Na Len Dra

Tibetan Texts > Specific Tibetan Text Studies > Deb Ther Sngon Po (blue Annals) > Reference Resources - The Blue Annals > Place Names Cited in Blue Annals > Place Names ta-tha-da-na > Na len dra

Nalendra (ན་ལེནྡྲ་)

by Christopher Bell

General information

NameNalendra (ན་ལེནྡྲ་)
Period5th to 12th century
Transliteration formNa len dra
EtymologyFrom the Sanskrit root nāla, meaning "stalk" or more significantly, "lotus flower."
Sectarian affiliationEcumenical
Source of informationDung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las. 2002. Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo. Beijing: Krung go’i bod rig pa dpe skrun khang.
external link:
LocationIn North India, north of Rājagṛha.
Cultural locationNorth India
Location's languageMagahi [?]
Location descriptionLess than forty kilometers north of Rājagṛha and less than 89 kilometers southeast of Patna.
Date founded450 CE.
FounderIts construction was patronized by the Gupta emperors.
Blue Annals References(pp. 229, 367, 382, 400, 729, 757, 844, 845, 1055, 1058). There is some conflation between the cited references in the Blue Annals and the Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo regarding the two Nālandā monasteries. While the Blue Annals refers to Nalendra as synonymous to the Tibetan Nālandā, the Dung dkar makes it synonymous with the Indian Nālandā. The Tibetan Nālandā was founded in 1436 by Rongtön Mawé Sengge (rong ston smra ba'i sengge) and is an important Sakya monastery north of Lhasa.
The Indian Nālandā was a significant Buddhist monastery in North India where numerous Indians and Tibetans studied tantric systems and brought them to Tibet, such as Vairocanarakṣita (844-845), Buddhajñāna and disciples of Tsultrim Jungné's (tshul khrims 'byung gnas; 1107-1190) system, like Chak Drachom (chag dgra bcom; 1153-1216) and his nephew the translator Chak Chöjepel (chag lo tsA ba chos rje dpal; 1197-1263/1264) (1055, 1058). Other significant events are when "[a]t Nālandā, the nephew of the Brahmin Ratnavajra (Rin-chen rdo-rje) requested [Dānaśrī] for the Sādhana of the Vajrayoginī-Tantra" (229). Also, "while in Nālandā [Sanggyé Yeshé] composed a commentary (Sañcaya-gāthā-pañjikā) on the Prajñāpāramitā-sañcaya-gātha and taught it to others" (367). Khyungpo Nyenjor (978/990-1127), the founder of the Shangpa Kagyü, "heard many doctrines at Nālandā from Dā-chen-po (Dānaśīla)" (729). Nālandā is also used as a marker to indicate its vicinity to the important pilgrimage site of Pulahari/Puṣpahari (382, 400, 757). The information contained on this page correllates with the Indian Nālandā.

Historical Summary

Nālandā is one of the most famous Buddhist monastic academies in Indian history. At its height it supposedly housed 10,000 monks and was the residence of numerous tantric Buddhist masters, such as Āryadeva, Śāntarakṣita, Padmasambhava, and Candrakīrti. Before its final decline, it was a center for tantric learning during the Tibetan renaissance period when many Tibetans journeyed into India to study key tantric systems at Nālandā, and even to compose new ones or to forge novel commentarial traditions. Notable Tibetan figures of this intense period of exchange, study, and composition include Khyungpo Nyenjo and Sanggyé Yeshé, both of whom are said to have lived for over a hundred years. Khyungpo Nyenjo founded Zhangzhong monastery in Shang, the mother monastery of the Shangpa Kagyü subsect, and brought back from his time in India and at Nālandā the teachings that would come to be associated with the Shangpa Kagyü; he was an eclectic and syncretistic figure overall, mastering numerous lineages and studying under Buddhist and Bön scholars alike. Sanggyé Yeshé is traditionally believed to have lived through the period of fragmentation (bsil bu'i dus) and into the early years of the later spread of Buddhism in Tibet (phyi dar); he is especially important for the Nyingmapas as he was an important master of the early oral transmision (bka' ma) teachings of the Nyingma school.

Translation from the Dung gar tshig mdzod chen mo

As clarified within the [Chinese] guidebook "Tang San Zang" [Ch. 唐三藏]: “A little less than forty kilometers north of Rājagṛha, there is an important place called Nalendra; it has the meaning of ‘offering’ or ‘indefatigable.’ That place is the birthplace of the noble Śāriputra, called Nālandā. Therefore, in order to commemorate that [fact], the five kings of India―it’s center and four surrounding territories―built [the monastery] with their combined efforts. Because of this, from each one, the livelihood of the sangha [was supported], a house in which alms were given to all the helpless without bias [was built], as well as a great many monastic complexes; at that time it was the most extensive [monastic academy] in India, and there was no temple of more excellent design than this, so it is said.” The lord of scholars Gendün Chöpel [1903-1951] said, “Then [I] arrived at the pier of Nalendra. When I traveled a little on foot, there was a vast ancient abandoned monastery. Nalendra is the chief monastery of all the monasteries of ancient India, and when the respectable [record] of China, the "Tang San Zang," was written, about 10,000 monks lived there.” Also all the great scholars of the past, such as Āryadeva, Śāntarakṣita, the great master [Padmasambhava], and Candrakīrti, came from this monastery alone. The holy Dharma spread through Tibet and China, and it came from this monastery; so it is said. A detailed history of this [place] exists in the “History of India.” (Dung dkar 2002, p.1195-1196)