A group of 16 students currently in India participating in a Purchase College-SUNY program were honored a few days ago when they were granted a private audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet.
The students—participating in a summer study abroad program led by Purchase professor Suzanne Ironbiter—had been attending a four-day teaching with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, and were then granted the private audience where he told them: "Our religion is about love and compassion, and the practice of non-violence."
"This was a huge honor and something that just doesn't happen very often," said Deirdre Sato, director of International Programs and Services at Purchase College. "One of the students even got a press pass and was allowed to take photos of His Holiness, which is quite unusual."
The students—selected via an application process—are studying under the direction of master artisans in wood painting and Thangka painting at the Norbulingka Institute in northern India. The group is also studying Tibetan Buddhist philosophy with Professor Ironbiter.
The study abroad program includes trips to Dharamsala cultural and social service organizations, a Himalayan journey to Ladakh, and a trek on the Tibetan plateau. Purchase students are also paired with Tibetan students studying at the Norbulingka Institute, enriching their understanding of Tibetan culture and the exile community in Northern India.
Purchase students had their audience with Tenzin Gyatso, who is the 14th Dalai Lama, on June 4. The Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and the patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are believed to be enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.
On June 11, the students are scheduled to have a private audience with the Karmapa— also considered an incarnation of Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara—for which they are currently preparing questions.
The Purchase student group left for India on May 29 and will return on July 5.
Picture courtesy of the office of HH the Dalai Lama.