Dalai Lama arrives in Vancouver, B.C.

By Graeme Wood, Vancouver Sun, September 26, 2009

VANCOUVER, Canada — A small crowd of dedicated Dalai Lama supporters greeted the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader upon his arrival at the Shangri-La hotel in downtown Vancouver Saturday evening.

<< Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama gives a lecture at the University of Warsaw on July 28, 2009.
Photograph by: Janek Skarzynski, AFP/Getty Images

The Dalai Lama is in Vancouver for four days to co-host the 2009 Vancouver Peace Summit.

"We’re here to acknowledge his presence and we’re proud to be here to witness this event," said Pema Wamgchen, 35, who is Buddhist and came to Vancouver from Tibet seven years ago.

The crowd of about 100 people consisted mostly of Tibetan-Canadians and Buddhists. Many said the peace conference is an opportunity to raise awareness of China’s occupation of Tibet.

Tenzin Lhalungpa, a Vancouver resident who immigrated from the northeast region of India, came downtown to simply catch a glimpse of the Dalai Lama. A Buddhist, Lhalungpa came to Canada in 1971 as a teenager and raised a family. He said many political issues concerning Tibet are not officially recognized by foreign governments like Canada.

"When the Dalai Lama comes to Vancouver, no one wants to talk about the occupation of Tibet by China."

Wamgchen and his friend shared similar sentiments.

"We’re ignored," he said.

"This is a chance for people to have a look at what’s going on in Tibet. The issue of Tibet has never been brought to the table."

The crowd waited outside for close to two hours for His Holiness to arrive. Strong winds blew around white khatas held by people who hoped the Dalai Lama would take the thin silk scarves and put them around their necks as a symbolic blessing.

The Dalai Lama arrived in a black luxury sedan at 5 p.m. and was greeted by nine Buddhist monks who wore traditional red and orange robes and played ceremonial musical instruments as he walked into the hotel.

Although he was quickly ushered into the hotel he managed to bow to the crowd along the way.

"Just being in his presence is overwhelming," said Dolkar McBride, who was all smiles after seeing the Dalai Lama only a few feet away.

The Dalai Lama will participate in a panel discussion with other Nobel Laureates at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of B.C. Sunday morning.

On Tuesday he will speak at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Vancouver, including a conversation with Maria Shriver.