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Dalai Lama Visits State University at Buffalo
NY Times[Thursday, September 21, 2006 08:51]

AMHERST, N.Y., September 20 - Maureen Glenn had Tuesday off, but she showed up at work anyway.

Her employer, the State University at Buffalo, canceled classes and closed most of its offices as it welcomed the Dalai Lama, the head of Tibet’s government-in-exile, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Excused from her usual duties cataloguing books at the university’s law library in this suburb of Buffalo, Ms. Glenn spent the morning helping visitors to the campus find parking spots.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be around the Dalai Lama,” she said. “This is the most exciting thing to happen at U.B. since I started working here in 1984.”

The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, arrived here on Monday for a three-day visit, responding to an invitation extended by the university’s international studies program two years ago. Part of the draw, school officials said, was the number of students of Asian descent who attend the state’s largest university. Its 27,000-plus students include 500 from China, 250 from Taiwan and 10 from Tibet.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese crushed a Tibetan bid for independence and lives in exile in Dharmsala, India.

On Monday evening, he attended an interfaith religious service that drew about 6,000 people. Then, on Tuesday, more than 30,000 people gathered inside the school’s football stadium to hear him speak. And today, he addressed scholars on Buddhism and the law.

Although he is often referred to as “His Holiness,” he played down his significance.

“I’m nothing, but just one of you,” the Dalai Lama said Tuesday in his address at the stadium. “From birth, every human being has the same right to have a successful life, a happy life.”

“The worst thing,” he added, “if some come here with some kind of blind faith, thinking I have some special energy or healing power. That, I think, is nonsense.”

One of the university’s Tibetan students described speaking with the Dalai Lama as a life-changing experience. Kunchok Youdon was part of the group that met his traveling party at the airport on Monday.

“I was so overwhelmed, I was so near to him, I told my friend, ‘I’m going to faint,’ ” she said. “I was shaking, but when he came close, we were so blessed and calm all the nervousness was gone.”

Ms. Youdon said the Dalai Lama, who spoke in Denver on Sunday and is scheduled to teach “mind transformation” at the Beacon Theater in Manhattan from Sept. 23 to Sept. 25, patted her cheek and draped a khata, a Tibetan silk scarf used for blessing, over her shoulders.

“For all the Tibetan students, these are the biggest days of our lives,” she said. “It’s like a dream come true for me.”

Some Chinese students, who consider the Dalai Lama a separatist opposed to the Chinese government, expressed unhappiness in advance of his visit, though planned protests did not materialize.

He met with some of those students on Tuesday morning in a private session with about 175 students of Chinese descent. “There was no anger or shouting,” said Dennis R. Black, the university’s vice president for student affairs. “There were serious questions and serious answers.”

Mr. Black said students asked about the Dalai Lama’s leadership of Tibet, including his decision to go into exile.

“I’d say I was educated from a different point of view this morning,” said one 30-year-old graduate student from southern China who spoke on the condition he not be identified for fear of repercussions from the government.

“He said they bombed his residence,” the student said. “That kind of story, I had never heard.”

The student said the Dalai Lama did not advocate independence for Tibet, but greater autonomy and cultural identity while remaining part of China.

“He showed great admiration for Chairman Mao, and I was surprised by that,” the student said, referring to Mao Zedong, whose government invaded Tibet. “The Dalai Lama is honest in expressing his views and I think it’s good for me to hear the story from his mouth.”

For Ms. Youdon, maintaining Tibetan culture is more important than Tibet’s political status. Her parents fled Tibet after the Chinese takeover in 1959, she said, and she lived with them in India before coming here two years ago.

“We’ve been living for 47 years as refugees,” she said. “We risk losing our culture. If we have a Tibet where we can practice our culture, we can stay together.”

Ms. Youdon said the Dalai Lama’s advancing age — he is 71 — adds urgency to that goal.

“After he passes away,” she said, “we don’t know what we’re going to do.”
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