Friday, September 22, 2006

HHDL Makes Surprise Visit to Woodstock

As reported by the Middletown Times Herald Record

By Deborah Medenbach

Woodstock — The 14th Dalai Lama, exiled head of state of Tibet and spiritual leader to more than 500 million Buddhists worldwide, offered a public address on world peace yesterday afternoon at Andy Lee Field.

The event drew thousands, all by word of mouth.

The last-minute public address was a "gift to the people of Woodstock" Supervisor Jeremy Wilber said, coming between the Dalai Lama's acceptance of an honorary doctorate in Buffalo and a three-day sold-out teaching event in New York City.

The sound check was by a woman giggling into a microphone, preparing for the laughter that would punctuate the spiritual leader's talk. As the crowd swelled across the baseball field, a quieter crowd marked by tombstones overlooked the event from a hillside cemetery."There's the final destination," the Dalai Lama said, gesturing toward the cemetery. "But before reaching there, you should live a meaningful life."

His talk focused on the human values of affection and compassion that create real bonds in families and communities.

"I call these things human values, because they don't come from religion, constitutions or education. It is from birth," the Dalai Lama said.

Though the leader has been in exile from Tibet since 1959 and his country is still in turmoil, the Dalai Lama said the practice of compassion has helped cultivate his inner strength.

He encouraged people of all religions to join together in harmony, citing the value of religion in society worldwide."All traditions teach love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and discipline, perhaps with a different presentation, but the same inside," the Dalai Lama said, "God teaches us to love God and other people. Those who cause trouble in the world, their love for God is questionable. Different spiritual masters preach wonderful things and reduce human suffering, not create it."

The thousands of people who showed up spontaneously for the event often had little more than a day's notice because of tight security by the U.S. State Department and the Office of Tibet protecting the spiritual leader.

Crowds funneled past a white van, not realizing it was an X-ray machine, checking for weapons without so much as a conveyor belt or magnetic archway to walk through. The mellow attendees clapped for the bomb-sniffing dogs after they successfully scanned the press and stage area.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner arrived a day early from his planned itinerary to speak at the invitation of the director of the Karma Triyana Dharmachakra Tibetan Buddhist monastery on Meads Mountain Road.

It is his first visit to Woodstock and the public address fell on the United Nations International Day of Peace.

He will offer a Chenrezig empowerment and teaching on compassion tomorrow to 500 Buddhists at the KTD Monastery's new shrine courtyard and will tour the recent construction at the site. That event is private.

Chinese occupation of Tibet in 1959 forced the Dalai Lama and 80,000 refugees into exile in India. He has lived in Dharamsala, India, since 1960.