Dalai Lama draws 50,000 to Seattle stadium

By Laura Myers, Reuters, April 13, 2008

SEATTLE, WA (USA) -- Tens of thousands of people packed a Seattle sports stadium on Saturday to hear the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, call for nonviolence and to make the 21st century a "century of dialogue."

<< People listen to the Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, speak at
Compassion in Action at Qwest Field on the second day of the 5-day Seeds of Compassion gathering in Seattle, Washington, April 12, 2008. (REUTERS/Marcus R. Donner)

Drums played, American Indian chiefs wearing feathered head-dresses danced and organizers said about 51,000 people -- many of them families -- listened under sunny skies to the Dalai Lama speak about compassion.

Sitting in a red chair under a canopied stage on the stadium field, the robed leader made no reference to recent turmoil in Tibet nor to suggestions that world leaders should boycott the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama said on Friday he did not support a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. He has rejected Chinese claims that he orchestrated deadly rioting across Tibet last month over a campaign for independence.

On Saturday, the official Xinhua Chinese news agency reported the arrests of nine Buddhist monks suspected of bombing a government building in Tibet.

Saturday's mass gathering in Seattle was the largest of a five-day community event to promote compassion in every day life organized by the group Seeds of Compassion.

"I don't expect to hear any political message. I am not viewing this as a religious event, but it seems like a unique opportunity," said small business owner Patrick Burningham, 42, who was in the crowd.

A 1,000-person cultural procession of people wearing Chinese, Japanese, African-American, Native American and other national dress kicked off the festivities to an accompaniment of more than 100 drummers.

In his wide-ranging, 45-minute address, the Dalai Lama called for the elimination of nuclear weapons and spoke of the role of women in nurturing compassion. He also discussed the need for nonviolence and said the 21st century should be a "century of dialogue."

Student Derek Albietz, 21, said he had always been interested in the Dalai Lama's views.

"It is my first opportunity to see him in person. I want to hear his thoughts on compassion and science and how to help the world," Albietz said.