Thupten Tendhar, 32, a Tibetan monk, was drawn to campus to learn more about Martin Luther King Jr.’s principles and methods of nonviolent protest at a two-week Summer Institute offered by the Center for Nonviolence and Peace Studies.
Tendhar escaped from Tibet when he was 11, walking two months across the Himalayas to reach India and enter the Drepung Loseling Monastery. He hopes to apply Kingian nonviolence in the movement to restore independence to Tibet, which has been part of China since the 1950s.
The monk’s classmates at the Institute included a woman from Tanzania who works with women fighting gender violence and a man who negotiates peace with gangs in Washington, D.C.
Tendhar said hearing firsthand about the experiences of the center’s director, Bernard LaFayette, who played several important roles in the Civil Rights Movement, was inspirational. “Kingian nonviolence is so practical,” the monk said, “and so inter-related with the peaceful aims of Buddhist philosophy.”
After leaving URI, Tendhar was granted political asylum in the U.S. He hopes to return to URI this winter and become one of the first students to enroll in the center’s planned and soon-to-be Graduate Certificate Program in Nonviolence and Peace Studies.