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Following are several useful links for information online:

Ticket information for Oct. 18 & 19 talks:

Dalai Lama event information on the WCSU website:

Information about DNKL:

Website of the Office of Tibet, New York:

Official website of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama:

Venerable Emeritus Abbot Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa (known as Geshe Trinley Topgye), Spiritual Director of Do Ngak Kunphen Ling (Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace) in Redding.

Spiritual leader's historic October appearance brings message of peace and compassion
The visit of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

The seed planted in a serendipitous conversation between two old friends, reunited after two decades, will bear fruit in the historic visit this fall of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to Western Connecticut State University to deliver his universal message of peace and compassion.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan Buddhist community and recipient of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his commitment to international harmony and democratization in his native land, will deliver talks on “The Art of Compassion” at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 18, and “Advice for Daily Life” at 9: 30 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 19. His presentations will take place in the Feldman Arena of the O’Neill Center on the university’s Westside campus in Danbury, with seating capacity provided for an audience of 3,500.

WCSU President James W. Schmotter described the Dalai Lama’s visit as “an important milestone in our university’s history. The events of October 18 and 19 will not only galvanize the entire university community; they will also signal a new level of public stature for WCSU.”

“I have had the great fortune to hear His Holiness speak and teach many, many times,” remarked Susan Altabet, president of the board of directors of Do Ngak Kunphen Ling (Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace) in Redding, which has cooperated with WCSU to arrange the Dalai Lama’s visit to Danbury. His talks will afford a special opportunity to learn from “one of the world’s greatest leaders in peace and wisdom,” she noted.

“Study his books and some philosophical literature before going; go to lectures, classes and events inspired by his visit,” she advised. “But when you go to hear His Holiness, try to be empty of preconceptions. You just never know what might come in.”

Since the recent establishment of the DNKL center in Redding, Altabet recalled that for some time she had discussed the possibility of inviting His Holiness to visit with DNKL Spiritual Director Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa, an old friend and former monastery classmate in Tibet of the Dalai Lama. “Finally, one day about two years ago, Rinpoche’s answer was ‘Yes’ – but where and how could we do it?”

The answer began to take shape in the course of conversation between Altabet’s husband Stephen Dydo and WCSU Professor of Writing, Linguistics and Creative Process Dr. John Briggs, who had reconnected with Dydo to renew a friendship begun more than 20 years earlier when they taught together at the New School for Social Research in New York.   

“It came up that DNKL was looking for a way to bring His Holiness to the area but they needed a large venue for that to happen, and it seemed logical to consider an arrangement between Western and DNKL to make that possible,” Briggs said. “As soon as we reached that point in the discussion, I called my old friend and colleague (WCSU Professor of Music) Eric Lewis, and we met with Susan, Stephen and (DNKL resident teacher) Geshe Dhargye in my office.” They decided to approach then-Provost Dr. Linda Rinker and President Schmotter, who endorsed the initiative and agreed to join in submission in February 2010 of separate letters of invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama from the university and DNKL.

The ultimate success of the WCSU-DNKL invitation, formally accepted by the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in December 2011, represents an important recognition for the university and the fruitfulness of its cooperation with the Buddhist center.  

“His Holiness has visited the most notable universities in the world,” Schmotter observed. The inclusion of Western in the Dalai Lama’s itinerary this fall, during a trip that will also bring him to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Brown University, “honors us and demonstrates the company we keep,” the president noted. “Many who do not know us will visit the campus in October. If past experience holds, they will be impressed by what they see and will spread the word.

“We could not have arranged this exciting event without the gracious assistance of the DNKL Buddhist center in Redding,” he added. “The further development of this cooperative relationship will be a long-lasting result of the visit.”

Briggs remarked that the project to bring His Holiness to WCSU held a powerful attraction to him and Lewis because it promises to “bring the force of the Dalai Lama’s message directly to our students. We feel that this generation of students in particular faces challenges that require the broadest possible perspective on the human condition, a perspective not readily available in our entertainment-driven, self-oriented culture.

“His Holiness is an unusual figure, a person who is respected as transcending religious differences, honored for his single-minded tolerance and his focus on compassion and human unity,” he added. “We were both certain the Dalai Lama’s unique combination of spirituality, practicality and worldly good humor would inspire our students to meet the challenges that the older generation has left for them.”

In an age of selfish individualism, political strife and international division, Lewis said, “his message is very important for us to hear right now. It seems like the moment for our community to have a very sane voice focus our sense of compassion, because this is the only way that humanity is going to survive.

“I was brought up at the Manhattan School of Music with a very strong sense that the arts, especially music, had the power to bring compassion to the audience through cathartic thought and empathy,” he added. “This is something that we were trained to do as artists, very much inspired by the ideas of spirituality and compassion to make a difference in the world.”

Schmotter anticipates that His Holiness’s visit will reap benefits for educational enrichment in the university and the community. “The Dalai Lama’s visit holds the promise of generating interdisciplinary dialogue among Western colleagues that can affect the university’s intellectual life for years to come,” he said. “The lessons of His Holiness’s life and teachings are relevant to many academic endeavors.  I have little doubt that they will enrich our faculty’s scholarship and teaching, and ultimately our students will be the beneficiaries of this enrichment.”

Altabet observed that the series of lectures, films, classes and conferences at WCSU and the Redding Buddhist center in the year leading up to the Dalai Lama’s visit will “increase awareness about peace and compassion in general, and Tibetan philosophy and culture in particular. WCSU students are finding meaningful ways to participate in compassionate activities; many interested people are becoming aware of DNKL as a local Dharma center and coming there to participate in programs and classes.”

Inspired by His Holiness’s visit, she noted, DNKL and WCSU participants in cooperative activities have embraced a spirit of mutual respect and appreciation, patience and generosity, and shared effort that will change lives and prove valuable in pursuing future joint endeavors such as a proposed center for the advanced study of creativity and compassion. “We have all found this experience to be so valuable that we never want it to end,” she said.

Briggs, who helped to coordinate the April WCSU conference on “Creativity and Compassion” exploring the interplay between these two concepts, suggested “the most important single benefit that unites all these events is to stimulate awareness of the transformations that can take place if one engages with others and with the world passionately. The root of compassion is ‘passion with’ – not only helping others but being with others, listening to them, putting yourself even in your adversary’s shoes.

“At every graduation ceremony I’ve attended, the commencement speaker in one form or other says two things: Be creative and innovative, and leave the world a better place,” he said. “Yet the concepts of creativity and compassion as such are seldom discussed directly in our various curricula. Perhaps the visit by His Holiness will inspire us to be more explicit in classroom inquiry in exploring how we can activate our creativity and compassion in our various disciplines and modes of thought in order to make a better world and a better self.”

Lewis expects those who attend the Dalai Lama’s talks in October will discover a humble and joyful man whose calm presence is tangible even in a large university arena. Far from seeming remote or mystical, the Dalai Lama’s book “Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World” – the latest among more than 70 works published by His Holiness – “reads like a manual for everyday living,” Lewis observed.”He gets across his message of spirituality in an accessible way that makes you feel like you’re talking to a relative, someone giving you advice from a long history of experience in living these ideas.” 

Cover photo: His Holiness visited with DNKL Spiritual Director Gyumed Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Jampa, an old friend and former monastery classmate in Tibet.

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