Hello Dalai! Campuses prepare for Dalai Lama’s first visit to San Diego
Who is a Dalai Lama?
The Dalai Lama (age 61) is the 14th spiritual leader of Tibet. He is believed to be the latest reincarnation of a series of spiritual leaders who chose to be reborn to enlighten others.
Born in northeastern Tibet, he was discovered by monks at age 2 and tested to see if he possessed physical traits such as moles and long ears characteristic of the 13th Dalai Lama. Passing muster, he was renamed Tenzin Gyatso and took the throne at age 4. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to establish a peaceful resolution to help liberate Tibet from Chinese rule.
A source close to the La Jolla Light obtained a brief list of requests and stipulations for the Dalai Lama’s visit, including:
By Pat Sherman
The spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, is headed to town for what organizers say is his first visit to America’s Finest — and students and faculty at San Diego’s major universities are awash with excitement.
Tickets for three speaking engagements — at UC San Diego and the University of San Diego on April 18 and at San Diego State University on April 19 — sold out well in advance.
Henry DeVries, assistant dean for external affairs with UC San Diego Extension, said tickets for the Dalai Lama’s symposium at Rimac Arena sold out in an hour. Some 12,000 tickets for his appearance at SDSU’s Viejas Arena sold out within two hours.
“We were estimating, based on the demand, that we could have sold out Qualcomm Stadium or Petco Park, but that was not the interest of the Dalai Lama,” DeVries said. “He wanted to be on campus so students could have easy access.”
Of the 4,200 available seats available at Rimac, the university found underwriters to give about 1,000 tickets away to students, faculty and the university’s big donors.
Another 1,500 were sold to students for $10 each and the remaining tickets were sold to the general public for $25 apiece.
The spiritual leaders’ representatives have visited the campus several times in anticipation of his visit for logistical reasons.
“As far as security, (we’re) working with the state department,” said DeVries, noting that attendees will be required to arrive early and go through metal detectors before entering.
“Television equipment has to get into the hall very early because everything has to be inspected by security teams from the department of state,” he said. “There are a lot of protocols we have to follow.”
The Dalai Lama will receive no money or honorarium for his engagements, only some free tickets for local friends and followers, DeVries said. A modest entourage of about 15 monks and support staff will accompany him.
While pop stars are notorious for arriving with a laundry list of demands known as a “rider” — including everything from Cristal champagne and air purifiers (Mariah Carey) to black roses and a male catering staff (Janet Jackson), the Dalai Lama’s needs are modest in comparison, organizers say.
“He’s always one to say he’s a simple monk and that’s been reflected in the simplicity of the arrangements that are required,” said Diana Kutlow, a senior program officer with USD’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, who is overseeing the Dalai Lama’s appearance in the university’s 4,500-seat Jenny Craig Pavilion.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak on topics of relevance to each of the universities during his mini tour, dubbed “Compassion Without Borders.”
At UC San Diego, the Dalai Lama’s first stop, he will take part in a panel discussion with the university’s leading scientists on the global impact of climate change.
“We’ve been informed through his representatives that he really wanted to tie issues like climate change to universal responsibility and compassion,” DeVries said. “He also wanted to meet with scientists on the issue of human consciousness … the neurosciences, things of that nature.”
At USD, the Dalai Lama will discuss nonviolent approaches to cultivating peace and justice in a violent world.
Kutlow said the Institute for Peace and Justice has issued several invitations for the Dalai Lama to visit through the years. It was his personal peace emissary, Lama Tenzin Dhonden (who has a home near Lake Elsinore and family in San Diego), that helped facilitate this month’s visit, she said.
Kutlow said his visit, “ties into our feeling that students can be and should be positive forces for change.”
In preparation of the Dalai Lama’s visit, USD students and educators have scheduled an array of events — from a Tibetan film festival and reading of the Dalai Lama’s book “Toward a True Kinship of Faiths” to a mural being painted by youth from a local migrant camp.
“We had a really exceptional response from the campus,” Kutlow said. “Different departments are creating their own activities to educate and inform the campus community before his visit. We want the students to have some understanding of who he is and what he stands for — then they can really benefit.”
Karma Lekshe Tsomo, a Buddhist nun and associate professor of theology and religious studies at USD, lived for 15 years in the town of Dharamshala, where the Dalai Lama has resided since being exiled from Tibet during a failed uprising in 1959. She has met with him there and elsewhere numerous times throughout the years.
Tsomo will greet the Dalai Lama at USD upon his arrival.
Beyond his compassion and intelligence, she said the Dalai Lama also possesses a sharp, self-effacing sense of humor.
“I am very much looking forward to meeting him again,” Tsomo said. “All the students are so excited and we’re gathering many wonderful questions that they have to ask him.”
Tsomo said she believes the “great moral exemplar” will send a message to students “that one can be both successful and ethical.
“Some of the most important virtues are the most simple ones, like love, kindness and compassion,” she said. “To meet someone who embodies these, and great wisdom, I think is very inspiring for everyone, especially for young students who are living in very troubled world, with a very uncertain future.”
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