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The Dalai Lama and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. Photo: Sarah Harris
The Dalai Lama and Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. Photo: Sarah Harris

Dalai Lama addresses thousands in Middlebury

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The Dalai Lama visited Middlebury College in Vermont last Friday and Saturday. Thousands of people descended on the college town to hear his message.

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Sarah Harris
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People from all over started pouring into the Middlebury gym early Saturday morning, eager to hear the Dalai Lama speak. 

Sometime on Friday, Ellen and Mike Weaver jumped in the car. "We drove in from Cleveland cause our son goes to school here so we’re very excited to see him," Ellen Weaver said. 

"I’m very excited that we could drive 10 hours to get here at midnight so we could get up at five a.m. to see him," Mike Weaver added. 

Thousands of people, including many Tibetans, listened raptly to the Dalai Lama's address. Photo: Sarah Harris
Thousands of people, including many Tibetans, listened raptly to the Dalai Lama's address. Photo: Sarah Harris
Laki Tsering, a Tibetan-American from New York City, was standing against a wall near the back. She plans to move to Burlington soon, and told me it was an important day for Vermont’s small but active Tibetan community. She said she was here to listen to the Dalai Lama’s teachings on compassion, peace, happiness, and “not to be greedy”, but “for us he’s like God, so just to look at him is enough.”  

Tenzin Dorjee and his wife, Yangchen, own the Himalayan Restaurant in Plattsburgh.

"I’m basically looking for ways to see how we can promote and preserve our culture in the Adirondacks so I’m hopeful that there will be some message as to what direction my wife and I should be taking," he said. 

Tenzin told me he gets a “a warm, tingling sensation” when he sees the Dalai Lama, “and that remains for a couple of days. It’s just a really good warm feeling, you feel that as if, you know, you’re wanted."

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy introduced the Dalai Lama.

"In a way it seems strange to introduce his Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people. Nobody could really introduce this man," Leahy said. "But I think of him as the use and power of the human spirit. But here in Vermont, your Holiness, we think of you as our friend."

The Dalai Lama wandered unassumingly onto the stage. He’s a spry 77, wearing red and saffron monks’ robes, a red visor, and glasses. Although he addressed the crowd in English, he was joined by a translator for a talk that centered around the importance of putting other people’s well-being before your own. 

The Dalai Lama alternately dispensed wisdom and humor. He chuckled a lot. But this wasn’t a speech about Tibetan politics, even though halfway across the world on Saturday, a middle aged Tibetan man named Tamdin Dorjee died after setting himself on fire in protest of the Chinese government’s control in his region. 

The Dalai Lama didn’t talk about any of that. Instead, he closed with a lesson.

"If you can, help other. Serve other. As much as you can," he said. "That’s the proper way to lead a meaningful life. So at the end, you feel no regret." 

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