The spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, will soon begin a visit to the United States that will take him to five cities [San Francisco, Bloomington, Washington D.C., NY City and Boston], including Washington, D.C.
This is the Dalai Lama's 15th visit to the United States. His first stop is San Francisco, where he arrives September 4.
Nawang Rabgyal, the representative of the Dalai Lama in North America, says that the spiritual leader will hold a meeting with the approximately 1,000 Tibetans who live in the San Francisco area and will receive an academic honor. "His Holiness's San Francisco program is for only one day," said Mr. Rabgyal. "So, he will be visiting there at the invitation of the University of San Francisco. And the university will be offering to His Holiness the honorary doctoral degree."
From San Francisco, the Dalai Lama travels to Bloomington, Indiana in the midwestern United States to consecrate [September 7] a Tibetan house of worship, the "Land of Compassion Temple", that is dedicated to world peace.
The next stop is Washington, D.C. The Dalai Lama is expected to have talks with President Bush, as well as members of Congress. He last met the president in May 2001. After their 30 minute talk in the White House, President Bush made a statement in which he declared his support for the Tibetan leader. The meeting angered China, whose forces have occupied Tibet since the early 1950s, and led to a Chinese accusation that the United States was encouraging Tibetan independence activists.
The Dalai Lama also has a strong following on Capitol Hill. Several congressional leaders, Senators Diane Feinstein [D-CA], Sam Brownback [R-KS], Joseph Biden [D-DE], have introduced a resolution welcoming him to Washington and praising him for his lifelong commitment to non-violence and human rights.
The Dalia Lama's visit to Washington comes a time when tensions appear to be easing between him and Chinese leaders. His envoys have visited Beijing twice in the past year for talks with Chinese officials. To some analysts, China's willingness to hold the talks is a sign that Beijing may believe the time has come to find a political solution to its Tibetan problem.
Lodi Gyari, the special envoy of the Dalai Lama in Washington, D.C. says His Holiness, in his meetings with America's political leaders, will try to get their support for his effort to continue the talks with China.
"His visit this time is particularly important because last September and again this year in May and June, he was able to send his envoys to visit China and Tibet," he reminded. "The role of the Bush Administration is very important in these visits. I am sure His Holiness will be very keen to discuss with President Bush and other senior officials his effort in this direction."
Despite their willingness to hold talks, China's leaders have given no sign they intend to relax their hold on Tibet, which they maintain is a part of China. Beijing continues to protest any meeting the Dalai Lama has with foreign leaders. Although the Chinese government has already protested the Dalai Lama's U.S. visit, Mr. Gyari doesn't believe it will upset the links the Dalai Lama has established with China.
"It is very unfortunate, but the protest by the Chinese government is almost a ritual for whatever reasons," he said. "It is very difficult for us to rationally understand. They've been protesting not only his U.S. visit, but even when he visits a small town or meets a local mayor.
"It is unfortunate that some kind of ritual the Chinese government must go through," continued Mr. Gyari. "But my hope is that the relationship established between His Holiness and the Chinese government will go through."
In addition to meeting with American political leaders, while in Washington, the Tibetan spiritual leader will also take part in interfaith services at the National Cathedral. The services are to mark the second anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
After his stop in the U.S. capital, the Dalai Lama goes to Boston, Massachusetts, for two days of meetings and conferences at Harvard University. He will also give a speech that will focus on "the Global Community and the Need for Universal Responsibility."
The fifth and final city the Dalai Lama visits is New York [September 16 - 24]. He will give the keynote address at the First Conference of Tibetan Buddhist Dharma Centers of the Americas. He will also receive a human rights award from the International League for Human Rights for his efforts on behalf of world peace.
Throughout his life, in Tibet and in India, where he fled in 1959 to escape Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama has worked tirelessly, and always peacefully, for Tibet's independence. His work was recognized by Norway's Nobel Committee, which awarded him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
The Dalai Lama leaves New York City for India on September 24.