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Dalai Lama visits Minneapolis to celebrate Tibetan New Year

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The Dalai Lama celebrated the Tibetan New Year in Minnesota Sunday, his first time observing the new year outside of India, since his exile more than 50 years ago.

He presided over a Tibetan New Year ceremony at Augsburg College Sunday morning – the event drew roughly 3,000 people Tibetan-Americans, according to the Star Tribune. The Dalai Lama spoke on the nature of happiness, fulfillment and embodiment at Macalester College Sunday afternoon.

The Tibetan spiritual leader gave a keynote speech at the 26th annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at the Minneapolis Convention Center Saturday. During the forum, one Augsburg student got the chance of a lifetime – to run the Dalai Lama's errands.

Tenzin Yeshi Paichang, a sophomore at Augsburg, is a first-generation Minnesotan born to Tibetan immigrants. Tibet was annexed by China in 1950 and after a failed revolt in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to neighboring India. Paichang's grandparents were among the tens of thousands of Tibetans who followed their political and religious leader into exile, according to the Pioneer Press. In 1992, Paichang's family immigrated to the United States. Paichang was the first baby born in Minnesota to the first wave of Tibetan immigrants to the U.S., the newspaper reports.

Paichang calls the Dalai Lama "respected, holy, just an icon," according to WCCO, and when he found out he would be running errands for the spiritual leader he was very excited.

"I picture myself, like 20 years from now, like when I have children, I’m going to be telling them like ‘Oh, I got His Holiness a cup of coffee,” Paichang told WCCO.

This isn't the first time Paichang has been associated with the Dalai Lama – when he was two years old he played His Holiness in a Martin Scorcese film, Kundun. Paichang told WCCO anything related to His Holiness, including playing him in a film, is a blessing. He said the Dalai Lama is not just a man he portrayed on screen, but one he hopes to emulate in life.

Minnesota is home to some 2,500 Tibetans and has the second largest concentration of Tibetans in the United States, second to New York, according to the Pioneer Press.

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