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Dalai Lama brings message of peace to California Legislature

Dalai Lama
The Dalai Lama is escorted by state lawmakers through the California Assembly chamber.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The Dalai Lama touched on issues both ancient and contemporary during a speech to the California Legislature on Monday, urging lawmakers to protect the environment, support education and seek inner peace by caring for humanity.

“The best way to take care of one’s self is to take care of others,” the Tibetan leader said.

He said it was “totally wrong” that Muslims are viewed as “militant.” In a reference to gun control, he said "external disarmament” must be preceded by “internal disarmament.” And he mused about how the moon may look beautiful in the night sky, but it’s not a suitable place to live.

“This planet is the only place we can live happily,” the Dalai Lama said. “There is no other choice than to fully protect our own home.”

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The world-famous monk charmed California’s leaders during his visit. As he surveyed the Assembly chamber at the start of his speech, with scores of politicians arrayed before him, the cherubic Dalai Lama giggled in his traditional red robes.

“I don’t like too much formality,” he said. 

He made a slow exit after his speech, waving to the audience in the upstairs gallery and shaking hands with lawmakers.

“Baby, baby!” he exclaimed when he spotted Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) holding his child.

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When he came to lanky Assemblyman Chris Holden, a Democrat from Pasadena, he said “Ooh, very tall!”

He walked through the Capitol halls greeting lawmakers and visitors, even signing some autographs. Two women cried with joy after meeting him.

The Dalai Lama has been traveling in the United States, and sat down with President Obama last week at the White House. The meeting sparked familiar objections from Chinese officials, who also protested earlier conversations with the Tibetan spiritual leader. 

His visit to Sacramento came after a stop in Orange County on Saturday, where he helped celebrate the opening of a new Buddhist temple. 

Outside the Capitol on Monday, families gathered with umbrellas, parasols and spray bottles filled with water on a sweltering afternoon as they waited to catch a glimpse of the iconic figure. 

“It’s sort of like a once-in-a-lifetime chance,” said Tenzin Desel, 13.

Children decked in traditional Tibetan dress waved flags and took photos with their friends. A lone protester shouted from a megaphone but was soon drowned out by shouts from the crowd and Tibetan music.

As the Dalai Lama arrived from a private luncheon with Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders, people lifted up white scarves and erupted in cheers.

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Jamyang Nordup, 54, and 15 of his family members piled into four cars to drive from Berkeley to catch a glimpse of His Holiness. They waited two hours under the sun without umbrellas out of respect, said Nordup, owner of the Tibetan Cultural House in San Rafael.

“He is our teacher, our spiritual leader and our advocate for world peace,” he said.

A few feet away, 41-year-old Kelly Montana sat with her mother in the shade after greeting her longtime hero.

“You hope to see him and that his deep compassion will somehow emanate from him to you and that you get some of it by proximity,” she said. “A little more compassion for everyone and everything.”

chris.megerian@latimes.com

jazmine.ulloa@latimes.com

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