On 6 July, the mayor of Ithaca Svante Myrick announced that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama had accepted a proposal that an international center for Buddhist practice and study be built in the city. The mayor made the announcement during a visit to the city’s Namgyal Monastery and Institute of Buddhist Studies (or Namgyal Ithaca)—which had proposed the idea of the center in January this year—where he joined celebrations in honor of the Dalai Lama’s 81st birthday. The Dalai Lama last visited Ithaca in 2007.
In his announcement, Myrick revealed that the center will be called His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama’s Library and Museum. News portal The Ithaca Voice reported that the center will be a multi-function complex and serve several purposes: it will “contain the writings, teachings, and artifacts of all 14 Dalai Lamas” and “provide housing for Buddhist students and monks.” (The Ithaca Voice). According to the monastery, the project “will serve to protect the legacy of the Dalai Lama and all he represents to many millions throughout the world.” (ithacajournal)
“The institute’s intent is to bring together scientists and practitioners of Buddhist philosophy to explore relationships between Buddhist philosophy and the science of the mind and consciousness,” said Ven. Tenzin Choesang, president of the board of Namgyal Monastery. “The Dalai Lama’s library and museum will serve as a center for future generations of students, researchers and writers interested in Tibetan Budhism and its history and philosophy.” (ithacajournal)
Svante Myrick believes that the new center will be a “culturally, economically and socially important” development for the local community. “Ithaca is a community that welcomes people of all backgrounds. This will not just confirm, but expand that. The more diverse we are, the stronger we are,” he told The Ithaca Voice. He also stated that the center would draw visitors from around the globe, helping to reduce Ithaca’s economic dependence on a limited number of institutions. “The more reasons for people to come to Ithaca, the better. If all we are is Cornell and Ithaca College, then we’ll remain dependent on those things.” (The Ithaca Voice)
Ithaca has already served as the Dalai Lama’s American base for many years. Formally known as the North American Seat of the Personal Monastery of the Dalai Lama, Namgyal Ithaca was founded in 1992 with the inspiration of the late Namgyal monk Ven. Pema Losang Chogyen (d. 1996) and others as a branch of the main Namgyal Monastery in Dharamsala, India.
According to its website, Namgyal Ithaca’s central mission was to provide Western-born students with the chance to study “authentic Tibetan Buddhism in a monastic setting.” Its three-year curriculum offers “the systematic combination of Tibetan language, philosophy and practice of both sutra and tantra.” The institute has a well-rounded program of student life, which includes evening meditation sessions, week-long summer retreats, guided pilgrimages to Buddhist sites with the Namgyal monks, and celebrations of Tibetan cultural events and Buddhist holidays.