The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, inaugurated a three-day international Buddhist conference Friday in Nalanda district in Bihar, India. The Indian government is sponsoring the conference, titled "The Relevance of Buddhism in the 21st Century."
In his opening address, the Dalai Lama told Buddhist delegates and experts from 35 countries that all religions share one principle — love and compassion — and that all must promote religious harmony in order to overcome both historical and current problems created in the name of religion.
"In this very moment while we are enjoying joyfulness and peace, in the same planet, same human beings are killed [under acts] including in the name of religion," said the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since 1959. "It is unthinkable! The every source of compassion and forgiveness becomes a source of violence! It is like turning medicine into poison."
One thousand delegates are attending the conference, according to the Indo-Asian News Service.
Previously, some international Buddhist conferences barred the Dalai Lama because of China's opposition. This time, China did not send delegates to the conference, presumably because of the Dalai Lama's presence.
Exiled Tibetan Buddhist monks have ceremonial seeds on their shaven heads as they listen to a religious talk by their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at the Tsuglakhang temple in Dharmsala, India, March 14, 2017.
A Chinese Buddhist professor working in Japan did attend the Friday meeting, according to Jangchup Choeden, the abbot of Gaden Shartse Monastery in India.
Speaking to VOA, Choeden said the Dalai Lama emphasized how a 21st-century Buddhist must be.
"He said the 21st-century Buddhists must use their intelligence and conduct analytical observation rather than blindly follow the faith," he said.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee is reportedly going to attend on Sunday and address the conference. Mukherjee met with the Dalai Lama in December, causing China to say it was "strongly dissatisfied." This was the Dalai Lama's first meeting with an Indian head of state in 60 years.
China calls the Dalai Lama a "dangerous separatist." The Nobel Peace Prize laureate denies espousing violence and says he wants only genuine autonomy for Tibet.