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Boy chosen by Dalai Lama turns back on Buddhist order

June 1, 2009

From The Guardian

As a toddler, he was put on a throne and worshipped as by monks who treated him like a god. But the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of a spiritual leader has caused consternation – and some embarrassment – for Tibetan Buddhists by turning his back on the order that had such high hopes for him.

Instead of leading a monastic life, Osel Hita Torres now sports baggy trousers and long hair, and is more likely to quote Jimi Hendrix than Buddha.

Yesterday 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,” he said.

He is now studying film in Madrid and has 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,” said Torres, 24, describing how he was whisked from obscurity in Granada to a monastery in southern India. “It was like living a lie,” he told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo. Despite his rebelliousness, he is still known as Lama Tenzin Osel Rinpoche and revered by the Buddhist community. A prayer for his “long life” still adorns the website of the Foundation to Preserve the Mahayana Tradition, which has 130 centres around the world. The website features a biography of the renegade guru that gushes about his peaceful, meditative countenance as a baby. In Tibetan Buddhism, a lama is one of a lineage of reincarnated spiritual leaders, the most famous of which is the Dalai Lama.

According to the foundation biography, another leader suspected Torres was the reincarnation of the recently deceased Lama Yeshe when he was only five months old. In 1986, at 14 months, his parents took him to see the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India. The toddler was chosen out of nine other candidates and eventually “enthroned”.

At six, he was allowed to socialise only with other reincarnated souls – though for a time he said he lived next to the actor Richard Gere’s cabin.

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?”

7 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2009 2:14 pm

    This Grauniad article was a distortion of an article in the Spanish catholic family newspaper El Mundo, which, in turn, was a distortion of the original interview with Osel published in the Spanish student magazine Babylon, http://www.magazinebabylon.com/BabylonMagazine5.pdf
    See page 56 for the interview, in Spanish and English.

    Osel has written a neat little verse to sum all this up, which can be found on my study group’s blogspot (which, by the way, has a lot more info about Osel as well as from him, at http://jamyangstudygroup.blogspot.com/).

    It goes like this:

    Soy una pieza más
    En este mundo tan distinto.
    Si me dejas andar,
    Me guio por el instinto.
    Y ese, me conduce a ti.

    Translated into English:

    I’m just a piece
    Of this very [different / diverse] world.
    If you let me go [on my own],
    I’ll let instinct guide me.
    And that will lead me to you

  2. ninebillionnames permalink
    June 13, 2009 3:26 am

    The something got lost in translation from the spanish factor can make for agitated reading of The Guardian’s article.

    It may well have looked somewhat different if it had been based on this interview:
    http://www.fpmt.org/teachers/osel/

    all the best

  3. June 5, 2009 7:52 pm

    My feathers are still nice and smooth, my response just pointed out the fact that the original article was reposted here as it has significance to the topics this blog speaks about.

    You asked “Does it seem remarkable to you that one young man ostensibly a young lama, has come to reject his upbringing? ”

    No, it is not shocking one bit. The historical Buddha left a lavish life to find the truth to suffering and endured a life many of us nowadays would not even fathom. So no, Osel’s story is not remarkable at all, if the original, reposted, story was in fact true.

  4. June 5, 2009 7:39 pm

    Preciousmetal, Not agitated. Rather, agitating. Yes, I’m a species of agitator. Remember? The agitator is that part of an old washing machine that goes back and forth, churning the soap and water to get your wash clean. But I’m just a wee bit disappointed in the condescending tone of your response. Such a transparent attempt to label a respondent by employing a behavioral descriptor typically associated with psychiatric patients. I suppose that’s one way to change the topic. So, it would appear that I have ruffled your feathers. I sincerely apologize if I stepped on your shadow. However, you still have not answered my question.

    Yours Sincerely, AV

  5. June 4, 2009 9:07 pm

    And.. So? What does this mean to you? What is the existential significance of the young Osel’s apparent attitude, for you Senor? Does it seem remarkable to you that one young man ostensibly a young lama, has come to reject his upbringing? This article does not place the boy’s experience, his brief autobiography, in context. Because it is a presentation taken out of context, it is only a fragment, a small piece of a much larger picture. No mention of the influence of multiple cultures, subcultures, or of family and friends. Whatever you decide to take from this article. Remember that it is a limited subset of remarks, chosen by a journalist and then at least one editor for maximum “general reader interest.” Thank you,

  6. June 4, 2009 9:35 pm

    Alexi, it is just a repost of an article found at another news source. There have been other links added by Rod which give a bit more background. I posted it here, on this blog, because it has signifigance in the “Buddhist” world and that is the vein in which this blog is written in. I apologize if you feel offended, it seems that you are quite agitated by this article.

  7. June 3, 2009 12:15 pm

    Thought you might like to know about our follow-ups on this story, which turns out to be dubious at best:

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=9669

    http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=9695

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