The Dalai Lama in New York

The following article is from the Autumn, 1999 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.


by Marta Macbeth

Even the Secret Service agents were impressed with the weather. Every day before The Dalai Lama arrived at the Beacon Theater, the sun came out. The planned watering of Central Park became unnecessary as thunder, lightning and rain pummeled New York City in the evenings on the days preceding the Sunday event.

My experience of these teachings was as a volunteer for the Gere Foundation. The professionalism and efficiency shown during the week amazed me. It was an honor to serve His Holiness and a privilege to work with such a heart-centered yet grounded Foundation. The Tibet Center co-sponsored the teachings and the combined effort was successful.

The Beacon Theater teachings were based on the middle-length Bhavanakrama, or Stages of Meditation, by Kamalashila. One thing which stood out for me in these teachings was the stages of meditating compassion. This is done by meditating on compassion for neutral persons, then friends, then enemies. It is a challenging concept for me to view these three as the same.

Everytime His Holiness entered or exited the Beacon, people gathered so they could greet him and experience his warmth and smile. However, the Secret Service agents, who were very serious about guarding His Holiness, had the streets blocked so that no one could get very near. However, at one point one woman in a wheelchair was allowed to get closer and when His Holiness spotted her, he walked over and gave her a warm hug. You are everywhere, he said and gave that magnificent healing laugh.

Nirmana means manifestation or emanation and corresponds to the aspect of uninterrupted energy. So nirmanakaya means the dimension of manifestation. In fact, through energy, both pure vision and impure vision can manifest and both are deemed nirmanakaya dimensions. Pure vision transcends the material dimension and constitutes the essence of the elements, while impure vision corresponds to what is called karmic vision, produced as the outcome of determined actions carried out in the past.

His Holiness' talk in Central Park was an example of his immense appeal. In 1991, about 1000 people arrived at sunrise to a silent meditation in Central Park. It was dark and the horns and chanting led one up to the meadow. It was memorable, but this was a historic event that to me exemplifies how hungry we are for authenticity, wisdom, and compassion. In eight short years, 1000 people had become 40,000. It seemed that New York City was transformed for the day. Even the extra busses were free as they passed through the city crammed with Tibetans, and everyone seemingly affected by the warmth of His Holiness and his message.

It was an eclectic rainbow of people in Central Park eager to listen to His Holiness' talk on the Eight Verses for the Training of the Mind. He again illustrated points with stories and anecdotes. The teachings were geared for a wider audience this time and he spoke at a level so that the myriad of ages and orientations would all understand the message.

His Holiness emphasized the connectedness with one another and our shared humanity. He also gave hope to all as he tried to make us believe that each of us has the ability to affect change if we have a warm heart and compassion to all. He spoke of the homeless in India and New York City and how we avoid acknowledging the humanity of those whose existence makes us uncomfortable. He did this as he wove in and out of the Eight Verses so that when he proceeded to the next verse you had almost forgotten that the Eight Verses are a Buddhist training. In fact, he so skillfully addressed the teachings that I think most people absorbed his words directly into their hearts and walked away committed to being a better person.

At both the Beacon and at Central Park there was a translator for the hearing impaired. Even if one doesn't know sign language, watching the dance of language is a beautiful experience. Including this as part of the teachings made it all the richer.

As the Central Park talk wound down and His Holiness led us in a prayer, I noticed a NYC policewoman pull down her hat to hide her tears. In that moment I felt a deep gratitude for all whose efforts presented us with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Central Park on a late summer day.

Maria Macbeth is a jewelry designer living in Ithaca, NY. She is founder of the Endless Knot Project, an effort to promote the The Tibetan Endless Knot as the symbol for the new millennium. Marta is also a board member of the Association for the Study of Dreams and a student of Namkhai Norbu. image


Above photo: His Holiness the Dalai Lama says hello to Nives Rebernak of Home for Peace and Nonviolence outside the Beacon Theater in New York City

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