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Dalai Lama Comes to Atlanta

Thousands gather to hear Dalai Lama

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/22/07
H-E-L-L-O. D-A-L-A-I. Those were the letters painted on the five bare chests and backs of Georgia Tech students waiting Monday for the Dalai Lama's public address at Centennial Olympic Park.

Buddhist monks in burgundy robes stopped to take pictures of the crew.

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"We decided to paint up for the Dalai Lama," said 18-year-old Ira Kaplan. "He is Buddhist, so he has got to be chill."

Fellow letter 'L' Ross Taylor chimed in, "This is our peaceful shout-out to the Dalai Lama."

Several thousand people gathered an hour before the Tibetan holy man was scheduled to talk about educating the heart and mind. As the crowd kept coming, some in business suits, some in green hair, they spread blankets on the damp ground or found spots to sit, bringing a little rock concert atmosphere to the Dalai Lama's stay in Atlanta.

Sarah Layton, a Georgia State University Student carrying a Frisbee, said she attended the Dalai Lama's teaching on Buddhism at Emory University Sunday.

"This has been a very positive experience," she said.

Fellow student Brian Therow said, "How often do you get to see a spiritual icon like this?"

Zachary Baxter, a Marietta street preacher, thought it was about once too often.

He stood outside the park trying to warn people off.

"He is sending millions of people to hell. I don't believe this is right," he said.

It is the final appearance of the Dalai Lama in Atlanta.

Earlier in the day at Emory University to the sounds of bagpipes mixed with traditional Tibetan long horns the Dalai Lama was installed in a formal ceremony as the university's newest faculty member.

It is the first time Tibetan spiritual leader has accepted such a post at an American university and it is the culmination of more than 15 years of work between Emory and the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet after the Chinese invaded in 1959. He lives in exile in India.

"We appreciate more deeply what this appointment means, two great intellectual traditions together," said Emory President James Wagner.

Emily Allen, the president of the Student Government Association, presented the Dalai Lama with an official Emory ID faculty card, as the crowd laughed.

"It is a privilege to share our Emory with you," she said.

The serious event was tempered with the Dalai Lama's famous sense of humor. He held Wagner's microphone from him when there was a technical glitch with the sound on the stage.

"This man is a genuine human being," Wagner said. "It's hard to get back to the formal script."

"Professor, these are your students," Wagner said, as the Dalai Lama rose to give his inaugural lecture.

The Dalai Lama joked about how he was a simple monk who was honored to be a professor at such a prestigious university.

"With no training, no modern education, now somehow I got a professorship. I feel really feel rewarded."

During his talk, he told the audience to keep a holistic view, realizing that they are part of a larger world.

Money, fame and power come and go, he said. "At the end our lives, it is about something more meaningful."

Emory junior Ari Rose, who attended the ceremony, called it "surreal."

"To certain people he's like the pope," he said. "And here we are as Emory students, waking up at like 8 o'clock and getting to be a part of this."

After his installation, the Dalai Lama, in an intimate ceremony with chanting monks and about 80 people, blessed a new monastery for the Drepung Loseling Institute in Atlanta. The Buddhist monks had been teaching in rented office property near Emory University.

They will not live at the new monastery, a former church on Dresden Drive near Peachtree-DeKalb Airport. They bought it this year and are rebuilding it in traditional Tibetan style with a white smooth exterior and red door brightly painted with traditional floral designs.

When it is finished, it will contain an art gallery, a shop where Tibetan goods are sold and classrooms for performing traditional arts and teaching Buddhist principals, philosophy and meditation.

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