Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader marks 80th birthday

The spiritual leader's birthday was the start of a three-day honorary bash in California, United States of America

The Dalai Lama gestures toward musician Michael Frente as children who performed acknowledge the audience as the birthday cake is brought on stage at the Honda Center on July 5, 2015 in Anaheim, California, where the Tibetan Buddhist religious leader celebrated his 80th birthday with a speech on awakening compassion.

Tibetan spiritual leader, Dalai Lama, on Sunday celebrated his 80th birthday in the presence of fellow Nobel Peace laureates  and thousand of followers.

The spiritual leader's birthday was the start of a three-day honorary bash in California, United States of America.

Reports say a few celebrities also paid tribute to the popular buddhist ahead of his birthday Monday, although protesters also gathered outside the event south of Los Angeles.

"He always says he is just a simple Buddhist monk," said anti-landmines campaigner Jodi Williams, who won the Nobel Peace prize in 1997, who sang a snippet of Happy Birthday to him.

"He may be a simple Buddhist monk, but he is the most rocking, compassionate simple Buddhist monk I know."

AFP reports that the Dalai Lama was guest of honour at the Global Compassion Summit at the Honda Center in Anaheim, speaking on "awakening compassion" and the "transformative power of creativity and art."

About 18,000 followers packed into the conference centre gave him a standing ovation during the three-hour event, at which he was presented with an eight-foot (2.4-meter) high birthday cake.

"The Dalai Lama does not want any physical gifts. For him, this birthday is just like any other day," said Lama Tenzin Dhonden, founder of Friends of the Dalai Lama.

"However, if we can help to create a more compassionate, kind planet, that would be the most beautiful gift of all," added the Buddhist monk, who broke down in tears at one point in his tribute.

Other speakers included rapper MC Hammer, veteran talk show host Larry King and online entrepreneur Arianna Huffington, as well as TV actors Josh Radnor and Wilmer Valderrama.

"Whenever I get tired or I lose hope, I remember you," said Iranian human rights campaigner and 2003 Nobel Peace prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

"For 60 years, you have been fighting for the rights of the people of Tibet without becoming tired and without losing hope."

But not everyone is celebrating his birthday in California.

Protests were staged outside by Shugden Buddhists, who revere a deity denounced since 1996 by the Dalai Lama - whom they accuse of religious persecution.

Several hundred demonstrators gathered outside the Honda Center, with some holding placards that read "Stop lying!" and "Hypocrisy."

"The false Dalai Lama... changes Buddhism into political gain through lying," said one leaflet handed out by protesters.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to split Tibet from the rest of China and has called him a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

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