This past Saturday, May 2nd 2009, I was lucky enough to have been given the opportunity to join a group of friends and dharma practitioners in a journey. The journey from Cape Cod to Foxborough, MA to witness the teachings of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
Our day started simply, we met up at the International House Of Pancakes for some breakfast. Due to the fact I own a couple piece of junk cars, one of them out of commission, my wife and children drove me to the meeting spot and joined us for breakfast. My son Colin, the aspiring Buddha to be, dazzled everyone with his “oh wow” every couple minutes, leading us all into this mindframe of amazement and wonder for the day to come.
We hopped into the van and it was a little over an hour drive. There was much talk on the way of how excited we all were, it was everyone’s first time to witness an event of this magnitude. We could hardly contain ourselves, Destination: Dalai Lama!
We arrived early enough and walked toward the stadium. The only “off” thing we encountered all day were the entrance lines, they were “segregated” into lines of “men only” and “women only”. Other than that, everything else was as it should be. The stadium was packed with over 15,000 in attendance. At times you could barely move, but due to the fact everyone was in great spirits noone complained or got angry with a little bump as we passed through. We had enough time to hit the restroom, take a very small walk through all the mini-shops that were setup everywhere (it felt like a small Tibetan village, minus the fact we were in Gillette Stadium). Then it was 9:30am, time for the first talk.
As we sat the place was humming with the bustle of people trying to get to their seats, the excitement was growing by the second. Towards one of the tunnels we noticed some commotion and it seemed like the time had finally come. Everyone in the place stood on their feet and silence encompassed one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL.
His Holiness started his walk toward the throne built by the organizers of the event, The Tibet Association of Boston. He walked up the stage, took a seat and the crowd quietly sat down. Representative Bill Delahunt gave a quick greeting and introduction, which for a politician, was as good as it can get.
The first talk His Holiness gave was a basic introduction to Tibetan Buddhism, with alot of emphasis on the 4 Noble Truths. While I have become semi-comfortable with my interpretation of the truths, somethings became clearer, yet others more profound and well worth more investigation.
After the first talk there was a break of a few hours. Our group got up and decided to see what goodies we could find at the booths that were scattered throughout Gillette. Immediately, I was lost amongst the people and became separated from the people I had come with. I didn’t feel panicked at all, but took a few moments to see if I couldn’t find them again. I was unsuccessful! So I figured I would take this opportunity to meander about and see who I might bump into.
My daughter has a Big Sister through the Big Brothers and Big Sisters Organization, I saw her there. I went on a voyage to find the Wisdom Publications booth, hoping to finally get the chance to meet Joe Evans who works there and someone Ive only gotten to know through the virtual world of the internet. Luckily I found the booth and Joe. (In case you are reading this Joe, it was great to finally meet you, wish we had more time to chat but the place had you really busy, thanks again for the books!) While chatting with Joe I asked if he had seen Rod from The Worst Horse anywhere, he had and would tell him I was out and about. I really oped we would bump into one another, but with nearly 15,000 people I figured the chance was slim.
I continued to walk around with no real plan of attack, except to just take it all in. It felt so surreal. 15,000 people and not one of them was angry or yelling, everyone was on the same plane of consciousness. Being a smoker I had a couple breaks and met some great people, who were also hiding from the masses ashamed of the attachment to nicotine that we still hold onto.
As I walked through the crowd there were people handing out photo postcards of His Holiness, they were from the Students For A Free Tibet group. They also had booths setup as well selling merchandise to fund their campaign to raise awareness of the Tibet issue, which I have to say is the most extreme, yet effective way. They are fully engaged on the issue and pull no punches in their style of activism. I noticed that one of the people handing out the cards was none other than the executive director of the organization Lhadon Tethong, I needed to go say hello. I walked up, she offered a card, I showed her I already had one and told her to save it for someone else. I introduced myself as Nathan, a fan of her work. We talked for a few minutes about what she has been doing and I told her how brave she and the others from SFT were. I congratulated and thanked her once more and it was time to finally get some food…
And was that a chore…
The lines we at least 20-30 people deep, at every food vendor. I sucked it up and got in line, I was really hungry at this point and my feet needed a rest from the constant walking. Once in line others started filing in behind me, and coincidentally the person right behind me was a local shop owner from back on Cape Cod. He is the owner of the Tibetan Mandala, a small shop on Main Street in Hyannis and his family immigrated to the US from Tibet many years ago. I said hello and we chatted a bit, it was good to see him there. The line was not moving… my stomach was starting to complain a bit…
Joe Evans from Wisdom walked by, I nodded as he did. Within a minute Rod found me. It was really great to see him, it had been a long time since we last got together (at a Mastodon show in Boston that he took me too). We chatted a bit about our sites, talked music and just caught up with one another. Again it was great to see him! (If you are reading Rod, next time let’s not let so much time pass before we hang again, k?)
After waiting in line for almost a half an hour I made it to the front, ordered a hamburger and a bottle of water which was way more expensive than you could believe… but anyway, it was nearly time for talk number 2 and I needed to fin my seat.
I found my seat, and my friends that I made the trip with, finally. As before, the crowd hushed as His Holiness entered the stadium from the tunnels and he made his way back to the stage. Before this talk some Tibetan dancers performed for His Holiness, it was absolutely amazing to finally see the dances in person and not on a TV.
The second talk was titled “A Path to Happiness & Peace” and was not as much of a religious teaching as it was a simple talk on how to behave as a moral and compassionate human being. To quote part of the talk His Holiness said “Emotionally, mentally, physically, we are same . . . Everyone have the same right to achieve happy life.” Throughout the talk, His Holiness donned a New England Patriots hat which when he put it on, the crowd broke out into a loud cheer, it was quite amusing.
One of the biggest things I came away with from his teachings was how to practice more patience, which is something I really need to do, especially at home.
The experience has changed me a bit, it has taught me to slow down, to not be so frantic in my life and to realize that yes, we are all the same. I learned the latter not from His Holiness but from the diverse crowd.
There were people from every race, every creed, every religion and of every sexual preference all seeking the same thing, happiness. And, at least for one day, we all found it.
Photos courtesy of Amber