Protesters and supporters gathered in Basel as the Dalai Lama held a Buddhist ceremony there on Saturday, in which some 7500 people took part.
Some 500 protesters from the Shugden movement gathered outside the St Jakobshalle, where the Tibetan leader’s ceremony was held. Members of a different Buddhist sect, they view the Dalai Lama as suppressing their form of Buddhism. In a communiqué, the group said they are not controlled by China, which has ruled Tibet since 1950.
About 300 supporters of the Dalai Lama gathered in counter-protest to the Shugden activists. Basel police said that all protests were peaceful.
In remarks to the media accompanying his visit, the Dalai Lama said that the Shugden’s belief system was misguided, far from Buddha’s intent. Instead, he said that Buddhism does not force its beliefs on anyone – similar to the freedom of opinion found in Switzerland.
The Tibetan spiritual leader also said that wars in the name of religion are hard to tolerate and that the younger generation is lacking in empathy. He added that young children should learn moral and ethical qualities instead of religion and emphasised the danger of blindly following religion without questioning its tenets.
The Dalai Lama last visited Switzerland in 2013, when he went to Bern. The Tibetan community in Switzerland and neighbouring Liechtenstein counts some 6500 members, making it the largest in Europe.
swissinfo.ch and agencies