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From Land of Snows to the City of Roses
Portland welcomes the Dalai Lama of Tibet
by Kelsang Shakya
The Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, is the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people. He is coming to Portland at the invitation of the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association to support their hopes for a cultural center that will help preserve Tibetan culture and foster the study of peace and understanding. Over the course of his three-day visit, His Holiness will participate in four major events, speaking about the power of compassion and non-violence and Ethics for a New Millennium, which is also the title of his latest book.

The Dalai Lama was born in Tibet on July 6, 1930 and was recognized as the reincarnation of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama when he was two years old. He has been leader of the Tibetan people from a young age, assuming both religious and political authority and hailed as both “god and king” of Tibet. Throughout the most turbulent and disturbing actions by communist China, we Tibetans have been led with Grace and Honor by His Holiness’ teachings of Compassion and Wisdom and a strict policy of non-violence. We have slowly but steadily allowed the rest of the world, especially the West to take notice of our plight, of our refugee status and of the infiltration of masses of Chinese populations into our holy land of Tibet.

By and large, Western nations have not stood up to Chinese human rights violations and environmental violations due to a combination of business and political interests. Official opposition to the systematic destruction by Communist China of the ancient Tibetan Buddhist culture and traditions, including thousands of centuries old monasteries and artifacts and holy texts has also been muted. We have, however, received the sympathy and compassion of the people of America and other countries around the world. Awareness has spread by word of mouth, through interactions with Tibetan people who are refugees in this country, as well as through the arts and media, in the form of books, music, dance and films. 

Western students of Buddhism have long had an interest in Tibet, flocking to Dharamsala, India, or Kathmandu, Nepal or anywhere that they can find a Tibetan Lama or Rinpoche to receive teachings. These days, many of these westerners have opened Buddhist centers of their own, and Tibetan Lamas have more and more opportunities to travel and teach all over the world. Even here in Portland, there are so many Buddhist centers that one could fill an entire calendar with dates for blessings, teachings, or lectures by resident or visiting esteemed teachers and certainly find a personal guru.

The Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association was established in 1994 to support the cultural activities for Tibetans who make their home in Oregon and Southwest Washington. The Association is sponsoring the Pathways to Peace festival, which will be a stepping stone to our ultimate goal of establishing a permanent Tibetan Center in Portland. This center, which would be the first of its kind in North America, will help preserve Tibetan culture and foster the study of peace and understanding.

His Holiness’ visit marks the culmination of a 3-year effort initiated by the NWTCA under the leadership of its current President Mr. Jigme Topgyal. The Governor, the Mayor of Portland, the Chief of Portland Public Schools, the Jewish, Buddhist and Native American communities, the World Forestry Institute and many other community and social organizations graciously endorsed his visit. The visit and all the events surrounding it was called the Pathways to Peace program, and many volunteers from both the Tibetan and American community worked hard on the planning and organization.

While most tickets for paid events were already sold out by the beginning of this year, there are still many free events including a welcoming celebration on May 13, 2001 at Pioneer Courthouse Square from 12:30 – 5:30 pm. This multicultural celebration will include music, entertainment, and food and it is free and open to the public. Throughout the month of May there will be exhibitions of Tibetan Art, Music, and Films. Also, many Tibetan teachers and Rinpoches will be offering Buddhist teachings after the 3-day event.

You can visit the Pathways to Peace website at www.nwtca.com. They may be reached at (503)222-7172 or info@nwtca.org

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