Tens of thousands of people have the chance hear one of the world's foremost advocates for non-violence, the Dalai Lama, during a three-day visit to Louisville in May.
Seats for the event, dubbed Engaging Compassion, went on sale Jan. 23, and organizers are expecting people to travel from far and wide to attend.
"It's not just local or regional, we are having people travel internationally" to attend, said Linda Morrison, who is overseeing public relations for the visit. Some notable dignitaries are planning to come, she said, but their names haven't been made public. But, she said, "it is going to be a powerhouse of energy."
The Dalai Lama, the 1989 winner of the Noble Prize and renowned spokesman for non-violence, will give a public talk on May 19 at the Yum Center. He will present two-part public Buddhist teaching to thousands more on May 20, also at the Yum Center.
The public events will be followed by the Dalai Lama meeting with specially invited middle- and high-school students on May 21 at the Kentucky Center for the Arts.
Morrison said in the Buddhist tradition, the public talk will be similar to a general sermon heard in a church on Sunday. The Monday teachings, she said, will be focused on a particular aspect of the Buddhist faith and are more akin to a Sunday school lesson. The teaching topic is, "Atisha's Lamp for the path to enlightenment."
Those who know a little or a lot about Buddhism are encouraged to attend, she said.
"It is about being a part of the event," she said. "It is about being present in the moment."
The Dalai Lama was last in Louisville in 1994, she said, when he also visited Berea College. In 1996, he visited the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County for a conference, but did not make public remarks.
The May visit, sponsored by Louisville's Tibetan Buddhist Center, the Drepung Gomang Institute and the City of Louisville, has roots in an ongoing effort by the city and Mayor Greg Fischer to promote the River City as a compassionate community.
In 2011, Louisville became the seventh city in the United States to sign the Compassionate Cities Charter, and the mayor announced a 10-year plan to promote creating a compassionate community.
In the spring of 2012, the first annual city-wide event to promote compassion inspired 90,000 volunteers to take part in the Give A Day program.
Morrison said that people from faith and community groups from across the city are working to make the Dalai Lama's visit successful.
And, she said, that cooperation in and of itself is a blessing.
"It's a great launching point" for other collaborative efforts, she said. The group is currently planning a three-day culture and arts festival to coincide with the Dalai Lama's visit, she said.
If you go
Engaging Compassion, a speech by the Dalai Lama, in Louisville
When: 1 p.m. May 19.
Tickets: $5 to $100.
A Buddhist teaching by the Dalai Lama,
When: 9 a.m., May 20.
Tickets: $35 and $75.
For information: TicketMaster.com or 1-800-745-3000. Visit: DalaiLamaLouisville.org
Facts about Dalai Lama
â– His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the head of state and the spiritual leader of Tibet.
â– He was born on July 6, 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet.
â– At the age of 2 he was recognized as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.
â– He has long advocated for a free Tibet. Elections were held there for the first time in 2001.
â– As an advocate of nonviolence, the Dalai Lama has traveled to 62 countries spanning six continents. He has met with presidents, prime ministers and crowned rulers of major nations.
â– He was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in 1989.