recess radio program

The Dalai Lama
    by John Cech

Few cultures have depended so fervently and completely on the discovery of a miracle child as that of traditional Tibet, before the Chinese conquest. The fourteenth Dalai Lama, whose birthday it is today, is one of a long line of those remarkable children that stretches back to Prince Siddhartha, the historical Buddha, who was born in 563 B.C.E. in Zambudippa, the land of the roseapple tree. These children are so remarkable, in large part, because they are reincarnations of holy individuals. Because, in essence, they are Old Souls, who cary the awareness of their previous lives into this one.

There was an elaborate, painstaking quest that took place in Tibet after the death of a Dalai Lama in order to discover the next Dalai Lama, who was often the reincarnation of the previous spiritual leader. Such was the case following the death in 1933 of the 13th Dalai Lama. After consulting various state oracles, and after months of public prayer and ritual, and after the Lama Regent held his vigil over the sacred lake whose name means "The Goddess' Soul," they were able to locate from the signs the Lama Regent received in his visions a house with a blue roof in Eastern Tibet. A group of Lamas went there in disguise and were taken in by the family that lived there, the customary show of hospitality for travelling monks and pilgrims. Within the small house they met an amazing two-year old boy who seemed to know them already, knew where they had come from and, in fact, knew one of them by name. They secretly passed word of their astonishing findings to the capital in Lhasa, and then came the real test. The boy was given three pairs of objects -- two strings of nondescript black prayer beads, two walking sticks, and two small drums. In each pair, one of the objects had been owned by the previous Dalai Lama, and the other was a replica. Without hesitation, the boy chose the beads, the stick, and the drum that had belonged to the 13th Dalai Lama -- he wasn't taken in by the imitation drum that had a shiny gold band and a colorful tassel. He took possession of these objects like they had always been his, and he played his drum for the visitors with intense dignity, gazing deeply at each them with such profound sureness, that they knew immediately . . . he was . . . the one.

The Dalai Lama's remarkable story has inspired films and books, and what approaches mytholgoical awe. And this feeling is underscored when you see the current Dalai Lama, in one of the many interviews or documentaries that have been made about him. One can't help but feel that behind and animating the compelling human message of this many of spirit is the playful, serene soul of the chosen child he once was, and many would say he still is.

Copyright 2005 John Cech

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Monday, 02-May-2005 10:11:58 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."