MIDDLEBURY — When His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama makes his third visit to Middlebury next October he will bring a new message appropriate to a world that is struggling with a global financial crisis and religious differences. New, and yet the message of the spiritual leader of Tibet and 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate will be rooted in the ancient tradition of Buddhism.
So says the Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden, personal peace emissary for His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, who was in Middlebury this week preparing logistics for the Oct. 12–14 visit, hosted by Middlebury College.
“The whole world is facing major problems,” Lama Tenzin said. “The (Dalai Lama’s) message will be received more effectively because the world is in a state of confusion due to the strong hit to the economy.”
He explained that the theme of the visit will be familiar to those who have read the Dalai Lama’s latest book, “Ethics for the Whole World: Beyond Religion.”
His Holiness, who previously visited Middlebury in 1984 and 1990, will speak publicly twice during his short stay. On the afternoon of Friday, Oct. 12, Middlebury faculty, staff and students will be admitted to a talk titled “Educating the Heart”; then a lecture the following morning titled “Finding Common Ground: Ethics for a Whole World,” will be open to the public. Tickets for both events, which will take place in Nelson Arena, will be available through the Middlebury College box office.
“We are deeply honored that the Dalai Lama, a man of peace who embodies these qualities, is coming to Middlebury,” said Middlebury College President Ron Liebowitz. He said the purpose of the talks is to help people explore resources for hope, optimism and cooperation, while challenging them to lead lives of courage and engagement.
“The problems that face humankind today, and that this generation of students will be called upon to address, will necessitate not only knowledge and technological ingenuity, but also compassion, determination and sacrifice,” Liebowitz said. “These human attributes and virtues have long been fostered and sustained by the world’s religious, spiritual and philosophical communities.”
As always, the Dalai Lama’s message will come from an understanding of humanity that seeks to help people improve their inner lives, according to Lama Tenzin. The global financial insecurity provides a touch point for many to begin an exploration of what will make them happy.
“For so many years people lived and put their faith in the external world. You know, ‘If I own more property, if I become more rich then that will make me happy,’” Lama Tenzin said. “But happiness can only be within yourself.
“I’m not saying you have throw everything away, you have to break your car, give your house to other people … I’m not saying that. The idea is that you can’t be too strongly attached to it.”
Lama Tenzin said the Dalai Lama returns to Middlebury at the request of the college, which he respects because of, among other things, its environmental consciousness.
Lama Tenzin himself has been to Addison County many times. After moving to California two decades ago from his native Dharamsala, India (where his Tibetan family fled in the 1950s), Dhonden was invited to speak in Vermont by Chessy Kelley, a local meditation instructor. He has returned six or eight times to speak in various settings to explain his world view.
As the Dalai Lama’s peace emissary since 2005, he also spends a lot of time laying the groundwork for the Dalai Lama’s visits. Planning for this visit to Middlebury started 18 months ago, he said.
“I travel three or four times a month, and back to India several times a year,” Lama Tenzin said. “I put on all these events for the sake of humanity. I am a strong believer in humanity.”
His message, like that of the Dalai Lama, is to practice loving kindness and peace.
“His Holiness says a lot about being honest to yourself, love yourself, and then you can be honest to others, love others,” he said. “It’s all about basic human value.”
And that inner love and happiness can radiate to others and eventually change the world.
“The seeds for the global peace, or the highest form of compassion, originally come from yourself or your family. How you treat your children or how you treat your husband or wife, that helps you become a grounded human being, then it goes to the street and it goes to the community, then it goes globally.”
Lama Tenzin acknowledged the Dalai Lama’s popularity among people of many faiths.
“He goes out there in the public and conducts his speeches and his talks based on universal peace, based on something that is common to all, it doesn’t mater that you are a person who believes in a faith principal or you are a person who doesn’t believe in anything,” Lama Tenzin said. “He always tries to touch the people’s heart through loving kindness and through basic human values and ethics.
“These are the noble qualities of the mind that we all respect.”