Protecting the ‘last’ Dalai Lama from pandemic

By Indira Guerrero

New Delhi, Apr 28 (efe-epa).- The guarded complex with a yellow facade in McLeodganj, a town in India’s Himalaya mountain range, is shrouded in silence these days as it protects the “last” Dalai Lama from coronavirus through complete isolation.

Since late February, the Tibetan Buddhist leader, who walked across the Himalayas in 1959 after a failed popular uprising in Lhasa against the Chinese rule, has remained confined to his humble residence in permanent exile, this time due to the fear of a virus that, ironically, also originated in China.

The rapid spread of the disease has afflicted the densely populated India, his adopted country, and become a threat for everyone, including Lhamo Dhondup, the birth name of the highest leader of Tibetan Buddhism and the last symbol of a legacy whose continuity is increasingly doubtful.

His public appearances were officially suspended on Mar. 9, two weeks before India ordered a complete lockdown for its 1.3 billion inhabitants, including those in Himachal Pradesh, the state where the Buddhist guru lives and where more than 40 cases and one death – of a Tibetan who returned from the United States in mid-March – has been reported so far.

“As a precautionary measure, all engagements of His Holiness the Dalai Lama remain indefinitely postponed,” the Buddhist leader’s office told EFE.

The office declined to offer details about the health of the monk, who is set to turn 85 in July, although a source close to the household said that the Dalai Lama had begun a meditation ritual in late February, just before the outbreak started in India.

“His Holiness the Dalai Lama had begun meditation and spiritual ritual at his residence, as he did every year, so he has been away even before it all began,” the source told EFE on the condition of anonymity.

Entry to the residence, which is in any case heavily guarded, has been restricted and the Tibetan community has been complying with general restrictions enforced across India, especially the mandatory stay-at-home orders until May 3.

“All of us Tibetans are seriously complying with the instructions of staying at home, especially the people who surround His Holiness the Dalai Lama,” the source said.

A member of the Tibetan community in exile told EFE on the condition of anonymity that in the solitude of his residence, the monk continues to follow his usual routine of waking up at 3 am and meditating until 6 am.

“His holiness takes a walk around the residential premises, besides reading and listening to the world news,” he said.

Although the rigorous quarantine measures have limited his meetings with the working group, the Dalai Lama continues to offer his teachings to the public.

Earlier this month, the leader released a letter, originally published in the Time magazine, saying he had “no magical powers” to treat illnesses.

“The outbreak of this terrible coronavirus has shown that what happens to one person can soon affect every other being,” the monk said, adding that just “prayer was not enough.”

‘As a Buddhist, I believe in the principle of impermanence. Eventually, this virus will pass, as I have seen wars and other terrible threats pass in my lifetime, and we will have the opportunity to rebuild our global community as we have done many times before,” said the Buddhist icon, who plans to live until the age of 113.

The future of a community of more than six million Tibetans living under Chinese rule depends largely on the health of the Dalai Lama, who continues to wield influence and power over Tibet despite internal resistance and living in exile.

China has been planning to name the next reincarnation of the spiritual leader after the death of Lhamo, a move that could help the Communist Party of China consolidate control in the region.

Public audiences of the supreme monk had already been restricted after he suffered a respiratory infection in April 2019 that forced him to remain hospitalized in New Delhi for many days.

The Dalai Lama’s appearances have been limited to social networks, where he has offered his usual advice about coexistence, kindness, and the common good.

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