The most unlikely of political celebrities -- the celibate, purple-robed monk with the title of Dalai Lama -- gave a masterful political performance yesterday as he toured the city, disarming media and audiences with his smiles and candor.

Through the morning he spoke in small Buddhist enclaves in the city and gave interviews to the national media, then gave a pair of speeches in the evening, one at Georgetown University and one at Constitution Hall.

He moved from place to place in his black limousine with a white top, flanked by two monks also in purple and gold, and walked about with a phalanx of bodyguards in blue pinstriped suits. As one observer pointed out, "you can tell the Dalai Lama; he's the smiling one in the middle."

At Constitution Hall last night, about 2,000 people came to hear the Dalai Lama speak. There were older couples dressed formally as if for the theater, younger couples in jeans and T-shirts, men with waist-length hair, and women in crew cuts. When the Dalai Lama walked on staged and bowed, palms pressed together, toward the audience, the crowd silently and knowledgeably stood and returned the prayerful greeting.

"Compassion must include your enemy," he told them. "The enemy can teach you tolerance. Your friends or your family cannot teach you this. So your enemy is valuable to you, and always gives you a chance to improve yourself. . ."

The crowd broke into applause. The Dalai Lama grinned, then laughed out loud. "Your enemy is thus your best friend!"

The Dalai Lama, who is no more than 5 feet 10 and walks with a slight stoop, seemed taller as he waived, smiled and navigated past puzzled crowds as his entourage snarled traffic at his various stops in the city yesterday.

Early in the day, he addressed small groups made up of young Buddhists and curious students.

He spoke of both religion and politics. The differences between religions, he said, are unimportant. "Not even the Lord Buddha could make every Indian a Buddhist . . . My only religion is compassion."

He told Foreign Service school students at Georgetown that a sense of compassion is critical to world politics:

"How do we create peace and happiness? With weapons? Of course not. With money? In some cases, but not all. But in love, in sharing other people's suffering, yes. Good motivation is a sound basis for peace."

He smiled as he added a footnote: "You may say politics is dirty. But politics has become dirty only because of politicians." The audience laughed and applauded and the Dalia Lama's laughter could be heard over the roar.

The student audience seemed ready to devour the Dalai Lama's question-and-answer period with queries about the moral decay of America and the world. The students found the Dalai Lama practical, tolerant, and unwilling to be apocalyptic.

To question on est and its leader Werner Erhard, the Dalai Lama said "investigate first. . . then after investigation if you find the teaching of Lord Buddha incorrect you may discard it for something better. But early enthusiasm could be dangerous."

Asked about the state of American politics and morals, he said merely that "this is too complicated. Politics is too big a word," Asked about the decline of the world generally, he dismissed worries, saying "there are four ages in our present eon -- the ages of vacuity, formation, abiding and destruction. Within each age there are 18 ups and downs, plus two extra. We are in the down at the beginning of abiding. But this cycle is thousands of years long. We do have changes in between but they aren't much of anything."

Finally the school's dean, commenting on the abundance of religious questions, called for questions about Tibet's political circumstances.

The Dalai Lama has been exiled from his Tibetan home for two decades. Yesterday he promised to return one day to Tibet and to establish a democratic government there.

He said he hoped China's new policies of moderation would extend to Tibet and allow him to return to his country soon.