Hundreds of exiled Tibetans welcomed the return of the Dalai Lama to his headquarters in the north Indian hill town of Dharmsala on Friday after a brief stay in a hospital in the capital for treatment of a chest infection.
The Tibetans carried ceremonial scarves and incense sticks. A large gate with colorful decorations was erected and Tibetan and Buddhist flags hung all over the town to welcome the 83-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader.
The Dalai Lama told reporters that he had fully recovered, but that the illness had been “a little bit serious.” He did not give any details. He was admitted in the hospital in New Delhi on April 9 and released on April 12.
President of the Central Tibetan Administration Lobsang Sangay received the leader along with local Indian government officials at the airport.
The Dalai Lama usually spends several months a year traveling the world to teach Buddhism and highlight Tibetans’ struggle for greater freedom in China. But he has cut down on his travels in the past year to take care of his health.
“His Holiness is like the sun. Even if you don’t crave for happiness, it will come naturally to you when he is around,” said Sonam Choephal, an 85-year-old former political prisoner. Choephal, who had spent 22 years in a Chinese prison in Lhasa for participating in a 1959 protest in the Tibetan capital, lives in Australia and traveled to India on a pilgrimage. The Dalai Lama fled Tibet following the 1959 failed uprising against Chinese rule.
China doesn’t recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile and accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to separate Tibet from China.
The Dalai Lama denies being a separatist and says he merely advocates for substantial autonomy and protection of the region’s native Buddhist culture.
At an event with educators in New Delhi earlier this month, the Dalai Lama said he was not seeking independence for Tibet, but rather a “reunion” with China under mutually acceptable terms.
The Dalai Lama also predicted that the political impasse with China could change if he lived for at least another decade.