Philip Glass' score for Kundun is the realization of a long-cherished dream. For years I had hoped to work with Glass, and in Kundun we found the ideal subject for a special collabaration. His Buddhist faith and deep understanding of Tibetan culture combine with the sublety of his compositions to play an essential role in our movie on the life of the Dalai Lama.Martin Scorsese writes about his 1997 film Kundun. It tells the true story of the search in Tibet for the fourteenth reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and the subsequent flight of the young reincarnation into exile in India. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is believed to be the latest incarnation, or tulku, in the lineage. A tulku is a Tibetan Buddhist lama who has consciously determined to be reborn, often many times. This allows him to return to continue his work in the material world, rather than remaining in Nirvana.
Reincarnation is one of the most difficult Buddhist concepts for Western minds to grasp. Almost immediately after the death of a Buddhist holy person (lama), a search begins for a reincarnation following cryptic clues left in the previous lifetime. When the reincarnation is found tests, including the identification of objects from the tulkus previous life, are used to verify the reincarnation. Little Buddha is another film based on the search for a tulku. Made in 1993, it was written and directed by Bernardo Bertolucci (famous for Last Tango in Paris) with a score by the Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. Little Buddha featured appearances by Sogyal Rinpoche (author of the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying) and Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, both Tibetan teachers identified as reincarnated lamas.
The fictional storyline of Little Buddha tells how the search for the reincarnation of a Tibetan teacher leads to a boy living in Seattle. Parallels have been drawn between this fictitious plot and the true story of one of the most recent and high profile discoveries of a reincarnation, which took place eight years before Little Buddha was made.
Osel Hita Torres was born in Granada, Spain in 1985. Fourteen months later the Dalai Lama confirmed that he was the tulku of Lama Thubten Yeshe, founder of the FPMT, Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition. The young tulku was given the name Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche, and as a teenager studied at Sera Monastery in India. The identification of the reincarnation of Lama Yeshe attracted considerable media interest, and was the subject of a best selling book published in 1988. The young reincarnation is seen with the Dalai Lama in the photo below:
At this point the story becomes even more interesting. Many Tibetan Buddhist websites carry the standard biographies of Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche giving the information I have summarised above. But after studying at Sera Monastery he went on to the private St Michael's University School in Victoria, British Columbia, where he progressed to grade 12 before going on to an unidentified university in Europe. The photo below is one of the most recent available of Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche.
The website of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition takes up the story in 2004:
Osel expressed great appreciation and thanks for all that everyone has done to ensure that his Tibetan and Western education has to date been the best possible. At this time, Osel feels it vitally important for him to spend more time pursuing his western education. However since for the time being that means he is not in Sera, Osel feels it is not appropriate that financial support be raised in the same way as previously. Fortunately, funding for this stage of Lama Osel's continuing education has already been secured. For the time being therefore, we have decided that until Lama returns to Sera to continue Tibetan studies, we will suspend the Lama Osel Education Fund. Thank you to everyone for your support and generosity and for all you have done to date - it really has been so helpful.The most recent update was posted two years later:
In September 2006, we had a surprise visit from Lama Osel (Lama insisted he be called, simply, "Osel"). He suddenly appeared in Aptos, California at Rinpoche's house - actually, he was on summer vacation. We spent a few days together, and Osel spent a lot of time talking with Rinpoche about Dharma and his experiences of the last few years ... Osel was very happy with the visit, and so were we, especially Rinpoche; we all felt we connected again. Osel's parting advice to me with a hug was "No matter what bad things people say or do to you... just give love!"We must respect the privacy of Osel Hita and hope that he finds his own personal path. But as Western interest in Buddhism increases, I can't help thinking there is another fascinating film waiting to be made with the title Lost in Meditation.
* Update 19 Jan, 2009 - more on Osel Hita Torres
* Update 30 August 2009 -latest news on Osel.
In another meeting of Eastern and Western faiths people said - this man is dangerous
Photo credits: Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche with Dalai Lama from FPMT, recent photo from Quang Duc. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk