On the Hill

Buddhists eagerly anticipate Dalai Lama visit

Sam Maller | Staff Photographer

Karen Nezelek, facilitator to the Student Buddhist Association, began meditating upon hearing the name of the Dalai Lama. Nezelek facilitates meditation sessions at Hendricks' Chapel every weekday.

For the past two years, Lily Fein has watched videos of the Dalai Lama on Netflix.

She watched him engage nations with profound speeches and discuss philosophical topics with simplicity. She watched him again and again, but she never imagined she’d get the opportunity to see him in person. 

“It almost hasn’t hit me yet that I’m going to actually be present when he’s there,” said Fein, vice president of the Student Buddhist Association at Syracuse University. “To me, he represents another window into Buddhism — another way to connect with the ideas.”

Fein, along with about 50 other SBA members, will have the opportunity to witness the Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet, speak in October during a two-day peace forum at SU. The Dalai Lama and more than 20 musical guests will engage the Syracuse community in talks about how to shift global consciousness toward peace.

The event is produced and sponsored by the One World Community Foundation, an organization established by SU trustee Samuel Nappi.

For Fein and other members of the SBA — an organization which includes Buddhist students and those merely interested in meditation — the Dalai Lama’s visit will act as more than an inspiring speech. Members will have the unique opportunity to witness a great religious deity and a man who is said to be the most enlightened person on Earth.

This may truly be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, said Jikyo Bonnie Shoultz, the Buddhist Chaplain at Hendricks Chapel. As the Dalai Lama grows older, he will become less likely to travel, and students may not have the chance to see him in the United States again, she said.

Shoultz has gone to see the Dalai Lama each time he’s visited New York during the past few decades. His aura as a leader is palpable, she said, and he’s able to inspire those around him with only a few words.

“He has found a way to put these very deep concepts into simple speech, so as a result, one tends to remember things he’s said,” Shoultz said.

Tenzing Chonzom, a Buddist student who was raised in India, has seen the Dalai Lama speak on multiple occasions. Chonzom said she learned life lessons from his latest conference in Washington, D.C., where he stressed positive thinking and good morals.

“When he speaks, it’s not about religion, it’s about being a good human being,” said Chonzom, a junior policy studies major.

The peace forum will mark the Dalai Lama’s third visit to SU, said Karen Nezelek, facilitator to the Student Buddhist Association and SU alumna. Nezelek encourages all students to attend the event, regardless of their religious beliefs, as everyone can take some wisdom away from the leader, she said.

“Somehow, when he talks about anything — no matter what questions he gets asked — you feel his answers,” Nezelek said. “And I think you won’t find many people like that to sit in front of and experience.”


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