4-year-old Seattle boy
pronounced holy leader

January 25, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EST (0445 GMT)

From Correspondent Rusty Dornin


SEATTLE, Washington (CNN) -- Nawang Kunga Tegchen Chakyl Nyima may be only 4 years old, but he is already a legend. He is on his way to a Nepal monastery this week, where he will be treated as a holy leader because Buddhists say that the Seattle boy is the reincarnation of a dearly beloved lama.


Before Lama Deschung Rinpochet died in 1987 he told his followers that he would be reincarnated in Seattle. Deschung Rinpochet was one of the highest lamas of Tibetan Buddhism's Sakya tradition and was forced into exile in 1959 by the Chinese. The lama eventually came to the United States, where he helped a higher lama establish a monastery in northern Seattle.

The boy's mother, Carolyn Lama, is also a Buddhist and a widowed daycare worker. Her last name, by marriage, is coincidental. She says that she had dreams that told her of Nawang's fate. "I knew for sure because the highest teachers we have; they also had dreams and signs in meditation," she says.

Buddhists believe that souls come back again and again until they reach complete enlightenment.

Lamas or teachers can choose when and where they will return.

'Little Buddha'

A film called the "Little Buddha" also featured a Seattle boy who was believed to be a reincarnated as a lama, but Buddhists and the film's producers say that there is no connection.

Carolyn Lama took her son two years ago to a Nepalese monastery, where he was recognized by the thousands of Buddhist monks.

"We gave a dedication and we put him on a high throne and many people came to receive blessings from the child. He ordained most of the monks in this last life, so they're very happy he's back to assume his role," says Lama Kunga Rinpochet.

Nawang, who will reside at the monastery for a decade or more, will study to be a spiritual teacher of his faith. Part of those studies will include learning ancient Tibetan scriptures and mediation, as well as playtime.


Playtime will be set aside for His Holiness at the monastery, his instructors say. "There are a lot of children at his age in the monastery so they will be carefully arranged around him," Lama Rinpochet says.

His mother will spend two months in Nepal and is free to return to visit. For Carolyn Lama, her son's destiny is larger than life. "To teach all beings so that he can benefit all beings by becoming a teacher," she says, is why she can so willingly surrender him to monks in the faraway land of Nepal.

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