Dalai Lama in Portland to give faith message on environment

PORTLAND, Ore. - The Dalai Lama, one of the most well-known spiritual leaders in the world, is in town.

It's been 12 years since the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has been in Portland. His schedule of public appearances will begin Thursday at the University of Portland Chiles Center as part of The Dalai Lama Environmental Summit.

We talked with Yangsi Rinpoche, the president of the Portland Buddhist college Maitripa College, which is holding the summit.

Rinpoche's personal invitation to the Dalai Lama brought the spiritual leader to the Pacific Northwest.

"He felt very enthusiastic. He said, 'Yes, let's do it. When do you want to do it?,'" Rinpoche said.

Rinpoche said the topic of the environment hits close to home for the Dalai Lama and he expects the leader to provide an interfaith view on the subject.

"He's (been) giving this message of the environment since 1984," Rinpoche said. "He will really put strong impact for the individual person to keep a strong awareness. He may not necessarily come with a special message, with a solution this time, but with encouragement and conscious living."

Rinpoche expects the Dalai Lama's message to be well received.

"The community over here in Portland (is) really strong (on) environment," Rinpoche said. "I felt like, we have to bring him here. This is the place. And this is the important issue."

The Dalai Lama always has a way of reaching people with his message, whether it's one person or an audience of 1,000, Rinpoche said.

"His communication never changes," he said. "If it's two people, he has one way of saying (something). If it's 10,000 people, there is one way of saying (something). How he relates with the people, there's nothing different."

The environment is a topic close to Rinpoche's heart. When he was a child in South India, he recalled one of his town's nearby rivers was gone within two or three years.

The subject transcends faith, Rinpoche said, and he expects the Dalai Lama's speech will be no less entrancing than it was in 2001 at Pioneer Square.

"That's his life: to benefit, to help, to outreach," Rinpoche said.

The Dalai Lama will speak at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Thursday at the University of Portland Chiles Center, 5000 N. Willamette Blvd. There will also be several subsequent appearances in the area.

KATU's Ian Parker contributed to this report.