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How Many Dollars for the Dalai?

It came to a grand total of $550,000 to bring the Dalai Lama to Portland in May, but what it cost to bring him to Eugene is not yet known. His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, spent most of his Oregon visit in Portland, with a stop in Eugene for his May 10 lecture, “The Path to Peace and Happiness in the Global Society.” 

UO spokesman Phil Weiler says the UO has not yet done a final accounting of the Eugene event, with some big-ticket expenditures still coming in, but that the UO’s “expectation from the beginning was that expenses would exceed revenues.”

According to the Dalai Lama’s official website, “As a long-standing policy His Holiness the Dalai Lama does not accept any fees for his talks. Where tickets need to be purchased, organizers are requested by our office to charge the minimum entrance fee in order to cover their costs only.” 

A ticket to the Eugene event was $20. A full day at the Portland May 9 interfaith dialogue and public talk ranged from $25 to $175, and a half day was $15 to $100. A ticket for the May 11 environmental summit, public lecture and Red Hot Chili Peppers performance in Portland was $21.25 at the low end and $1,272 for a “class A” VIP ticket, which included optional “public recognition” and a gift bag. Earlier that week on May 7, the Dalai Lama spoke at the annual Sadat Lecture for Peace at the University of Maryland, and that event was free.

At the culmination of the Portland events  — right before the Chili Peppers played songs like “Californication” and “Give It Away” — the treasurer of Maitripa College came out and gave a customary financial disclosure of the visit. While the Portland events took in $850,000, the expenses came to $550,000. About 30 percent of the remaining $300,000 was given to Maitripa, which offers graduate degrees in Buddhist studies, and the rest to charities via The Office of Tibet in New York. 

Weiler says the UO “wanted to avoid turning a profit because we are a public entity and it would be difficult for us to donate money to charity.” He adds, “We also wanted to make our ticket prices as low as possible so that virtually anyone who wanted to attend could afford a ticket.”