The Dalai Lama preached on Saturday to thousands of supporters in Mongolia, during his visit which is set to test the country’s ties with China at a time when it is seeking a critical aid package from its powerful neighbour.
The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader addressed followers at the Gandantegchenlin monastery and spoke about materialism to kick-start a four-day visit that Mongolia has said will be purely religious in nature and won’t include meetings with officials.
Still, the trip could have repercussions for land-locked Mongolia’s relationship with China, which briefly closed its border with Mongolia in 2002 to protest a visit by the Dalai Lama.
China views the Dalai Lama as a separatist seeking to split Tibet from China and strongly opposes all countries from hosting the monk, who has been based in India since fleeting Tibet during an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.
Yesterday, China’s Foreign Ministry strongly urged Mongolia to deny the Dalai Lama a visit for the sake of a “sound and steady” development of bilateral ties.
The Dalai Lama’s visit comes at a time when Mongolian leaders are seeking a USD 4.2 billion loan from Beijing to pull the country out of a deep recession.
Mongolian Buddhism is closely tied to Tibet’s strain and many in the heavily Buddhist country revere the Dalai Lama, who made his first visit in 1979.
Mongolian religious figures say the visit could be the last for the 81-year-old spiritual leader, and some of his followers traveled hundreds of miles to see him while braving the coldest November temperatures in a decade.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to chant special sutras tomorrow at a large sports facility built by Chinese companies through Chinese aid.