His Holiness visited the United States Congress yesterday, as part of his official Washington itinerary during his two-week long visit to the United States. The public highlight was his unprecedented offering of the opening prayer in the United States Senate.
“The long, warm and productive relationship between the Dalai Lama and the U.S. Congress endures,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet. “His good heart, wisdom and message have inspired Congress to create a set of policies and programs to help Tibetans in their quest for rights and dignity.”
The day began with the Dalai Lama serving as guest chaplain in the Senate chamber. He offered a prayer from “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life by the Buddhist master Shantideva, which he said was his favorite. He devoted his prayer to “Buddha and all other gods.” Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) welcomed
The office of the Senate Chaplain said it was probably the first time that a Buddhist had given the opening prayer in the body. It is also almost certain that His Holiness’ prayer marked the first time the Tibetan language was spoken on the floor of the Senate.
Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) said on the Senate floor, “The Dalai Lama’s teachings contain lessons for people around the world, and certainly in this chamber. His Holiness also advises us, and this is a quote: “The best way to resolve any problem in the human world is for all sides to sit down and talk.” [T]he presence of His Holiness in this chamber today inspires me, as I hope it does all of us, to renew our commitment to speak and act with a pure mind in order to dispel the misery of the world.”
Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) spoke of his “old and dear friend” the Dalai Lama and of his travels in Lhasa. He said, “The world has to know the great faith of the Tibetan people, and their longing for the autonomy they deserve to practice their faith. Fortunately, they have as a symbol of that faith the Dalai Lama, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, a man who touches everybody’s conscience.”
The Dalai Lama was accompanied by Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay during the day.
The Dalai Lama met with House leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD). Speaker Boehner said, “His fight for religious freedom and tolerance has always brought Congress together in a bipartisan fashion. It’s our pleasure to have him today to continue those conversations and to show him our support.”
Leader Pelosi remarked, “two weeks ago, once again, you visited the White House – whether it’s a Republican or a Democratic President. This time, President Obama associated himself with the human rights and culture of Tibet to be preserved. What is happening in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. Thank you for your leadership in guiding us through it.”
His Holiness later addressed a gathering of Members of Congress and staff members in the largest auditorium in the Capitol complex, and introduced by Leader Pelosi and Senator John McCain (R-AZ). The Dalai Lama said that because American is the leader of the free world, you [the audience members] should feel a great responsibility to making a contribution to making the world better. He also spoke of Tibet as the “Third Pole” and the importance of addressing Tibet’s environmental challenges and global warming.
In the most dramatic moment of the event, he responded to Leader Pelosi’s telling of the story about the gold watch that U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the young Dalai Lama in 1942. To the surprise of Leader Pelosi, His Holiness pulled out the very watch from his pouch and showed the audience.
In the afternoon, the Dalai Lama continued a long tradition for engagement with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in a meeting with Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member Bob Corker (R-TN) and other panel members.
The opening prayer by His Holiness the Dalai Lama to convene the United States Senate, as prepared for delivery, courtesy of the office the Majority Leader:
“With our thoughts we make our world.
Our mind is central and precedes our deeds.
Speak or act with a pure mind
and happiness will follow you,
like a shadow that never leaves.
May there be joy in the world,
With bountiful harvest and spiritual wealth.
May every good fortune come to be,
And may all our wishes be fulfilled.
As long as space remains,
And as long as sentient beings remain,
Until then, may I too remain
And help dispel the misery of the world.”