Finding beauty in diversity

by Mel Meléndez, The Arizona Republic, Nov. 9, 2004

Arizona, USA -- A crush of Central High School students bent over the velvet ropes, cellphones in hand to snap photos of the multicolored Tibetan sand painting. "Wow. It's beautiful," sophomore Yaffa Malayeva whispered. "I can't believe they did that by hand in such a short time."

Central High School's library was abuzz with Tibetan culture last week, courtesy of Lobsang, 46, and Yeshe, 35, two Buddhist monks from Tibet who spent 40 hours creating a 4-foot by 4-foot mandala as part of a weeklong curriculum on the 2,500-year-old art form.

The mandala, a Sanskrit word for "circle" or "whole world," could not have found a better home where its diverse colors highlight the diversity of Central's urban campus and the importance of accepting differences in others, said ZaChoeje Rinpoche, the 36-year-old spiritual leader who translates for the monks.

"It's symbolic of how there is only beauty in the world when all people are united," he said, "because it's only when the mandala's different colors come together that you see true beauty."

The concept seemed to resonate with the teens, most likely because the 2,300-student school is one of the most diverse high schools in the state.

More than 82 percent of Central High's students are ethnic minorities, with students speaking more than 40 languages, including Arabic, Cambodian, Greek, Somali and Farsi.

Some of the students' families are refugees, sponsored by local churches. But the campus also attracts students interested in world cultures because it's home to the International Studies Magnet Program for Phoenix Union, the state's largest high school district.

A stroll through the campus quickly gives away its focus, as visitors spot trash cans sporting colorful country motifs, clocks set to different time zones, and a Flags of the World display.

"We're all so different. That's why a project like this is perfect for this school because it's about everyone uniting," Malayeva said.

"Imagine if the world embraced that message. We wouldn't be at war."

It's especially important for teens to value other cultures, said Nemoo Kahsia, a 17-year-old Somali refugee.

"If you embrace the mandala's message early on, think how much more tolerant we'd be as adults," she said, adjusting her hijab, or Muslim head scarf.

"I'm so happy that I got to see this in my lifetime."

The mandala's message of love and compassion seemed to elude some adults, said Lorna Holmes, 54, a visual art and design teacher.

"We received calls from some upset parents who thought we were promoting Buddhism," she said. "I had to explain that our students learn of different cultures and that you can't study Tibetan culture without touching on Buddhism."

The project is one of several covered by a $100,000 arts integration state grant to introduce art into core subjects, such as reading, math and history.

About 520 Central High students participated in the mandala curriculum, which included learning Tibetan history and designing their own sand paintings.

On Friday, after the dismantling of the mandala, students helped pour its sand particles into an adjacent canal to spread the "positive energy into the world."

"That was awesome," sophomore Deamir Cato said.

"I like how destroying it symbolizes impermanence . . . how in life you have to learn to let go, even of beautiful things."

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: