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Utah's Tibetan community reacted with sadness Friday to the news that the Dalai Lama would not be coming to the Beehive State next month because of his health.
But the 250 or more Tibetans were more concerned for the man they consider to be their leader than for their own loss.
"The cancellation was a big disappointment for all of us because we so looked forward to welcoming him and receiving his blessing," Tibetan spokeswoman Pema Chagzoetsang said. "But his health is much more important than participating in any scheduled public events."
His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, was scheduled to keynote the Parliament of the World's Religions, which will meet in Salt Lake City Oct. 15 to 19. He also was to speak on compassion and universal responsibility Oct. 18 at the University of Utah's Huntsman Center.
He has now canceled all U.S. events next month, according to a statement from the Office of Tibet in Washington, D.C., which read in part: "The Dalai Lama arrived in the United States earlier this week for a medical evaluation. Upon completion of the evaluation, the doctors have advised that His Holiness take complete rest. As a result, His Holiness will be returning to India next week and will not be able to visit the United States next month."
The nature of his ailment was not released, but the Tibetan leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner had just celebrated his 80th birthday July 6.
It would have been the second visit to the U. for the faith leader, who first came in 2001.
U. spokeswoman Maria O'Mara said that as of yet, the event has not been rescheduled. More information will be sent to ticket holders as it becomes available.
"The university community and the Utah Tibet Foundation," she added, "wish the Dalai Lama a speedy recovery."
Susan Soleil, the Parliament's Salt Lake City coordinator, also expressed concern for the iconic Tibetan leader's health, saying the group offers "heartfelt prayer for his improved care and comfort."
It hasn't yet settled on a replacement for the Dalai Lama, Soleil said, but the Parliament "remains in communication with his team about alternative options to his scheduled appearance with us."
The Dalai Lama once blessed Jerry Gardner, resident teacher at Salt Lake City's Urgyen Samten Ling Gonpa Temple, which practices Tibetan Buddhism and houses a throne the Tibetan leader sat on when he was in Utah previously.
"We should be joyous that he is not going to come," said Gardner, who now has earned the title Lama Thupten Dorje Gyaltsen Rinpoche. "The world is so constantly pulling at his robes. How can he not become tattered by our own grasping?"
Those who love the Dalai Lama should have the same compassion he shows for others, he said, knowing the spiritual leader's actions are "in the best interest of maintaining his health so his activities may continue."
Chagzoetsang said she has been "overwhelmed with gratitude" at the compassionate reaction of Tibetans and their supporters to Friday's news. Many of them donated tons of time, money and labor to remake a warehouse 2950 S. 135 West into a new Tibetan community center in Salt Lake City as a showcase of their faith. They hoped he would visit and bless it.
Yet no one has expressed anger at missing out on the experience or the cost of lost tickets, she said. "None of that matters to them. All they care about is his health and pray for a speedy recover."
Tibetans consider the Dalai Lama "a living god," Chagzoetsang said, "but he still is in a human body and he can get sick and tired. Finally, it took a toll on him."
Buddhists believe change is part of life, she said. "We can always welcome him back another time."