Dalai Lama preaches in Mon­go­lia, an­ger­ing China

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The Dalai Lama preached yes­ter­day to thou­sands of sup­port­ers in Mon­go­lia, on a visit set to test the coun­try’s ties with China at a time when it is seek­ing a crit­i­cal aid pack­age from its pow­er­ful neigh­bor.

The ex­iled Ti­betan spir­i­tual leader ad­dressed fol­low­ers at the Gan­dan­tegchen­lin monastery and spoke about ma­te­ri­al­ism to kick-start a four-day visit that Mon­go­lia has said will be purely re­li­gious in na­ture and won’t in­clude meet­ings with of­fi­cials. Still, the trip could have reper­cus­sions for land-locked Mon­go­lia’s re­la­tion­ship with China, which protested pre­vi­ous vis­its by the Dalai Lama by briefly clos­ing its border in 2002 and tem­po­rar­ily can­cel­ing flights from Bei­jing in 2006.

China views the Dalai Lama as a sep­a­ratist seek­ing to split Ti­bet from China and strongly op­poses all coun­tries from host­ing the monk, who has been based in In­dia since flee­ing Ti­bet dur­ing an abortive up­ris­ing against Chi­nese rule in 1959.

On Fri­day, China’s For­eign Min­istry strongly urged Mon­go­lia to deny the Dalai Lama a visit for the sake of a “sound and steady” de­vel­op­ment of bi­lat­eral ties. The Dalai Lama’s visit comes at a time when Mon­go­lian lead­ers are seek­ing a $4.2 bil­lion loan from Bei­jing to pull the coun­try out of a deep re­ces­sion. With com­mod­ity prices slump­ing, Mon­go­lia is run­ning out of hard cur­rency to re­pay for­eign debts and is seek­ing help from a neigh­bor that ac­counts for roughly 90 per­cent of its ex­ports.

Mon­go­lian Bud­dhism is closely tied to Ti­bet’s strain and many in the heav­ily Buddhist coun­try re­vere the Dalai Lama, who made his first visit in 1979. Mon­go­lian re­li­gious fig­ures say the visit could be the last for the 81-year-old spir­i­tual leader, and some of his fol­low­ers trav­eled hun­dreds of miles to see him while brav­ing the cold­est Novem­ber tem­per­a­tures in a decade.

Dar­it­seren, a 73-year-old eth­nic Mon­go­lian from Rus­sian Siberia, said she only heard on Fri­day that the Dalai Lama was vis­it­ing Mon­go­lia and trav­eled with 40 other peo­ple for 15 hours overnight to make it just in time for the ser­mon.

Bold­baatar, a 75-year-old herder, said he rushed from 200 kilo­me­ters away. “I’m an old man,” he said. “Maybe I’m see­ing His Ho­li­ness, the in­car­na­tion of Lord Bud­dha, for the last time.” The Dalai Lama is sched­uled to chant spe­cial su­tras on Sun­day at a large sports fa­cil­ity built by Chi­nese com­pa­nies through Chi­nese aid. Re­li­gious schol­ars say dur­ing the visit the Dalai Lama is ex­pected to of­fer in­put on the search for the 10th rein­car­na­tion of the Jebt­sun­damba Khutuktu, a top-ranked lama in Bud­dhism.-AP

—AP

ULAANBAATAR, Mon­go­lia: Dalai Lama, cen­ter, waves as he ar­rives at the Jan­raiseg tem­ple of Gan­dan­tegchinlen monastery to greet Mon­go­lian peo­ple yes­ter­day.

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