Dalai Lama: Religion Not Cause of Violence

The Dalai Lama on Monday told more than 1,000 people at the National Cathedral he doesn't believe differences between fundamentalist Islam and the religions of the West are the cause of war and modern violence.

The 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, joined representatives from 11 other major religions to lead a prayer session for peace in the heart of historic downtown Mexico City.

"Some people were under the impression that there is a clash" between traditions of the East and West, said the Dalai Lama, adding that he didn't think so. He said "hatred was easily manipulated" and that "some mischievous people manipulate religion." But he added later that "the whole world, due to communication, population and tourism, is something like one entity, one body."

The large crowd, made up of congregations from dozens of diverse Mexican faiths, gave the Dalai Lama an extended standing ovation when he entered the majestic cathedral and another when he finished his address, which took more than 40 minutes and covered every topic from the virtues of living a moral life to coping with getting older.

As he was leaving, the Dalai Lama playfully tugged on the long beard of another religious leader on-stage and pretended to scurry off.

In a shorter and far more focused presentation, Mexico City Roman Catholic Archbishop Norberto Rivera said "we have gathered here, the different religious denominations ... to perform a common prayer asking for world peace."

Also on Monday, President Vicente Fox unexpectedly extended a verbal welcome to the Dalai Lama, who arrived Sunday for a four-day visit that has been advertised on billboards around the capital.

Fox's government has said repeatedly that the Dalai Lama, is a religious figure in its eyes and not a political one. Last week, the Dalai Lama visited Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala and met with the presidents of each country, but Fox has no plans for a face-to-face meeting.

Still, during an event in Mexico state, which borders the nation's capital, the president said the Buddhist leader arrived in Mexico "with a message of unity, a message of peace, a message of spirituality."

"To the Dalai we extend a welcome to our country," Fox said, "a country of values, a country of families, a country working hard to build a better future."

Dalai Lama is a religious title roughly translating into "Ocean of Wisdom" and referring to only part of it, as the president did when he said simply "Dalai," is unusual.

First lady Marta Sahagun received a personal audience on Sunday night with the Dalai Lama who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

She called the meeting "a conversation that was very cordial, very nice, where we only talked about things that had to do with his spirituality, which I admire."

Mexico is trying to expand economic and social relations with China and has a fiercely isolationist history that makes it wary of taking a stand on international questions, such as whether Tibet should have more autonomy from China.

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in Dharamsala, India, since a failed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese government in 1959. He now acknowledges that Tibet is part of China, but Beijing still considers him a revolutionary who works to spread notions about Tibetan independence.

Although Fox has no plans to meet with the Dalai Lama, his visit has nevertheless upset Beijing. On Wednesday, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to address much of Mexico's Congress as an invited guest, a visit that prompted China to write a letter of protest in May.

China's ambassador to Mexico, Ren Jingyu, said last week that Mexico should not allow the Dalai Lama to spread his revolutionary messages on its soil.