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Dalai Lama brings message of compassion to free market mavens at a Washington think tank

  • Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama greets audience members as he arrives to speak at an event entitled: "Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing" Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)The Associated Press

  • Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama cleans his glasses before speaking at an event entitled: "Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing" Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)The Associated Press

  • Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama acknowledges the audience before speaking at an event entitled: "Happiness, Free Enterprise, and Human Flourishing" Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014, at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)The Associated Press

Smiling and in saffron robes, Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has brought a message of compassion and care for humanity to the free market mavens of a right-leaning Washington think tank.

The revered Buddhist monk began his latest speaking tour of the United States on unfamiliar territory, as honored guest at the American Enterprise Institute for a discussion on happiness and free enterprise.

The Nobel laureate, famed for his peaceful struggle for greater Tibetan autonomy that is bitterly opposed by China, has in the past courted controversy by identifying with the economic equality promoted by Marxism. But he decries totalitarian political systems.

Punctuating his musings with infectious laughter, the Dalai Lama, sounded more amenable to capitalism on Thursday, although he drew attention to the gap between rich and poor.