Lama promotes Buddhist spirituality and meditation for Westerners

Hayley Odom

Lama Ole Nydahl spoke about developing fearlessness, joy, active compassion and seeking truth through Buddhism to approximately 30 people at the Coffman Union bookstore Tuesday.

After a book signing, Nydahl gave an introductory lecture on Buddhism and meditated with the audience at the McNamara alumni center.

He said the purpose of his visit and teachings is to promote the benefits of Buddhism to Western society.

“This is a time where cultures are available all over the world. Buddhism can be very useful (for Westerners),” he said.

Junior Jody Rader said she was excited to see Nydahl speak because he is merging Buddhism with the intellectualism of the University.

“It’s a chance for people on campus to get a taste of Western-style Buddhism,” she said.

Nydahl is from Denmark and said he encountered Buddhism while honeymooning with his wife in Nepal in 1968. After studying there for three years, they began traveling around the world to spread Buddhist teachings to Westerners.

“People sometimes think it’s strange that I ride motorcycles and do extreme sports, but that’s because I think Lamas are supposed to know life so well that they can be of use to people,” he said.

Nydahl said these experiences improve his spirituality because he learns about the mind under extreme circumstances.

“If one hasn’t tried anything and tries to advise other people, it’s not so encouraging,” he said.

Nydahl said he founded more than 400 Buddhist centers in five continents and has been traveling to a new city almost every day for the last 30 years.

“I keep my mind in one place, and my legs run around,” he said. “Other people have their minds all over the place and their bodies in one place.”

Nydahl said he receives financial support from donations. He uses money he does not personally need to buy land in Eastern Europe to set up more centers.

Sophomore Aaron Crook, Diamond Way Buddhist Meditation group officer, has found Nydahl’s teachings useful.

“The reason Buddhism is so accessible is because you don’t have to believe in anything,” he said. “You can actually benefit from the message without changing anything in your life. All you have to do is meditate.”

Once Crook began practicing meditation, he said disturbances in his life dissolved and he became a happier person. He now meditates between 30 to 45 minutes per day.

He said Nydahl’s teachings are relevant to students because an important concept of Buddhism is that truth is joy and college students are always seeking the truth.

Graduate student Jason Duncan said showing people Buddhism is applicable to everyday life demystifies it to Westerners.

Practices such as focusing on compassion, joy and how to benefit others have allowed him to become calmer in situations, he said.

“These are basic ideas that are common sense on a humanistic level and are applicable to everyone,” Duncan said.