..Garnette Arledge..

Dalai Lama Comes To My Village

In pre-communist Tibet the Dalai Lama's image was more than sacred, it was believed even the sight of that image once would further liberation and at least dispel some karma. Today, for a Tibetan national, now living under Chinese invasion for more than fifty years, possession of such an image means instant death. That's how powerful the Chinese consider the Dalai Lama's nonviolent response.

How much more blest is actually viewing and hearing His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, head of the Tibetan state-in-exile, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace winner? How blest is the location to whence he comes?

However, controversy accompanies even a visit to tiny Woodstock, NY, the not-home of the famous festival. In the sixties, town officials getting a whiff of the potential audiences cancelled it here, necessitating the move to Bethel farm, sixty miles away. Everyone would be delighted to be in the good vibrations of a man some have called "the holiest person on Earth today." Not necessarily.

The folk whose ancestors settled here from the 17th century verbally wish Woodstock were not a weekend destination, although the merchants foster that. Further, the Tibetans have built Karma Triyana Dharmachakra (KTD) monastery on the magic mountain over looking the town. It is the North American seat of the young Karmapa, whose visit is also anticipated eagerly by Tibetan Buddhists. And this monastery has grown, holding empowerments and teachings attracting if not hordes, many, many.

So naturally, KTD has expanded to accommodate. However, as much as I personally am delighted to live in a town where Tibetan Lamas and monks are praying on the mountaintop 24-7, there may have been another "Woodstock Festival" in the offing. Fortunately or not blessing-wise, a word-of-mouth campaign began both cautioning "don't tell anyone else" and the time, date and place of the 71-year olds' public talk on compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and religious harmony.

He laughingly commented on the beauty of the area and the "tidy houses" of Woodstock, then stared quietly over the crowd to the cemetery, noting with a big grin, "that's the final destination." The small audience loved it.

The usual emanation that I have felt each of the twelve times I have seen the "Ocean of Bliss" (which is the translation of his name, Tenzin Gyatso), pervaded Woodstock the morning before his noon visit. This vibration was an aromatic blend of joy, anticipation, happiness and bliss. Excitement filled the air. Unconditional Love filled the air. It was a glorious day even with the police barricades and yellow no parking tapes.

He was scheduled to have lunch at the monastery, then motorcade down Meads Mountain Road to Andy Lee Field located between the Community Center and the town cemetery. Banners hung from houses and light poles. Woodstock was festive, the sun was festive. It was the International Day of Peace.

The only worry was that too many people would crowd into the baseball field. There were rumors the US State Department, cooperating with the Town officials, would cancel the appearance if huge. Mysteriously, even though his "secret" program was on the Albany tv news, police estimated around 2,000 people came. Astonishing.

The local paper banner headline read: "His Holiness graces Woodstock." For sure.

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