Dalai Lama Visits Old Goldfields

June 7th 2007

Bendigo, Australia, 8 June 2007 (Ian Royall / Herald Sun) - In the mid 1800s those seeking enrichment besieged central Victoria's goldfields. Yesterday thousands again turned to Bendigo for fulfilment, but this time of a more spiritual nature.

They gathered to honour the 14th Dalai Lama at the start of his five-day Victorian tour.

The Buddhist spiritual leader flew in by helicopter to bless the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion -- a temple being built high on a hill.

The seven-storey Stupa will be the largest Buddhist monument in the Western world when it is finished in 2010.

The Dalai Lama was greeted by monks in traditional maroon and mustard robes, and then by an Aboriginal smoking ceremony before he entered the site.

Brien Nelson, elder of the local Jaara Jaara tribe, embraced His Holiness on the red carpet.

Known as Uncle Brien, he said the exiled Tibetan leader would relate to the struggles of the dispossessed.

'I'm sure he'd understand what we are trying to do with our land. We're fighters too,' he said.

In his 35-minute address to a congregation of 3000 followers, the 72-year-old Dalai Lama called on his followers to embrace the philosophy of the community and focus less on the individual.

He said the modern world could learn from ancient cultures about community spirit.

The Dalai Lama's speech from a lounge chair was heartfelt and littered with laughter.

He said the world's religions shared the ideals of love, forgiveness, compassion and contentment.

'They have the same potential to help humanity and save the world,' he said.

The Dalai Lama peppered his speech with jokes. Puzzled by a gift of rock from the Aboriginal people, he held it to his right ear.

He also consecrated the Guru Rinpoche statue and unveiled a plaque marking his visit.

Great Stupa chief executive Ian Green said the temple would be 50m high, 50m in diameter and have 50 shrine rooms.

It will cost $15 million, all from donations.

The Dalai Lama's tour continues today with a talk to school students at Rod Laver Arena. He will give a free talk at MC Labour Park at Princes Park at 3pm tomorrow.

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