The 14th Dalai Lama is suffering from prostate cancer and has been undergoing treatment in the US for the last two years, according to credible sources, who say his ailment has advanced well into the last stages. The Indian government has been aware of this development for over a year, sources told The Quint, adding that the Chinese government has also known of this for months. The Central Tibetan Administration (CAT), however, has denied the reports. Tsering Dhondup of Tibetan Policy Institute told The Quint that the Dalai Lama’s health is not a matter of concern. “His Holiness is healthy. In fact, he’s set to make a trip abroad,” he says.
The health of the 82-year-old Dalai Lama has been a matter of concern for some time now. This year has seen a curtailment in his public engagements and travels. In March, the CAT issued a statement that attributed cancellations of his public appearances to exhaustion and age. At the time, CAT spokesperson Sonam Dagpo told CNN:
His Holiness is invited to different countries but he has cut down public engagements because of age. He is exhausted after teaching for a long period of time. Therefore a few commitments have been canceled.Sonam Dagpo, Central Tibetan Administration Spokesperson
The Indian government turned its attention to intelligence reports about the Dalai Lama's health in February this year.
The Dalai Lama’s succession has been a matter of interest to many countries, including China and the US. In 2015, the Dalai Lama had ridiculed the Chinese establishment for trying to control his reincarnation. He had also said that the issue of succession would be resolved formally around his 90th birthday.
However, recent reports about his deteriorating health suggest that the succession issue may have to be resolved at the earliest. China has upped its game in this arena. Last week, the Trump administration issued a statement urging China to refrain from interfering in the matter. The report, signed by assistant secretary of State for Legislative Affairs, Mary K Waters, stated:
The US government believes that respect for Tibetan Buddhists’ universal human right of religious freedom dictates that the succession or identification of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, including the Dalai Lama, should occur without interference, in a manner consistent with their beliefs.Tibet Negotiations Report sent to the Congress (US)
While the Tibetan administration has been trying to withhold information about the Dalai Lama’s health status, intelligence reports corroborate the tell-tale signs. The Dalai Lama's first trip to the Mayo Clinic in the United States over two years ago was the first hint that he was undergoing treatment for prostate cancer there. His frequent visits to the Mayo Clinic since were enough for the Indian establishment to dig out the reason behind such trips.
It was found that the Dalai Lama had been undergoing proton beam therapy at the Mayo Clinic – but the cancer had already spread from the prostate to other parts of his body and is now incurable.
As a result, the Dalai Lama cancelled his several foreign trips as he could no longer undertake long journeys. A significant pointer will be his visit to Switzerland in September this year to attend the Rikon 50th anniversary celebrations, which he hasn't cancelled yet.
Video footage of the Dalai Lama's most recent public appearances this year shows the leader taking unsteady steps, and walking with assistance from several aides. Specific pointers in this regard are his two public appearances – at Jammu University on 18 March and at the ‘Thank You, India’ event in Dharamsala on 31 March. His aides were seen assisting him since his prostate cancer condition doesn't allow him to bend repeatedly.
The Dalai Lama's robes have, of late, acquired a new outer layer. Apparently, this is to hide a special bag, known in medical parlance as “colostomy bag”, which he has to wear after several surgeries.
Sources said that his immune system has become extremely frail – he uses a sanitiser to wipe off his hands after interacting with members of public to ward off infections.
All this leads to the crucial question: why are the Tibetans in exile in India celebrating ‘60 years in exile’ in 2018, instead of 2019 when they actually complete 60 years?
(Rajeev Sharma is an independent journalist and strategic affairs analyst who tweets @Kishkindha.)