NEW DELHI – The spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism has been admitted to a hospital in the Indian capital with a chest infection, although his condition was improving, his spokesperson said on Wednesday.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was taken to the New Delhi hospital after he started to feel some discomfort on Tuesday, said his spokesperson, Tenzin Taklha.
“The doctor diagnosed him with a lung infection,” Taklha added. “He is under treatment and we hope that he will be discharged in about two days. He is much better now.”
The Dalai Lama, 83, was flown into New Delhi from his residence in the northern Indian city of Dharamsala, where he has lived in exile since 1959.
Born as Lhamo Dondhup on July 6, 1935, in the northern Chinese village of Taktser, he was anointed with the title of Dalai Lama – which not only denotes the spiritual leader of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, but also implies a powerful role as a unifying symbol of the Tibetan state – at the age of two, after he was singled out as the reincarnation of his predecessor.
He was forced to flee to India along with thousands of his compatriots after a significant number of Tibetans took up arms in 1959 in what turned out to be a failed uprising against Chinese rule over the region that was eventually crushed by the People’s Liberation Army.
He has since continued to fight for greater autonomy for Tibet based on the principles of non-violence, a form of struggle that was internationally recognized when he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
Tibet, a mountainous region spread over a plateau in the Himalayas – with an average elevation of around 5,000 meters (16,000 feet) – has historically grappled to assert its sovereignty and autonomy from China, which insists it has been a part of its territory for centuries.
The region declared itself independent from China in 1913, following the fall of the Qing dynasty and the establishment of a Republican government in Beijing.
In 1951, two years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China under Mao Zedong, it was incorporated into the new Communist state.
The PRC described it as a “peaceful liberation from theocracy,” while Tibetan dissidents decried it as an illegitimate annexation and occupation.
There are still more than 130,000 Tibetan refugees living in India, according to the country’s authorities. Dharamsala is commonly known as “Little Lhasa” due to the high number of exiled Tibetans living there.