The Dalai Lama on Thursday encouraged the US to show self-confidence in defending democracy as top lawmakers rallied behind his calls to preserve Tibetan culture.
Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, whose meeting on Feb. 21 with US President Barack Obama was angrily condemned by China, returned to Washington where — for the first time — he delivered the customary prayer that opens each US Senate session.
The Dalai Lama later met congressional leaders and told them one of his main goals was “preservation of Tibetan culture.”
Offering advice as a “longtime friend” of the US, the Dalai Lama said that he considered the nation to be “really a champion of democracy, freedom.”
“These traditional values are, I think, very, very relevant in today’s world. After all, you are the leading nation in the free world, So, [show] self-confidence,” he said.
The Dalai Lama sat between US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, who said he wanted to show bipartisan support for the Buddhist monk, and the Republican leader’s often bitter rival Nancy Pelosi, a longtime activist on the Tibetan cause. He later met top senators.
“What is happening in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world,” said Pelosi, the leader of Obama’s Democratic Party in the House of Representatives.
In contrast to his meeting with Obama, which the White House took pains to portray as private, the Dalai Lama was accompanied in his talks at Congress by Lobsang Sangay, who was elected in 2011 as the prime minister of Tibetans in exile.
The Dalai Lama told the lawmakers that he had transferred his political role to the elected leader. While the globe-trotting monk has been instrumental in throwing a worldwide spotlight on Tibet, the Nobel Peace Prize winner has increasingly been looking ahead to the future of the movement without him.
The Dalai Lama appeared to reflect on his own mortality as he served as the guest Senate chaplain. Offering prayers to the Buddha “and all other gods,” the Dalai Lama recited what he described as “my favorite prayer,” which he recites daily for inner strength.
Meanwhile, the Beijing government yesterday expressed anger over the meeting, urging the US to “stop conniving” with the man it brands a separatist working under the “cloak of religion.”
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) said Beijing expressed “strong opposition and firm opposition” to the meeting and had “launched solemn representations with the US.”
“He is a political exile who has long been engaged in anti-Chinese separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” the spokesman told reporters at a regular briefing.
“China urges the US Congress to abide by its commitment of recognizing Tibet as a part of China, not supporting Tibetan independence, stop interfering in China’s domestic affairs with Tibet-related affairs, stop conniving and supporting the anti-China separatist activities by Tibetan independence forces,” Qin said.