Thousands Flock to Dalai Lama's Ancient Buddhist Ritual in DC


Also as part of the ritual, a "sand mandala" – an intricate, two-dimensional depiction of the kalachakra - will be constructed out of multi-colored sand to represent the qualities of compassion and wisdom. There will also be a traditional Tibetan parade, and a public address on world peace by the Dalai Lama in front of the Capitol building.

This visit comes at a unique time in Tibet's political history. Earlier this year, the Dalai Lama surprised many of his followers when he stepped down from his role in the Tibetan government-in-exile. But despite his diminished political role, the Dalai Lama is as much the Tibetan national leader as he ever was.

"It is certainly not a typical visit," said Mary Beth Markey, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, a D.C.-based political advocacy group that works closely with the Dalai Lama. "But if he meets with the President of the United States, is that a political meeting? I would say yes."

Politics aside, this week marks a very sacred event for Tibetans and many Buddhists around the world will be traveling to D.C. to attend in person.

Markey told ABC News of an elderly Tibetan woman – a nomad - who has travelled all the way to Washington from Tibet to take the kalachakra from the Dalai Lama in the Verizon Center this week.

Until now, this woman has never left Tibet nor had the chance to see or hear her spiritual leader. "He is here giving a very important religious teaching," says Markey. "Buddhists from all over the world are coming. It is absolutely impossible to do this in Tibet. That is a political message and it shouldn't be lost."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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