Dalai Lama, a citizen of world, undeterred by protests

Dharamsala, Feb 17
Globetrotting elderly monk the Dalai Lama, who is revered as a spiritual leader in the Orient and the West, considers himself a citizen of the world. He loves to interact with the public, especially youth, despite encountering protests.

Wearing his trademark maroon robes, the Nobel Peace Laureate explains that the protesters are exercising their freedom of expression.

"Yes, there are people out there shouting at me. They are exercising their freedom of expression," he explained to his followers in Basel, Switzerland, about the protest by the pro-Shugden group, a breakaway Buddhist group, outside his hotel.

The Dalai Lama returned to India Feb 14 after concluding his two-week-long tour of Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and the US.

Feeling sorry for the demonstrations by pro-Shugden supporters against him in Copenhagen last week, the Dalai Lama said they were misinformed.

"The people manipulating these demonstrators and protesters, who are not fully informed, do so for their own reasons. I feel sorry for them in their ignorance," he said.

Undeterred by the protests, his aides say the Dalai Lama has made 38 trips just in the last 13 months, to places within India and outside. They said the demonstrations by pro-Shugden supporters are mainly held out of India.

The foreign visits included the US, Germany, Italy, Japan, Canada, Latvia, the Netherlands and Norway.

Interacting with a group of Danish parliamentarians in Copenhagen Feb 12, a post on his official website quoting the Dalai Lama said: "In 1973, as I was about to set out on my first trip to Europe, BBC correspondent Mark Tully asked me why I was going and I told him that although I was a refugee I considered myself a citizen of the world."

But the spiritual leader, who chuckles throughout his talks and often slaps visitors on their back, does not mind clarifying to his followers that he has no miraculous or healing power.

"Some may come because they feel the Dalai Lama has some kind of miraculous power. That's nonsense! Some people may feel the Dalai Lama has some kind of healing power. But if there are some real 100 percent guaranteed healers here, I'd like to show them my knee. It has been
giving me problems!" said a post on his website.

Officials of the Dalai Lama's office, which is based here, say the spiritual guru visits places only on invitation. These include invitations for various religious, social and cultural events.

"His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself takes a call on the invitation," Tenzin Taklha, joint secretary at the Dalai Lama's office, told IANS.

And he prefers visiting universities and educational institutions to speak on peace, non-violence, environment, promoting human values and Buddhism.

Ever since he fled Tibet in 1959, the Tibetan spiritual leader has travelled to more than 50 countries and met with presidents, prime ministers and crown rulers of major nations, said his aides.

In the past five years, the Dalai Lama's preferred foreign destinations have included Japan, the US, Germany, Italy, Switzerland and France.

This summer, the Dalai Lama, 79, is all set to take off for Japan and Australia for his teachings and public talks.

Before flying abroad, the spiritual leader will give a short teaching in his abode Dharamsala March 5.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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