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09november20091Tawang, India: His Holiness the Dalai Lama Yesterday began a week-long visit religious teaching at Tawang monastery, in the northeast Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh. Over 30,000 monks, nuns and lay devotees-locals and Buddhists from Bhutan and Nepal-gathered to see the Tibetan spiritual leader during his "non-political" visit to this disputed region-despite the protests of China, which claims Arunachal as its own.

When he arrived at Tawang yesterday, His Holiness brushed off the Chinese opposition, telling Indian reporters that, ""It is quite usual for China to step up campaigning against me wherever I go."

He continued, "It is totally baseless on the part of the Chinese communist government to say that I am encouraging a separatist movement."

"My main aim of the visit is promotion of human values wherever I go. Just now I returned from Japan where I explained that the ultimate source of happiness of life is within ourselves," explained His Holiness.

Before the prayer session this morning, senior Indian Congress Party leader Kiran Rijiju stated, ‘‘It's a socio-religious visit. Our neighbor should not try to politicize his Holiness's visit. He has come here to spread the message of peace and harmony. We want to live in peace and revive our trade links with Tibet."

400-year old Tawang, India's second largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery, served as a refuge for His Holiness and Tibetan followers when they fled to India in 1959. This is his fourth time to return to Tawang since that initial visit.

"I am very happy to be here," His Holiness stated, admitting that he gets emotional when revisiting the site of his first Indian welcome.

09november20092He stressed the important role of the Tawang monastery in preserving Tibetan religion and culture, stating, "Tibetan Buddhism and culture is passing through a very difficult period. But there is a hope of the religion and culture surviving in this free area, particularly in India. So there is lot of responsibility for people here and in south India to keep the flag flying."

Before he began the teaching, His Holiness inaugurated a district hospital at Tawang, to which he had contributed two million rupees, or about 40,000 US dollars.

"The hospital will go a long way in meeting the healthcare needs of the local people," he said.

Indian officials have been especially careful in managing this controversial visit. Arunachal state authorities made an unofficial request today that Indian journalists refrain from asking the exiled leader any questions during the rest of his visit. They had already refused to grant foreign reporters access to Arunachal during the teachings.

His Holiness will teach at Tawang until 11 November, and is scheduled to visit the neighboring towns of Bomdilla and Dirang on 12 November.

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