On November 11 at 7:30 pm in Giffels Auditorium on the campus of the University of Arkansas, Rinchen Dharlo will present a lecture with slides entitled, "Tibet: Then and Now."
The lecture and Mr. Dharlo's trip to Fayetteville is sponsored by The Fulbright College Honors Program.
The lecture is free and open to the public. After the lecture, a Q & A session will follow and provide the audience an unparalleled opportunity to ask questions concerning the past and future of Tibet, as well as questions about His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whom Mr. Dharlo has closely assisted for decades.
Mr. Dharlo's visit is yet another essential component of our year-long run-up to the Dalai Lama's visit in May.
Born in Southwestern Tibet in Nyanang, a small town that was once a major trade center between Tibet and Nepal, Mr. Dharlo and his family escaped Tibet in 1959, the same year that the Dalai Lama left.
Mr. Dharlo began working for the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in 1972. From 1978 to 1987, he directed the Office of Tibet and was Representative in Nepal for the Dalai Lama.
In 1986, Mr. Dharlo was transferred to New York City, where he was the Representative to the Americas for the Dalai Lama. He also headed the Office of Tibet in New York, which is the official agent for His Holiness and the Tibetan Government- in-Exile.
In addition to these jobs, Mr. Dharlo has worked extensively for the betterment of the Tibetan people. He co-chaired in 1992 and 1993 the Tibetan-US Resettlement Project, which resettled 1000 Tibetans refugees in 21 cities across the United States. He served on the steering committee of the Global Forum of Spiritual Parliamentary in 1988, and he was a board member of the Temple of Understanding, a global interfaith initiative. He has also served on the board of the International Campaign for Tibet, a non-profit organization that monitors and promotes human rights in Tibet. He also served as a liaison between the Tibetans living in exile in North America and the Government-in-Exile in Dharamsala.
Currently, Mr. Dharlo is President of Tibet Fund, where he co-ordinates the office's efforts to help the Tibetan people living both in exile and within Tibet by providing and administrating financial as well as other kinds of support for education, health, economic and community development, emergency relief, and culural preservation and exchange.
Mr. Dharlo has lived his life in service to the Tibetan people, and we will seldom have someone in our midst with such a wealth of knowledge about the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.
If you have any interest in Tibet and its future, or if you are planning on seeing the Dalai Lama on May 11, 2011, when he comes to the University of Arkansas, then you will not want to miss this talk and Q & A session with Rinchen Dharlo.
Many residents of Arkansas remember the Dalai Lama's appeal for clemency in the case of Frankie Parker, who was ultimately executed on August 8, 1996. Although a Zen practitioner, Parker died with a photograph of His Holiness clipped to his vestment, a testament to the fact that compassion is the common and essential property of all religious traditions. (Read the full account here).
On October 14, 2010, Donald Wackerly, a Buddhist on Death Row in Oklahoma, was executed by lethal injection. I had first corresponded with Donald when Thubten Chodron had asked me to take my friend, Geshe Dorjee, to the prison to give refuge to Donald. While Donald ultimately took refuge from another monk, I corresponded with him on a somewhat regular basis, and Geshe la and I visited him on October 5, nine days before he was executed. Geshe also returned as a witness to the execution.
During the entire process, I learned a great deal about the grim logistics and dire problems of state-sponsored murder. My guide through this horror story was Donald's attorney, Susan Otto. Thorough, quiet, smart, and dedicated, Susan patiently explained to me the issues involved with the drugs used, the sorts of appeals that had been filed, the kind of mindset that lawyers like herself must adopt when they inevitably face yet another execution and must garner the strength and courage to persevere in the face of this regional carnage.
After Donald was executed, a friend of mine, Ani Tendron, alerted me through Facebook to the following video.
I was somewhat emotional after my visit with Donald, and during the run-up to his execution, and in the aftermath, the illness that I had carried for weeks had even worsened.
One night in particular I won't forget. I had taken the wrong medication for my sinus infection, and I was unable to sleep. Just before the sun rose, I was checking my email on my iPad, a bit crazed from several nights of not sleeping, and because I'm still a bit clumsy with the onboard keypad, I'm always inadvertently firing up links I never meant to open. Just as I was getting ready to fix breakfast for my daughter, putting the iPad to sleep, the following video popped up, and out of idle curiosity, I watched it:
I was of course momentarily stunned, as if Donald were speaking to me from the Bardo through his attorney. But as my ego sat back down--none of this was about me, after all--I realized that Susan Otto is one of those iron-willed, compassionate people whose practice is necessary in our current era, and whose avocation is carried out with consummate grace and skillful means. We are indeed fortunate to have people like Susan working on Death Row. Donald was in good hands throughout his ordeal, I see that now, and getting to know Susan, and seeing this video, helped me as well in the days that followed Donald's execution.
While Susan, of course, professes little knowledge of the Dharma, I recognize that profession for what it is--a gesture of humility from someone whose life is given to relieving the suffering of others. Susan reminds us that it's helpful to expand our view of the word 'practitioner' beyond the Buddhist context, beyond the religious context, and beyond the spiritual domain. These tags, after all, are only that--tags to describe enlightened human behavior.
If we're serious about the necessity of compassion in our world--and each day, it seems increasingly necessary--then we'll look for it anywhere and everywhere, and when we see it in action, we'll recognize it, no matter who's deploying it.
The opinions expressed here represent the views of each contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Tibetan Cultural Institute of Arkansas. This blogsite is not affiliated with the University of Arkansas.