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14march2011teachingsDharamshala: The spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet and Tibetan people, His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, opened his annual two days of Buddhist teachings this morning (Monday March 14) with an acknowledgement of those suffering in the aftermath of natural disasters in New Zealand, Australia and Japan, which he recognised as a fellow Buddhist nation.

Thousands of people gathered for the teachings at the main temple in Mcleod Ganj, Dharamshala, seat of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, to hear the words of their leader, who is the reincarnation of the Buddha of Compassion.

The day opened with a special call to prayer by His Holiness, who said that since the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan late last week, he had proposed the chanting of the Heart Sutra 100,000 times in order to help prevent such an enormous natural disaster from reoccurring.

The Heart Sutra was then chanted for several minutes in honour of the victims, before tea was served by monks and nuns to the mass of people seated on the two levels of the temple.

His entrance on foot as he smiled and waved to the adoring crowd was a testament to the great humility which was a strong theme in the day's readings and discussion, as was compassion and the Four Noble Truths. As many devotees gathered on the lower level in front of a large television screen showing the live broadcast, dozens of foreigners listened to an English translation of his words - though at times he chose to speak in English, making several jokes along the way - using hand-held radios.

His Holiness advocated in his speech the acceptance of all people, saying "I always say to respect all the religions of the world. (...) It is important for us to respect all other religious traditions", and explaining that although people of other faiths may have different philosophies and ideas about creation, we all share the same essential principles of love and compassion.

In his speech the Dalai Lama spoke of the uniqueness of Buddhism in teaching Selflessness, and the importance of preserving the Tibetan language, the language of the Buddha's teachings. He also stressed the significance of studying the Dharma and leading a humble life, and clearing the self of negative emotions in order to better understand and help others, and alleviate suffering.

Throughout the day His Holiness seemed well and in high spirits, encouraging the audience to laugh with him as he explained some of the finer points of his teachings in both Tibetan and English. Those gathered included monks and nuns, who were given priveleged seating, and lay people from many countries. The teachings will conclude after another half-day tomorrow.

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