Dharamshala: On July 7, the first day of the Kalachakra Initiation in Washington, DC, the spiritual leader of Tibet, His Holiness the Dalai Lama met with several members of the US Congress. The bipartisan group included House Speaker John Boehner, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and six other congressional leaders.
Part of HH's purpose in meeting with US officials was to explain his recent decision to relinquish his political authority. His Holiness feels that rule by religious leaders is out of date, and supports the separation of relgion and politics. His Holiness has been a long admirer of the democratic system, having witnessed from a young age the difference between the governments of China and India.
"In Peking [Beijing], Congress meeting silent," said the Dalai Lama in a press conference after the meeting, laughing. "Whereas in India, full of noise. In parliament, members very fond to criticize each other. "
Impressed by the freedom of thought and speech he saw in India, he began the democratization process of the Tibetan exile government after coming to India as a refugee in 1959.
"So now, our small organization in exile community is a fully democratic institution. So we really feel very, very proud," His Holiness said.
Speaking of his decision to meet with members of the US Congress, His Holiness stated that he felt it was "my duty to report to my long time supporter and long time friend."
Boehner and Pelosi both emphasized how their support for His Holiness and the Tibetan people is an issue that receives strong support by both the Democratic and Republican parties.
"Here in the Congress, our commitment to the Tibetan people has always brought the two parties together, and I expect it will continue to do so, no matter how long it takes," Boehner stated.
Boeher also spoke of the strong bond between the Dalai Lama and the American people, saying that the Dalai Lama exemplifies values that everyone can admire and cherish.
"His example humbles nations such as ours that work to spread freedom, tolerance, and respect for human dignity," Boehner claimed. "We extend to you, Your Holiness, on behalf of the peope whom we serve, our solidarity, our support and our hope that you will come back soon."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a longtime supporter of the religious and cultural rights of the Tibetan people, emphasized the long history between the United States and the Dalai Lama. She spoke of a watch given to His Holiness when he was a boy by President Franklin Roosevelt, and about the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to His Holiness in 2007 by President George W. Bush.
"It is with great admiration and historic honor to join the Speaker and our colleagues, in a bipartisan way to welcome His Holiness," she stated.
Ilena Ros-Lehtinen, a strong supporter of the Tibetan people, spoke out against the way the Chinese government has treated Tibetans. "Beijing is implementing new policies to wipe out the Tibetan culture, such as facilitating the immigration of Han Chinese into Tibet and forcing Tibetan herders to leave the plateau and resettle in concrete block apartments," she asserted.
She strongly urged President Barack Obama to meet with His Holiness. "It must be clear that the US sides with the victims in Tibet, not the perpetrators in Beijing. President Obama has an opportunity to make a strong statement about what we stand for by meeting with the Dalai Lama," she said.
In regards to a presidential meeting with His Holiness, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at this point "there has not been a decision." Such a meeting, China has made clear, would hinder US-China relations; however, not holding a meeting would spark much criticism among the large number of Dalai Lama and Tibet supporters in the US. Some analysts think Obama might hold a quiet meeting before His Holiness leaves Washington.