Aide: Dalai Lama's surgery ends successfully

NEW DELHI - October 10, 2008 - Spokesman Chhime R. Chhoekyapa called the surgery "a simple, routine procedure."

The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Buddhist elder was hospitalized in New Delhi on Thursday. He had arrived earlier in the week for a checkup, his second in as many months, and aides said afterward that the 73-year-old had been cleared for foreign travel.

However, an aide said Friday that it was at that second checkup that doctors suggested the removal of gallstones, which the Dalai Lama has had for more than a decade.

"He will probably spend two days in hospital, then a few days in Delhi while he recovers. At the end of the month he will resume his schedule," aide Tenzin Taklha said.

In August, the Dalai Lama was admitted to a Mumbai hospital and underwent tests for abdominal discomfort. His aides said then he was in good condition but doctors advised him to cancel a trip to Europe and rest, saying he was suffering from exhaustion.

The Dalai Lama normally spends several months a year traveling the world to teach Buddhism and highlight the Tibetan struggle. He lives in the north Indian hill town of Dharmsala, where he set up his government-in-exile after fleeing Tibet following a failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

News of the surgery sparked worries in Dharmsala, where the Dalai Lama remains the central figure - both spiritually and politically - for thousands of exiles. While the exile community has become increasingly divided in recent years between followers who support his pacifist approach and a bitter younger generation demanding stronger action against China, he remains deeply revered.

"I have been thinking about this for a long time. He is 73 and will not always be around," said Tenzin Ngodup, a 28-year-old exile who fled from Tibet to India in 1997. "What would happen to us when he is not around? I get very worried. People in Tibet have a lot of hope and faith that since he is here, something good will happen in Tibet. If the Dalai Lama goes, they will lose all hope."

After a March outbreak of violence in Tibet, China stepped up its campaign to vilify the Dalai Lama, blaming him for the unrest, which Beijing says was part of a campaign to split the Himalayan region from the rest of China.

The Dalai Lama has denied the allegations, saying he is only seeking greater autonomy for Tibet to protect its unique Buddhist culture.


Associated Press writer Ashwini Bhatia in Dharmsala contributed to this report.

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