Thousands greet Dalai Lama at monastery in Mongolia

Wednesday, November 6, 2002

ULAN BATOR, Mongolia -- The Dalai Lama gave a lesson to thousands of followers in Mongolia's largest Buddhist monastery Tuesday, where he was welcomed by overjoyed monks during a trip to the north Asian country that has raised Chinese protests.

"If you do good for others, goodness will return to you," he said before the crowd from a massive stage in front of the main temples of the Gandantegchillen Monastery.

The Dalai Lama spoke in Tibetan, his voice booming through a microphone, as the faithful thousands listened quietly to the Mongolian translation. At one point, he raised his hand and hundreds of others shot up to wave in response. He also led the group in chants.

'I liked the message'

"The Dalai Lama talked about praying together for peace. I liked the message. I think I will try to put this in practice in my life," said one believer, Sainaa, a Buddhist from Ulan Bator.

The Dalai Lama, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, is expected to tour smaller monasteries, give more speeches and receive an honorary doctorate from a local university. He is scheduled to leave on Friday.

China considers the Dalai Lama a political schemer determined to end Chinese rule in Tibet. On Tuesday in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan reiterated China's objections to travel and public appearances by the Dalai Lama.

"We are against his devisive efforts in this kind of forum," Kong said at a briefing. "We have asked Mongolia and other countries not to give this kind of forum to him."

Mongolia shares strong religious ties to Tibet and has been rediscovering its Buddhist heritage since the end of communist rule in 1990. Some 90 percent of Mongolia's 2.4 million people consider themselves Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in India, has visited Mongolia five times, most recently in 1995. He had planned to come in September, but was blocked when Russia and South Korea refused him transit visas, possibly to avoid angering China. There are no direct flights to Mongolia from India.

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