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
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
Once 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?”
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 . . . “
It 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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