Dalai Lama visit brings Buddhists from abroad to Helsinki
Tibetan spiritual leader on fifth visit to Finland
Buddhist monk Ngvang Lodoi smiles broadly at Helsinki’s Market Square. Dressed in his ochre-coloured robes, Lodoi has just seen his spiritual leader Tenzin Gyatson, the 14th Dalai Lama.
For the monk, who fled Tibet 20 years ago, and who has since settled in Russia, getting a chance to see the Dalai Lama is so important that he felt that it was worth the trip from Kalmukia in Southern Russia on the shore of the Caspian Sea to Helsinki.
Lodoi is one of dozens of Russian Buddhists who were gathered in front of the Hotel Haven on Thursday evening, hoped to catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama who began his visit to Finland on Thursday.
The visitors from Kalmukia, one of Europe’s biggest concentrations of Buddhists, started gathering outside the entrance to the hotel an hour before the Dalai Lama’s arrival.
Finally, when a silver Mercedes stopped in front of the hotel, the Russians started to sing a Buddhist prayer, and light incense.
The 76-year-old spiritual leader smiled when he saw the reception. He had clearly expected to see visitors from Russia.
“Kalmukia, Kalmukia”, he asked his supporters.
The Dalai Lama was quickly taken inside the hotel by his security guards. People extended their hands, and some were moved to tears.
“It was a massive wave of emotion. I felt joy and happiness”, said one of the Kalmukians, Irina Ucheyeva.
Finns were in a minority among the onlookers, and most of them observed the situation from the other side of the street. Shalome Färm and Laura Laakkonen, who happened to come by, were impressed at how silent the people were when the Dalai Lama arrived.
“There wasn’t any kind of celebrity mob”, Laakkonen said.
The Dalai Lama is visiting Finland for a fifth time.
On Friday he meets with Minister of International Development Heidi Hautala (Green), as well as Green League presidential candidate, MP Pekka Haavisto. He will also meet unofficially with some Members of Parliament.
On Saturday he is scheduled to speak at two separate events at the Barona Arena in Espoo. In the morning he will hold a Buddhist teaching event, and in the afternoon he will give a public lecture.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Only one Finnish minister likely to meet with Dalai Lama (9.8.2011)
Ministers explain absence during recent Dalai Lama visit (6.10.2006)
Dalai Lama says his successor "could even be a Finnish woman" (2.8.2006)
14th Dalai Lama (Wikipedia)