LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Dalai Lama is planning a three-day visit to Louisville next spring with a series of appearances to promote compassion among people of all faiths, officials said Monday.
As part of his May 19-21 visit, the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader will give a public talk at the city's downtown arena, offer insights into Buddhism during two teachings and reach out to young people during an appearance at a performing arts center.
"The visit by His Holiness will be a pivotal, shining moment for our city," Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said.
The announcement, made at a Tibetan Buddhist Center, began with Buddhist monks chanting the Dalai Lama's prayer for world peace. The 77-year-old spiritual leader lives in exile in India. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for advocating nonviolent liberation for Tibet.
Officials predicted the three-day event will attract thousands of people.
"The Dalai Lama is such an iconic figure for peace, justice and compassion," Fischer said.
"It's going to be a unique, once-in-a-life opportunity for our citizens to not just experience His Holiness, but then to also experience themselves in a deeper way that will lead to untold good deeds within our city and beyond," the mayor said.
The invitation came from Geshe Kalsang Rapgyal, resident director of the local Tibetan Buddhist Center — the Drepung Gomang Institute.
The Dalai Lama's visit will begin with a two-hour presentation at the KFC Yum Center on Sunday, May 19. His comments will focus on how people of various religious beliefs can promote world peace through compassion.
The next day, the Dalai Lama will offer a two-part public Buddhist teaching, with morning and afternoon sessions. The event is meant to deepen understanding of the Buddhist faith.
Geshe Rapgyal said the teachings will focus on the Buddhist principle of compassion.
"It's something that anybody can practice," he said through an interpreter.
Then on the final day, the Dalai Lama will speak to middle and high school and college students at the downtown performing arts center.
Organizers are planning music, arts and cultural performances to accompany the high-profile visit.
Fischer said he has tried to do his part to promote compassion through volunteer work in Louisville. One effort resulted in tens of thousands of volunteers stepping forward to help others during a week this past April. A similar effort is planned next spring.
"As an elected official, there's people around me saying that makes me sound soft, and I shouldn't talk about compassion," Fischer said. "I should be tougher. But I have to say, when I talk about compassion, people's heads nod and they engage more than any topic that I talk about. So I think it's within everybody that they just almost want permission to talk and connect with their fellow human beings."
The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in the 1950s amid China's rule of the Himalayan region. China says Tibet has always been part of its territory, but many Tibetans say the region was virtually independent for centuries and that Beijing's control is draining Tibetan culture. Since 2009, dozens of Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest Chinese rule.
The Dalai Lama has visited the United States regularly for the past 30 years. His last visit to Louisville was in 1994.