Tibet and reincarnation

By Paulo Coelho

Upon being asked by the journalist Mick Brown, whether he was a reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lamas, the present Dalai Lama answered:

– This is a very complicated matter. Some people are reincarnated, others are merely symbols of the being they ceased to incarnate. Through my previous lives I believe I have strong ties with my people, and all my spiritual work manifests itself in that which I can do to bring back freedom to my country.

In other words: the Dalai Lama doesn’t answer ” yes” or ” no”. However, according to Tibetan Buddhist teachings, our subtle conscience – which exists in all human beings, but which is normally dormant – lives on after death. All the actions, gestures and intentions of the life which has just ended, are stored in this subtle conscience; and all this, after remaining in empty space for a time, ends up finding its physical form once again, in a new body.

The Tibetan people store in this subtle conscience (a variation of that which we know as soul) a cycle of behavior which will help in the next life. The more often one repeats the task, the stronger the mark it leaves behind will be – thus, religious rituals are almost daily.

Mick Brown says that our culture does not accept the idea that a subtle conscience can remain dematerialized in order to then manifest itself once again. However, Peter Kedge believes that the natural talents we see in certain children – such as a gift for music, or mathematics – are the results of a conscience which has lived before, and now manifests itself once again.

In Tibet, this conscience is not only deliberately developed, but when a master dies, he seeks to leave clues so that his next body can quickly be recognized.

One of the better-known recent cases is that of the Spanish boy, Osel, who is now 11 years old and lives in northern India. In 1935 the Lama Yeshe was born, who spent his life studying Tibetan mysticism, was exiled during the Chinese invasion and ended his days in California. On the day of his death, he called his favorite disciple and said that this time he would be reincarnated in the West. Some years passed, and the disciple dreamed about Yeshe, asking him to go and seek him.

Which is what he did: visiting the various monasteries founded by his master, he ended up in the town of Bubion, in southern Spain, where he found a boy who had been born on the exact day of his dream. He showed the boy a series of bells and counting beads; the boy, who was then 2, selected the very one which had belonged to the Lama Yeshe – and was proclaimed his reincarnation, and taken to a monastery in order to be educated according to Tibetan rituals.

The predecessor of the present Dalai Lama indicated where he would be reborn. Three or four years after his death, monks went to a village in eastern Tibet, and found a child who fitted the description. This child – the present Dalai Lama – was taken to the Potala palace, in Lhasa. As soon as he arrived, he began walking around the palace very naturally, and at a certain moment saw a box.

– My teeth are in there – he said.

And in fact, the box did indeed contain his predecessor’s false teeth.

There is a reason for the vague answer given by the Dalai Lama to journalist Mick Brown: all great Tibetan masters always leave similar clues to the above example, but it is impossible to verify or authenticate them outside their cultural context. This has resulted in a series of false masters popping up here and there around the planet, claiming to belong to a lineage of truly wise men, but whose single goal was to gather a group of disciples to contribute financially to their well-being.

The Dalai Lama’s brother, Tenzin Choegyal, says:

“As a Tibetan, I believe in the reincarnation of man. But the West only seems interested in the exotic side to our customs – the oracles, rituals and ceremonies. None of that has any importance: the highest ideal, the miracle of Buddhism, is to allow any human being with an empty heart to become a person filled with love and compassion.”

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