Monday, October 23rd 2017

The Dalai Lama and his teen rebel without a cause

The Dalai Lama confirmed a boy from Spain as his reincarnation and successor as the guiding spirit of Tibetan Buddhism. Then Osel Hita Torres turned his back on both His Holiness and his way of faith

osel01BY DAVID RICKEY — In the story of  Osel Hita Torres, a young spiritual prodigy was chosen by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation. Torres then turned his back on the Buddhist order.

Which in no particular order raises two interesting questions:

Did they get the right boy?

And is there such a thing as karmic regression?

The process of finding and choosing a reincarnated lama is complicated — and I say that as a professional priest schooled in an Episcopal seminary and so-called “high church.” Since an enlightened being can reincarnate anywhere on this planet — Torres was born in Granada, Spain, and there are reports of a reincarnated lama birth in Seattle, WA — finding such a being is statistically difficult, like finding a spiritual needle in a secular haystack.

Sometimes dreams and soothsayers have been helpful but it can take years of searching.

Reincarnation for the discerning lama

kundun31Once a suspected lama is discovered there is a time of discernment, which includes testing the “candidate” to see if he possesses memories or intuitions of the previous incarnation. This is done by presenting the person with pairs of objects — one item of each pair belonging to the previously incarnated lama, the other not. Choosing the correct objects is a strong sign. A good theatrical depiction is in the beginning of the Martin Scorcese movie, Kundun.

From outside the rarified realms of intense Buddhist practice, it would seem possible that the arbiters of the process occasionally make mistakes. Indeed, even the person chosen sometimes has doubts. Again, I refer you to the movie Kundun, where the boy Lama asks: “Are you sure you have the right one?”

Ken Wilber: Even the reincarnated begin at square one

But a more important question is: “Does being an actual incarnation of a previously enlightened lama insure your continued journey on the path?” — or to put it another way, “Is regression possible?”

kenwilber01 Ken Wilber points out that everyone begins at square one. That is, each one of us, even if we have had past lives, still comes into this world as an infant, completely dependent on others, and our surrounding. Our brains still go through the same stages of development, where ego emerges, and the treacherous journey towards individuation has to be navigated.

This is perhaps why, once chosen, a small boy monk is so carefully guarded and protected from the pressures of the world. According to Wilber, the new would-be lama, Torres, was only allowed to play with other “enlightened souls,” and what he saw of the outside world was severely shielded.

Therefore, it is not terribly surprising that sometimes someone who is regarded with such intense expectations may still fail to bring those gifts to fruition. Each soul, is, after all, human. Even if we may be born with a “leg up,” so to speak, we still have to work out our own spiritual evolution.

Destiny must be lived out by everyone

Even “enlightened beings” have an ego — it never goes away. And so there is always the chance to regress, to allow the ego to usurp or suffocate one’s inner evolution. My intention here isn’t to criticize Torres for turning his back on a monastic life. I have no information about his thinking or even deeper, his soul’s Code. He may still offer the world a great gift in his presence as he lives out his life.

The message for us more-lowly, mortals is, “No one has it easy.” At Soul’s Code, we believe that each of us has gifts — abilities, even a destiny to be lived out, and through — in this lifetime. The first step is to know that, and to take the required efforts to discover them. However, destiny does not insure fulfillment.

For example, I was born with certain talents and gifts in music — almost perfect pitch is one of them. However, I seemed to have been born with an inability to develop discipline. Or more accurately, perhaps, I just didn’t like to practice. I did get to Carnegie Hall but only to the balcony!

I still hold on to St. Paul’s “mandate” in Philippians (2:12-13) “Work out your own salvation in fear and trembling, knowing that God is at work in you . . . “

osel02It may be that Osel Hita Torres will find his true path on his own. He is reported to have made and appearance as “Oz”, his new name, at the wild Burning Man event, held every year in the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, and is pursuing a career in film.

Destiny always involves listening to deep and often contrarian voices. The important choice is always “What is my truth?” It’s not an easy question, since ego will play the trickster to seduce you away from that truth, and seeking the answer will often find resistence in the world around you. But following your inner truth is the only real path. Even the Buddha said so.

We, at SoulsCode, wish Osel Hita Torres “, or Oz, bon voyage.

David Rickey is an Episcopal priest, Soul’s Code co-founder and counselor in San Francisco who does a weekly ministry at a residence for the elderly in northern California. Follow David on Twitter.

