Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama leads a prayer session in remembrance of Khalka Jetsun Dhampa Rinpoche, the Buddhist spiritual head of Mongolia, in Dharmsala, India, Saturday, March 3, 2012. Rinpoche, who was 80, died in Ulan Bator on March 1.

Dalai Lama to Meet Privately With Kumeyaay Nation Members on San Diego Visit

Gale Courey Toensing
4/13/12

The Kumeyaay Nation has prepared a proclamation to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama to its homeland when he makes a historic visit to San Diego during a spiritual journey across the United States, Canada and Europe to bring messages of compassion and world peace.

In addition to his public talks during his two-day visit in San Diego, the Dalai Lama will hold a private audience with a small number of members of the 12 bands of the Kumeyaay Nation. His Holiness initiated the meeting with the Kumeyaay through the sponsoring university, said Paul Cuero, a member of the Kumeyaay Nation’s executive committee.

“He wanted to meet with the indigenous people of the area,” Cuero said. “We’re really excited about it. We feel there are some things we can exchange with His Holiness in the sense of what his people are going through right now in Tibet.”

The Kumeyaay proclamation notes that His Holiness is arriving in Kumeyaay territory during “a year of great transformation” and expresses a desire to welcome him “in keeping with our spiritual and cultural protocol.” Written in a series of “whereas” clauses, the proclamation declares that “by meeting with us the Dalai Lama demonstrates the principle that every indigenous nation and people ought to be acknowledged, honored and respected in its own traditional territory and homeland.”

This will be the Dalai Lama’s first visit to San Diego. He will arrive on April 18 after spending two days in Hawaii.

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet. The 76-year-old leader was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his nonviolent struggle for the liberation of Tibet, which has been under Chinese rule since 1959. Since 1989 he has received more than 84 awards, honorary doctorates, prizes and other honors in recognition of his message of peace, nonviolence, inter-religious understanding, environmental conservation, universal responsibility and compassion. This includes being the first Nobel Laureate to have been recognized for his concern for global environmental issues.

He has written more than 72 books and travels throughout the world meeting with the public and with presidents, prime ministers and crowned rulers of major nations, religious leaders and famous scientists. His most recent award was the Templeton Prize, which honors a living person who has made an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. The Templeton website describes His Holiness as “the Tibetan Buddhist leader whose long-standing engagement with multiple dimensions of science and with people far beyond his own religious traditions has made him an incomparable global voice for universal ethics, nonviolence, and harmony among world religions.” The prize, valued at around $1.7 million, will be presented to the Dalai Lama at a ceremony at St. Paul's Cathedral in London on May 14.

The Kumeyaay proclamation acknowledges a connection between Kumeyaay spirituality and the spirituality of the Dalai Lama and Tibetan People and expresses support for his spiritual journey for world peace, noting that Kumeyaay “spirituality has been our greatest source of strength, enabling us to survive the oppression that we have experienced for centuries as a distinct nation and people.”

The proclamation notes that His Holiness will speak at San Diego State University, the University of San Diego and the University of California at San Diego—“all of which are located within our traditional Kumeyaay territory”—on the theme Upholding Universal Ethics and Compassion in Challenging Times. The proclamation says that the Dalai Lama’s teachings on compassion and ethics “are a profound standard by which to assess what we have experienced at the hands of the non-Kumeyaay society.”

But in a twist of irony, the nation points to an ongoing conflict with the University of California at San Diego over its refusal to repatriate 10,000-year-old ancestral remains held in its collection purportedly for scientific research.

“[W]without respect or compassion for our people, for some thirty-five years the University of California at San Diego, on the basis of the Doctrine of Discovery, has claimed ownership of Kumeyaay ancestral remains and has yet to return them to us,” the proclamation says. It draws parallels between “the great pain and suffering the Tibetan people have been subject to for generations now” and “the centuries of pain and suffering that our Kumeyaay ancestors experienced as a result of colonialism, dehumanization and the claiming of our lands by foreigners in 1542, 1769, 1824, and 1850 on the basis of the Doctrine of Discovery. [These] patterns of domination and dehumanization imposed upon the Kumeyaay and Tibetan peoples are contrary to every standard of compassion and ethics.”

The proclamation ends with the celebratory statement, “Whereas, we have been treated by the non-Kumeyaay society as a people of the past, but we are very much a vibrant people of the present; whereas, we hereby thank the Dalai Lama and formally invite him to return to our Kumeyaay homeland for a special event to meet with the Kumeyaay people; therefore the Kumeyaay Nation hereby makes this Proclamation of Formal Greeting to His Holiness, the Dalai Lama on April 19, 2012.”

Cuero said that this fall will mark the 470th year since the Kumeyaay people’s first contact with the European invasion.

“All through the tragedies that happened to us with the Spanish, the Mexicans and the American periods, we survived each one of those onslaughts and we’re still here today,” Cuero said. “That’s one thing we feel we can share with the Dalai Lama. What sustained us all these years is our spirituality. If you keep the spirituality alive, such as he is doing, his people will endure what’s happening today.”

Cuero said the Dalai Lama’s visit holds great significance in terms of certain Mayan predictions about imminent changes.

“We feel that the Dalai Lama’s visit to our area is one of the great changes that is happening,” Cuero said.

The private audience with His Holiness is scheduled for only 20 minutes, but Cuero said he hopes for an extension of time.

“We’re hoping our spirituality along with his will be so great that he’ll make more time for us so we can have a really good conversation with him,” he said.

Read a previous interview with His Holiness here.

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