Buddhist monks robed in red and gold meandered on the floor of Verizon Center. Tibetan families dressed in colorful silk brocade filled the stadium seats, sitting next to men and women dressed like they were about to head to the office. Some came from around the world and others from across the street, but all were seeking something similar: a bit more peace.

They’d come for the 2011 Kalachakra for World Peace, which began Wednesday with chanting, meditation and speeches in the first portion of the 11-day ceremony led by the Dalai Lama. The spiritual leader, who stepped down in March as head of the Tibetan government-in-exile, also celebrated his 76th birthday.

Addressing his retirement, the Dalai Lama said he had come to see the “hypocrisy” of his advocating for the separation of church and state while claiming leadership in both realms. “Now I can tell people religious institutions and political institutions must be separate,” he said. “My statement is now honest.”

He shared the stage for part of the day with two other well-known peace advocates: Martin Luther King III, whose father helped lead the 1960s civil rights movement, and Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, who helped gain Indian independence decades ago. Both talked about the importance of nonviolence, compassion and world peace.

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