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Utah welcomes His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet

SALT LAKE CITY — Some 300 people, many of them members of Utah's Tibetan community, welcomed His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet on Monday afternoon waiting outside the Grand America Hotel in near-100 degree heat for a glimpse of the spiritual leader.

Amid tight security, the Nobel Peace Prize winner exited an SUV and briefly greeted two youths chosen among Utah's Tibetan community to present the Dalai Lama a traditional Tibetan greeting by offering him roasted barley and barley flour contained in an open, decorated box called chemar bo, and barley wine, presented in a wooden bowl.

From there, he was hustled by security into the hotel lobby and into a waiting elevator.

Members of Utah's Tibetan community have prepared for two years for the visit of their spiritual leader, who will speak Tuesday at the University of Utah, leaders said.

Tenzin Zangma, a Tibetan community member, said the Dalai Lama "represents Tibet to the Tibetan people and the world, so he is very important to us."

The Dalai Lama was scheduled to speak at the university and headline the Parliament of the Worlds Religions last October, but both appearances were canceled after doctors at the Mayo Clinic ordered bed rest for the now 80-year-old spiritual leader.

"Last year when he had to cancel because of his health, we were very worried," Zangma said. "Tibetan people all over the world held prayers for his recovery. So we are so happy to see he has made a speedy recovery. His health and his wellbeing is a priority all Tibetans. Just having him here today makes us very lucky and fortunate."

Thelpo Tulku of the Santa Barbara Summit for Tibet said he flew in Monday to attend the Dalai Lama's speech at the U. and was an invited guests at other Tibetan community events. Tulku said he travels from California to the Dalai Lama's appearances as often as possible.

The Dalai Lama's messages of love, peace and compassion are needed now more than ever, said Tulka, who is also Tibetan.

"When you have trouble, when you challenge with another trouble, it is never going to end. ... No matter what you believe, you don't need to be Buddhist, Islamic or Christian or you don't believe in religion, the main point is we need to be compassionate and caring (for) each other. Once you have love, compassion, caring for each other, then we have opportunity for a better, better world," he said.

Prior to speaking at the U., the Dalai Lama is scheduled to attend a luncheon with elected officials that some described as a governor's lunch.

Jon Cox, spokesman for Utah Gov. Gary Herbert, said both the governor and Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox will meet with the Dalai Lama, but details of their visits would not be released for security reasons.

On Wednesday, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Utah's new Tibetan Community Center for a private event.

Pema Chagzoetsang, board member of the Utah Tibet Foundation, said Monday that the visit of the Tibetan spiritual leader to Utah "is such a joyous occasion."

"He is an inspiration for every being on this Earth. He is a great example of exemplary human kindness," she said.

A small delegation of Utah leaders greeted the Dalai Lama upon his arrival at Salt Lake City International Airport, among them Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

This is the Nobel Peace Prize winner's second visit to the Utah, with the first coming in 2001 when he spoke at the U.

A limited number of obstructed-view tickets are still available for the Daili Lama's presentation at the Huntsman Center at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday. Visit utahtickets.com for more information.

Doors will open at 11 a.m. All bags will be checked by security, and attendees must pass through magnetometers to gain entry. In accordance with federal security guidelines, no guns or weapons will be permitted in the venue.

People unable to attend in person can watch the presentation via live streaming at utah.edu/live.

The Dalai Lama's address will focus on compassion and universal responsibility, Chagzoetsang said.

Exiled from Tibet in 1959 during the uprising of Tibetans against the Chinese army, the Dalai Lama escaped to India and established the Central Tibetan Administration to meet the needs of refugees and seek to maintain their culture. He travels the globe promoting peace and compassion. In 1989, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent struggle to free Tibet.

Chagzoetsang said the Dalai Lama's Utah visit is a "blessing" and that he will be energized by Utahns' nation-leading levels of service and charitable giving.

"I'm ecstatic. I'm so grateful. Everybody on this Earth wants a piece of him, a moment with him," she said.

"We have to allow him his space, too."

Email: marjorie@deseretnews.com