by Lyndsey Honor
May 5, 2022
ITHACA, NY -- On May 11, 2017, Tenzin Taklha — secretary to His Holiness the Dalai Lama — wrote to the Namgyal Monastery Institute of Buddhist Studies in Ithaca, approving their proposal to build His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Library and Learning Center on their property. The project was put on pause due to the pandemic, but on the bright and sunny morning of April 29, the Ithaca community gathered for the library’s official groundbreaking at the monastery.
The ceremony commenced with a prayer delivered by Buddhist monks. They blessed the land before local officials and members of the monastery sunk shovels into the dirt, marking the start of construction.
Following the groundbreaking, Ngawang Dhondup — the monastery’s administrator — invited the crowd to stay for a series of cultural events, facilitated by members of the monastery. They served hot tea and sweet rice and shared traditional Tibetan dances and songs. Each guest left with a small token of affection for attending.
The Dalai Lama Library and Learning Center will house all the written works of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama. Works of the previous Dalai Lamas and significant translations of blessed texts will also be presented in the library. By making these artifacts accessible, the 9,000-square-foot facility will unite people of all religious backgrounds.
“The library’s a blessing for the community,” said Ven-Tenzin Choesang, monastery president. “I first discussed my plans for the project in 2016, and I’m truly honored that His Holiness chose our land for such a unique, international treasure. Our library will cultivate love, kindness, and compassion, which are His Holiness’ greatest values. No matter who you are or where you come from, you’ll learn to appreciate the teachings at our learning center.”
There are four principal commitments of the Dalai Lama that the library intends to practice.
“His Holiness advocates for the benefit of all humankind,” said Priscilla Sawa, a member of the monastery’s board of directors. “As a human being, he preaches the importance of embracing positive qualities. As a Buddhist monk, he commits to fostering harmony between the world’s religions. As a Tibetan, he’s committed to preserving his native language and culture. And finally, he’s devoted to sharing the value of ancient Indian knowledge. The Dalai Lama Library and Learning Center will allow us to join His Holiness in sharing these values with the world. A true honor.”
Choesang and Sawa were two of many speakers who shared their perspective on the significance of the project. The library is expected to bring the Ithaca community together in a new way and will hopefully remind people of the breadth of knowledge that exists in religion.
“Regardless of identity, the learning center will have something for everyone,” Sawa added. “One of the Dalai Lama’s strongest beliefs is that once we heal our hearts, we can go out and change our insights. The library will give visitors the opportunity to study and question religion in an intimate space, fostering community and healing. We welcome all who are willing to open their eyes compassionately to perspectives that challenge their own. How else are you to learn about the world?”
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Library and Learning Center will officially open its doors on July 6, 2023. Until then, donations for the building’s construction can be made in any of the ways listed on the project’s website.