By Nirmala Ganapathy
Bodh Gaya, January 12 – Even as the Dalai Lama spoke of world peace through ahimsa at the inaugural session of the nine-day Kalchakra Puja here, thousands of Tibetan refugees raised free-Tibet slogans outside.
Around 20,000 Buddhists from Vietnam, Tibet, China, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal had assembled for the 28th Puja today. They listened as the Dalai Lama spoke on topics ranging from world peace to taking off shoes while entering a temple.
Last night, 11 neo-Buddhists, sitting on a hungerstrike against the wearing of shoes by Tibetan Lamas on the Mahabodhi temple premises, had been arrested and forwarded to judicial custody.
‘‘They were sitting on a peaceful protest and were arrested for no reason. We will continue our agitation,’’ said chief national secretary of All India Mahabodhi Bihar Action Committee, Bante Anand. The neo-Buddhists are critical of the alleged ‘‘pro-China bias’’ of the Dalai Lama and 17th Karmapa Ugyen Trinley.
‘‘Communism has collapsed, except for in China, North Korea and other small nations. Today in China, there is still no rule of law but people can at least sit in tea shops and criticise their leaders,’’ he told journalists after a four-hour-long preaching session.
The Dalai Lama reiterated that he wanted autonomy for Tibet and was not in favour of a war. ‘‘Lord Buddha’s preaching of ahimsa (non-violence) is still relevant today as several countries have developed weapons of mass destruction,’’ he said.
On the tension surrounding the US, Iraq and North Korea, the Dalai Lama said: ‘‘The world has become much safer. The 21st century is much safer than the previous century… the desire for peace is stronger.’’