New direction for Buddhist programs at Yale

By Cynthia Hua, Yale Daily News, March 1, 2013

To support the Yale Buddhist community after severing relations with Indigo Blue, the Chaplain’s Office is offering activities such as Dharma talks in Harkness Tower.

New York, USA -- Four months after the University ended its nine-year relationship with former Buddhist Chaplain Bruce Blair ’81 and Indigo Blue, the nonprofit center for Buddhist life at Yale, the Chaplain’s Office has unveiled a series of new religious activities and acquired two interim staff advisers for the University’s Buddhist community.

<< Photo by Vivienne Zhang.

In January, the University hired Steve Kanji Ruhl and Anne Dutton as interim Buddhist advisers, and the Buddhist Shrine in Harkness Chapel was reopened last December. The Buddhist activities currently offered this semester include Dharma talks twice per month as well as a weekly formal practice with open discussion, said Nathaniel DeLuca, the Chaplain’s Office program coordinator. Students interviewed who previously attended Indigo Blue programs said they have not attended the new programs hosted by the Chaplain’s Office.

University Chaplain Sharon Kugler said her office hopes to grow their current Buddhist program before looking into hiring a new full-time Buddhist chaplain.

“Currently we are focusing on nurturing the program that we have and are working with local and regional Buddhist communities to identify appropriate next steps to form partnerships for future endeavors,” Kugler said.

The events hosted by the Chaplain’s Office are comparable to Buddhist programs at other universities and services offered for other religious communities at Yale, DeLuca said. The Chaplain’s Office has been working “slowly but deliberately” to create a community to support displaced members of the Buddhist community after the University cut ties with Indigo Blue last fall, he said.

Kugler said she sought advice from prominent members of the national Buddhist community during the hiring process, adding that Ruhl and Dutton were chosen because their knowledge of multiple forms of Buddhist ritual is essential in a diverse college setting. The two interim fellows hold advanced degrees in Buddhist studies — Ruhl graduated from the Harvard Divinity School, and both are experienced in teaching Buddhism, she said. Dutton has been involved since the fall in efforts to “rebuild” the Buddhist program and is familiar with attendees already, Kugler added.

“I don’t have specific goals, but I do want to welcome as many Buddhist and non-Buddhist students as possible and members of Yale’s nonstudent community as well, into dynamic, meaningful conversations exploring the Dharma and how it manifests in our lives,” Ruhl said. “I want to help create a warm, inviting atmosphere for doing that.”

Dutton said she hopes to provide a space for students who wish to learn more about the Buddhist faith as well as those who use Buddhist practices to help with stress and other challenges. The new activities focus on practical applications of Buddhist teachings that are useful for students in everyday life, she added.

Kugler said she has received positive feedback from students and particularly from attendees of the Dharma talks, which are teachings on the Buddhist faith. Roughly 10 students and community members attended the second Dharma talk on Feb. 18, filling all available seats at the Buddhist chapel, Ruhl said. Students have been open to sharing personal experiences and have shown sincere interest in discussions following the Dharma talks, he added.

Hung Pham ’15, a prior attendee of Indigo Blue events and former representative of the Buddhist community on the Inter-Religious Leadership Council, said the new programs are centered on Zen Buddhism and do not appeal to students who appreciated the more diverse, pan-Buddhism approach of Blair.

“I’m sure it’s not anyone’s fault — it just so happens that the new Buddhist leaders on campus are of the Zen school,” he said. “The Chaplain’s Office is refusing to hire a new full-time Buddhist chaplain who would appeal to multidimensional Buddhism.”

But Kugler said both advisers are educated on the diverse range of Buddhist thought, and that no students have approached her office with complaints recently.

Pham said separate groups of students attend the Chaplain’s Office’s Buddhist programs than those that attend the Indigo Blue programs still offered at Blair’s home on Mansfield Street. The two options have not created a cohesive community environment, Pham said.

Ruhl previously co-chaired the Harvard Buddhist Community.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: