Dalai Lama visit draws thousands

University President Bob Bruininks presented the Dalai Lama with an honorary doctorate Sunday.
May 08, 2011

Thousands of people came to the University of Minnesota to hear the Dalai Lama speak Sunday. In his first visit in 10 years, the Dalai Lama addressed a wide variety Tibetan and non-Tibetan community members speaking on wide variety of topics beginning with a healing ceremony and ending the day with a public address on individual well-being.

To begin the morning Tibetan spiritual and cultural ceremony, “Medicine Buddha Empowerment,” the Dalai Lama prayed at a small altar before addressing the crowd from his throne.

He began the ceremony with a less than one-quarter full Mariucci Arena, but by the time he finished the ceremony, the audience had doubled.

The maximum capacity was capped at 8,600 seats and approximately 6,500 were sold for the morning, but fewer than that attended.

One official said it was puzzling why there were so few people in attendance, crediting Mother’s Day or the possible long lines to get through security.

The Dalai Lama, who spoke mostly in Tibetan with his translator seated nearby, discussed the concept of continuity of consciousness and how it existed before the current body. He said dreams were an indication of the different levels of consciousness, which is reflective of previous lives.

A few minutes into his speech, he put on his well-known matching visor to combat stadium-style lighting. He talked about the teachings of Buddhism, examining the roots of unhappiness.

“The ultimate source of suffering is within ourself. Our mental attitude really makes a difference,” he said.

He continued by saying the “secret method” of overcoming suffering is through altruism.

Between the morning and afternoon events, the Dalai Lama went to lunch with a number of University and Minnesota officials, including President Bob Bruininks, Board of Regents Chairman Clyde Allen and representatives Keith Ellison, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz.

Tibetan dancers entertained the crowd in between the morning and afternoon sessions wearing traditional Tibetan garb.

The afternoon session, “Peace Through Inner Peace,” began with Bruininks and Allen presenting an honorary doctorate of humane letters to the Dalai Lama. Bruininks placed both the white graduation collar around the Dalai Lama’s neck and placed the maroon University visor on his head.

“We are going to give him a very special visor from the University of Minnesota, that celebrates the proud traditions of the Minnesota Gophers,” Bruininks said prior to the event. “He is really dressed for the occasion, he’s wearing maroon and gold and I think the visor we give … will certainly fit with his other attire.”

The Dalai Lama briefly joked about wearing a hat without a cover to show off his shiny bald head before beginning his speech. Beginning with the importance of pairing a traditional education with a moral education as well, echoing remarks he made yesterday at the press conference.

He encouraged open-heartedness, something that is learned from the warmth of our mothers. Recounting a story of riding on his mother’s shoulders, pulling her ears to direct her and kicking his legs and crying when she didn’t follow, the audience laughed.

“First we learn from mother,” he said. “So therefore these values, these moral principals itself is not based on religious faith.”

From Minneapolis, the Dalai Lama will head to Dallas to give a keynote address at the Southern Methodist University.

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