Jalue Dorje, an American teenager who grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, Minnesota, and who at the age of two was recognized by the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders as a tulku or reincarnated lama,* plans to relocate to Mindrolling Monastery in India in four years. Although the Dalai Lama urged that Dorje take up residency in India from the age of 10, his family decided that their son, now 14 years old, should live a more ordinary American life until he completes high school at the age of 18.
For the time being, Dorje lives much like any ordinary suburban American teenager, enjoying sports, video games, and hip-hop. In his bedroom, one can see a photo of the Dalai Lama resting above DVD collections of The Simpsons and other cartoons, as well as volumes of the Japanese manga series Buddha by Osamu Texuka.
“Seeing him growing up to a teenager is a lot of things to take in because he’s a Buddhist master and, at the same time, he’s a normal person as well,” said his uncle, Tashi Lama. “We get to see the two sides of it.” (The Associated Press)
The other side of Dorje’s life is his training as a Buddhist monk, which has included learning Tibetan, memorizing scriptures, practicing calligraphy and traditional Tibetan ritual musical instruments, and developing an understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.
His goal is nothing short of heroic. After going to India to deepen his training, Dorje hopes to return to the US to teach in his Minnesota Buddhist community and eventually “to become a leader of peace,” he said. “Like the Dalai Lama or Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.” (The Associated Press)
Mindrolling Monastery, where Dorje will further his training, is located in Dehradun, in the foothills of the Himalaya in northern India, some 11,500 kilometers from his home in Minnesota.
The move will mean some extraordinary changes for the teenager, but he has had time and support to prepare. Dorje will set aside time to follow American sports, including his favorite, football. “You’ll always see me outside wearing this hat,” he said of his favorite Atlanta Falcons cap. “Unless I’m wearing my robes.” (The Associated Press)
But when asked if it would be easier if he was just a regular teen, Dorje responded with laughter: “Nothing like that crosses my mind. It’s always been religion first.” (The Associated Press)
At just four months old, Dorje was identified by Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, a master of the Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He was later confirmed by several other lamas as the Eighth Terchen Taksham Rinpoche—a tulku lineage dating back to 1655.
The Dalai Lama confirmed the recognition and in 2010 visited Wisconsin, cutting a lock of his hair in a ceremony and advising Dorje’s parents to commit him to monastic life.
“He’s naturally very open-minded, and he’s also very genuinely interested in the world,” said Kate Thomas, one of his tutors and the teachings coordinator at Minneapolis’ Bodhicitta Sangha Heart of Enlightenment Institute. “He doesn’t have these preconceived notions of who he is.” (The Associated Press)
“He knows he’s Tibetan. He also knows he’s American,” Thomas added. “But like the youth of today, he is a global citizen as well. And he started out that way due to his age, his generation.” (The Associated Press)
* Minnesota Boy Identified as eighth Incarnation of Taksham Lama to Begin Training Next Year (Buddhistdoor Global)
For US teen Buddhist lama: faith, school, sports (USA Today)
For US teen Buddhist lama, it’s faith, school, football (The Associated Press)
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