Lama drama as the ‘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.

Osel as a teenager

Osel as a teenager

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.

He said:

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.

The little lama in India

The little lama in India

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!

12 responses to “Lama drama as the ‘Chosen One’ chooses freedom”

  1. barriejohn says:

    This is child abuse, and it is being practised all over the world, to varying degrees, by religious zealots who have decided beforehand what their offspring are going to believe, and the sort of lifestyle that they are going to "enjoy"! It is absolutely appalling that this sort of thing is still countenanced in this day and age, and actually lauded by many onlookers!!

  2. Simon says:

    Come again??

  3. remigius says:

    He may be unfamiliar with disco's but he should have no problems ordering a pizza…

    Make me one with everything!

  4. mike says:

    I am currently in Spain and have read the original report in "El Mundo".

    Some English language extracts on the Web (such as the article directly above) either imply or claim that Mr Torres "has completely renounced his former association with the Foundation..", but that is not the impression I got from the "El Mundo" original. Mr Torres seems to have promised to his lama (Zopa) to one day return to the Buddhist fold.

    I am not certain on this point because my Spanish is not good, but since I have a keen interest in this subject I hope a complete English translation will be made available, or at least that people with more insight will comment here.

    We need more news like this. Westerners, disillusioned with "their own" religious institutions, often turn to Buddhism, thinking that it is purer and that its institutions are not corrupt. But Tibetan Buddhism has its own skeletons in the closet, past and present, and ironically, quite similar to the monstrosities committed by the Christian church(es).

    The main reason most Westerners have no clue is because the mainstream media deliberately hush up anti-Dalai news. But search beyond the Dalai Lama–Richard Gere glitz and you are likely to very soon discover absolutely appalling facts about Tibetan Buddhism. I do not wish to mention anything specifically, but it is enough to pay attention to little details and they will soon take you to the larger picture…

    Little details such as this:

    "In May of 2009, Hita gave an interview for the Spanish newspaper El Mundo … Extracts appeared the following day in the The Guardian (UK). At this time, references to "Lama Osel" suddenly disappeared from the FPMT's website. [3] [4]

    [However, the removed pages are still available in the Google cache:]

    Google cache Osel Birth target=”_blank”>…” target=”_blank”>

    google cache Teachers Osel target=”_blank”>…” target=”_blank”>


    (Bravo, Wikipedia, god job!)

    Again, if anyone spots a complete English translation of the El Mundo report please let us know…

  5. William Harwood says:

    Let me draw attention to Christopher Hitchens' "god Is Not Great". He wrote (p. 200), "The first foreign visitors to Tibet were downright appalled at the feudal domination, and hideous punishments, that kept the populace in permanent serfdom to a parasitic monastic elite." As I wrote in my review (What To Believe, p. 239), "And while Hitchens stops short of justifying China's annexation of Tibet, he makes clear that China merely replaced one totalitarian tyranny with another, and in many ways lesser, tyranny."

  6. captainjjb says:

    can someone explain HOW a 5 month old kid gets chosen? Do his parents have to be into the faith? Maybe it's the same "Holy Spirit" that helps the cardinals choose the Pope!

  7. Mr Gronk says:

    To his credit, the Dalai Lama acknowledges that an independent Tibet would have to embrace progress. Reading between the lines in some interviews, I get the impression he probably thinks much of his religion is a crock. But I guess when you've got millions of oppressed countrymen and not a few braindead Hollywood muppets looking to you for guidance you've got to play along.

  8. Tsu Dho Nimh says:

    I saw Osel several times in passing at a Buddhist conference in the USA when he was about 8 … a cute kid and apparently having fun. One time he was playing a pick-up soccer game with some monks and a couple of the Dalai Lama’s secret service guards. He was reading something that looked a lot like a comic book during one of the lectures, and sound asleep leaning on another monk during another lecture.

    There is a precedent for his decision: one of the Dalai Lama incarnations handed in his robes, moved out of the monastery and had wives and children. He was still considered to be the Dalai Lama, just not a very religious one.

  9. The Spanish Football Premier League, is known as the La Liga.

    In view of the subject matter, I have re-named ‘The Osel Hita Torres Spanish League-Table’, as ‘The La Liquor’ or ‘La Lick-Her’

    Currently The La Liquor/La Lick-Her 'Table' reads:

    1st ; Pussy
    2nd: Beer and hard liquor
    3rd: Football
    4th: Being a living-God to millions of devotees

    See ya.


  10. […] supposed reincartion of Lama Thubten Yeshe, a young Spanish man named Osel Hita Torres, apparently rejected his monastic destiny, complaining of a blighted childhood. And back in in the eighteenth century, […]

  11. […] supposed reincartion of Lama Thubten Yeshe, a young Spanish man named Osel Hita Torres, apparently rejected his monastic destiny, complaining of a blighted childhood. And back in in the eighteenth century, […]

  12. […] supposed reincartion of Lama Thubten Yeshe, a young Spanish man named Osel Hita Torres, apparently rejected his monastic destiny, complaining of a blighted childhood. Back in in the eighteenth century […]