New Delhi: When the 17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, head of the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism was escaping to India from China on horseback, he learnt one vital lesson -- that the Chinese policemen guarding the border were also human beings.

'This is a story I often narrate. When I was escaping from Tibet, I and my party were constantly fearing an encounter with Chinese police. We were so terrified that we stopped seeing them as human beings any more. In my mind, they became demonic,' the Karmapa said.

'But I realised later that the police were human. It was not as if we were encountering a ghost - it was just humans encountering other humans. There wasn't any reason to be scared of them,' the Karmapa said, speaking about the importance of compassion in a discourse in the capital Saturday.

The 17th Karmapa fled to India January 5, 2000 after a harrowing five-day journey from Tibet.

'I think we can cultivate this ability to return to our basic nature as students of dharma. There will be great benefit in doing that. As the differences (between humans) grow, we begin to feel fear. The mind feels as if we are caught in the way how things are going to be - and not what things are,' the Karmapa said.

The Karmapa, believed to the 17th reincarnation of the first Karmapa, said both as individual and as a race, there is tendency in this world to differentiate between each other.

'In terms of people, we compete with each other and countries compete with each other. Those (the competition in development and economic progress) are super-impositions - these are just our concepts and thoughts. No matter, how much effort we apply, we cannot change our basic nature,' the Karmapa said in support of 'equality, world peace and brotherhood'.

Replying to a query from a disciple about the meaning of life and the choices one should make, the Karmapa said there was no freedom of choice for him.

'I was only seven years old when I was recognised as the Karmapa. I did not have the ability to choose. I was caught between a rock and a hard place. And when I had the ability to choose, it was too late,' he said.

The Karmapa was addressing the 900th commemoration of the Karmapa lineage in Tibet that began with the birth of the first Karma Kagyu Karmapa Dusum Khyenpa in 1110 AD.

The three day gathering from Dec 23-25 drew more than 1,000 delegates and monks from 44 countries and an almost an equal number of visitors.