ANAHEIM, Calif., July 5 (UPI) -- The Dalai Lama celebrated eight full decades of life on Sunday before a crowd of thousands in Southern California -- which is among the American stops the peace advocate is making in the United States.
The Dalai Lama celebrated his birthday, which isn't officially until Monday, in front of a sellout crowd of nearly 20,000 at Anaheim's Honda Center -- part of the three-day Global Compassion Summit.
During his remarks Sunday, the Dalai Lama spoke of "awakening compassion" and the "transformative power of creativity and art," India's Economic Times reported.
The world renowned peace advocate drew cheers and even some protests during his Southern California stop.
"On this very special birthday we will have a chance to celebrate his accomplishments in many areas and hear his exciting view for the years to come," said Venerable Lama Tenzin Dhonden, founder of the Friends of the Dalai Lama. "This milestone occasion is a joyous opportunity for people to come together in celebration of His Holiness' life and achievements."
Outside the arena, a group of Shugden Buddhists -- whose deity is not recognized by the Dalai Lama -- delivered a different message.
"The false Dalai Lama ... changes Buddhism into political gain through lying," one protester said.
The Dalai Lama, known the world over for his peace crusade, remains a controversial figure wherever he goes. The Chinese government accuses him of trying to separate Tibet and labels him "a wolf in sheep's clothing."
The Nobel Peace Prize winner is also scheduled to attend discussions Monday at the University of California-Irvine, where one of the topics will be climate change. He arrived in Southern California after spending time with former president George W. Bush in Texas.
On Tuesday, the final day of the Global Compassion Summit, the Dalai Lama will speak on youth leadership and values-based education, the Los Angeles Times reported.
All money raised from the summit will go to charities of the Dalai Lama's choosing.