NEW ORLEANS — A five-day celebration of the Dalai Lama’s first visit to New Orleans begins Tuesday with a series of events, including conferences, a commencement speech,craft market and ceremonial procession to the river.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama will make his first appearance Friday with a panel on resilience with author and professor Richard Davidson and author and educator Margaret Wheatley, followed by a public talk on “Strength Through Compassion.”

“After the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, we learned a lot about the deep trauma that occurred among the city’s population and the extraordinary resilience of the people of the Gulf Coast,” said Ronald Marks, dean of the Tulane University School of Social Work, in a news release.

“We feel that His Holiness’ visit to New Orleans will contribute enormously to furthering the healing of our city’s residents.”

In the monthlong lead up to the Dalai Lama’s arrival, “There’s something for everyone,” Marks said in the release. “The Dalai Lama’s visit will be a citywide celebration that will attract visitors from around the world.”

It was Marks who more than a year ago delivered the official invitation to the Dalai Lama at his home in exile in Dharamsala, India. The Tulane School of Social Work is the official presenter of events, culminating with Saturday’s commencement speech in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Beginning Tuesday at the Ernest Morial Convention Center, a Tibetan Cultural Center will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will run through Friday. The center will offer Tibetan crafts and goods as well as viewing of a sand mandala built by Buddhist monks throughout the week.

On Friday, the painstakingly crafted Mandala — an elaborate artwork made of colored sand — will be swept away and taken by procession to the Mississippi River. The sand will be then symbolically dispersed into the river’s current.

Following the Tulane commencement Saturday, during which the Dalai Lama will give the keynote address and receive an honorary degree, another public talk with be held at the University of New Orleans Lakefront Arena.

The topic of the talk will be “Strength Through Connection,” with a focus on universal joy and suffering and developing a greater sense universal responsibility.

The public talks will be streamed live online and shown at viewing parties across the city. Saturday’s talk is sold out, but there are still tickets for Friday’s public talk at the Convention Center at a cost of $55 for general admission and $25 for students.

Tickets for Thursday and Friday’s conference at the Convention Center are $450 for general admission and $125 for students.


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