Dalai Lama opens Senate proceedings with prayer, meets with lawmakers


The Dalai Lama greets Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

To help open the Senate’s formal proceedings on Thursday, the Dalai Lama offered prayers of joy, good fortune and the fulfillment of wishes.

The spiritual leader first spoke 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.

The Dalai Lama is familiar with Capitol Hill. He was awarded Congress’s highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, during a 2007 ceremony in the rotunda attended by President George W. Bush. And he met with President Obama at the White House a few weeks ago, despite protests by the Chinese government.

Beijing has not issued a formal response to the Dalai Lama’s visit Thursday with lawmakers.

The Dalai Lama’s packed schedule for the day 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 attends a bipartisan meeting with congressional leaders.

The Dalai Lama spoke for several minutes, stressing the need for political powers to work 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 injustices.

“You have a very, very important role to educate people,” he said. Later, he added, “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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