Oslo has faced public criticism for its decision to snub the Tibetan spiritual leader, who was in Norway to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize.
Instead, the spiritual leader was received in parliament by several members of the cross-parliamentary committee for Tibet, which includes the governing right-wing parties.
"After four years, we find ourselves in a situation where there is no political contact with Chinese authorities. This makes a dialog on difficult matters like the climate or human rights impossible," Prime Minister Erna Solberg told public broadcaster NRK.
"It is therefore a necessary sacrifice in order to show China that it's important for us to have a dialog with them."
Beijing stopped all high-level contact with Norway after the Nobel Peace Prize was given to Chinese dissident Liu Xiabobo in 2010. The Nobel Committee is independent from all political power, although its five members are appointed by parliament.
China has warned on multiple occasions about the consequences of meeting the Dalai Lama, who they consider a "separatist".
But Norwegian commentators have slammed the government's decision not to meet him, accusing it of "cowardice" and putting economic interests before human rights.
No members of Norway's government — including the foreign minister and president of the parliament, who have both headed the parliamentary committee for Tibet — will meet the Dalai Lama during his three-day visit.
The leader, who said he was "an admirer of the democratic system", was received at the main entrance of Parliament following discussions over whether he should be made to enter through a back door.
The meeting was held in a screening room, rather than an official reception room.