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4 Comments on “The Dalai Lama and his teen rebel without a cause”

  1. What is the difference between what happened to this young man during his upbringing and what happens in a cult? He was not allowed to interact with the "real" world and the decision was made for him at a very early age about the course his life would take. He had no choice in the matter. At the end of the day, he obviously didn't buy it and got out.

    This sounds like a cult to me. Please tell me what is the difference. Is it only the fact that supposedly he was the "chosen one" that makes this different from groups that children are taken away from?

  2. I suppose there isn't a lot of difference in terms external appearances, except that when he decided to leave, he left. Most cults that I have heard about don't allow that. There is a difference between being perhaps overly protective and being maniacly constraining. From a purely human point of view, every child is born into an environment where the parents may decide to be "overly protective". As far as I know, this child was not dragged into the monastery without the parents' permission. The restrictions placed on him were more about guiding his development in a certain way, just as some parents may restrict what a child is aloud to experience (no movies except G rated, for example, or not allowing a child to cross the street on their own). Granted the restrictions Osel Torres experienced were more restricted than that.
    This whole cultural experience is far from what we in the west understand. And, it must be said, is based partly on the belief that this child was a new reincarnation of a great spiritual teacher.

  3. Very interesting. I am a student of Lama Yeshe (Osel was recognised as Lama Yeshe's reincarnation at a very young age). I saw Osel several times when he was an infant. I was extremely uneasy at the FPMT's (Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition) collective behaviour concerning Lama Yeshe and then Osel .. and said as much, way back in 1985 (to a very senior nun in the movement, still well known). With minimal effect, of course.

    I had three main concerns .. one was that the FPMT were focussing too much on a personality (Yeshe and then Osel) and not the teaching (finger not moon) .. another was that there was excessive emphasis on rebirth .. the idea being that if Osel could "prove" rebirth it would have a wonderful effect on the world, and maybe wash away the follower's own doubts. My third concern was for Lama Osel himself (as he was then known.)

    There are echoes with Krishnamurti, picked from a south east Indian beach by the founders of theosophy and raised as the new world leader .. a role he eventually rejected when about 30. Krishnamurti was still a pretty good teacher .. I don't know what Osel will do, but I hope he has a long, happy and valuable life.

    As for FPMT I guess many people were sincere, but I hope some can reflect on this experience. Perhaps they are not quite a cult, but I do find them fairly narrow, and I have very little to do with them now.. though I still have very good memories of Lama Yeshe. FPMT have also been promoting megasized statues of Maitreya in India, meeting considerable opposition. I think they need to follow more of a middle way. As for the recognition process of lamas, I once heard HH the Dalai Lama say they got it wrong about 50% of the time.

    Speaking of His Holiness, this year is the 20th anniversary of his Nobel Peace prize .. it's also 20 years since he became founding patron of our NGO, BODHI (see also BODHI on Facebook. Please join,


    PS by the way the claim "everyone's a guru" is not true .. perhaps "everyone is a student" would be more accurate!

    PPS Ken Wilbur's comment, reported above, is at odds with my own understanding of rebirth. Everyone doesn't start at square one at all, whether or not there is rebirth. (eg some are talented, some are encouraged, some are neglected, some are abused .. and just maybe, some bring traits from their past life.)

    As for the "shielded comment" that isn't fully true .. Osel spent a lot of time with other monks in Sth Indian monasteries .. travelled a lot. The Buddha was of course shielded by his parents. But I do think a lot of the people, especially the Westerners, who had a lot to do with Osel placed unrealistic expectations on him, similar to those placed on the young Krishnamurti.

  4. Thank you, Colin, for your first-hand observations. Two reflections:

    Ken Wilbur's comment was more about the idea that we are all born into a human body which has certain developmental necessities. The brain has to evolve, (ala Piaget's stages)for example. I believe that we bring traits from previous lives. That is what aides in the evolution of consciousness. We return to build on the lessons of the past and hopefully influence others on their journeys. But we also have free will and can choose a different path, or even regress. Evolution isn't a given.

    Second about "Everyone's a Guru". You are right that we (not just some) are students as well. But everyone has something to teach others. No matter where we are on our journey, we have experiences and insights which we can (although we don't, always) pass on to others. I have met a number of homeless, mentally ill, or otherwise seemingly "impaired" individuals who have taught me a lot. They have been gurus to me from their own life experience.

    David Rickey

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