By Wade Nkrumah
Peace. Prayer. Tibet. Students in two comparative religions classes at Jesuit High School took their inspiration from these themes, learned about history and traditions behind prayer flags and created their own. Jampa Lathsang, invited to the classes by teacher Kathleen Myers, guided them through the project.
"I just want kids to be taught a little bit about peace," he says. "The prayer flags help do that." Born and raised in India with a Tibetan
heritage, Lathsang also explained to the class the significance of Tibetan Prayer Flags, how they relate to peace and to Tibetan culture.
The lessons sunk in for Alex Johnson, a senior from Northwest. The prayer flags gave students a "time to step back and think about their lives, what's really going on and what's really important.
"Each person's prayer flag is going to be very different," Johnson says.. "Their flag is going to be representative of themselves and what they hold near and dear to their hearts. I think it will be cool to try and see all of them strung together as one unified prayer."
Lathsang, who moved to Portland from India 12 years ago, owns Tibet A Gift in Southeast. He started visiting schools around the city after Sept. 11, 2001, when teachers contacted the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association to talk about peace, prayer flags and Tibetan culture. He says he hopes the students get as much out of the experience as he does.
"I never really studied it much myself before," Lathsang says. "But in the last three years, I've been doing quite a bit of reading on prayer flags and pretty much anything in relation to Tibetan culture. It's given me the opportunity to brush up on my own culture."
Myers is in her sixth year at Jesuit and has been teaching comparative religions for two years. For her, the flags are about peace and prayer.
"In comparative religions, my hope is that the students leave with a worldview that's been expanded," she says.
"I'd love it if, when they're driving around Portland or see images from around the world, when they see a peace flag they're reminded of the significance of peace and, specifically, their own prayer for peace."