I am a member of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT). It supports the
rights of the Tibetans against the mistreatment by the Chinese since they invaded Tibet in 1959. This invasion by the Chinese caused the Tibetans’ spiritual leader, His Holiness The Dalai Lama, to flee his homeland for asylum to Dharamsala, India. This area has now become a haven for thousands of exiles from that country.
Several years ago, the ICT was sponsoring The Dalai Lama’s visit to Washington, D.C. and they held a lottery to pick 200 members to receive two free tickets each to attend a private lecture by His Holiness at Georgetown University. I was one of the members to receive two tickets! I told my boyfriend that we absolutely had to go; there was no way we were not going to take advantage of this magnificent gift. A sister accompanied us as well as my youngest daughter.
When the time arrived, we drove through the night to reach our nation’s capitol and checked into the Double Tree Hotel within walking distance of Georgetown University. We were in the heart of D.C. and decided to start exploring the city right away. We walked a few blocks from the hotel looking for a place to have our first meal and discovered a little sandwich shop which was situated right next door to the infamous Watergate Hotel. History oozes from every pore of Washington, D.C.
We ended up visiting a couple of the Smithsonian Institute museums and walked the National Mall which is home to the Lincoln Memorial, the U.S. Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and much more. That entire week, the Mall was host to The Dalai Lama who also presented a speech there to the general public. Tibetan vendors were selling items original to their country and many were dressed in their ethnic clothing–beautifully bright and colorful. Thousands of people were milling around the massive area enjoying the hospitality that was being offered to our Tibetan friends.
We watched as a group of monks “sand painted” beautiful, intricate mandalas and saw huge prayer wheels that you could spin and have your prayers sent out into the ethers. We found Tibetan refugees sitting together chanting in their deeply resonate tones. We bought souvenirs too; my favorite being a map of Tibet which I treasure to this day. Months after we returned home, my daughter snuck into my bedroom where I had stored it, and had it framed for me as a gift. It now hangs over my bed.
Tom and I attended the private lecture at Georgetown University the second afternoon. Security was tight; we weren’t even allowed to bring our water bottles in with us. We filed through the entrance with a feeling of quiet reverence and found our seats. The hall was dimly lit and people around us were speaking in hushed voices as if we were in church–and I guess in a sense we were.
The Dalai Lama was introduced as the program began and his speech was brief. He welcomed and thanked us for our support through ICT. He emanated grace and appeared how I had seen him in many of his photos–smiling broadly and beaming joy. We had been asked to submit questions when we accepted our tickets, of which some would be personally answered by His Holiness at this time. He was gracious and compassionate yet serious in responding to the questions which kept to the topic of focusing on the plight of the Tibetan people.
The actor, Richard Gere (who is on the board of directors of ICT) addressed us as well. We heard from a Chinese dissident who shared his embarrassment at his country’s treatment of the gentle people of Tibet, and Tibetan refugees told their stories of the abuse and imprisonment they had suffered before ultimately escaping to safety. I was humbled.
This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be in the presence of His Holiness The Dalai Lama and I continue to support his people and his endeavor to bring about peace with China.