Tibet's globally respected spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has arrived in Scotland. He is embarking on a two-day tour of three cities - Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness.
Media coverage of the Dalai Lama's arrival has tended to focus on political controversy, but he is concerned to make it an opportunity to encourage people and communities to find a path of hope, justice and peace in a troubled world.
It emerged earlier this week, the BBC reports, that the Chinese consul general to Scotland met with council leaders from all three cities scheduled for the tour. He has been accused of exerting behind the scenes pressure to lessen the diplomatic impact of the visit, given the Dalai Lama's figurehead status for those who wish to see Tibet gain autonomy from the People's Republic of China.
The matter of the visit was raised during First Minister's question time in the Scottish Parliament, where opposition parties claimed China had put pressure on the SNP government over the visit. The Scottish National Party denies this.
The Dalai Lama arrived in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital, on the afternoon of 21 June 2012. He held a private viewing of archive material about Tibet during a visit to the National Library of Scotland this morning.
Today he is giving a talk at the city's Usher Hall with the title, 'Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World'.
On the afternoon of 22 June the spiritual leader is giving the Margaret Harris Lecture on Religion at Dundee's Caird Hall, and on Saturday 23 June he is visiting Inverness, where he will speak at Eden Court Theatre on the theme 'Be the change you propose' - an idea also developed by Mohandas Gandhi and others.
Christian leaders, representatives of a range of faiths and civic dignitaries are among those who are meeting the Dalai Lama on his British trip.
His visit coincides with the launch week for the 2012 Festival of Spirituality and Peace, which runs throughout August and reflects many themes dear to the heart of the Dalai Lama - including peacebuilding, human rights and cultural exchange across boundaries of religion, politics and culture.
One of the largest religion and culture events in Britain, the Festival of Spirituality and Peace (www.festivalofspirituality.org.uk/) features 400 performances and conversations across 23 venues, attracting around 20,000 people. It is sponsored and supported by the Church of Scotland, Christian Aid, Edinburgh City Centre Churches, Edinburgh City Council, Edinburgh Inter-Faith Association, Ekklesia think-tank, the Iona Community, the Scottish Government, St John’s Episcopal Church Edinburgh, and the University of Edinburgh.
The Dalai Lama, one of the world's most revered spiritual and civic leaders, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. He was awarded the £1.1 million Templeton Prize last month at St Paul's Cathedral in London for his engagement with science and people beyond his own religious tradition.
He is a member of the 'Elders' group, which seeks to make constructive interventions in situations of tension and injustice, along with Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Kofi Anan, Nelson Mandela (who has delegated many duties to his wife upon retirement) and others.
* Follow the Dalai Lama's Scottish visit on Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DalaiLamaScot
* Festival of Spirituality and Peace: www.festivalofspirituality.org.uk/