By HOLLY ANGELO
NORTHAMPTON - The Dalai Lama is set to visit the Pioneer Valley on May 9 to speak with audiences from Smith College, Hampshire College and the Tibetan Association of Western Massachusetts.
"It's huge," said Susan M. Darlington, professor of anthropology and Asian studies at Hampshire College and a professor in the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program, yesterday. "He is a major religious and political leader."
Smith College President Carol T. Christ and Hampshire College President Ralph J. Hexter will host the visit. The Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program is based at Smith and has participated for years in annual academic exchanges with the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, India.
The Dalai Lama will address his audience at Smith College. The last time he visited Smith was in 1984. Five years later he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet from China.
"It is a great honor for the Smith and Hampshire communities to join with the local Tibetan association in hosting the Dalai Lama," said Kristen A. Cole, media relations director at Smith. "We can learn a great deal from his compassion and commitment to non-violence."
The Dalai Lama has met regularly over the years with program directors, and on occasion students, from the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program. The Northampton and Amherst area is a major Tibetan resettlement areas.
"Given a time where so much of our media is focused on war, to have a person who is focused on compassion and peace is a big deal," said Darlington, a former director of the Five College Tibetan Studies in India Program. "His primary responsibilities are to the Tibetans. My understanding is he selects his public appearances very carefully."
A 17-member planning committee has been making arrangements for his visit since the fall. The Dalai Lama will address his audience at Smith's indoor track and tennis facility. His talk will be restricted to those three audiences previously mentioned, but will be broadcast live on television.
"This is a significant undertaking," Cole said. "Even before his visit, both Smith and Hampshire will host a series of educational events on Buddhism and the Dalai Lama. The planning committee will also need to collaborate with a number of organizations and agencies to orchestrate the event."
For more information on the Dalai Lama's visit, go to www.smith.edu/dalailama/newsrelease.php