Miami – The rare chance to explore how to live a meaningful life during a time of tribal warfare drew Jeffrey Davis back to Miami.
Davis, 51, who formerly taught linguistics at Miami-Dade College and now lives in Knoxville, Tenn., was among more than 3,600 people who flocked to the University of Miami on Monday to hear the Dalai Lama speak.
“We have an incredible opportunity to be on Earth,” Davis said. “It’s an auspicious time to hear a message of compassion because we are at war.”
The University of Miami, Florida International University and Osel Dorje Nyingpo, a Buddhist organization based in San Rafael, Calif., organized the two-day public talk titled World Peace Through Inner Peace.
“His Holiness is teaching for the first time an ancient text … that explains how an individual can free himself from suffering,” said Dana Schwartz, president of Osel Dorje Nyingpo.
Organizers said Miami was an ideal venue for the Dalai Lama’s visit because of its diversity.
“There is ethnic, racial and religious diversity in this area, and we felt that the positive interaction between the different cultures here could serve as an example for people to see the possibility of peace between diverse groups,” Schwartz said.
Many came to Miami to follow their spiritual teacher and attend teaching sessions. Among them was actor Richard Gere, who sat front and center in the convocation hall. Gere, a Dalai Lama devotee for more than two decades, has often raised funds for Tibetan charities and is a founder of New York-based Tibet House, an institution to preserve Tibetan culture.
Gere apparently had come just for the two-day workshop and was planning to leave today after it ends, according to Dina Allende, a spokeswoman for Osel Dorje Nyingpo.
“He’s listened intently all day,” Allende said of Gere. “His eyes have never deviated from the Dalai Lama, except to read from the book of teachings.”
Namgyal Dorjee, 40, a Tibetan Buddhist, came from Minneapolis. Dorjee grew up in India after the communists occupied Tibet in 1959. He came to the United States in 1992, leaving his wife and children behind.
“His teaching has changed my inner standing,” Dorjee said of the Dalai Lama. “Whenever I have some problems, the teachings help me confront negative things like stress.”
Religion Editor James D. Davis contributed to this report.