The Dalai Lama spent his birthday afternoon Sunday speaking to a full MCI Center crowd on “Global Peace Through Compassion.” The 70-year-old spiritual leader is on a 10-day visit to the District, addressing issues ranging from neuroscience and meditation to the Tibetan-American relationship.
The Dalai Lama, often communicating through an interpreter, spoke fondly of his relationship with U.S. officials. “Our friendship should never change,” he said. President Bush will be visiting with Chinese President Hu Jintao on a November visit and is expected to push for serious talks with Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama.
The ongoing dialogue between Tibet and Chinese parties concerning Tibetan autonomy has begun to shift as people within China have formed their own opinions, the Dalai Lama said.
“More and more Chinese are now showing genuine interest about Tibet … we genuinely appreciate them showing their interest and sympathy,” he said.
The Dalai Lama said also said the Tibetan people will always be his guiding force in political dealings. He said, “Tibet belongs to the Tibetan people, not me, so they are going to decide.” The Tibetan government lives in exile in northern India and claims that China illegally occupies the sovereign nation of Tibet, but China claims its has maintained sovereignty over Tibet for hundreds of years.
Moving away from politics, the Dalai Lama, who is also referred to as “His Holiness,” explained his commitments as a leader, emphasizing the importance of being a compassionate human being. He said compassion and concern transcend religious boundaries. He also called for worldwide religious harmony, arguing that every belief should be given respect.
“Implement your faith as much as you can … but that does not mean you do not respect another faith,” he said.
Earlier in the week the Dalai Lama spoke at the 35th annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience – a move that drew criticism from scientists worldwide. Critics opposed the mixing of faith and science; 800 people signed an online petition calling for the withdrawal of his invitation.
Many of the petitioners were Chinese Americans leading to accusations that they opposed the situation due to political grounds. However 14,000 patrons still attended his speech Saturday in which he talked about his interest in science as a boy and the need for a stronger relationship between scientists and moral leaders.
The Dalai Lama also visited Booker T. Washington Charter School, will present awards at the International Campaign for Tibet Light of Truth Award Ceremony on Tuesday and plans to meet with both the House International Relations Committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.