ANAHEIM ( — The Dalai Lama is celebrating his 80th birthday here in Southern California.

His landmark birthday was the premise for this week’s three-day Global Compassion Summit at the Honda Center in Anaheim, where the Dalai Lama and many other leaders will meet to foster a dialogue on compassion and peace.

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The Tibetan icon was met on Sunday by 18,000 supporters serenading him with “Happy Birthday” and a massive and burgundy gold cake.

The Nobel Prize winner grinned and bowed in appreciation to the audience, but later revealed to CBS2/KCAL9’s Greg Mills that birthdays don’t mean that much to him.

“Day same – sunrise, sunset,” he said.

The Dalai Lama says he sees much chaos in the world today but also plenty of opportunities for unity: “Differences there, but all on the level of a human being same mentally, emotionally.”

His visit also triggered protests outside the Honda Center by a sect of Shugden Buddhists, who say their doctrine is different than that preached by the Dalai Lama and that his followers discriminate against them.

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Rebecca Gauthier said she was at the protest to support Shugden Buddhists’ “right to walk down the street and not have to look over their shoulder and worry that someone might be following them, yelling horrible things at them, potentially harming them.”

Dalai Lama supporter Nawang Phuntsog said the protest was “totally baseless. They have no grounds at all to engage in this smear campaign against his Holiness.”

The summit will move to UC Irvine on Monday and Tuesday.

The event was put together by Friends of the Dalai Lama in partnership with University of California, Irvine and Center for Living Peace.

Tickets for the event range from $33 to $93. The Dalai Lama does not charge a speaking fee, organizers say. They say the summit is privately funded and “no aspect of His Holiness’ visit is being used to profit financially.”

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