His high-pitched voice echoes inside the Columbia Heights bedroom that his father has transformed into a lavish prayer room. In here, the 4-year-old forsakes his cartoons and toys to study scripture and learn to pray the Buddhist way. Big for his age, he looks bigger still perched on an ornate chair draped in crimson and saffron robes.
According to the highest authorities of the Tibetan Buddhist order, he is the reincarnation of the speech, mind and body of a lama , or spiritual guru, who died in Switzerland six years ago. Jalue is said to be the eighth appearance of the original lama, born in His discovery in is considered an honor and a blessing for his working-class parents. But it comes with a hefty price. Jalue pronounced JAH-loo is their only child -- their everything.
This week, he turns 5, a critical marker on his predestined path. In just five more years, he will leave the familiarity of his parents' home in Minnesota to live and study in a monastery in India. Jalue is believed to be one of a very few American tulkus -- or reincarnated lamas -- and the first one born in Minnesota, which has the second-largest Tibetan population in the country. Still, the finding comes amid some controversy over the way tulkus are being identified, as some Tibetan scholars question why their number has been increasing -- to thousands worldwide.
But Jalue's parents are faithful believers, and they look past any doubters to the work they must do to prepare their son for his destiny. The thought of letting Jalue go pains his mother, but she consoles herself that when the time comes, she will probably be accustomed to the idea.
From the time a new life first began to stir inside her in , Dechen Wangmo said she sensed there was something special about this child.
He was peaceful inside her body. She carried him with ease. She never felt sick, not even in the mornings. One night, an elephant appeared with several little ones around it, she said. They merged into the small prayer room in the family home. Once inside, they vanished. Tsegyal, too, remembers having vivid, symbolic dreams at the time. In one, he said, he saw many lamas surrounded by tall sunflowers. So when a highly respected lama from India came to visit the Twin Cities Tibetan community, Tsegyal told him about the dreams. That night, the lama had magical dreams of his own, according to Tsegyal, pronounced Say-jull.
The lama told him he saw huge tigers, one in each room of the family home. Robust tigers are a good omen and a sign of strength and protection, according to Tibetan Buddhist custom. Before Jalue was born, the family asked the lama to perform a practice known as "divination," which is used by lamas in Tibetan Buddhism to advise people on important matters.
Different lamas use their own divination methods, including ones using a rosary or dice to interpret events.
This lama performed a divination using two arrows and prayer, Tsegyal recalled. Weeks later, a letter arrived at the Columbia Heights home. In it, the visiting lama wrote that he was sure the child was the reincarnation of a Buddhist spiritual master, Tsegyal recalled.
Which spiritual master, the lama did not know. Determined to find out, Tsegyal wrote to His Holiness Trulshik Shatrul Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, the oldest of the four schools. Rinpoche performed another divination, also using the arrows. Soon another letter arrived at the family doorstep. Besides, he was their one and only child. She could not bear the thought of sending her precious son off to a monastery far from her in just a few short years.
But there could be consequences, Tsegyal gently persisted. Tibetan Buddhists believe that interfering with a person's destiny may cut their life short. When another lama from India came to town, Tsegyal brought his newborn son for a blessing, but kept quiet about the recognition. At Tsegyal's request, the lama performed a third divination ritual. Like the others, he quickly concluded the child was indeed a tulku.
He told Tsegyal to alert the three highest lamas, and this led to more letters confirming Jalue as a reincarnated lama. On Jan. Buddhist monks must keep their hair no more than 2 inches long, a custom stemming from a story about Buddha snapping his fingers and instantly removing all the monks' hair, mustaches and beards. His parents timed his first haircut to the Dalai Lama's visit to the Tibetan community in Madison, Wis.
The family traveled to Madison and the Dalai Lama did the honors, cutting a lock of the boy's hair. Tsegyal keeps that strand of hair preserved inside a blue, folded paper at home. Tsegyal had one more question for the Dalai Lama: How should he raise Jalue to ensure he will become a great lama? The Dalai Lama told him to keep the boy in the United States until he reaches the age of 10 so he can go to school here and learn good English. When he turns 10, he should be sent to a monastery in India, where he can learn as much as he can before he is full-grown.
Jalue's father says he realizes that he is raising a lama for the 21st century. A tech-savvy spiritual leader who can easily communicate with people in the West and East.
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Yet someone also fully versed in the wisdom and practices of Tibetan Buddhism and able to teach those concepts to others. On a crisp fall morning, Jalue looks the part of a boy in two worlds. He practices reading Tibetan words, sitting on his lama chair at home. He is wearing a yellow "Highland Hawks" T-shirt and red flannel pajama bottoms, his favorite colors, and the ones that lamas wear exclusively. Tsegyal sits next to his son. He's learning the basics -- how to say the morning and afternoon prayers and how to read the scriptures.
In due time, his father says, he will also learn the meaning of those scriptures. The important words. Once he will grow up his age, he will start to understand. There is so much more Tsegyal must teach his son before they part.
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How to wear the monk robes properly. How to walk and how to sit. At times, Tsegyal feels overwhelmed by his duty. Mother and father still struggle to find the right balance for shaping a holy man while parenting a 4-year-old. Once Tsegyal became stern while trying to get Jalue to recite a line in the scripture. The boy's face became serious, Tsegyal said, and he spoke in a commanding tone. You don't have to do that. When I am grown up, I will know it.
His mother remembers the day when Jalue took issue with her discipline.
Otherwise, I'll be shamed. At home, he sucks down his favorite beef soup and rice dish. He runs around the house in his Power Ranger mask, makes action figures soar off the kitchen table, builds a garage out of Legos for his toy cars. He giggles while watching "Mr. Bean" videos or play-wrestling with his dad. He carries his eagerness to learn to preschool. He often sits near the front of the class, and when his teacher, Kathy Anderson, asks a question, he stretches his hand as high as he can, waving frantically.
Jalue stands a full head taller than his classmates. A gentle giant, he grins at a blond-haired boy named Ryan and punches him playfully on the arm. At preschool he's just one of the kids, but at the local Tibetan center, Jalue is viewed with great respect and awe. This is a mockup of the book you like. Take a look and then personalize below. Ages: 0 - 12 years No. Binding: Hard Format: 12 in.
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