- The Washington Times - Monday, July 3, 2000

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, urged thousands of his supporters during a folk festival on the National Mall yesterday to stop their obsessive pursuit of material wealth and start concentrating on their inner strength and values.

The Dalai Lama told his supporters during his midday speech that soaring economic growth could not replace spiritual satisfaction, which he said is the key to life.

"We must not neglect our inner values," he said during the hourlong speech yesterday afternoon to crowds of supporters who withstood temperatures in the high 80s. "If we become slaves of money, we can't be a happy person. If we expect all our problems to be solved by external means, that is a mistake."

The speech his only public appearance during his visit to the District of Columbia was the marquee event of Smithsonian Folklife Festival's "Tibetan Culture Beyond the Land of Snows." The folklife festival ends tomorrow.

The Dalai Lama also urged the crowd to accept one another and help others who are in need, financially and emotionally. "We need to share with other people because that kind of friendship is something very special," he said. "We need to close the gap between the rich and poor."

But the spiritual leader, garbed in the traditional Tibetan maroon and yellow monastic robe, didn't limit himself to serious subjects he shared a few jokes with the crowd.

"There are lot of monks here today, including me, so you can see we're making a big contribution to stopping overpopulation," the leader said, as the crowds broke out in laughter.

The Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, gave his address after joining dozens of monks from the Drepung Loseling and Namgyal monasteries in India in a Monlam Chenmo, a peace ritual that included monastic chanting and prayer from the 600-year-old tradition.

Hundreds of supporters, many of them wearing scarves on their head, gathered around the 9-foot-high stage that faced the U.S. Capitol to catch a glimpse of the two-week holy ritual that asks for world peace.

In a speech that avoided politics, the Dalai Lama avoided directly mentioning China's rule over Tibet. China is accused by Tibetan exiles of gross human rights violations in Tibet, which it invaded and has occupied since the 1950s.

"The very purpose of our life is happiness," he said during the speech, which was broadcast live in Tibet by Voice of America and Radio Free Asia.

The Dalai Lama is the 14th to take the throne in Tibet. Tibetans believe each Dalai Lama is a reincarnation of a previous one in this case, a reincarnation of the Great 13th, Thubten Gyatso.

Born Tenzin Gyatso to a farming family in northeast Tibet in 1935, he fled Tibet to India with about 80,000 Tibetans in 1959 after a failed revolt against Chinese rule of the mountain region. From his headquarters at Dharmsala, in northern India, the Dalai Lama has since headed a nonviolent struggle for Tibetan autonomy.

Just two weeks ago, while meeting on Capitol Hill and at the White House, the Dalai Lama said he was open to talks with Chinese leaders and asked members of Congress to help initiate them.

China opposes autonomy for Tibet and sees the Dalai Lama as a rallying point for pro-independence forces. Chinese officials have refused to meet with him.

But yesterday, in a clear reference to the situation in his homeland, the Dalai Lama called for dialogue and consensus to prevail over conflict and oppression. He also encouraged his supporters to love each other, treat one another with respect and to remember that all people are "basically the same, emotionally, mentally and physically."

"All human beings have the same desire to work on something and achieve a perfect life," the Dalai Lama said. "Every living thing has the right to exist. Every human being has the right to be a happy person."

He said the basis of hate is narrow-mindedness and selfishness. "One must realize that other people have the right to have a happy life."

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