Lama drama as the â€˜Chosen One’ chooses freedom
THERE’s gloom, consternation and not a little measure of embarrassment among Buddhists following the news this week that a young “reincarnated spiritual leader” had jumped ship.
The Spaniard – 24-year-old Osel Hita Torres – made international headlines back in the 1980s, when, aged five months, he was “recognised” as the “reincarnation” of Lama Thubten Yeshe, who (briefly) shuffled off to glory in 1984.
Yeshe was the founder of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), and Torres, at the age of 3 – having been identified as Yeshe “reborn to continue the work he started in his previous life” – was ordained as a monk and renamed Tenzin Osel Rinpoche.
According to the Guardian, he was put on a throne and worshipped by monks who treated him like a god.
But the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama has now turned his back on the order that had such high hopes for him.
Instead of leading a monastic life, Torres now sports baggy trousers and long hair, and is more likely to quote Jimi Hendrix than Buddha.
And he bemoaned the misery of a youth deprived of television, football and girls. Movies were also forbidden – except for a sanctioned screening of The Golden Child starring Eddie Murphy, about a kidnapped child lama with magical powers.
I never felt like that boy.
Describing how he was whisked from obscurity in Granada to a monastery in southern India, Torres, who is now studying film in Madrid, denounced the Buddhist order that elevated him to guru status.
They took me away from my family and stuck me in a medieval situation in which I suffered a great deal. It was like living a lie.
At six, he was allowed to socialise only with other “reincarnated” souls – and by 18, he had never seen couples kiss. His first disco experience was a shock.
I was amazed to watch everyone dance. What were all those people doing, bouncing, stuck to one another, enclosed in a box full of smoke?
The FPMT website had a link to the biography of the renegade guru that gushed about his peaceful, meditative countenance as a baby, but this no longer seems to be working.
However, you can read a fascinating account here by by Vicki Mackenzie, author of Reincarnation: The Boy Lama.
An extract that amused me most was MacKenzie’s question to “an extremely high reincarnated lama, Ribur Rinpoche”. She wondered why the little lama had to learn prayers anew:
If reincarnated lamas have developed their minds to such a high degree, why aren’t they reborn possessing exactly the same qualities?
Ribur Rinpoche answered:
The point is they don’t come as enlightened beings. They come as ordinary beings, and so they have to rely on a teacher. It’s the same for all of them, including the Dalai Lama. They have to train – they have to bring out their qualities. It’s very important. The tulkus come back through the power of loving kindness, compassion and altruism, whereas ordinary beings are reborn through the power of karma. This means they come back exclusively for the means of living beings. Since they do come again they don’t come as enlightened, because they have to show how a person should train.
I am probably more tolerant of Buddhism than of any other religion, but Buddhists don’t half believe in some awful tosh!