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Purchase Students Granted Audience With The Dalai Lama

Students from Purchase College in Harrison were granted a private audience with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, while studying in India.
Students from Purchase College in Harrison were granted a private audience with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibet, while studying in India. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Lonny Unger

HARRISON, N.Y. -- Students from Purchase College in Harrison were granted a private audience with the Dalai Lama during a recent trip to India.

The 16 students are currently participating in a study abroad program led by Purchase Professor Suzanne Irobiter. During a four-day teaching session led by the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, they were granted a private session with the spiritual leader of Tibet, who 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, James Lamberg, even got a press pass and was allowed to take photos of His Holiness, which is quite unusual."

The students on the trip, who all come from the Metropolitan New York area, were: Melanie Bonilla, Dara Denney, Zachary Fishman, Nicholas Gengo-Lehr, Dan Ingraham, Harris Kaye, Brianna Kearney, James Lamberg, Caroline Langmesser, Madeline Moran, Carly Moreno, Martin Reinhardsen, Cole Rice, Jesse Rochman, Cameron Stenger and Yael Yekutiel.

They are studying under the direction of master artisans in wood painting and Thangka painting at the Norbulingka Institute in northern India. They are also studying Tibetan Buddhist philosophy with Ironbiter. The program also includes trips to Dharamsala cultural and social service organizations, a Himalayan journey to Ladakh and a trek on the Tibetan plateau. The students are paired with Tibetan students studying at the Norbulingka Institute to further enrich their understanding of Tibetan culture and the exile community in Northern India.

The students met with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, on June 4. The Dalai Lama is believed to be a manifestation 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 taken rebirth in order to serve humanity.

The students will also meet with the Karmapa, who is also considered to be an incarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. The students left for India on May 29 and will return on July 5.

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