Immaculate reception

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
By MIKE MILIARD  |  May 13, 2009

090515_dalai_main
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.

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