GLASTONBURY, England (Reuters) - The Dalai Lama, exiled spiritual leader of Tibet’s Buddhists, visited Europe’s biggest green-field music festival on Sunday, saying he had witnessed a sense of joy among revellers young and old.
“It’s a festival of people, not necessarily a festival of government or politicians, and this is how it should be,” he said, after a rain-sodden crowd sang “Happy Birthday to You” to mark his 80th birthday next month.
Beijing routinely denounces any country that hosts the Dalai Lama, calling him a dangerous separatist. Last week, a Foreign Ministry spokesman addressed his plan to visit Glastonbury by saying that “China resolutely opposes any country, organisation, body or individual giving any kind of platform to the 14th Dalai Lama to engage in anti-China splittist activities”.
The Dalai Lama, who said in Glastonbury that many Chinese Buddhists wanted to learn from the Tibetan tradition, says he only wants genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.
He is going to Britain again in September, a few weeks before Chinese President Xi Jinping visits.
Addressing a crowd in Glastonbury’s Sacred Space, he said the very purpose of existence was “a happy life”, and spoke of the importance of love, tolerance and forgiveness in resolving conflicts such as those in Syria and Iraq.
The Glastonbury Festival, held on a dairy farm in southwest England, attracts a diverse mix of artists, speakers and performers, and retains many echoes of the hippy counter-culture movement that inspired its beginnings in the 1970s.
Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Kevin Liffey