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When the Ground Moves, the Earth will Shake


Earthquakes are one of the few natural phenomenon mentioned in the Tipitaka (Early Buddhist texts of the Pali canon).


In the Digha Nikaya, the Buddha elucidates eight causes for the trembling of the earth [1], attributing it to both natural occurrences and significant spiritual events, such as his decision to enter final nirvana. Metaphorically, earthquakes symbolize the impact of the Buddha's enlightenment on the world. The shaking of the earth parallels the revolutionary nature of his teachings, challenging established religious and philosophical beliefs. This allegory signifies the disruption of the status quo and the introduction of a liberating path accessible to all, irrespective of social status or caste.


The transformative power of the Buddha's teachings is further emphasized by the fact that they are based on his direct awakening experience. This contrasts with the scholarly speculation and hypothesizing that characterized other religious doctrines of the period.


Similarly like these metaphorical interpretation of the earth trembling, the introduction of new technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), points to a seismic shift on the spiritual landscape, heralding a new era of learning and understanding the Buddha Dharma.


The advent of AI in Dharma dispensation has sparked both admiration and apprehension. While AI showcases the intelligence of AI in interpreting the Dharma, concerns persist regarding the dependence on such tools, leading to what some term "knowledge slavery." There is a fear that reliance on intelligent tools may result in distorted understanding, undermining the depth of Buddhist knowledge and wisdom.


Historically, technology has played a pivotal role in preserving and disseminating Buddhist teachings. Approximately 450 years after the Buddha's Parinirvana, the Pali Tipitaka was transcribed onto ola palm leaves during the Fourth Council in Matale, Sri Lanka [2]. This marked a crucial transition from oral transmission to written preservation, ensuring the continuity of the Buddha's teachings. Subsequent advancements, such as block printing, facilitated mass production, making Buddhist texts more widely accessible [3].


The internet further revolutionized access to Buddhist resources, allowing individuals to explore teachings, articles, videos, and forums from the comfort of their homes. Structured learning platforms emerged, catering to beginners and facilitating a more profound understanding of Buddhism. However, the integration of AI introduces a new dimension to Dharma learning.


AI, exemplified by Buddhist chat bots like NORBU (https://norbu-ai.org), leverages large language models (LLM) like ChatGPT to provide a unique learning experience. Trained using high-quality articles from esteemed teachers and authoritative sources, these bots offer accurate and verified information. NORBU, for instance, digests sutras from reputable websites, creating a direct and reliable connection to the teachings. This integration of AI with Buddhism aligns with the Buddha's prophetic assurance that his teachings would guide future generations.


AI's role in Dharma learning presents several advantages. It enhances accessibility by reaching people worldwide, personalizes teachings to individual understanding, fosters real-time interaction, and connects a global community of practitioners. The continuous learning capabilities of AI systems like NORBU, coupled with expertise sharing, contribute to the relevance and accuracy of Dharma teachings.


As AI evolves, it has the potential to play a vital role in fostering a deeper understanding of the Buddha Dharma. In weeks to come, apart from NORBU Early Buddhist Text (https://norbu-ai.org/ebt), NORBU Chinese, trained in Mahayana Yogacara by the CBETA [4] team of Taiwan, and NORBU Lobma (in Tibetan which means “students”) trained in Tibetan Buddhist texts will be launched.


These tripartite of Buddhist bots, representing the three main traditions of Mahayana, Theravada and Tibetan Buddhism, is poised to reignite the spirit of the Nalanda Tradition [5]. With these suites of Buddhist bots, it is with fervent hope that a new generation of multi-cultural, multi-lingual Buddhist learners will be able to come together to think, debate and discuss the varied profound teachings of the Buddha through their respective traditions.


Like the metaphor the trembling earth, the introduction of new technology such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), points to a seismic shift on the spiritual landscape, heralding a new era of learning and understanding the Buddha Dharma. Not using the technology would be a missed opportunity to spread the light of Dharma to each and every individual, especially to those “…with little dusts in their eyes” [6].


Also, a wise and insightful Buddhist chat bot that is also compassionate lends an important counterweight in the use of AI for negative purposes, such as generating false images, texts and videos to ferment enmity, confusion and hatred.


In conclusion, backing the creation of NORBU the Buddhist Chat Bot is a meaningful stride toward the shared objective of safeguarding and sharing the profound wisdom inherent in Buddhist teachings, ensuring their widespread accessibility for seekers across the globe. Beyond this, the bot's adept interaction with users has the potential to cultivate a greater community of Dharma learners, playing a pivotal role in fostering a world characterized by peace and benevolence. In supporting this innovative technological endeavor, Buddhists embark on a journey to amplify the reach and impact of their ancient wisdom, resonating with a vision of a more harmonious and enlightened global society.


An Appeal (Updated 22 November, 2023)


We have reached almost 75% of our fund raising target of RM 150,000. The remaining funding requirement of 25% or roughly RM 37,000 will still be required to launch NORBU Chinese and NORBU Lobma, thus fulfilling the completion of a tripartite trio of Buddhist bots to cover all three traditions of Buddhism. We appreciate your FULL SUPPORT to help us realize a complete NORBU, covering the Mahayana, Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions. May the Triple Gem ever bless and protect the well-being and happiness of yourself and your loved ones.


Click on the WhatsApp link to join and pledge your amount and stay updated. Do also share in your Fb so that the target can be arrived sooner.



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