This article is from the archives of the UB Reporter.

Hundreds experience all Dalai Lama visit had to offer

Published: September 21, 2006

Reporter Staff Writer

As clouds from overnight rains scattered outside the Center for the Arts the morning of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama's Distinguished Speakers Series lecture at UB, early birds to campus on Tuesday cleared the mist from their own minds during an 8 a.m. meditation session in the Drama Theatre.


The day of the Dalai Lama’s Distinguished Speakers Series lecture started off with a meditation service in the Center for the Arts.

Lama Surya Das, a UB alumnus recognized as one of the foremost meditation teachers in the West, led several hundred individuals in a calm, 45-minute meditation session. After a short blessing in Tibetan and English, he instructed participants to concentrate on their breathing and focus on a contemplative act familiar to them—be it prayer or meditation. Several sat on the floor in traditional lotus positions.

Experience levels in the auditorium ranged from novice to expert. The session was the first time Patrick McGowan, a UB sophomore majoring in bioinformatics, had tried meditation. He called the visit of His Holiness to campus the perfect time to start.

"It seemed like a good chance to see what meditation was like," McGowan said.

Another participant with more meditation experience, Carole Rowley, said she thought Lama Surya Das' vast experience helped the class focus its concentration and created an atmosphere of compassion and joy. A professional musician from New York City, Rowley said she decided to make a last-minute adjustment to her travel plans to New York from London to come to Buffalo to hear the Dalai Lama speak.

In fact, hundreds of out-of-towners came to UB to hear the Dalai Lama deliver his message of peace and nonviolence. George Neureuther, director of a hunger relief program in Milwaukee, decided to spend some time before the main event in one of the many panel discussions organized as part of UB's special Day of Learning. "Putting 9/11 in Perspective: Prospects for Peace" featured a panel of prominent UB faculty members, including Bruce Jackson, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Samuel P. Capen Professor of American Culture in the departments of English and American Studies, and Roger Des Forges and Andreas Daum, professors in the Department of History.

The panelists touched on a broad spectrum of hot-button issues currently on the world stage. Neureuther said it helped open his eyes to the numerous challenges there are to peace in the wake of the terrorist bombings of Sept. 11, 2001.

"There are so many different agendas," he said. "[It] makes it complicated to plan for peace in the world."

By mid-morning, the hubbub on campus had spread from the Center for the Arts to the Student Union. Near the main entrance, students from Hillel sold T-shirts with the motto "You Be Enlightened," and in the Student Union Theater, local religious representatives participated in a panel titled "Exploring Perspectives: An Interfaith Dialogue."

Mary Ellen Baron of Clarence noted that some of the most insightful comments were those delivered on Buddhism by Jeannette Ludwig, associate professor of romance languages and literatures.

"There are so many commonalities between these religions," Baron said. "I'm interested in gaining a better understanding of all of them."

Also in the audience was Curtis Breslin, a scientist affiliated with the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Toronto. He, too, pointed out the commonalities between religions and said it was good to see a panel of representatives from different faiths come together in a spirit of mutual respect.

An event that attracted a huge level of interest was the deconstruction of the mandala sand painting by the Tibetan monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery. The half-hour deconstruction ceremony featured the performance of traditional music and chants, and closed with the monks sweeping the mandala into a pile of sand. Witnessing the event was an intimate group of ticket holders in the UB Art Gallery in the Center for the Arts—each person received a small packet of the sand as a keepsake—as well as a full house in the Mainstage theater that viewed the event live via video broadcast.

"The destruction was almost better than the construction," said Rebecca Cordaro, a Buffalo resident who came to campus several times earlier in the week to see the monks consecrate and construct the mandala.

In the afternoon—before long lines formed outside UB Stadium for the Dalai Lama's Distinguished Speakers Series lecture—people gathered beneath the sprawling tents in the field at the southeast corner of Coventry Entrance and Augspurger Road. Bright sunshine poured onto the patrons at the Dalai Lama Experience—all that remained of the late-night showers were a couple of scattered patches of mud. People ate and drank, and purchased books, posters, CDs, arts and crafts, and other commemorative items, as well as spoke to representatives of Tibetan Buddhist organizations throughout Buffalo and Western New York.

In addition, small groups gathered about tables outside the tent to construct traditional peace flags to welcome the Dalai Lama. These flags were distributed to those attending the DSS lecture. Among the volunteer peace flag artists were Rebecca Merewether of Hamburg and Canisius College student Katie Dobson, who called the chance to hear the Dalai Lama in person a "one-time" experience.

Armand Mazzaroppi of Getzville, also part of the crowd outside the stadium, agreed. "This is an incredible opportunity to see one of the most important leaders in the world," he said. "It's a wonderful event. It's wonderful for Buffalo."