Leading the efforts to bring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama to the area last week were Gyumed Kensur Rinpoche, spiritual director at the Do Ngak Kunphen Ling (DNKL) Tibetan Buddhist Center for Universal Peace in Redding, its board, and Redding residents.
The Dalai Lama and Rinpoche knew each other in their Tibetan homeland. Rinpoche recalls that 65 years have passed since he first encountered the Dalai Lama, who was 12 years old at the time. Rinpoche was 10.
Rinpoche came to the DNKL Buddhist Center in 2007. For some time, he and DNKL supporters sought to bring the Dalai Lama to this area. Realizing the immensity of such an undertaking, DNKL looked to nearby Western Connecticut State University in Danbury to co-host his visit.
Hugh Karraker, who grew up in Redding and still lives here, helped sponsor the visit.
“Spending a few hours in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a joyful and mind-expanding experience,” said Mr. Karraker. “I was encouraged to hear His Holiness advocate for determined action in the pursuit of one’s goals.”
Mr. Karraker, who became a sponsor of the talks, expected his support would guarantee him seating, but said he “was later thrilled to learn I was helping to fund WestConn’s program for peace. I’m pleased that WestConn and DNKL have become close and there is potential for further cooperation in Buddhist teachings. His Holiness believes only a well-educated and ethical younger generation can create a new paradigm in the 21st Century.”
Betsy Ritchie of Georgetown, who attended all of the associated events of the Dalai Lama’s visit, said, “It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Dalai Lama in person and listen to his messages. Everyone knows that to hear from someone without ego, with no agenda, is a rare thing. He was lovely, had lots of energy, beautiful, down to earth, approachable. It was a gift to have met him.”
Rosalind Kopfstein, Redding’s Commission on Aging chair and an adjunct professor in sociology at WCSU, reflected on the meaning of the His Holiness’s remarks.
“The Dalai Lama was truly inspiring — if only his message of simple yet profound ideals of compassion, finding inner peace and happiness, and treating everyone as humans since we are all the same could only be accomplished in our lifetime. It takes action and not just prayer to accomplish these goals.”
Also attending the event were several members of the Redding Land Trust. The land trust has an easement on some of the land owned by the DNKL Buddhist Center.
Last week at the O’Neill Center, the Dalai Lama and Rinpoche sat together on the same stage beneath an image of the Potala, the ancient Buddhist monastery near the Tibetan capitol of Lhasa. Before them to listen to the Dalai Lama’s words sat thousands, not ethnic Tibetans, although there were a number in the audience, but American students and their parents, teachers and professors, shopkeepers, journalists, religious leaders, police, nurses. In fact, people from all walks of life, not just from Danbury and Redding but from New England and beyond, had come to hear his words.
Dr. Jane Hamilton-Merritt is a journalist, photographer, human rights advocate and expert on Southeast Asia. She was twice nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.