Nydahl has all the Buddhist street cred to speak whatever psychological babble he wants; he's been studying Buddhism since the 1950s and has opened more than 500 meditation centers under the "Diamond Way Buddhism" name worldwide.
This week, an invitation from the Diamond Way Buddhist Center of Colorado Springs started two months ago by two of his students, Charlotte and Jesper Jorgensen and Colorado College's chaplain's office brings him to the Springs for the first time.
Nydahl, who grew up in Denmark, says he had always been interested in Eastern religion. But he says he was propelled further into Buddhism by his disillusionment with post-World War II politics like the U.S.' Marshall Plan, which offered aid to devastated European countries but also repulsed communism. Nydahl sought a spiritual experience in Central Asia, specifically in Nepal, where he and his wife had honeymooned in 1968.
"The energy the West put into conquering the outer world," he says, "the East put inward, to know the mind and have lasting happiness."
Nydahl studied with the 16th Lama Gyalwa Karmapa, so named because he was supposedly the 16th reincarnation of the original Karmapa, who closely studied Buddha's oral tradition.
In his four years of studying, Nydahl says, the Chinese government systematically destroyed Tibetan Buddhist culture. Lama Karmapa, who had fled Tibet, asked Nydahl to preserve the Buddhist teachings and share them with the West.
As part of his mission, Nydahl has taught meditative practices globally for 30 years, in five languages. He says meditation begins with focusing on Buddha as a manifestation of a human quality like fearlessness, joy, compassion or wisdom. Then a mantra helps dissolve the energy form into light, letting physical sensations disappear so that all that remains is awareness.
The goal is for the world to reappear in a pure form, where, according to Nydahl, "Everybody has perfect qualities and everything is meaningful and radiant."
Enlightening the West is a big job. But perhaps Nydahl's work will be easier in Colorado.
"You can't get any closer to Tibet in the West than the Sangre de Cristo mountain range," he says.
"Buddhism: Discovering Mind's Freedom and Joy," talk by Lama Ole Nydahl
CC's McHugh Commons, 1090 N. Cascade Ave.
Thursday, Nov. 29, 7:30 p.m.
Suggested donation: $10 for general public, $6 for students;
for more, call 389-6607 or visit coloradocollege.edu.