The Dalai Lama on Tuesday called for the teaching of secular values in education, saying that it was critical for the world to respect all religions -- as well as the right not to believe.
Despite devoting his life to the study of Buddhism, Tibet's spiritual leader said he was convinced that all people -- and often even animals -- shared basic moral values regardless of their religion.
"In the West, there is some connotation that secular means a little negative, or disrespect, towards religion," the Dalai Lama told a packed arena at the University of Maryland at College Park in Washington's suburbs.
"But according to the Indian understanding, secular means respect for all religions -- and respect for non-believers," said the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959.
"That is the only way it can be acceptable to a whole universal level," he said.
The Dalai Lama said he was taking part in a project to craft a curriculum on universal ethics, which could be taught initially at a local level and eventually become part of a United Nations initiative.
"The whole world should in the education field include some sort of education about moral ethics. Not based on religion -- secular," he said.
The Dalai Lama was delivering an annual lecture in honor of Anwar Sadat, the Egyptian president who was assassinated in 1981 by an Islamist militant group at a military parade after he signed a peace accord with Israel.