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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Dalai Lama: Immaculate reception

May 15, 2009

The New England Patriots played host to a very
different out-of-towner last week, as the Dalai
Lama made a most incongruous visit to Gillette Stadium
The Boston Phoenix
May 13, 2009

TIBET OFFENSIVE The Dalai Lama, appearing in
Foxboro as part of his multi-city North American
speaking tour, was not whistled for a chop block.

They are not following dharma who resort to
violence to achieve their purpose. -- Siddhartha Gautama

Pro football is like nuclear warfare. There are
no winners, only survivors. -- Frank Gifford

This past month, former New England Patriots
safety Rodney Harrison -- a player who's not
especially known for on-field compassion, or
karuna, as it's known in Mahayana Buddhist
teachings — griped about new NFL rule changes
designed to protect quarterbacks. "Football is a
violent sport, played at 100 miles an hour with
reckless abandon," Harrison reasoned. "Guys are going to get hurt."

Harrison's erstwhile home turf, Gillette Stadium,
is a place where guys do get hurt all the time,
of course, in plays so violent that, if the
perpetrators weren't wearing uniforms, the assaults would be illegal.

It's a place that's usually charged with
aggressive energy -- from the fake Minutemen
firing muskets on the sidelines pre-game, to the
quiet post-game seething of 68,756 beer-bloated
fans inching their way back onto Route 1.

But two Saturdays ago, as His Holiness the 14th
Dalai Lama sat cross-legged on the 50-yard line
and gently intoned that "the path to happiness in
the individual and with society is through inner peace," that all changed.

Gone were the percussive sounds of the gridiron
-- "the block, the clip, the kick, the blitz, the
bomb," as George Carlin put it -- when the Dalai
Lama stopped in Foxboro as part of his multi-city
North American speaking tour. Instead, the
stadium was a sun-dappled sea of serenity,
blanketed in hushed quiet. Prayer flags fluttered
and Tibetan singing bowls chimed.

Pats owner Robert Kraft's self-financed $325
million state-of-the-art edifice took on the
restorative calm of a Himalayan monastery. One,
albeit, that sells Papa Gino's pizza and fried dough.

The path to peace . . . and fries

"Green tea?" asked one concession employee of his
colleague as the latter kid trundled a cart
loaded with a dozen thermos dispensers through
the arena. "Oh yeah," his buddy replied with a knowing glance.

As one might expect, the Samuel Adams Brewhouse
was draped in a tarp this day, and Gillette's
other beer stands stood dry in a darkened corner.
("I undertake the training rule to abstain from
intoxicating drinks and drugs causing
heedlessness," holds Buddhism's fifth precept.)

Indeed, if it's common at sporting events to find
oneself buffeted in cramped concourses by tipsy
fans, bobbing boozily through the crowds, here it
was a little different. Between the Dalai Lama's
morning primer on Buddhism's "Four Noble Truths"
and his afternoon sermon on the "Path to Peace &
Happiness," attendees walked slowly and aimlessly
between the concession stands, heads seemingly in
clouds, occasionally blissedly bumping into each other.

I ran into one co-worker who's seen the Dalai
Lama speak five times. Each time, he said, he
comes away with a "peaceful feeling for a month
or so afterward." Looking around at the happy
crowd of 16,000 or so, it wasn't hard to believe.

At a U2 or Springsteen concert, merch tables are
arrayed to purvey overpriced and oversize
T-shirts. Here, people pawed through racks of
pashminas and Tibetan prayer shawls. Or flipped
through "sustainably harvested lokta paper
journals." Or considered the heft of roly-poly
Buddha statues. One could learn about the Chinese
occupation of Tibet, or peer into a tiny mock-up
of a traditional Tibetan home, or dress up in
traditional Tibetan clothing, or have one's name written in Tibetan.

But if a visitor half expected the air to be
sweet with wafting scents of sandalwood or
jasmine, one reminder that this was a sports
arena remained: the pungent artery-clogging aroma of Big Macs and hot dogs.

Certainly, for all the Dalai Lama's exhortations
-- "We must promote vegetarianism," he's said --
it was surprising to see how many enlightenment
seekers were stuffing their faces with fast food at lunch.

Mike, from Weymouth, a chubby twentysomething
with a patchy beard, was munching McDonald's
fries as a member of the Tibetan Association of
Boston suffused the air with solemn flute music before the afternoon talk.

"Uh, my friend asked me if I wanted to go
yesterday," said Mike matter of factly, "and I
was just, like, 'Why not?' It's a chance to see the Dalai Lama.

"Usually, I come here to see the Patriots," he
added. "This is actually nice. You don't have to
deal with all the drunk people. Plus, you don't have to pay $40 for parking."

Zen and the art of Belichick

"I'm sorry, I don't make the rules," said a
man-mountain security guard standing sentry by a
fence at the back of the first-floor concourse.
"Mr. Belichick says we can't have anybody watching the Pats."

Yes, as the Dalai Lama spoke about compassion,
materialism, the importance of motherhood, and
his half-century exile from his homeland, the
coach of the Patriots was overseeing a rookie
mini-camp practice on a field just outside the
stadium, so close the players could probably hear
the Lama's dulcet urgings for peace — when they
were not being violently brought to the ground.a
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