Life's lessons

by GREG GARRISON, The Birmingham News, December 17, 2004

Birmingham, AL (USA) -- As a Tibetan Buddhist monk shook out grains of colored sand from a metal funnel, creating a quilt-like pattern on a slate table, a bird repeatedly flew up to the third floor window of the Birmingham office building, looking in.

The dark gray-crested tufted titmouse bobbed up and down, and fluttered on the window ledge, as if admiring the monk's handiwork.

"It's amazing," said Lama Tenzin Deshek. He recognized his feathered admirer. "He was here last year, watching me."

Buddhists believe in reincarnation, with the soul moving sometimes from one species to another. "Maybe in my previous life, I was a bird, or maybe my mother was a bird," he said.

Buddhism is based on the teachings, or Dharma, of the Indian philosopher Siddhartha Gautama, who lived about 483 B.C. and is known as the Buddha. The Buddha's essential teaching is that suffering persists from life to life and one can only escape into nirvana by achieving perfection through mental and moral self-purification.

Deshek wore a green work smock over his burgundy and gold robe as he worked on the elaborate sand painting, called a mandala.

Mandala means "circle" in Sanskrit. He began by drawing the design outline with chalk on a slate tabletop. When he completed the chalk design, he began trickling out the colored sand, carefully placing it on the pattern. "It's very easy to make a mistake," Deshek said.

One misplaced cough would ruin the delicate patterns of sand.

He did a mandala last year and a visitor couldn't resist touching it, not realizing it would disrupt the design.

"She stuck her finger in it; she just couldn't believe it was sand," said Leslie Bradburn, a member of the Losel Maitri Tibetan Buddhist Center, where Deshek serves as spiritual leader to a 50-member congregation. "He had to repair it."

Back at Namgyal Monastery in India, where Deshek learned the art of making sand mandalas, sometimes moths would land on the table, spinning their wings and ruining hours of work.

Usually requires 4

Usually mandala construction requires four monks, working from all four sides of the table, Deshek said. He has worked alone this week, eight hours a day since Saturday, creating a mandala that represents Chenresig, the Buddha of Compassion. The mandala radiates outward in the shape of an imaginary palace with four gates.

Creating the mandala is an act of purification for Tibetan monks, who meditate as they create it, he said. On Sunday it will be dismantled, then poured into the Cahaba River. Creating a beautiful work of art, then destroying it, shows the transitory nature of the world.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Omniscient Robotic-Being for Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB
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 who wants to donate in MYR, please use the following account:

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