‘Archbishop gave us Dalai Lama’s scarf’

two young sisters from Sidbury were handed an unexpected gift from the Dalai Lama when they went to see him receive an international award at St Paul’s Cathedral.

St John’s School pupils Flora and Nell Willis Fleming, aged 12 and eight, travelled to the capital to see the Tibetan leader in exile receive the Templeton Prize for his outstanding contribution to spirituality.

Little did they know that the Buddhist monk would bestow traditional white scarves on the leader of the Church of England – the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams – who in turn passed them to the siblings.

“We travelled to London to see one of the most revered men in the world receive an award and ended up receiving something from him ourselves,” said the girls’ dad, Edward, who took his family to the multi-faith ceremony as a special day out.

“It was totally unexpected. We happened to be sitting immediately behind the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London and, after the ceremony, the archbishop turned to say hello and presented the scarves to my daughters.”

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The silk gifts, known as khata, are exchanged by Buddhists to show goodwill, purity, and respect.

“It was an amazing day and an amazing thing to happen,” added design consultant Edward. “It’s an extraordinary gift and I imagine the girls will treasure them forever.”

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The Dalai Lama gave a speech warning about greed during the event. He immediately gave the �1.1million Templeton Prize money to charity.

“It was truly humbling to see such a great man give away all that money,” said Edward.

“His words were all about giving, so I’m certain he would have been pleased by the archbishop’s gesture.”

The Dalai Lama’s donation will benefit Save the Children in India, the Mind and Life Institute, which fosters links between science and spirituality, and a charity which provides funding for Tibetan monks to study science.

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