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NORBU Visual and the Power of Dharma Learning through Images

Imagine walking inside the famous Borobudur of Jogjakarta, Indonesia. As you casually stroll along the many corridors in the vast mandala complex, you see numerous carved motifs and frescoes on the walls, prompting wonder about their meanings.

You then take out your phone, launch NORBU, and capture a picture of one of the carvings. After uploading the image to NORBU and inquiring about its significance, NORBU produces a tale from the Jataka, seemingly by magic.

This is what "NORBU Visual" does — it interprets images and utilizes them as prompts to generate responses. This powerful feature opens up immense opportunities for learners to experience the Dharma visually. By merely using NORBU on their phones, temples, archaeological sites, museum exhibits, and symbols become storyboards.

What were once inert structures serving only as places for worship and meditation are now transformed into storehouses of Buddhist stories and teachings, all thanks to the visually empowered NORBU!

Here's what's possible in the near future:

1. Talking walls, murals, statues, and carvings

NORBU Visual boasts a library of images tagged to its rich text knowledge base. When a user captures an image and uploads it to NORBU, the AI processes the image and interprets the visuals based on its source data.

For example, standing in front of an Asoka pillar in Sarnath, a user can learn about its historical and cultural significance. It even describes the script as "Brahmi" and says that the edict inscribed on this pillar is a declaration of Asoka's policy of Dhamma (or Dharma), which encompassed moral principles, social justice, and religious tolerance.

Repeat the scenario for the Mogao and Dunhuang Caves in China, Ajanta caves in India, and all those wondrous thankas hanging in Tashilhunpo Monastery at Shigatse, Tibet. Imagine the rich tapestry of Buddhism's past coming alive right in front of you!

Now all the murals in Southeast Asian temples, from Thailand to Myanmar, Laos to Cambodia, Vietnam, and Malaysia can come alive and tell stories.

2. NORBU as a Virtual Guide for Buddhist Tourism

If one were to take a tour to a Buddhist site, such as Sukhothai or Ayuttaya in Thailand, Bagan in Myanmar, or Bodhgaya in India, more often than not, one would encounter a guide whose knowledge of the subject material is at best rudimentary. They could describe the object, narrate some background history, and perhaps link it to some local story.

However, if one's interests are more into archaeological or cultural significance, or perhaps its evolution in local and regional history, the guide would be at a loss. This is where NORBU Visual can fill the gap as the "expert tour guide".

Using NORBU Visual as a travel guide to Buddhist sites is an immense boon to Buddhist tourism. This tool is invaluable for exploring lesser-known sites such as those in Pakistan (Gandhara), Central Asia, and Western China, fostering a deeper appreciation for Buddhist heritage.

3. Promoting Buddhist "Citizen Culture"

In culture, a similar concept to citizen science could be termed "citizen culture" or "participatory culture." When applied to Buddhism, NORBU Visual could be the catalyst for active involvement of individuals in cultural activities, such as curating images and symbols of their temples and uploading them to NORBU for training.

Through such grassroots cultural activities, or collaborative storytelling endeavors, temple devotees enable their temples or centers to tell their own unique stories (see #1 above). Such activities link local entities to Buddhist teachings, thus embedding the heart of Dharma into tangible assets.

All of a sudden, from the grand "City of the 10,000 Buddhas" in California, to the White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand, to the White Horse Temple (白馬寺) in Luoyang, China, to the Daibutsu in Nara, Japan, and the humble Kuan Yin Teng temple in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, one need not be proficient in local languages to get to know these places of worship.

Just point your phone, take a picture, and upload it to NORBU. The magic of AI will do the rest.


NORBU Visual represents a groundbreaking tool that not only enhances our understanding of Buddhist heritage, but has the immense power for devotees to foster active engagement with its rich cultural legacy.


An Appeal!

Help us make NORBU Visual a reality!

We need MYR 20,000 (USD 4,250) to make NORBU become a "visual" AI. Go here to DONATE: and share this great gift with everyone. Part of the proceeds will go to support Bhante Khemmanando's (one of NORBU's source guardian) Dharma practice in Nepal.


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