Cultural and Academic Focus For His Holiness's Visit

To keep the focus on the Dalai Lama's visit an academic one, a campus steering committee is busily providing plenty of contextual referencing, along with cultural programs, to prepare the campus—and the wider community—for the historic occasion.

For instance, throughout September 2006, the University Libraries will host a multimedia exhibit entitled “The Dalai Lama: His Life and Thought.” Prepared by a team of UB librarians, led by librarian Cynthia Tysick of the Arts and Sciences Libraries and informed by the insights of local experts, this colorful exhibit will be mounted on the second floor of Lockwood Library, with a smaller component on the first floor of the Undergraduate Library in Capen Hall. It will feature a dramatic collage of photographs of the Dalai Lama, accompanied by a timeline; a multimedia station that presents commentary and interpretation; and texts, images and artifacts loaned by UB faculty members and others.

“Interpretative notes will explain the significance of each displayed item,” says Charles D'Aniello, associate librarian. “In addition, a large prayer wheel (called ‘Mani wheels' by the Tibetans) will be built and it will be decorated by the children of UB librarians and others.”

Related community events will include a display of Tibetan relics at the Buffalo Museum of Science and cultural programs within the Buffalo Public Schools. For instance, a university-community coalition will encourage area children in grades kindergarten to two to make “peace flags,” an adaptation of the Tibetan prayer flags that are seen everywhere in that country. Plans call for the flags to be flown at UB Stadium on the day of the Dalai Lama's main address and at other sites before and after.

Older students in grades three through five will begin to learn about Tibetan communities and culture as part of their studies in September. Activities for children in grades six through eight include more in-depth material covering peaceful conflict resolution, political history and related topics. Special curricula is being planned for high school students as well, and UB is inviting high school juniors and seniors to participate in an essay contest centered on the principal theme of the visit, “Promoting Peace Across Borders Through Education.”

Prayer Wheel

Prayer Wheel: This common devotional device permits spinning the wheel continually with a simple wrist motion.

Dennis Hohman, a Buddhist practitioner, Buffalo-area electrical engineer and community representative on the campus steering committee, leads monthly “Community Outreach” meetings. This group of about 70 volunteers is busy planning activities and events “to raise public awareness about His Holiness, his message to the world concerning ethics and peaceful conflict resolution, as well as about the culture of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism,” Hohman explains. Their work includes coordinating the display of a Tibetan religious and cultural relics tour to be hosted by the Buffalo Museum of Science.

The Tibet-in-Buffalo Film Festival has also helped set the stage culturally, beginning in March with Martin Scorsese's Kundun at the Market Arcade Film and Arts Centre in downtown Buffalo. The festival also brought attention to Tashi Wangchuk, MFA '05, whose film was shown in the film festival, and media study graduate student Ugyen Norbu. “I have learned a lot about the Tibet freedom movement to which they are committed—some more spiritually and some more politically,” says their teacher Sarah Elder, UB professor of media study. “They have taught me many of the nuances, subtleties and aesthetics of Tibetan values.” Tashi Wangchuk's new feature film, Two Exile Brothers, will be screened at the Center for the Arts as part of academic events preceding the Dalai Lama's main address.

Meanwhile, Martin McGee, a Buffalo filmmaker and television producer whose documentary, Mandala: World of the Mystic Circle, will be shown in September at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, plans to document for posterity many of the activities associated with the visit. “I've been videotaping all the outstanding guest speakers participating in the Spring 2006 ‘Tibet: Myth and Reality' lecture course,” McGee states, “and I'm currently shooting a documentary about the community-wide education efforts that are happening with local elementary and high schools in conjunction with the visit.” McGee visited Tibet in 1987 and chaired the Western New York Year of Tibet committee in 1991–1992.

Prayer Rosary

Mala rosewood Tibetan prayer rosary contains 108 beads used to count various devotional practices.

Filling out the cultural tableau is a week-long residency at UB of the “Mystical Arts of Tibet,” a performing arts troupe based in Atlanta, Georgia. One of the member monks will lecture on the symbolism of the mandala at the Center for the Arts Mainstage the morning of the Dalai Lama's main speech in UB Stadium. Throughout that morning, visitors will be able to view the mandala sand painting and related exhibitions in the UB Art Gallery. See article on mandala sand painting at http://buffalo.edu/UBT/feature/dalailama/.

Also planned is a major legal conference, September 20–22, on “Law, Buddhism and Social Change” organized by Rebecca French, author of The Golden Yoke: the Legal Cosmology of Buddhist Tibet and UB professor of law. “His Holiness, who has never talked about how you make social change happen, will address the opening of the conference,” says French, who speaks Tibetan and once lived at the Dalai Lama's compound in Dharamsala. “Leading professors in law and philosophy and Buddhist experts will be participating. We are working to grow the Center for Law and Buddhism. Ultimately, I would like to coordinate all of the Buddhist lawyers in the U.S., to bring people together to introduce compassion and Buddhism to the American legal system.”

Related Reading: Great Expectations, The Dalai Lama at a glance, An Inner View of Tibetan Life, Logistical Planning in Earnest