With dozen of lawmakers listening raptly, the Nobel laureate from Tibet opened the session with his favorite prayer and words of advice. He delivered his brief remarks in both a foreign tongue as well as self-described "broken English."
"With our thoughts, we make our world," said the Dalai Lama, dressed in gold and red robes. "Our mind is central and precedes our deeds. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you like a shadow that never leaves."
He hoped for joy in the world and good fortune.
Offering his favorite prayer, he said that "as long as space remains and as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I, too, remain and help dispel the misery of the world."
Senators bowed their heads as the Dalai Lama prayed. Staff filled the back rows of the chamber and visitors observed from the gallery above. The opening session drew more people than a typical start to the Senate day.
Before his prayer, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, a Buddhist, had greeted the Dalai Lama, and the two clasped hands. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and the Dalai Lama bowed heads and touched briefly.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., thanked the Dalai Lama for his prayers and words of encouragement.
"The Dalai Lama is well-known throughout the world as a spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and for spreading the gospel of peace and compassion and love of our fellow human beings," Reid said.
The Senate often has guest chaplains offer the opening prayer.
The Dalai Lama gave up his political role as the leader of the Tibetan government-in-exile in 2011.
On Feb. 21, President Barack Obama granted an audience to the Dalai Lama over the strong objections from China that the U.S. was meddling it its affairs. Beijing considers the Dalai Lama an anti-Chinese separatist because of his quest for greater Tibetan autonomy.
Later in the day, the Dalai Lama met House leaders, who set aside partisan differences to welcome him.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the fight for religious freedom and tolerance has always brought Congress together, a sentiment echoed by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California. She described the situation in Tibet as a "challenge to the conscience of the world."
The Dalai Lama paid tribute to America as a "champion of democracy and freedom" and leading nation of the free world, but otherwise steered clear of politics.
Also attending the meeting was Lobsang Sangay, who was elected in 2011 as prime minister of Tibet's government-in-exile, and has since taken on the political leadership role that the Dalai Lama once held.
Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington contributed to this report.