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Lehigh prepares for Dalai Lama’s 2008 visit with series of on-campus events

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama

Lehigh University will host a series of campus-wide events throughout the 2007-08 academic year to help build awareness of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama prior to his historic visit to campus in July.

“A visit and teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual and temporal leader of the Tibetan people, is an extraordinary honor for Lehigh and is a time for unparalleled scholarly exploration for the entire campus community,” says Lehigh President Alice P. Gast. “Throughout the coming year, there will be opportunities for the Lehigh community to learn about Tibet and Tibetans, their history, religion, culture, food, music and philosophy.”

The schedule of activities during this academic year will include a series of lectures, a film series on Tibet and Buddhism, an art exhibit of Tibetan art and photography, and even the serving of Tibetan food once per month in Lehigh’s three main dining rooms (the Asa Packer Room, Rathbone, and Cort Dining Rooms).

Kicking off the lecture series will be a presentation given by Anne Meltzer, the Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and Lehigh professor Peter Zeitler, both of whom are faculty in the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department. The public lecture will be held Sept. 18 at 4:10 p.m. in Sinclair Auditorium. In this lecture, Meltzer and Zeitler will discuss their experiences in Tibet, where both have been working on a research project for the past several years. The visual presentation will focus on the Tibetan plateau and the Himalayas as well as the Tibetan people.

Then on Oct. 17, Donald S. Lopez, Jr., one of America’s top Tibetan Buddhist scholars, will give a lecture titled “The Shangri-la Syndrome.” Lopez, the Arthur E. Link Distinguished University Professor of Buddhist and Tibetan Studies, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, has written a series of books, including Buddhism and Science: A Historical Critique (The University of Chicago Press, forthcoming), The Madman’s Middle Way, Buddhism: An Introduction and Guide; Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (a work which captured the American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, 1999).

Among the Dalai Lama-related events in November will be a Nov. 13 lecture called “Stages of the Path to Enlightenment: An Overview of the Great Treatise.” This talk will take place in the Linderman Library’s Humanities Forum, Room 200 at 4:10 p.m. The lecturer will be Joshua W. C. Culter, who served as Editor-in-Chief of the English translation of this important early 15th century work by Tsong-kha-pa. It is the source text for the Dalai Lama’s week-long teaching at Lehigh University in July 2008. Cutler is also the Executive Director of the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in New Jersey where he and his wife, Diana Cutler, serve as resident teachers and scholars.

On Nov. 28, Dork Sahagian, Environmental Studies Initiative Director, will deliver a lecture entitled “Adventures on top of the world: A visitor's view of Tibet's cultural, political, and geological place on the Earth.”

During the spring semester, a film series as well as a number of on-campus lectures by top Tibetan Buddhist scholars are planned. Further details about all Dalai Lama events and activities will be provided in the coming weeks and months as plans are finalized. To keep abreast of the latest activities, visit Lehigh's Lehigh's Dalai Lama Web site.

The purpose of these events is to educate the campus community prior to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s visit next July. His visit will include a series of teachings as well as a half-day public lecture on July, 13, 2008. The five-and-a-half days of teachings, sponsored by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center in Washington, N.J., will take place July 10-15, 2008.

The spiritual leader of Tibet, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, will teach on Tsong-kha-pa’s Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment: The Lamrim Chenmo. It represents the most extensive teaching on the classic Tibetan Buddhist text that the Dalai Lama has presented in North America. There will be a session each morning and each afternoon.

The half-day public lecture will take place on July 13, 2008 from 2-4 p.m. His Holiness will give a public talk on “Generating a Good Heart.” He will also answer questions submitted in writing by the audience, collected throughout a 12-month period, through Lehigh's Dalai Lama Web site.

Lloyd Steffen, the co-chair of the steering committee for the historic July visit, believes that it is important for members of the Lehigh community to attend these events to get a better understanding of the Dalai Lama.

“The activities and guest speakers we have planned for this coming year will broaden knowledge about the Tibetan people and their culture while reminding us that we have among us scholars and teachers who have intersected with this fascinating and politically complex country,” Steffen says. “I hope that this year we shall gain some critical perspective on the romance associated in the West with Tibet, while also remembering that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said that what is most enduring in Tibetan culture is not the national dress or a specific cuisine—it is Buddhism.

“My personal hope is that our events this year will help those of us who are not Buddhist come to a deeper appreciation for the spiritual values of non-violence and compassion so central to all Buddhist teaching but which all people of good will can and should honor. The Dalai Lama is himself a living reminder that we need to make central to our lives non-violence and compassion for all who suffer, for these are the core values needed if we are going to build a more caring and peaceful world.”

--Bill Doherty

Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2007

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