Maitripa College eagerly awaits Dalai Lama’s visit (The Oregonian)

Maitripa College eagerly awaits Dalai Lama’s visit
Nancy Haught, The Oregonian By Nancy Haught, The Oregonian
May 03, 2013 at 4:01 PM

The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who may be as famous for his laugh as his spiritual teaching, will take part in an environmental summit Thursday through Saturday. Tickets to his public lectures at the University of Portland, the University of Oregon and at Veterans Memorial Coliseum sold out quickly.

Although he is no longer the political leader of Tibetans in exile, the Dalai Lama is a controversial figure in the minds of many since China laid claim to the country of Tibet. But for many others, he is a humble and eloquent spokesman on behalf of compassion and tolerance.

During his first visit to Portland in 2001, the 14th Dalai Lama drew more than 25,000 people to Pioneer Courthouse Square. He spoke then about peace: inner peace and world peace.

“Peace is not just mere absence of violence,” he said then. “Peace is, I think, manifestation of human compassion.”

This time around, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism will talk about the environment, the internal one and the external. Both are longtime concerns in a tradition that emphasizes the interconnectedness of all things.

The Dalai Lama’s popularity and advancing age (he’s 77) mean that he routinely turns down invitations from established and prestigious institutions. But Maitripa College, relatively new and not yet prominent, first invited him in 2006.

Yangsi Rinpoche, a founder and president of Maitripa, proposed the environmental summit during an audience with the Dalai Lama. Yangsi Rinpoche says the Dalai Lama liked the idea immediately, but it took almost six years to arrive at a confirmed date. Yangsi Rinpoche admits to “bugging” the Dalai Lama whenever their paths crossed.

Maitripa College administrators and faculty hope that a visit from the Dalai Lama will draw attention to the graduate school.

“The Dalai Lama only accepts an invitation from an organization or institution that he feels good about,” says James Blumenthal, who teaches at Maitripa and Oregon State University. This visit “is sort of his seal of approval,” he says.

Yangsi Rinpoche sees the Dalai Lama’s appearance as an honor, “like an offering.”

“I have received lots of teaching from him on the dharma,” he says. “For my generation, he is the model for all of us.”

— Nancy Haught