U gears up for Dalai Lama’s weekend stop

The Tibetan religious leader will discuss spiritual healing and individual well-being.

Raya Zimmerman

Ten years to the date after his last appearance on the University of Minnesota campus, the Dalai Lama will share his wisdom and insight to sold-out stadium crowds through a series of events this weekend.
Co-hosted by the Center for Spirituality & Healing and the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota, the Dalai Lama will appear at two public events May 8, with âÄúMedicine Buddha EmpowermentâÄù at 9:30 a.m. and âÄúPeace Through Inner PeaceâÄù at 2 p.m.
Mary Jo Kreitzer, founder and director of the center, said his coming to the University is a âÄúonce in a lifetime event.âÄù
She said his speeches this weekend âÄúwill not just be a lecture at Mariucci Arena, but will be an opportunity to explore issues within the Tibetan community.âÄù
Event organizers believed the afternoon session is sold out, although tickets are still available for the morning, including ones priced at $35 available to students, center communications director Tony Baisley said.
 The maximum capacity for the event in Mariucci is capped at 8,600.
During his visit, the Board of Regents will award Dalai Lama an honorary doctorate, one of more than 84 awards and honorary doctorates he has received since his exile.
Kreitzer said she and TAFM president Tsewang Ngodup invited him to come to the University a few years ago, and when he accepted their invitation last August, she was not surprised.
âÄúHeâÄôs known about our work and his community is here,âÄù she said.
The center offers more than 50 courses in integrative health care education, including courses on Tibetan medicine that are taught in India.
Between 2,500 and 3,000 Tibetans live in Minnesota, the second largest population in the U.S. next to New York. Roughly 8,500 Tibetans live in the U.S., the second-largest concentration in the world after India.
Besides the spiritual and cultural implications his presence will have for the community, recent changes in Tibetan politics have drawn media attention to the Tibetan government in exile.
The Dalai Lama abdicated his role as the political leader of the Tibetan people in March, ending a system that had been in place since 1642.
Last week, Tibetan exiles elected Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard academic and international human rights law expert, as their prime minister.
The Dalai Lama will still assume his position as the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.
His political statement of advocating for democracy likely draws a unique interest in college students, Kreitzer said, because it enforces the belief in people having a voice and electing their own political leader.
Tibet-China Conflict
In 1950, the Dalai Lama assumed full political power of the Tibetan people after ChinaâÄôs invasion of Tibet. After a series of futile peace talks with Chinese leaders, he was forced to flee in 1959 and established the home of his exile community in Dharamsala, India. An estimated 80,000 Tibetans followed him.
University student Sonam Paldon first saw the Dalai Lama speak when she was 4 years old. She said she is excited to hear him this weekend, recounting what he means to her and her family.
PaldonâÄôs father was 3 years old when he and his family fled from Tibet. She said her family members who remain in Tibet said they are treated as
âÄúsecondary citizensâÄù by the Chinese government.
âÄúPersonally, I want Tibetans in Tibet to have all the same rights and freedoms as the Chinese,âÄù she said.
âÄúChinese people think that His Holiness is the mastermind behind the independent movement in and outside Tibet,âÄù
she said. âÄúBut he always talks about the âÄòMiddle WayâÄô âÄî being part of the Chinese constitution but having autonomy for Tibet.âÄù
Zhiyu Dong, a University freshman from China, said he sees Tibetans âÄúas part of China.âÄù
âÄúThey donâÄôt have a reason to be an individual country because my country treated them well,âÄù he said. âÄúThe Chinese government helps them in building roads and gives them food and clothes.âÄù
Dong said he did not buy a ticket to see the Dalai Lama this weekend, primarily because he is opposed to what the Dalai Lama represents politically.
 âÄúHeâÄôs accusing Chinese people of occupying his culture and encouraging people against our government,âÄù Dong said.
The Tibetan people have engaged in various uprisings against the Chinese government since its occupation in the 1950s. Chinese military forces have been used to settle the disputes âÄî an act, Dong said, that has been necessary to control the people to obtain peace.
He denied that the Chinese practice discrimination and said they âÄúaccept all kinds of cultures.âÄù
âÄúPeople have their own beliefs, and itâÄôs fine for me,âÄù he said.
Paldon attempted to offer a solution.
âÄúTibetans and Chinese should be more open-minded and talk to each other because there are a lot of misunderstandings toward each other,âÄù she said.
Paldon and her family plan to attend the event this weekend.
Buddhism has been a source of strength throughout her life.
âÄúThe teachings remind you that happiness doesnâÄôt always come from external things,âÄù she said. âÄúItâÄôs your mind that makes you feel suffering or happiness âÄî all those emotions are coming from your mind and you can actually control them.âÄù