Dalai Lama to visit Raleigh

May 20, 2017

The Dalai Lama, the renowned Buddhist spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, plans to visit Raleigh this fall as part of a U.S. tour, Mayor Nancy McFarlane said Friday.

No dates have been set for his October visit, which will be funded by a group of local residents, but McFarlane said the Lama will spend several days in the Triangle.

“There are a lot of pieces of Raleigh that really appeal to him,” she said. “We’re just really excited he sees something in Raleigh he’s drawn to and wants to come here.

“I think it says what we already know – this is an an area where people in the community really care about each other,” she said.

One public event will likely be held, with proceeds going to charity, along with visits to area schools – McFarlane said the Lama is interested in science and enjoys engaging with students – and other sites.

The mayor recently spent her own time and money to visit the Lama in India, where he lives in exile from his native Tibet, to invite him to come to Raleigh. She emphasized the city’s diversity and the planned Dix Park, noting the site has a history of healing as the location of North Carolina’s first mental hospital.

“It’s humbling. He sits and holds your hands and, you know, it’s very much a one-on-one, and he just sees himself as someone just talking to you. It’s pretty amazing,” she said. “His mission is to spread the word of compassion, and (he tells you, ‘I only have two hands, and now you’re my hands.’

“I think it’s a message, whether it’s Raleigh or the state or the country, where there’s so much talk about how divided we are, I think his message goes to the heart of respecting each other.”

McFarlane said she was surprised he agreed to a visit so quickly. The Lama was so excited by the invitation that he initially wanted to come in June, she said, but his staff said an October visit would be best.

During her trip to India, she presented the Lama with prayer flags made by Raleigh residents. He kept some and blessed others for her to bring back to the Triangle, but she said she hasn’t yet figured out what to do with them.