14-Year-Old High School Freshman Prepares for Life as a Tibetan Buddhist Lama

Jalue Dorje, high school freshman in Minnesota, whom the Dalai Lama recognized as the latest reincarnation of a 17th-century Tibetan lama, seeks to become an apostle of peace. He will train in Buddhist practices in a monastery in Dharamsala, India.

 Tibetan Buddhist temple in Dharamsala, India (Photo by hrui, Shutterstock.com)
Tibetan Buddhist temple in Dharamsala, India (Photo by hrui, Shutterstock.com)

Jalue, 14, will study at Mindrolling Monastery in the Himalayan foothills of northern India after he graduates from high school in 2025. There, he will embrace a life very different from the one he currently leads in Minnesota, where he is an avid fan of football (the Atlanta Falcons), Pokémon games and rap music.

Jalue was four months old when Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, a highly respected master of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, identified him as the eighth reincarnation of Taksham Nüden Dorje, a guru born in 1655.

Several other Tibetan lamas subsequently confirmed Jalue to be a “tulku,” or bodhisattva—one who has vowed to help liberate other humans from “samsara,” the “wheel of suffering” rooted in the cycle of birth and rebirth. Out of compassion, such lamas resolve to delay their attainment of nirvana and continue to be reborn to achieve their avowed mission of saving others from suffering.

In 2010, when the Dalai Lama was visiting the United States, Jaule was 2. His parents took him to meet the Dalai Lama, recognized as the 14th reincarnation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshwara, who cut a strand of Jalue’s hair in a holy ceremony. He advised the boy’s parents to let him stay in America so that he might master the English language and send him to a monastery when he turned 10. He was officially enthroned as the reincarnation of Dorje in a ceremony in India in 2019.

Jalue’s parents decided he should stay in his hometown of Columbia Heights, a suburb of Minneapolis, until he finished high school. 

Now fluent in both English and Tibetan, Jalue gets straight A’s in school. “He’s naturally very open-minded and he’s also very genuinely interested in the world,” said Kate Thomas, one of Jalue’s tutors at the Bodhicitta Sangha Heart of Enlightenment Institute in Minneapolis in an interview with Luis Andres Henao published by Associated Press. “He knows he’s Tibetan. He also knows he’s American. But like the youth of today, he is a global citizen as well.”

Jalue has spent much of his childhood and teen years training to become a monk. Besides learning the Buddha’s teachings, Tibetan history and practicing calligraphy, he memorizes Buddhist scriptures.

“Seeing him growing up … is a lot of things to take in because he’s a Buddhist master, and at the same time he’s a normal person as well,” his uncle, Tashi Lama, remarked. “We get to see the two sides of it.”

After mastering such practices as spiritual contemplation and asceticism during his training as a Buddhist monk in India, Jalue hopes to return to the U.S. to spread the Buddha’s teachings. His goal is to become “a leader of peace,” he said, “like the Dalai Lama or Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.”

Asked if he misses just being a regular teenager, Jalue laughed. “Nothing like that crosses my mind—it’s always been religion first.” 


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