Far From Heaven

Published: May 24, 2010

By Jim Lichtman
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From the category: If you live long enough…

The New York Times reports (May 21) that the appearance of the Dalai Lama at Radio City Music Hall “has inspired a certain chant on the Avenue of the Americas…

‘Tickets for the Dalai Lama, TICKETS…’”

New York’s famed theater has long been considered the gold standard for world class events (if you count the Grammys and Tonys; and don’t count the MTV Awards and Daytime Emmys.)  So, when His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual and exiled leader, scheduled a special 4-day seminar last week, it would not be surprising to find followers flocking to fill the 5,933 seat theater, right? Little did anyone realize that interest in the Dalai Lama’s spiritual teachings would inspire a different kind of interest – ticket scalpers.

“[Scalper] Richie,” the Times reports, “was standing a bit down the avenue, smoking Newports and haggling over prices with a Tibetan immigrant.

“‘I’m selling world peace here, and this guy’s nickel-and-diming me,’ Richie yelled, prompting a laugh from a Tibetan importer from Jackson Heights, Queens.”

Last week, New York State’s “legalized-scalping law” expired, meaning that it is illegal to resell tickets for more than $2.00 above face value, and to sell those tickets within 1,500 feet of the event site.  Apparently, scalpers for the Dalai Lama event didn’t get the memo and were out in force even though ticket buyers were not all that prevalent.

“It’s a bomb,” one scalper said. “Last year at the Hammerstein Ballroom, we were getting $150 a seat.” However, all may not be lost. “Today’s a bomb,” the man continued, “but Sunday,” when the Dalai Lama gives a talk targeting the lay public “could be off the wall.”

And what does His Holiness have to say about all this commerce?

From his book, Ethics for the New Millennium, he writes, “So far as the application of economic policy is concerned, the same considerations apply here as to every human activity.  A sense of universal responsibility is crucial. I must admit, however, that I find it a bit difficult to make practical suggestions about the application of spiritual values in the field of commerce. This is because competition has such an important role to play.  For this reason, the relationship between empathy and profit is necessarily a fragile one.”

Fragile, indeed.

“It’s difficult to bargain with Dalai Lama fans,” Richie said. “They’re always looking for cheap seats. Go across street,” Richie said to one non-English speaking patron. “See guy leaning against pole? Ask him, cheap tickets. I no have.”

“I saw tickets advertised on Craigslist for up to $500 apiece,” Michelle Bongiorno said, “but that’s totally contrary to his teachings.  There’s an integrity I try to follow. If it’s meant to be, I’ll buy a ticket, but I want to pay the fair value, even if that means I don’t get a ticket. It’s more important to me to live his teachings than to hear his teachings.”

And what was the topic of Sunday’s talk: “Awakening the Heart of Selflessness.”


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