Sunday, August 30, 2009

Finding a different way for the next generation


My two articles about the reincarnation of the Buddhist Lama Yeshe created an unprecedented amount of interest. Lost in Meditation described the background to the identification of the young Spaniard Osel Hita Torres as the reincarnation, and ended on a somewhat equivocal note. Found in Meditation was written a few days later after a reader supplied an update explaining that Osel was studying cinematography at the University of Madrid.

What I thought was an arcane but interesting story suddenly went global in June when the young reincarnation hit the headlines and my two Buddhist stories attracted the biggest ever readership for On An Overgrown Path, with more than ten thousand readers accessing the posts in a single day. Elsewhere big media had sensed a nice negative story, and the Guardian coverage with its punchy soundbites was typical:
'... the boy chosen by the Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of a spiritual leader has caused consternation – and some embarrassment – for Tibetan Buddhists by turning his back on the order that had such high hopes for him. Instead of leading a monastic life, Osel Hita Torres now sports baggy trousers and long hair, and is more likely to quote Jimi Hendrix than Buddha. Yesterday he bemoaned the misery of a youth deprived of television, football and girls.'
It was a great story for the Guardian: the only problem was it did not reflect the facts. Late in June an article by Justin McElroy in the Canadian McLean's OnCampus magazine put the Guardian's journalism to shame; which, let's face it, is not difficult to do. Here is a key passage from the article:
Osel's position can't be explained in a soundbite. Parts of him have been pulled by the strands of destiny and reality, the past and modernity, for as long as he has lived. Yet another part of him is just another twenty-something, looking for a good job in a bad economy and figuring out what to do with his life. "I'm working on a masters degree in documentaries, afterwards maybe next year I'll do some course on cooking, become a cook, and then maybe I'll start doing something (with the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition), you know, but I'm taking it slow.
Osel himself explains more in an open letter on the FPMT website:
There is no separation between myself and FPMT - we are all working together in so many aspects and terrains. Humanity is our office. Besides, I don’t really qualify very much in Buddhist studies, because I didn’t finish them, so working together is the clue. So I’m trying to find a different way for this future generation. One of the ways is through music, movies and audio-visual techniques. (That is Osel in the header photo) In a movie you can condense so many different stories. You can put in music, you can put in different situations and messages. Even just the sunset can be enough to give you peace to find a moment of meditation in yourself. There are so many different millions of possibilities in movies.
So Osel Hitta Tores is neither lost nor found in meditation. Rather, like many far older than him, he is still searching. These closing words in my original post proved to be uncannily prescient:
We must respect the privacy of Osel Hita Torres 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.
Eight months later it looks as though that film may be made by the young reincarnated lama himself.

Philip Glass, who scored Kundun, Martin Scorcese's classic film about the Dalai Lama, talks about Buddhism here.
Photo credit Matteo Passigato via FPMT. 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

5 comments:

Pliable said...

Here is the May 2009 story in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo that started the media interest -

http://www.elmundo.es/elmundo/2009/05/30/espana/1243716606.html

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Thanks so much for this article. I've had the opportunity to meet some young tulkus (recognized reincarnations) and know that their situation, given the current state of Tibetan culture which is being so brutally repressed by the Chinese, is very difficult. Whether and how much they should "go modern", is a very tough set of choices. Your suggestion that their privacy be respected seems about the best we outsiders can do for them as individuals.

Lyle Sanford, RMT said...

Recently a friend sent me a video that this post reminded me of, so I did a post on my blog embedding it. The background of the music video seems to be showing a tulku in the rapidly vanishing traditional culture of Tibet.

http://registeredmusictherapist.blogspot.com/2009/08/tibet.html

Pliable said...

Email received:

Thanks very much indeed for this. I’m pleased to see your writings. Well done. Thanks for quoting me in one of them, and keep up the good work.

If you hear more news let me know.

It’s great there’s “no separation” between Oz and FPMT. That’s really what you call pure view!

Nevertheless, in the Lama Yeshe Tradition, I think I’m gradually leaning towards ‘Oselism’!

Metta

Sean

Kate said...

My humble, mostly uniformed, entirely independent,yet sincere view of the situation is this: Siddhartha spent much of his youth also searching. To recognize that one still has searching to do is respectable and understandable. Om Mani Padme Hum.

Thank you for posting your blog :)