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September 03, 2003 1 min read
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Buddhist Schools

The curriculum at a new Buddhist high school in Honolulu is likely to teach more about the likes of Mohandas K. Gandhi than Napoleon Bonaparte, says the school’s principal, Pieper Toyama.

“Given what is happening in the world today, it is high time that there is a Buddhist school that is focusing in a serious and significant way on peace,” Mr. Toyama said.

Called Pacific Buddhist Academy, the college-preparatory school opened Aug. 20 with 17 9th graders. Its founders hope to add a grade each year. The school is located on the same campus as the Hongwanji Mission School, a K-8 Buddhist school run by members of the Jodo Shin Buddhist sect, which originated in Japan.

Mr. Toyama is a former Episcopalian who became attracted to Buddhism through his interest in martial arts and eventually converted to the religion. The academy has three full-time faculty members, one of whom is Buddhist, and three part-timers, two of them Buddhists.

All but one of the school’s 17 students are of Asian heritage, and most come from families that either practice Buddhism or are familiar with its culture, according to Mr. Toyama. He said the school welcomes students who aren’t Buddhist.

Pacific Buddhist Academy, which charges annual tuition of $7,000, offers a standard college-prep curriculum with a few twists. Students and staff members are required to attend a Buddhist temple service for 20 minutes each week during the school day. Students must also take a class in Buddhist education; the class teaches them such values as interconnectedness, compassion, and mindfulness of the “unrepeatable moment,” Mr. Toyama said.

The curriculum includes classes in the Japanese language and Japanese drumming. And students may take martial arts on-site as an after-school program.

Mr. Toyama said he and the staff are trying to foster a culture in which students learn to feel at peace with themselves and the world.

For example, before entering their classrooms, students are asked to pause, take a deep breath, and reflect on how they are connected to everyone who set up the classroom.

The nation has at least two other Buddhist high schools, the Developing Virtue Girls’ School and the Developing Virtue Boys’ School in Ukiah, Calif.

Mary Ann Zehr

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