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Friday, 1 December, 2000, 17:15 GMT
Duchess in search of the spirit
Sarah Ferguson
Sarah Ferguson: A spiritual quest
By the BBC's Kuljinder Singh

The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, has met the Dalai Lama and visited the late Mother Teresa's Calcutta mission on a trip to India in search of spirituality.

The Duchess's journey was captured by a BBC television documentary crew, who also followed her to flood-ravaged West Bengal.

Dalai Lama:
Dalai Lama: Duchess in awe
In recent years the Duchess has been attacked in the media for damaging the reputation of the Royal Family.

She was heavily criticised when she made appearances in American television adverts.

But she has undergone something of a royal rehabilitation, and in June was invited to a royal event - birthday celebrations for Prince William and the Queen Mother - for the first time since the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997.

She said her trip to India was a spiritual quest.

"I'm 41-years-old now and I keep looking for ways to enlighten myself, to learn more about the soul, to feel the inner peace that people say is what we all strive for," she said.

'Overwhelmed'

The BBC programme In Search of the Spirit follows the Duchess as she travels to Dharamsala in northern India to meet the Dalai Lama and goes on to visit Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity.

The Duchess was visibly moved after her meeting with Tibet's spiritual leader.

In the house of the dying
In the house of the dying
She said: "Just before I went to meet the Dalai Lama my mind was completely blank, I was nervous, I had clammy hands and I was strutting up and down and just had forgotten everything.

"When I walked into the room and his Holiness walked in I didn't need to worry, I just sat there and listened in awe.

"I was completely overwhelmed by the whole moment, I just don't know how to describe it to this day."

The Dalai Lama and thousands of followers have been in exile in India since 1959, nine years after China annexed Tibet.

Touched by plight of orphans
Touched by plight of orphans
Decades on, asylum seekers keep coming, risking their lives to cross the border in to India through some of the world's toughest terrain.

The Duchess met some of the newly arrived refugees and seemed very touched by the perilous plight of 10-year-old orphan Kalsang Gyatso.

Her journey also took her to West Bengal, where she met victims of the recent devastating floods that affected over 15 million people.

She saw the vast tracts of farmland that were destroyed, wiping out the living of thousands of people.

In Search of the Spirit can be seen at 1020 GMT on Saturday 2 December on BBC Two.

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See also:

03 Nov 00 | South Asia
Concern over Tibetans in Nepal
01 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
'Make Dalai Lama Tibet governor'
31 May 00 | UK
Duchess faces tax probe
04 May 00 | UK
Duke hints at remarriage
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