Washington: The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, delivered the opening invocation in the US Senate on Thursday, praying "to Buddha and all" and suggesting that purity of thought will guide humanity's actions.
In his saffron robe, the Dalai Lama climbed the few steps to the Senate dais and delivered the three-line prayer, first in the Tibetan language, then in English. He chuckled over his English pronunciation.
"With our thoughts we make our world," the prayer began. "Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves."
The Buddhist monk is continuing a US visit, after meeting last month with President Obama at the White House despite objections from China, which accuses the Nobel Peace Prize winner of instigating a Tibetan independence campaign to separate from China.
The visit comes at a sensitive time for China which is grappling with a spate of separatist violence linked to the Muslim Uighur people in Western autonomous region of Xinjiang.
China expressed anger over the Dalai Lama’s meeting with US congressional leaders, urging Washington to ‘‘stop conniving’’ with the man it brands a separatist working under the ‘‘cloak of religion’’.
Beijing’s foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said China 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 recognising 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.’’
The Dalai Lama met congressional leaders across Capitol Hill on Thursday and told them one of his main goals was the ‘‘preservation of Tibetan culture’’.
Guest chaplains occasionally open the House and Senate chambers, but Thursday marked the first time the Dalai Lama gave the invocation, according to the Senate Historical Office.
He was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and greeted on the Senate floor by Senator Mazie Hirono, the only Buddhist in the Senate, as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein a longtime ally of the world-renowned monk and champion of human rights in Tibet.
"This is my favourite prayer," he said when he arrived at the final line, pointing at his notes. "Daily I pray this. That gives me inner strength. So I am asking to serve humanity as long as space remains and as long as beings remain, until then, may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world."
Only a small number of senators -- almost a dozen Democrats and fewer Republicans -- were present on the Senate floor for the occasion.
"I know I speak for the entire Senate family when I express our gratitude for that beautiful prayer, and for his words of encouragement and blessing," Senator Reid said.
Los Angeles Times, AFP