"Meet the Minnesota 9-year-old destined to be a Buddhist spiritual leader" PBS NewsHour 10/27/2016
SUMMARY: Like any 4th grade boy, Jalue Dorje enjoys soccer, swimming and Pokemon cards. But unlike most 9-year-olds, he is believed to be -- and confirmed by the Dalai Lama himself -- the reincarnation of an eminent senior lama who died nine years ago. Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports.
HARI SREENIVASAN (NewsHour): The tradition of rebirth is a central Tenet in the Buddhist religion. And when spiritual leaders, or lamas, die, there's an elaborate process of identifying their reincarnation.
It's usually an infant. One such young lama was identified a few years ago far away from his Himalayan roots.
Special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro reports from Minnesota.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO, Special correspondent: They are chants more likely heard in a Himalayan monastery than a working-class Minneapolis suburb.
But it's here in Columbia Heights, Minnesota, that 9-year-old Jalue Dorje begins the day in a routine of Tibetan Buddhist mantras, coached by his father.
A bit later, there are house calls from volunteer teachers in modern Tibetan, in the calligraphy of the ancient scriptures.
THINLY WORSER, Teacher: He has really motivation to learn and especially — even I know him, he's tired, but he says, no, I'm not tired. I want to continue, you know?
So that also motivated me also to teach him.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: It's a fitting trait, because Jalue Dorje has been recognized as a reincarnation of Takshem Karma Yongdu Choekyi Nima, an eminent senior lama, or spiritual leader, who died nine years ago. He would be the eighth reincarnation of the first Takshem lama, who lived in the 16th century.
In Tibetan tradition, the process of recognizing a reincarnate varies, depending on circumstances. Spiritual masters divine from a variety of signals. In the case of Jalue Dorje, it was the dream of a senior monk who had visited Jalue's home in Minnesota, which is home to some 3,000 Tibetan-Americans, the second in size only to New York.
In that dream, tigers roamed in every room of Jalue's house. It was a critical clue in the search for the Takshem Lama's reincarnation.
THINLY WORSER: The Takshem lamas, they used to wear skirts of the tiger skin. Then I also thought, oh, it might be, you know, because Takshem lama was passed away year before, and everybody was trying to find out his reincarnation.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: The question of whether that reincarnation is indeed Jalue Dorje went all the way up to the Dalai Lama, spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism.
THINLY WORSER: Then His Holiness' prediction was the same, and many other high lamas, and so he was confirmed.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: In the old days, the boy would be moved to a monastery in Tibet, or now in India, where the Dalai Lama and thousands of followers have lived in exile since 1959.
However, the Dalai Lama suggested that Jalue's monastic education be deferred until he's a bit older. The spiritual leader has emphasized that Tibetans, or all Buddhists must reconcile their traditional belief system with the modern world. .
DALAI LAMA: I always appealing we Buddhists should be 21st century Buddhists.
FRED DE SAM LAZARO: For Jalue Dorje, that means immersion in ceremony and scripture, on one hand, and, on the other, a fairly typical 21st century Minnesota upbringing.
Soccer and swimming are favorite pastimes, as are more sedentary ones, isolated in headphones and a laptop computer. All this will soon change drastically in a Himalayan monastery perhaps in a couple of years, though an exact date has not yet been determined.
After about 10 years in India, he is to return to Minnesota as a spiritual leader.
When you grow older and you've completed your studies, what do you think you'll be doing for people?
JALUE DORJE: I will be praying for them. I will be chanting for them.