Bhutanese Buddhist figure to visit Steamboat

By Margaret Hair, Craig Daily Press, December 7, 2007

Steamboat Springs, Colorado (USA) -- When His Holiness Lopen Ngawan Tenzin Rinpoche first came to Steamboat Springs in 2004, it was not only the first time he had come to the United States.

It was also the first time he had left the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan.

“I know he liked our Buddhist community very much,” said Timothy Olmsted, founder of The Buddhist Center of Steamboat Springs. The group will host Rinpoche for a return visit, which includes a talk at 7 p.m. today entitled “What the Buddha Would Say” and an empowerment service at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Both events are in Olympian Hall, on the second floor of Howelsen Hill Lodge.

The talk will address “working with compassion in these difficult times,” Olmsted said.

“That’s the theme generally for the weekend — training your mind, working with the heart of compassion.”

Three years ago, the talk drew close to 300 people, Olmsted said. He attributed the high turnout to curiosity and interest in Buddhist messages, which espouse peace and well-being.

“In a small town, that’s quite considerable,” he said of the attendance. “And I think he (Rinpoche) really got that there’s a tremendous amount of interest in such things. I think he was also very taken with the Yampa Valley and the physical place.”

Olmsted said he thought Rinpoche could feel the “vibe and energy of a place,” and that those vibes were strong in Steamboat. When Rinpoche left, he promised to return.

While his 2004 appearance was part of a larger tour, Rinpoche’s talk and empowerment ritual will be part of a much smaller circuit this time around.

“It’s not a big, widely announced tour, which makes it sort of extra special for us,” Olmsted said.

M.L. Mackey, who attended both events during the Lama’s last visit, said though Rinpoche speaks through a translator, the devout Buddhist speaks through the heart.

“He was the embodiment of compassion, he’s just incredible. And he had a huge impact on the people that were near him or went to the events the last time around,” she said.

Mackey was so impressed that she traveled to Bhutan to take a vow from Rinpoche. Unfortunately, he had been sent elsewhere for the weekend. Mackey is looking forward to Rinpoche’s return.

“The thing I get from him is that he inspires me to do more practice,” she said. “Because if he embodies what practice will do, I want that.”