"This is a physical condition like any other and people should not look down upon others. All human beings are equal and capable. Discrimination on the basis of caste, religion or any other condition is a sinful act," Dalai Lama said during a visit to Tahirpur Leprosy Complex here.

The purpose of the visit was to boost the morale of leprosy patients and their families and help people overcome their prejudice against the affected.

In 2005, a total of 1, 34,752 cases were reported in India and new cases of leprosy were reported, which was 58 percent of the cases reported world-wide. The leading states where new cases were reported are Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Bihar, Maharashtra and Gujarat.

"People who spend money on luxury are foolish. They should spend money for the needy. If you believe in God or Buddhism and spend your money on the needy you will accumulate good Karma," said the spiritual leader.

He pledged his help for leprosy-affected people and promised to donate Rs 10 lakh to Kasturba Gram Kusht Ashram, Leprosy Complex in Tahirpur in Delhi.

Over the next five years, royalties received by the trust from the sale of books written by the spiritual leader will be donated to the ashram.

"A smiling man is always better than a rich and healthy man; because a smiling man has the confidence in him to smile and be happy in life," the spiritual leader said.

Leprosy, one of the oldest known diseases to mankind, is quite prevalent in India.

However, through the efforts of individuals and various organisations, like Nippon Foundation, the eradication of the disease is not such a distant dream.

"If the brain is functioning then the physical condition does not matter, as with your brain, you can solve problems and achieve a lot in life. So, if your brain is functioning, you have the confidence which makes you smile," he said.


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