April 29, 2009

Dalai Lama, rock star: No photos, please

I don't save ticket stubs, but I'm saving this one.

On Saturday I'm going to Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, to see His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

In a venue that hosts Super Bowl champs and rock legends like U2, Springsteen and the Stones, the Dalai Lama will speak on Buddhism and paths to peace and happiness. I'll be there, rapt in row 34, for both the morning and afternoon sessions. There will, I imagine, be no fighting over parking spaces. I predict that we attendees will conduct ourselves in a zen-like manner and with a spirit of major brotherly love so as not to risk sticking out like a selfish meanie among the gathered community of gentle people.

I'm so excited about this. I am going to lay eyes on the Dalai Lama and hear him speak. This is big. I'm going to wear my bright red "Free Tibet" t-shirt, emblazoned with an embroidered Tibetan flag. (A free Tibet isn't going to happen. Click on Tibet in the right sidebar for previous posts about the slow but steady erosion of a culture that is a world treasure.)

No cameras are allowed at the Gillette Stadium event, which is a bummer, as the only photo I have of the Dalai Lama is a photo of a photo of the Dalai Lama.

In the picture at left, our American guide and a monk at a monastery in Tibet -- I won't say which one, and I've cropped the faces so neither man can be identified -- hold a Dalai Lama picture that our guide presented to the monk. I can tell you that in the uncropped version, the monk is wearing a smile four miles wide. Everywhere we went in Tibet people would whisper, "Dalai Lama pic? Dalai Lama pic?"

When I consider this photo -- and especially the uncropped version showing the recognizable participants standing in a crowded courtyard openly beaming at the image -- I shudder. How could our guide have been so stupid? Tibetan monasteries contain monks (rather, some Tibetan monasteries contain monks...), and they also contain people charged with keeping an eye on the monks and their activities. To say that our guide put this monk at risk is an understatement. Before we left the States, our tour company warned us repeatedly not to pack or bring any pictures of or items relating to the Dalai Lama. We might be detained for possessing such items, and we'd put anyone to whom we offered them in harm's way.

I want so much to take a picture of the Dalai Lama on Saturday. But I'll content myself with sitting in row 34, eyes and ears transfixed on the live man and his message. It will be amazing, uplifting. Perhaps life-changing.