With a canceled U.S. visit and questions about the health of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan community in Minnesota had been worried about their religious leader, who was a patient at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester this week.
But on Wednesday morning, about 1,300 members of the community saw for themselves — and were reassured — that the Dalai Lama appeared to be healthy, community leaders said.
“We finally got to see him and it was very, very joyous,” said Tsewang Chokden, former secretary of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. “A lot of people were crying as he came on stage and started speaking about his health.”
On the advice of doctors, the 80-year-old leader will take some time to get more rest, according to his representative in North America, Kaydor Aukatsang. He was expected to leave Wednesday evening to go back to his residence in India.
The revered Tibetan Buddhist religious leader met the group in a private gathering at the Civic Center in Rochester, at the request of community leaders. While he was scheduled to speak for just a few minutes to the crowd, some of whom came from as far as Illinois, he stayed for more than an hour. He spoke only briefly about himself and focused on the importance of maintaining Tibetan culture and language and living with kindness.
“His holiness is very healthy and in great spirits,” Aukatsang said. “I think people left feeling comforted and happy.”
Many were also relieved.
“He’s very, very well,” said Thupten Dadak, founder of the Tibetan American Foundation of Minnesota. “He’s no different than a few years ago. Very charming, and very happy to see the community.”
Dadak’s wife, Nancy Dadak, said the leader became more animated as he spoke to the enthusiastic crowd.
“He clearly has the vitality to teach,” she said.
Besides a problem with an ailing knee, the Dalai Lama reported that his health was good, according to several in the crowd.
“The doctors are telling him he’s not 18, he’s 80, and that they want him to pace himself accordingly but that his health is sound,” Nancy Dadak said. “He has a nonstop schedule and I think that it’s wonderful that people are recognizing the need to protect his schedule a little more.”
The Dalai Lama, political and spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, fled his homeland in 1959 because of Chinese occupation and repression.
The exiled leader had been at the Mayo Clinic — where he routinely goes — for a medical evaluation and canceled his U.S. appearances for October after doctors advised him to rest. The clinic confirmed Wednesday that he is no longer a patient there.
Aukatsang said the Dalai Lama had been traveling more than usual this year because of his 80th birthday, with visits to Australia, Europe, the United States and many places within India. He will hopefully be back in the U.S. sometime next year, Aukatsang said.
“The doctors have advised that he rest,” Aukatsang said. “That’s what he intends to do.”
Pam Louwagie • 612-673-7102