmavidya (metaphysics).

So basically it was a Buddhist school. This is pretty much what you can see still being taught in Tibetan monasteries for instance. Not much different from what is taught at Mount Athos either.

There was also an observational tower in Nalanda for astronomic purposes.

Can you explain the difference between an observational tower for astronomic purposes and one from astrology purposes? How do you know it was for the former and not the latter?

it developed into a Mahāvihāra with a huge campus.

When people keep using these question-begging words it makes me a little suspicious.

55 TheNewGuy February 21, 2015 at 10:42 pm

@SMfS

1500 is the number of teachers or Acharyas in Nalanda and 10,000 the number of resident monks. Mount Athos at its high point in 1902 had 7000 monks.

Yes, some Tibetan monasteries evolved into teaching a wider variety of subjects from the inspiration of monks that visited Mahaviharas in India.

I have stuck to using Mahavihara which is what these institutions called themselves. ‘With a huge campus’ meant it had large grounds which it owned.

Astronomy and astrology in the ancient world went together. That said Nalanda isn’t renowned for astronomy unlike Ujjain.

56 shrikanthk February 22, 2015 at 12:13 am

SmfS : Most “centres of learning” or “universities” in medieval times were major centres for religious scholarship, with secular subjects also being imparted as a concomitant.

The teaching at Oxford and Cambridge in the 13th century was primarily religious. Nevertheless I suppose you have no issues with them deserving the appellation “university”.

And yes, astronomy and astrology were very close companions for much of human history.

57 Barkley Rosser February 21, 2015 at 4:48 pm

No sweat off my back, Thomas. JMU like GMU is a state school. So, tuitions are lower than at private schools because of state support, much reduced in recent years so tuition has risen. Would JMU survive if it were totally private? Offhand I do not see why not. It is better than plenty of the small private colleges that are nearby here, although with higher tuition it might be smaller.

58 Thomas February 21, 2015 at 11:16 pm

Yes, JMU is a good school, but it’s unclear whether it’s a net win or loss for the economy as a whole. Shouldn’t have been so aggressive earlier.

59 Thomas February 21, 2015 at 11:17 pm

*I* shouldn’t have been so aggressive…

60 Barkley Rosser February 21, 2015 at 12:12 am

Oh, and S…, having a world class uni in your town is certainly likely to have a much greater impact on local growth than having a mere subsidiary tier one there.

61 Kris February 21, 2015 at 12:52 am

It’ll probably help locals who can get jobs providing services for the university’s faculty and students, but I am skeptical about the mere presence of a university resulting in local growth in other manner. Faculty and students alike are going to be overwhelmingly outsiders who will stay secluded within their campuses and leave only to go out of town to visit relatives. Unless the university’s core curriculum involves addressing local challenges (and in that part of the world, that would just be in the area of agriculture), the presence of a university will do zilch for the local community.

62 Barkley Rosser February 21, 2015 at 2:17 pm

Kris,

I have been at JMU long enough to observe that some grads hang around after they graduate, and many of them become local entrepreneurs who start new local businesses. Some of these have even been some of these high tech operations, although a lot of them are things like restaurants and so on. There very definitely is some stimulus coming from the university to the town over time, often in ways that are not obvious on the surface to an outsider.

63 Thomas February 21, 2015 at 4:43 pm

Redistribution: A distribution performed again or anew. Has there ever been any doubt that redistributing wealth results in altered levels of wealth for some groups? Is a paid academic really here informing us that spending tax dollars in a locality will result in that locality having more wealth? Is this information sufficient to determine the value of that spending? Hey, Barkley, in other news, relocating JMU to Dead Horse, Alaska would really improve Dead Horse’s economy. You can cite me as Thomas, Marginal Revolution Commenter in your upcoming work on the effects of having money on being rich, if necessary.

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