Dalai Lama visits Capitol Hill and prays in the Senate: ‘May there be joy in the world’

The Dalai Lama offered prayers of joy, good fortune and the fulfillment of wishes Thursday morning as he helped open formal proceedings of the U.S. Senate.

At the invitation of Senate leaders, the Tibetan spiritual leader ascended the dais in the chamber, opened a simple folder and helped continue the tradition of beginning proceedings each morning with a prayer.

He spoke first in Tibetan, and then, in what he described as "my broken English," he prayed: "May there be joy in the world with harvest and spiritual rest. May every good fortune come to be and may all our wishes be fulfilled."

"This is my favorite prayer," he said later. "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."

He then stepped down from the dais while Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) led the Senate in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Plans for the spiritual leader to visit the U.S. Capitol were not publicly announced until Thursday, and House and Senate aides couldn't immediately say when the meetings came together or who formally invited him to make the visit. But the Dalai Lama is no stranger to Capitol Hill. He was awarded Congress's highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, during a 2007 ceremony in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda attended by George W. Bush. And he met a few weeks ago at the White House with President Obama, despite protests by the Chinese government.

There has been no official response from Beijing thus far to the Dalai Lama's meeting Thursday with lawmakers.

The Dalai Lama's packed schedule Thursday included a meeting with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in the speaker’s ceremonial office. Boehner noted that each time the Dalai Lama visits the Capitol he sits for a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders.

The spiritual leader spoke for several minutes, stressing the need for political powers to work together collaboratively and positively. At one point, he urged reporters in the room to spend as much time and energy covering positive stories as they do exposing injustice.

“You have a very, very important role to educate people,” he said, later adding: “Sometimes the media people are only showing the negative side, don’t do that.”

Pelosi noted her long relationship with the Dalai Lama, and recounted a story from one of her foreign trips during which the two met with people who had fled into the mountains and were describing horrible abuses. The following day at lunch, Pelosi said she told the group that they needed to speak out about what they had heard. But she recalled that after speaking that day, the Dalai Lama chimed in.

“He said: Nancy, we must rid you of your negative energy,” Pelosi said, which earned a smile and chuckle from Boehner.

After their brief speeches, the Dalai Lama seemed eager to take questions from reporters. He responded to one reporter’s shouted question, but with a wave of his hand and shake of his head, Boehner ended the public portion of the event.

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
Wesley Lowery covers Capitol Hill for The Fix and Post Politics.
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