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Tibetans unveil grand throne in Cambridge for Dalai Lama visit
Wicked Local Cambridge[Thursday, April 23, 2009 11:43]
By Jeremy White

The monks placed an image of the Dalai Lama on top of the throne, to which audience members paid homage. (Wicked Local photo by Jeremy White)
The monks placed an image of the Dalai Lama on top of the throne, to which audience members paid homage. (Wicked Local photo by Jeremy White)
Cambridge — It’s not often that an internationally recognized spiritual leader visits your town. Last Saturday at the Cambridge Marriott, the Tibetan Association of Boston unveiled a throne on which the Dalai Lama will sit during his highly anticipated teaching session at Gillette Stadium later this month.

Local Tibetan artisans constructed the throne over the course of about a month. The wooden throne was draped with ornate tapestries and its headpiece was carved with images symbolizing aspects of the Buddha’s life and various Buddhist virtues.

Lama Migma, a member of the association and the Buddhist chaplain at Harvard University, said the throne, which the Dalai Lama traditionally sits on while teaching the Four Noble Truths, carries a deep spiritual resonance.

“Unlike the chair like we use in Ivy League universities, the seat of power where we enthrone kings, the throne here has transformative significance,” he said.

Migma added that the throne helps preserve a bygone culture of Tibet, saying, “when times were good, we were underdeveloped but our spiritual development was high. It’s not that Tibetans don’t want to have material wealth, but through the teachings of the Dharma they are invested in merit.”

Once people had settled in for the event a procession of monks dressed in the iconic red and gold robes entered the room, preceded by the smoky-sweet aroma of incense and followed by a man holding aloft a photo portrait of the Dalai Lama, which he placed atop the throne.

As three monks chanted an “auspicious prayer” audience members, many of them dressed in traditional Tibetan garb, lined up to pay homage by laying symbolic offerings of white cloths on the throne.

A group of traditional dancers waits to begin their performance. (Wicked Local photo by Jeremy White)
A group of traditional dancers waits to begin their performance. (Wicked Local photo by Jeremy White)
The event also showcased Tibetan culture with several dance and musical performances. First was a good luck dance that an introductory speaker said starts off any secular event in Tibetan society.

Group and individual musical performances followed the dance. Although the musicians played traditional Tibetan music, there were some Americanized aspects to the performance. For example, some of the women wore high heels rather than the usual wooden shoes topped with embroidery.

The day’s offerings closed with a “Yak Dance,” in which a man tried to extract milk from two resistant “yaks.” His slapstick antics drew laughter from the crowd, especially from the handful of Tibetan children in attendance.

Ngwang Jorden, a 31-year-old carpenter who helped paint the throne, attended the event dressed in a green sweatshirt featuring the slogan “Tibet Will be Free” and a pin of crossed Tibetan and American flags that “represents a good bond between Tibet and America,” he said.

“It’s important for [the Dalai Lama] to visit, because we lots of students around,” Jorden said. “We are targeting students talk about peace and compassion. I’m hoping the younger generation will get involved and come to the event.”

Tenzin Sonam, the general secretary for the association, estimated that there are 500 to 600 Tibetans living in the Boston area. He said that being in the presence of the Dalai Lama is profoundly important for Tibetans scattered across the globe.

“To regular people he’s a symbolic figure who is known worldwide,”
Sonam said. “But for us it means much, much more than that. Every time we see him it gives us renewed hope and a sense of promise.”

The throne unveiling also served to generate revenue and publicity for a planned Tibetan Heritage Center, in which the throne will occupy a central place. Sonam said the association has not yet selected a site for the $1.5 million center.
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