Dalai Lama Health Scare Renews Concerns Over Succession

Email story
Comment on this story
Print story
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is shown in Ladakh in a file photo.
Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama is shown in Ladakh in a file photo.

Fears for the health of the Dalai Lama were put to rest on Thursday with the announcement that the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader is recovering from a minor chest infection and is expected to leave a hospital in Delhi, India, on Friday following a three-day stay.

“His Holiness is doing much better today and will be discharged tomorrow,” the Dalai Lama’s personal physician Tsetan Dorji told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Thursday.

No serious concerns remain regarding the 83-year-old spiritual leader’s health, the doctor said, adding that signs of improvement in the Dalai Lama’s condition were seen from the beginning of his stay under care.

“Early this morning, His Holiness said that he is feeling absolutely normal, and that he had a great appetite,” Dorji said. “His health is not in any kind of danger.”

Concerns over the health of the aging Tibetan spiritual leader have meanwhile renewed uncertainties over his possible successor after he dies, and over the future direction of international efforts to secure greater freedom for Tibetans living under Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 national uprising against rule from Beijing, and in recent years has toured widely around the world promoting peace, nonviolence, and religious harmony.

Meetings between foreign leaders and the Dalai Lama have drawn the anger of Beijing, which regards the exiled spiritual leader and Nobel peace prize winner as a separatist seeking to split Tibet from China’s rule.

In what he calls a Middle Way Approach, though, the Dalai Lama himself says that he seeks only a “meaningful autonomy” for Tibet as a part of China, with protections for the region’s language, religion, and culture.

China claims control

In a statement Wednesday, a day after the Dalai Lama’s admission to hospital, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang re-asserted Beijing’s claim of authority over the selection of a reincarnated Dalai Lama when the Tibetan spiritual leader passes away.

Tibetan tradition holds that senior Buddhist monks are reincarnated in the body of a child after they die.

The Dalai Lama meanwhile has said that if he returns, his successor will be born in a country outside of Chinese control.

Reuters news agency quoted the Dalai Lama last month as saying his incarnation could be found in India, and warned that any successor named by China would not be respected. This scenario played out in the 1990s when the Tibetans and the Chinese government each selected their own Panchen Lama, with Beijing’s anointed lama widely rejected by Tibetans.

Speaking on April 9 at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybsersecurity Policy, Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) disputed China’s right to authorize a new Tibetan spiritual leader.

“Let me be very clear: The United States Congress will never recognize a Dalai Lama that is selected by the Chinese,” Gardner said.

Reported and translated by Tenzin Phakdon for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Written in English by Richard Finney.





More Listening Options

View Full Site