Dalai Lama Visits Medford
The Dalai Lama visited the Kurukulla Buddhist Center Tuesday.
On a normal day, if you walk along the triple deckers lining Washington Street and Magoun Avenue not much will stand out from any other Medford neighborhood.
Tuesday was no normal day.
There were decorated dancers in the street, a market set up on Washington Street and a giant white tent stretched across four backyards. All for a visit from the Dalai Lama.
The Kurukulla Tibetan Buddhist center is nestled in among Magoun Avenue homes and it played host to the leader of Tibetan Buddhism. The tent -- which housed 1,800 people, according to event organizers -- was set up in the Center's backyard along with those of three neighbors, who agreed to have fences temporarily taken down to accommodate the event.
Inside, chairs and bleachers packed the tent on both ends, enough for 1,800 on-lookers for the sold out event, according to organizers. At the center of the tent, there were tables of relics and other decor in front of a stage.
The Dalai Lama's motorcade pulled up to the center just before 2 p.m., receiving a greeting from dance students from the Tibetan Association of Boston.
He was eventually seated inside the tent, and delivered a speech focusing on kindness and interfaith harmony.
"Six billion humans in the world today," the Dalai Lama said. "Six billion people, six billion different views."
While religions sometimes seem at odds, they share the same common goals, he said: "To bring a happy family, a happy community and a happy individual."
The Dalai Lama's speech was the conclusion of a three-day visit to the Boston area that included stops at Copley Place Hotel and MIT. The Dalai Lama retired from Tibetan political duties last year, leaving that to the elected Prime Minister of the exiled state, Lobsang Sangay, who lives in Medford. The Dalai Lama visited the center previously about 10 years ago.
Often speaking light-heartedly during his speech, the Dalai Lama touched on his relationship with Sangay.
"Politically, he's my boss," he said. "Spiritually, I'm his boss."
Before leaving the stage, the Dalai Lama donned a white baseball cap with a Blue "M" for Medford, presented by Mayor Michael McGlynn and told the audience, "see you again, thank you."
The visit attracted many exiled Tibetan Buddhists living in the Boston area, but it also brought neighbors who were curious about the visit.
Garden Street resident Frank Cameron saw the Dalai Lama when he previously visited the Kurukulla Center.
"I loved it," he said, "but it wasn't as big as it is now."
This time, he brought along neighbor Michael Dolfi. The pair didn't have tickets to the event, but waited along the Magoun Avenue barricade hoping to catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama when his motorcade arrived.
"It's something to see," Dolfi said. "It's sort of a piece of history in Medford."
They both said they hadn't heard complaints from anyone in the neighborhood.
"Everybody appreciates the center," Dolfi said.
D. Martinez also lives in the neighborhood, he said he couldn't imagine how they could fit a tent to house 1,800 people.
"That's one of the reasons I came," he said. "I couldn't picture it."
For Kalden Lobsang, his wife, Sonam Dolma and son, Tenzin Lhosel, the event was a religious experience. Lobsang is a Tibetan exile living in Malden.
"His Holiness gave me deeper meaning to how we should really view life," he said.
The event was a massive undertaking for the center and was handled almost entirely by volunteers, according to its organizers. Before the Dalai Lama left, they announced the financial report for the visit: Revenue from tickets and donations totalled about $169,000 and expenses totalled about $168,000.