The Dalai Lama’s plans to visit the U.S., including Philadelphia Oct. 26 and 27, were curtailed because of health reasons. The spiritual leader was to receive the 2015 Liberty Medal, presented by the National Constitution Center. He was also scheduled to speak at the Liacouras Center, as well as at La Salle Univeristy.
The Dalai Lama’s forum at Temple was not university sponsored; the Liacouras Center was rented as a hosting space by a third party, Director of Strategic Marketing and Communications Brandon Lausch said.
The Tibetan Association of Philadelphia said all tickets for the event paid for with a debit or credit card will be refunded directly to the account, and those who paid with cash must be refunded in person from the vendor.
To honor the Dalai Lama, a Philadelphia Day of Kindness was planned for Oct. 27 with the goal of citizens treating each other with compassion, congruent with the Dalai Lama’s philosophies.
Dr. Douglas Duckworth, assistant professor of religion, said he is disappointed the Dalai Lama’s trip is canceled.
“After the Pope came last week, it would be cool to have a dominant international religious figure come to Philadelphia, particularly to Temple,” he said.
Duckworth said he met the Dalai Lama on several occasions, including when Gyatso received the 2006 Congressional Gold Medal in Washington, D.C.
“It’s always nice to see him,” Duckworth said. “He’s very charismatic and has an effect on people. I’m always impressed by his ability to address different audiences. … He’s able to smoothly inhabit [various] roles [and] wears a lot of different hats.”
Duckworth teaches and studies Buddhist philosophy and said he is familiar with the culture and politics surrounding the Dalai Lama’s position.
“He’s been pushed out of his isolation in Tibet and put Tibet and himself on the world stage,” Duckworth said. “Other Dalai Lamas have been more isolated, both geographically and personally. … They’ve been more figureheads, manipulated by the cabinet and the bureaucracy.”
He added the current Dalai Lama is more progressive and open to different ideas than his successors had been.
“A lot of people don’t know he’s a formidable Tibetan scholar,” Duckworth said. “He’s pushing to revolutionize both his tradition and the world by promoting secular ethics and going beyond religion. The Dalai Lama is a proponent of ‘the middle way’—seeking regional autonomy within China and the philosophy that comes with it.”
Alicia Cunningham-Bryant, associate director for special programs and associate professor in the Intellectual Heritage department, said she is also disappointed the event will no longer happen.
“We were so excited that [the Dalai Lama] was able to make the trip to Philadelphia and Temple,” she said. “I think Temple should be excited that he agreed to talk to us. It really speaks to the nature of Temple students’ outreach and kindness we see here on campus. … He could have gone to any number of institutions but this location is exciting.”
Cunningham-Bryant also said the Dalai Lama’s visit would have provided a counterbalance to that of the Pope’s, demonstrating “a parallel between western traditions and eastern traditions.”
Cunningham-Bryant said The Reel was scheduled to show a documentary of the Stanford Prison Experiment the day before the Dalai Lama’s forum at Temple, with the purpose of juxtaposing the film with his message.
“[The documentary] depicts the depths of depravity and a dark undercurrent of anger and violence,” Cunningham-Bryant said. “The Dalai Lama coming the next day was supposed to provide this beautiful counterpoint of kindness, thoughtfulness and hope—not only combating but rising above, creating joy and light in these places of violence.”
Cunningham-Bryant said it would have been “a great teachable moment.”
“Him not coming makes that point that much harder to make,” she added. “What we’re going to have to do is find a way to bring that message and highlight those same desires and struggles. … Bringing the same level of gravitas will be next to impossible.”
Lian Parsons can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Lian_Parsons.