Thousands welcome Dalai Lama’s arrival in US for knee surgery

It’s the 88-year-old leader of Tibetan Buddhism’s first overseas trip since 2018.
By Tenzin Dickyi for RFA Tibetan
2024.06.23
Teterboro, New Jersey
Thousands welcome Dalai Lama’s arrival in US for knee surgery The Dalai Lama arrives at his hotel in New York, June 23, 2024.
Lobsang Chophel Jolep/RFA

UPDATED at 6:40 P.M. ET on 06-23-2024

The Dalai Lama was greeted by a large crowd of chanting and flag-waving Tibetans and other supporters upon his arrival Sunday in the United States for knee surgery.

It was the first trip to the United States for the 88-year-old Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader in seven years and his first overseas trip since November 2018, before the coronavirus pandemic. He lives in exile in Dharamsala, northern India.

After landing at Teterboro Airport, in New Jersey, he was greeted by people holding traditional khata white scarves, chanting, singing, waving flags and wishing him a quick recovery from the operation on his right knee.

“It’s a moment of profound joy and spiritual fulfillment for us,” said Tsering Dickey, who traveled from New York with her family to see him at the airport. “Seeing His Holiness in person after such a long time brings hope and inspiration to our community and we hope and pray that his knee surgery goes well.”

The Dalai Lama then traveled by car to New York, where thousands of well-wishers awaited him outside the Park Hyatt, lining up along 57th Street in Manhattan, where he will be staying.

No public talks or engagements are currently planned for his visit. 

The doctor suggested that successful right knee surgery would help his left knee function better as well, and that he may be able to walk properly within three weeks, Sikyong Pempa Tsering, the head of the Central Tibetan Administration, told RFA.

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Devotees wait for the arrival of the Dalai Lama outside of the airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, June 23, 2024. (Nordhey Dolma/RFA)

The Dalai Lama enjoys strong support in the United States, where prominent lawmakers have spoken out about human rights issues in Tibet, though China considers him a separatist and has criticized those who meet with him. 

The well-wishers included Tibetans and people from Himalayan regions, Mongolia, India, Vietnam, Bhutan and Nepal, as well as individuals from across the United States.

“The presence of His Holiness here in the United States is a spiritual boon, as he is visiting after seven years,” said Tashi Kyiloe from New York. “It is a great opportunity for older people like me to receive his blessing.”

The visit comes after the recent passage of a bill in the U.S. Congress that urges the Chinese government to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, or democratically elected Tibetan leaders, to resolve the China-Tibet dispute.

The Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Dispute Act, also known as the Resolve Tibet Act, calls on China to cease its propagation of disinformation about the history of Tibet, the Tibetan people and the Dalai Lama.

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Youths in traditional dress wait for the arrival of the Dalai Lama outside of the airport in Teterboro, New Jersey, June 23, 2024. (Nordhey Dolma/RFA)

Additional reporting by Nordhey Dolma, Jolep Chophel, Yeshi Tashi and Tashi Wangchuk for RFA Tibetan. Edited by Malcolm Foster.

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Michael R Betzer
Jun 23, 2024 08:37 PM

Blessings on His Holiness, the Dalai Lama. I pray the surgey will go well.