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Dalai Lama makes weekend visit to Toronto

October 25, 2010

Toronto Sun
October 20, 2010

Four Buddhist monks led hundreds of Tibetans in a
solemn procession as they blessed the Etobicoke
base of the Dalai Lama during his four-day visit
to Canada that starts on Friday.

The monks, who are from the Dalai Lama’s personal
monastery in Dharamsala, India, chanted prayers
on Wednesday as they marched three times around
the Tibetan Canadian Cultural Centre, on 40 Titan
Rd., which has been busy with workers and
volunteers preparing for the Oct. 22-25 visit.

The monks threw grounded barley outside in the
air as volunteers burnt juniper leaves as part of
the blessing ceremony. Earlier the monks led an
90-minute prayer service inside the centre.

More than 300 volunteers have been working around
the clock to refurbish and complete a facelift of
the former lighting factory, that will be
inaugurated by His Holiness on Saturday.

A number of tents will be erected next to the centre to accommodate up to

4,000 followers expected to turn out to see the
Dalai Lama. There are about 7,000 Tibetans in the Toronto-area.

"The entire community is looking forward to this
visit," said centre spokesman Woeser Jongdong.
"Volunteers have been working long and hard to
try and get everything finished on time."

The building has been adorned with three
4.5-metre statues of Buddha that were specially
crafted by monks in Nepal and shipped here in pieces.

The elaborate four-tonne statues, which were
blessed on Wednesday, are made out of copper and
filled with gold, silver and jewels. Inside are
hundreds of thousands scrolls containing written
mantras and prayers, all of them rolled with
precision and stacked in rows. It took 40
volunteers three weeks to prepare the scrolls.

Centre official Namgyal Nangsetsang said members
of her community are ecstatic by their spiritual
leader’s fifth visit to Canada.

"He comes back this time as a Canadian citizen,"
Nangsetsang said. "We are eager to make this
visit successful and to keep our culture and tradition alive."

She said security at the centre will be tight as
thousands of Tibetans are expected to show up to
pay their respects to the Dalai Lama, who was last at the centre in 2007.

"The Dalai Lama draws a huge crowd wherever he
goes," Nangsetsang said. "People will be here from all over Canada."

The Dalai Lama was made an honorary Canadian
citizen in 2006. He was awarded a Nobel Peace
Prize in 1989 and U.S. Congressional Gold Medal Award in 2007.

She said His Holiness arrives in Toronto on
Friday and will give a talk on "human approaches
to world peace" at 2 p.m. at the Rogers Centre,
which is expected to be filled to capacity.

On Saturday, the Dalai Lama will bless and
inaugurate the centre and remain there on Sunday
for special services and teachings. He leaves
Canada on Monday for a conference in India.

"We are trying to preserve our heritage and
culture that is being wiped out by the Chinese,"
Nangsetsang said. "This centre is one way in
which we will help protect our culture."

The centre will house classrooms, a kitchen, a
banquet hall and a NBA-regulation basketball court when refurbished.

Centre executive member Lobsang Mentuh, 70, said
he has been volunteering for a month to help with the visit.

"This is the largest Tibetan community centre
outside Tibet," Mentuh said on Wednesday. "This
centre is the second home to most Tibetans in Toronto."

The 14th Dalai Lama fled his homeland of Tibet
with his disciples in 1959 before his country was
taken over by China. They fled to exile in
Dharamsala, India, after a failed uprising.

Tibetans began emigrating to Canada in the early
1970’s, when 500 Tibetans sought refuge in
Canada, making them the smallest immigrant group in the country.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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