News / Asia

Dalai Lama Arrives in US Capital

The Dalai Lama arrives in Washington, Tuesday, July 5, 2011
The Dalai Lama arrives in Washington, Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Multimedia

Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, arrived in Washington D.C. to celebrate his birthday and guide followers of Tibetan Buddhism in a 10-day prayer and meditation ritual. The Dalai Lama's visit, which is likely to upset China, is his first to the nation's capital since he stepped down as the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile earlier this year.

Since Chinese forces marched into Tibet more than half a century ago and the Dalai Lama was later forced to flee into exile, the struggle between the two has waged on.

As the Dalai Lama tries to focus solely on his spiritual teachings, analysts say it is too early to predict how China may respond to the Dalai Lama's new role, but note it could be an opportunity.

Buddhism was introduced into Tibet in the 7th century CE, and today, Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in many areas of the Himalayan region, Mongolia and many other countries around the world. There are four main sects, or schools, in the Tibetan tradition.

The Dalai Lama belongs to one of the newer schools of Tibetan Buddhism that started in the 15th century. But he is widely revered by all of the Tibetan sects.

The current Dalai Lama, named Tenzin Gyatso and born in 1935, is the 14th to hold the title. After his death, the Central Tibetan administration and leading monasteries will begin their search for a child that is believed to be his reincarnation.

Robbie Barnett is a Tibet expert at Columbia University.

"This is something that may be very important for the Americans and for other Western leaders ... this may be an opportunity that Western powers might want to take in order to ask China to step forward here and have a more positive attitude toward the Tibetan issue," said Barnett.

The Dalai Lama has been talking about getting out of politics and considered himself semi-retired for years.  But it was not until he told the Tibetan government in exile in March that he was stepping aside that it became official.

Since then, elections for a new prime minister of the government in exile have been held.  Lobsang Sengey, a Harvard Law School fellow who was born in exile in India and has never visited Tibet, received the largest number of votes.

Analysts say the Dalai Lama's visit to the United States is significant because it is the first since he retired.

"And actually he did more than just retire, he reshuffled the entire system of government there [the Tibetan government in exile], so that now it is a secular government, the leader is elected," said Barnett. "He [the Dalai Lama] has no official position in it, he merely is a consultant to his own exile government ... and it is going to be interesting to see how foreign leaders will respond to him."

So far, the Dalai Lama’s decision to divorce himself from politics has not necessarily given him more access to politicians.  During a recent visit to Australia, Prime Minister Julia Gillard did not meet with him.  She claims the decision did not have anything to do with China.

The Dalai Lama took that rejection in stride, saying, "If your prime minister has some kind of spiritual interest, then of course my meeting may be useful. Otherwise, I have nothing to ask him, and also, you see, there is no point to seek advice from him. Oh, from her."

While in Washington, the Dalai Lama is expected to hold high-level meetings with U.S. politicians.  But it is unclear whether President Barack Obama will meet with the Dalai Lama during the visit.

Last year, a meeting between the Dalai Lama and the president at the White House angered China even after the administration went to great lengths to keep the meeting low-key - releasing only a still photo of the two together and a written statement.

Barnett says a decision to not meet with the Dalai Lama would be risky, as past presidents have met with him every time he visited the capital.

"I think the American presidency is already locked into a position where it has to treat visits by the Dalai Lama with some considerable seriousness," said Barnett.

In the end, he says, it is likely the president, at the very least, will hold a quiet ceremonial meeting with the spiritual leader to show Washington does not make decisions based on how China might respond.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Srebrenica Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs countermeasure at UN More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prisoni
X
Heather Murdock
July 01, 2015 8:59 PM
As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs