Dharamshala: (CTA) The Dalai Lama has opened a three-week visit of North America in Memphis, where he will receive this year’s International Freedom Award from the National Civil Rights Museum on Wednesday.Â His Holiness had landed in Chicago from London earlier in the day and was received there by Kasur Lobsang Nyandak Zayul, Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama for the Americas.
On his arrival in Memphis, he was received by members of the Board and officials of the Civil Rights Museum, Kasur Tenzin N. Tethong, Telo Rinpoche, and officials of the Dalai Lama Foundation and Missing Peace Project, and Mr. Kunga Tashi of the Office of Tibet. His Holiness first went to the Tom Lee Park on the Mississippi river front where the Mayor of Memphis City, Myron Lowery, and Mayor of Shelby County, A.C. Wharton, Jr, welcomed him. During the process of offering and receiving Khatas to and from His Holiness, His Holiness told the mayors that this was our tradition. Mayor Lowery then joked and did a fist bump with His Holiness referring to this as â€œhere we also have a tradition.â€
After receiving the key to the city and a proclamation making him an official citizen of Memphis for his devotion to civil rights, His Holiness the Dalai Lama bowed and smiled. His Holiness expressed his belief in “human value” and “human affection,” stating that affection and compassion can reach beyond issues of race, economic status, or any other dividers. “Compassions change our perception,” His Holiness said.
The National Civil Rights Museum is housed at the Lorraine Motel, the assassination site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the mention of Dr. Kings name, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gets very quiet and pensive. It is to pay homage to Dr. King that he made his long journey to Memphis. “I never met him, but I admire him very much,” His Holiness said. His Holiness shares a key value with Dr. King in his civil rights movement to free Tibet – non-violence.
During his stay, His Holiness the Dalai Lama will give a public speech on “Developing Peace and Harmony.” In addition a concert will be held in his honour, presented by The Missing Piece Project, featuring Tibetan musicians, singer/songwriter Matt Nathanson, country artist Joe Nicols and headliner Natalie Cole with the Memphis Symphony.
Before leaving the Mississippi, His Holiness bestowed a special blessing on the river with two Tibetan scarves. His Holiness smiled and looked at his fellow monks and said, “This is how we bless our rivers in Tibet. This is our river too.”
Mayor Wharton said, “This visit lets the world know that Dr. King ‘s beliefs still live on are still viable and I think it’s just so fitting that his holiness has seen fit to visit our great city.”
Mayor Lowery has similar feelings. “I think it’s extremely significant that this man of peace, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, comes to this city where another great man of peace gave his life, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr..”
Wharton and Lowery declared both Tuesday and Wednesday “The Dalai Lama’s Days of Peace and Harmony.”