WASHINGTON -- His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, yesterday received the Congressional Gold Medal for service to humanity and, in his acceptance speech, called for total victory in Iraq.
Speaking before a packed ceremony in the Capitol rotunda, the Dalai Lama, clad in the traditional red and saffron robes of the Buddhist monk, thanked President Bush and the American people and then demanded that U.S. forces "press on in a spirit of serenity and persistence until the Iraqi resistance is driven into the far mountains of obscurity."
While ordinarily espousing pacifism, the Dalai Lama said he was making an exception "just this once" out of courtesy to his American hosts.
"I am a man of peace and speak for a people who have faced injustice, invasion and occupation by non-violently placing our argument before the world, certain that justice will prevail because it is part of the universal order," the Dalai Lama told the crowd. "But I understand too that, just as a flower has many petals and a river many branches, the petal and water that exemplify America and her great ideals is clearly armed to the teeth. Best not to mess with that. Do what you're doing, but just give me a few months of cover so nobody knows I agreed to this."
The ceremony, while open to members of Congress and the Bush administration, was carried live on a jumbotron screen on the Capitol lawn and attended by an estimated 10,000 spectators, many of them Tibetans whose families fled into exile with the Dalai Lama after the Chinese invaded and seized their nation in 1949.
Most spectators applauded the Dalai Lama's remarks, apparently out of habit, while a few others attempted to put his remarks in the context of Buddhist philosophy.
"The best analogy I can draw," said Buddhist monk Prandip Gulam, who flew in from Sacramento for the event, "is the great explanation the monk Issa who told a gathering 'If you have a stick, I shall give you one. If you have none, I shall take it.'"
In this context, he explained, "the United States clearly has a lot of sticks and the Dalai Lama, following the mystical teachings of our people, has given your people another stick. Obviously, you like beating stuff, so, hey, whatever floats your boat."
Following the ceremony, the Dala Lama spoke briefly to the crowd outside.
"They what? What in heaven's name is a Jumbotron? Oh, dammit. Look, this speech stays here, you got that?" he told the wildly cheering crowd.
Following his brief remarks, the Dalai Lama visited a local Buddhist monastery followed by a four-hour stopover at a Scotch bar.