It was the first time that His Holiness the Dalai Lama participated in the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival since its inception in 2005. And when he did, almost everybody present at the Diggi Palace, the venue of the festival, quit whatever they were doing and congregated in the front lawns where the spiritual leader spoke to author Pico Iyer on “kinships of faiths”.

Historian Faisal Devji, who was moderating a parallel session on “Afghanistan in transition” at another venue right opposite the front lawns, amusingly asked his audience to sit down “in a non-violent way, as opposed to all the violence taking place on the other side”, referring to the jostling hundreds desperately trying to get a glimpse of the Dalai Lama and hear what he had to say.

The Dalai Lama spoke to author Pico Iyer on “Kinships of faiths: finding the middle way” in keeping with the special focus on “Buddha and Literature” of this year’s edition of the JLF.

Mr. Iyer’s father was a very close friend of the Dalai Lama’s. Even Mr. Iyer himself had played with the Lama during his childhood.

While equipped with the advantage of enjoying such proximity with the great spiritual leader, his book “The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama” has surprisingly few personal details about the Lama.

“The lack of personal details was intentional because I did not want to write a celebrity biography of the Dalai Lama,” Mr. Iyer told The Hindu.

“I wanted to present him as a symbol of a movement rather a person whose personal life readers would be interested in,” he said.

The Nobel laureate spiritual leader spoke about Ahimsa and India’s contribution to the promotion of secularism, calling India a “living example for the world to see how different religions can exist together for so many centuries”.

“Secularism does not mean disrespecting other religions,” he said, praising the Indian definition of secularism which accorded respect to all religions while not giving preference to any.

True to his self, His Holiness the Dalai Lama lent his ideas of peace and harmony even to the ongoing debate over giving capital punishment to the accused of the Delhi gangrape.

“I do not like the death sentence,” said the Dalai Lama, adding there were other ways to deal with such crimes.

Advocating people to lead non-materialistic lives, the Dalai Lama said the 21 century belonged to dialogue and not to confrontation or violence. He also spoke on various subjects like moral education and peaceful co existence.