ABOVE PHOTO: Dalai Lama and Ali
“The Ali I know who made his most lasting contribution as his physical powers ebbed, becoming a force for reconciliation and peace around the world./ He is, and always will be, the champ.”
–President Barack Obama, “ USA Today”
The Compassionate Action Network International Institution selected Louisville, Kentucky in 2012 as the recipient of the Jack Olive International Compassionate City Award. It is the largest city on the continent to be selected. Louisville has a history of engaging the community and its political and religious leaders in activities that create and support the core values, love, benevolence, empathy, sympathy and tolerance that are the hallmarks of compassion. Mayor Greg Fischer has declared compassion one of the three basic pillars of his administration and adopted the international Charter for Compassion.
Louisville has a complete menu of scheduled activities built around the promotion of compassion. One of the foundational events, “Give a Day” week, was inaugurated in 2012. Members of the community were asked to donate a day of community service and approximately 90,000 people volunteered. This year the designated week is April 13th-21st. www.mygiveaday.com
The 18th annual Festival of Faiths honors and celebrates religious diversity through a series of interfaith performances, exhibitions, lectures, films, prayers and meditations, designed to explore commonalities and break down barriers. Activities are designed for all age levels. The Center for Interfaith Relations will present the festival May 14th-19th and the 2013 theme will be “Sacred Silence Pathway to Compassion.” www.festivaloffaiths.org
On July 6, 1935 a child, Tenzin Gyatso, was born to farmers in Takster, Tibet. Five years later he was officially named the 14th reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, “Oceans of Wisdom,” and the spiritual leader of the country. In 1950, China invaded Tibet and nine years later the Dalai Lama went into exile in India where he established the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharmsala, India. From this base he has continuously advocated the “Middle Way” in resolving the issue of Tibetan autonomy and advocated non-violence, international peace and the primacy of human rights. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of his efforts and in 2007 the United States awarded him the Congressional Gold Medal. www.dalailama.com
The Drepung Gomang Institute (DGI) and the city of Louisville will host a visit by the Dalai Lama in May for the first time since 1994. The three part visit will take place over three days, May 19th-21st, and will encompass public appearances built around the theme “Engaging Compassion.”
The opening event, a 2-hour interfaith address, will be held at the Yum Center. On the 20th, The Dalai Lama will present a public teaching, “Attisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment,” on a more comprehensive understanding of the Buddhist faith. The final event on Tuesday, May 21st, will take place at the Kentucky Center and will focus on cultivating young people’s use of non-violence and compassion as a basic tenet of their lives. Tickets are on sale. www.dalailamalouisville.org
Drepung Gomang Institute was founded in 2001 and seven years later was named the US sister organization of India’s Drepung Gomang Monastery, site of the current Buddhist Drepung Gomang Monastic University. The original university was founded in 1416 AD in Lhasa and lasted until monks were forced to flee from the Chinese. In 1969, the monastery was reestablished in India and is now home to more than 2,000 monks.
DGI welcomes the public and Geshe Kalsang Rapgyal, Louisville DGI director, and visiting monks are available to address individuals and groups. A visit to the institute is a wonderful introduction to Tibetan art with the featured display being an intricate mural created by monks of multicolored sand. The institute’s Sacred Arts Tours can be arranged and a monthly schedule of teachings, events and meditations is online. www.drepunggomang.com
Two men of peace, Muhammad Ali and the Dalai Lama, met in Bloomington, Indiana in September of 2003 and jointly participated in cutting the ribbon of a new monastery, “Kumbum Chamtse Ling”, the “Temple of Love and Compassion.” It is planned that the two will meet again and participate in interfaith programs scheduled for May. Concurrently the Ali Center will offer special programming.
In 1959, as China invaded Tibet, another legendary individual was embarking on the path to peace, a path that would ultimately intersect with that of the Dalai Lama. Cassius Clay, who would not take the name Muhammad Ali until 1964, won the title in the Golden Gloves Tournament of Champions. The following year he won the Olympic gold medal and subsequently turned professional.
In January of 1964, Ali was classified 1-Y by the government and was exempted from military service. Two years later he was reclassified 1-A and became eligible to serve. In response to the change in status and because of his religious philosophy he requested to be designated a conscientious objector, a classification the government rejected. On April 28, 1967 he refused to be inducted into the U.S. Army and was stripped of his title. The following month he was indicted.
On June 20th he was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine but remained free on bond pending an appeal. In support Dr. King publicly stated, “He is giving up millions of dollars to do what his conscience tells him is right.” In June of 1978, four years after the original indictment, the Supreme Court overturned his conviction and upheld his status as a conscientious objector based on his religious beliefs.
Ali retired from boxing in 1981 with a record of 56 wins, 5 losses and 37 knockouts and in 1984 the world was made aware that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s syndrome. The onset of the disease was the beginning of a new chapter in Ali’s life, one he fervently believed in and one in which his stature could benefit the world. Ali met with Saddam Hussein in Iraq in December of 1990 and facilitated the release of 14 American hostages. International audiences thrilled to the sight of the opening of Atlanta’s Summer Olympic Games in July of 1996 with the lighting of the Olympic Flame by Muhammad Ali and in 2001 Ali becomes spokesperson for Coca Cola, America’s quintessential and most recognizable export. Secretary-General Kofi Annan deemed the much-lauded Ali a “United Nations Messenger of Peace” and in 2005 he was awarded the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The $80-million, state-of-the-art, Muhammad Ali Center was founded by Ali in 2005. This six level education center and museum’s thematic displays are an outgrowth of its core principles, respect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving and spirituality and the preservation and presentation of the life and works of Muhammad Ali. Tours should begin on level five in the Orientation Theater with an excellent film that uses Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If” as a backdrop to his life. The poem, his favorite, was carried in his wallet throughout his career.
Highlights of the displays are a lunch counter, the type that denied him service though he was a boxing champion, his 1977 Rolls Royce and the 16’ X 16’ boxing ring used in the film “Ali.” Displays are interpreted in 19 languages and every gallery has interactive stations. www.alicenter.org
Louisville and the Muhammad Ali Center have developed and promote a self-guided, nine location, tour of Ali sites within the city. His place of birth in 1942 was Louisville General Hospital and he was brought to the Clay Home at 3302 W. Grand Ave. Columbia Gym is arguably the most important site on the tour. Located at 851 S. Fourth Street, this is where he received his early training. Other sites include his church, schools and other training facilities.
The historic Seelbach Hilton Hotel provides ideally located accommodations for touring and the activities held during the Festival of Faiths. The hotel has all the amenities plus WIFI, flat-screen television, designer bath products, 24-hour fitness center, Kentucky’s only AAA five-diamond restaurant and an attentive professional staff. The hotel was constructed at a cost of $990,000 ($25-million 2013 dollars) and opened its doors in 1905. Al Capone visited the hotel often in the 20s. He posted lookouts throughout the building so that if the police arrived he could use a secret escape passage that led to the street via a tunnel. The Seelbach served as inspiration for the Buchanan’s wedding in Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby” and has hosted nine presidents and a number of Grammy winners. Also on site is the Rathskeller, the world’s only room completely encased in Rookwood pottery. Additionally a true don’t miss here is the legendary Seelbach Cocktail created here in 1918 and still served in the Old Seelbach Bar. www.seelbachhilton.com
“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.” —Dalai Lama XIV
I wish you smooth travels!
The 9th annual Black History & Culture Showcase will take place at the PA Convention Center Saturday, March 30 to Sunday, March 31, 11am to 7 pm. For a information and a complete schedule of events go to www.blackhistoryshowcase.org