On Sunday, the Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association sponsored an Amala Peace Walk as part of the activities planned for the Dalai Lama’s visit to Portland.
Amala is the Tibetan word for mother. Tibetan Buddhists believe that mothers are the most important people. They also believe that we have all been mothers in past lives and will be mothers in lives to come.
Anyone who officially registered for the event received a white T-shirt commemorating the event along with an armband that would permit wearers to the Tibetan art exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. The first 2000 registrants were conferred a white silk “kata.” A “kata” is given at the beginning of any endeavor and is meant to show the good intentions of the giver.
The mothers were accompanied by their family members, most of whom were also wearing traditional Tibetan garb. The women were clad in bright silk dresses. Men wore silk jackets and shirts over western pants. Little boys played in the grass, alternately tugging at their collars, petting dogs and running away from TV cameras.
The walk began at Lincoln High School. Participants gathered and listened to local television reporter Mahealani Richardson discuss the meanings of “katas,” “bangten” and mothers in general.
Families of all shapes and sizes gathered once the march began. Mothers with small children, “sari”-wearing women from India marched hand in hand with their mothers, and families with adopted children followed behind the singing Tibetan mothers.
The march drew hundreds of people, who moved like an ocean from Lincoln High School to the South Park Blocks. The only thing marring the event was a group of pro-lifers holding a sign graphically depicting what was reported to be an aborted fetus. The crowd largely ignored the demonstrators.
The mothers passed through a white, green, red, blue and yellow balloon arch bearing Tibetan flags and banners, while a small group of Tibetan Buddhist monks prayed and smiled as the mothers passed.
The Amala Peace Walk ended in the South Park Blocks. Marchers were deposited into a corridor of merchant tents where they could purchase Tibetan goods or educate themselves on the plight of Tibetans at the hands of the Chinese.
A representative of the Dalai Lama will speak with other Nobel laureates today at the world peace conference in the Smith Center Ballroom starting at 12:30 p.m.