Dalai Lama Criticizes Proselytizing

ByABC News
January 25, 2001, 9:45 PM

A L L A H A B A D, India, Jan. 25 -- Stepping into one of the hottest religious controversies in South Asia, the Dalai Lama today joined Hindu leaders in condemning the Muslim and Christian practice of proselytizing.

Hindus andBuddhists generally do not proselytize.

"Whether Hindu or Muslim or Christian, whoever tries toconvert, it's wrong, not good," the Dalai Lama said after a meeting with the leaders. "I always believe it's safer and better and reasonable tokeep one's own tradition or belief."

He spoke after the Hindu Council's general secretary, AshokSinghal, had said, "Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-aggressivereligions have to unite to douse Islam an aggressivereligion."

The Dalai Lama and others signed a statement saying: "We opposeconversions by any religious tradition using various methods ofenticement."

Joins Others in Ganges

The Dalai Lama later joined millions of Hindus and sprinkled himself with water from the Ganges river, but saidit was too cold to join millions of Hindus bathing in their holyriver at the world's largest religious gathering.

"I'm very happy to be here," the Dalai Lama told journalistsat the Kumbh Mela festival. Asked if he would join the devoteesbathing in the icy river, in a centuries-old ceremony Hindusbelieve will wash away their sins and avoid reincarnation, theDalai Lama said, "I don't think so. It's too cold."

A festival official said more than 50 million worshippers hadvisited by late today, and more continued to arrive, drawn by anauspicious astral arrangement that Hindu astrologers say coincideswith the Kumbh only once in 144 years. The festival began Jan. 9and is held every 12 years.

The exiled leader of Tibetan Buddhists, whose followers believehe is the reincarnation of Buddha, had earlier tossed marigolds atschoolchildren who greeted him with garlands and met journalists ina barracks-style building, protected by Indian commandos and hisown bodyguards, in the center of the 3,460-acre festival site.

The Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, first met forlunch and discussions with leaders of the World Hindu Council, aninfluential group that criticizes Christians and Muslims and wantsto make multi-religious India a Hindu state.

Makes Special Prayer