Spiritual leader to visit UM

“I am just a simple Buddhist monk – no more, nor less,” the 14th Dalai Lama has been known to claim, but some members of the University of Miami community might argue that His Holiness’s visit to UM is even more exciting than the upcoming presidential debate, even if it is one of the events leading up to the debate.

Why all of the enthusiasm?

“This is a visit from a head of state-just as if the Prime Minister of Great Britain or the Premier of France was visiting,” said Dr. Stephen Sapp, chairperson of the Religious Studies Department and moderator for the Dalai Lama’s question and answer session. “This is why our Secret Service needs to be there for security.”

The Dalai Lama is also the spiritual leader for the Tibetan people, Sapp said. “Dalai Lama” translates to Ocean of Wisdom.

“This is awesome. How many people have this opportunity?” Debbie Chavez, vice president of Student Society for Religions and Cultures [SSRC], said. “Judging from the line at Ticketmaster, it seems that everyone is excited to meet such a high ranking person.”

According to the Tibetan Government in Exile website, the current Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of his predecessor, the 13th Dalai Lama, and thus the incarnation of the Buddha. Tibetan Buddhist faith follows that the Buddha chose to reincarnate to serve the people.

“He is very selfless,” Sapp said. “He clearly has a very deep connection to people that gives him a sense of calm and compassion, which people will feel.”

According to the website, China invaded Tibet in November of 1950.

“Communist China was so antithetical to religion that after trying to work with the Chinese government and not being able to, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile,” Sapp said.

Some 80,000 Tibetan refugees followed him to Dharamsala, India, according to the website. It is currently the site of the Tibetan Government-in-exile.

“Ever since, he has traveled around the world to speak on [issues such as] peace and the freedom of Tibet,” Sapp said.

Since 1967, His Holiness has visited some 46 countries. He has met with presidents, prime ministers and crowned rulers of major nations. He has held dialogues with the religious heads and well-known scientists.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for “advocat[ing] peaceful solutions based upon tolerance and mutual respect in order to preserve the historical and cultural heritage of his people.”

Tibetans sometimes refer to the Dalai Lama simply as Kundun – The Presence.

“I feel like I’m going to walk [into the Convocation Center] and feel peaceful, like walking into a church,” Leslie Chavez, president of SSRC, said. “With the stress of college, you don’t really get to experience such peace.”

The Dalai Lama will lecture on “A Human Approach to World Peace” Sept. 22 at 3 p.m. in the Convocation Center. He will also receive an honorary doctorate of humane letters in recognition of his stature as a spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and as a world visionary for peace and the environment.

Reeva Oza can be contacted at r.oza@umiami.edu.