STRENGTH, COMPASSION

Dalai Lama schedules first New Orleans visit

“Resilience: Strength through Compassion and Connection” is the message the 14th Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will carry with him next month as he visits New Orleans for the first time.

Event organizers are hoping that message will have a lasting impact on the area.

“When the Dalai Lama visits an area, he brings with him a palpable connection to hope and possibility, which is something our city and the greater New Orleans area could truly benefit from,” visit Outreach Coordinator Gael Thompson said.

“Almost as important as the Dalai Lama visiting us in New Orleans is what is available to us as individuals and as a community after he leaves,” she said. “It is said that after he has graced a city, there is a great potential for positive change to occur.”

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, will accept an honorary doctorate from Tulane, keynote a conference and present public talks during his May 16-18 visit.

His visit arises from an invitation extended by the Tulane School of Social Work through Dean Ron Marks, who has fostered an affiliation with the Tibetan population in north India and has conducted classes there for the past 12 years.

To raise awareness about the Dalai Lama’s visit, the Dalai Lama NOLA Outreach Team has distributed colorful prayer flags and planned a series of talks, films, and yoga classes leading up to the public talks.

Shirvin Saroop, a member of the outreach team, said the group’s efforts have been met with good results.

“We have seen a lot of positive feedback, and we received so much support that we are placing another order for prayer flags,” he said.

The outreach team has tailored its message for the area.

“We have focused on these principles of compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and non-violence,” Thompson said. “Because the Dalai Lama’s people have had to deal with great hardship and prejudice, as in our city, we have similar problems with prejudice and poverty and hardship. The Dalai Lama brings to all of us a universal message of tolerance and compassion.”

Planning events based on resilience for south Louisiana, particularly the New Orleans area, was no stretch, she said.

“We have our own unique flavor of resilience, compassion and connection. And we are strong,” Thompson said.

She hopes the visit “will remind us of the profound interconnectedness and interdependence of all living beings.”

In an effort to translate the Dalai Lama’s message into an active way of living long after his visit has ended, the outreach team also offers lesson plans, one set for children and one set for adults and teenagers, prepared by social workers who studied with the Tulane School of Social Work. The lesson plans are available free of charge online and the team encourages people to share with classes, friends and family.

Though the public talks are long sold out, the outreach team will be live-streaming his talks online at http://dalailamanola.com.

Several venues around New Orleans will be hosting live screenings. Locations include Zeitgeist Muti-disciplinary Arts Center, Swan River Yoga, Ashé Cultural Arts Center, Mimi’s in the Marigny and Wild Lotus Yoga.

Other events throughout the weekend are free and open to the public, such as multiphonic chanting by Buddhist Drepung Loseling monks, the creation and display of a sand mandala and a Tibetan bazaar. For details, visit http://dalailamanola.com/resources.