WASHINGTON — The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, delivered the opening invocation in the U.S. Senate on Thursday, praying "to Buddha and all" and suggesting that purity of thought will guide humanity's actions.
In his saffron robe, the Dalai Lama climbed the few steps to the Senate dais and delivered the three-line prayer, first in the Tibetan language, then in English. He chuckled over his English pronunciation.
"With our thoughts we make our world," the prayer began. "Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves."
The Buddhist monk is continuing a U.S. visit, after meeting last month with President Barack Obama at the White House despite objections from China, which accuses the Nobel Peace Prize winner of instigating a Tibetan independence campaign to separate from China.
The Dalai Lama planned to hold visits with congressional leaders Thursday across Capitol Hill.
Guest chaplains occasionally open the House and Senate chambers, but Thursday marked the first time the Dalai Lama gave the invocation, according to the Senate Historical Office.
He was invited by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and greeted on the Senate floor by Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, the only Buddhist in the Senate, as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., a longtime ally of the world-renowned monk and champion of human rights in Tibet.
"This is my favorite prayer," he said when he arrived at the final line, pointing at his notes. "Daily I pray this. That gives me inner strength. So I am asking to serve humanity as long as space remains and as long as beings remain, until then, may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world."
Only a small number of senators -- almost a dozen Democrats and fewer Republicans -- were present on the Senate floor for the occasion.
"I know I speak for the entire Senate family when I express our gratitude for that beautiful prayer, and for his words of encouragement and blessing," Reid said.