Saturday, April 07, 2007

This "Little Lama" Loves Being Nemo

Many believe he's the tulku of famous Tibetan monk.

In photo, Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche and Geshe Tenzin Zopa, photo by Miles Neale.

By Dawn Chia

Singapore; 06 April 2007, Electric New Paper -- Like many 4-year-olds, he loves cartoons, especially Finding Nemo. But unlike many 4-year-olds, he had more than 500 people turning up at Changi Airport to greet him.

Tenzin Phuntsok Rinpoche is no ordinary boy - he has been declared by the Dalai Lama in 2005 to be the reincarnation of the Geshe Lama Konchog, a Tibetan monk and accomplished teacher of Vajrayana Buddhism.

(Rinpoche - pronounced reen-poh-shay - means the precious one in Tibetan.)

Ordained a monk at 3, the cherubic Nepali boy is used to the attention. He arrived in Singapore on Tuesday to meet followers.

Geshe Tenzin Zopa, his uncle, told The New Paper: 'He liked the cartoon (Finding Nemo) so much that at one point, he would watch it every day for a month. He called himself Nemo, and would shout 'save Nemo' and cry when the fish was caught.'

Geshe Zopa added: 'He didn't expect so many people at the airport, and that shocked him. He must have felt trapped, like Nemo.

'We had to explain to him that the people were there to receive blessings. He understood and eventually carried out his duties as normal.'

Why, Why Why?

A sharp sense of curiosity and a desire to learn also keep his fellow lamas busy -- Rinpoche can ask more than 10 'why's' in one breath in order to get to the bottom of things.

And like other kids, Rinpoche, throws tantrums.

Geshe Zopa, 32, said: 'We had to coax him to board the plane from Nepal to come here because he had been on a flight before which experienced turbulence and he didn't like it. 'He said he'd only come here by bus or car, and we told him that we'd go by 'air-bus' and everything would be all right.'

His 11-day stay in Singapore is packed with visits to temples and places of interest like the zoo and Sentosa Underwater World.

After he returns to Nepal where he lives, Rinpoche will leave for a monastery in India for his 'geshe' studies (the equivalent of a PhD in Buddhist philosophy), which includes learning English, maths and science. The duration of study will be about 20 years.

Tired after visiting temples yesterday, Rinpoche was sleeping when he was driven back to a volunteer's house. But he didn't fuss when he was woken up by his uncle.

He held on to a lama's hands and walked down the stairs to meet the press and give his blessings to about 20 people present while seated on a chair.

With each person, he'd put on a different facial expression, touch his or her head and then break open chocolate coins for them. He smiled gamely at the cameras at times, and hid behind two big gold chocolate coins at others.

Madam Yap Hock Yann, 76, was there with her husband and family to receive blessings. She said in Hokkien: 'I'm fortunate to be here to be blessed by the little lama. It's a chance of a lifetime.'

Mrs Sharlyn Lim, 42, offered her new two-storey house to Rinpoche and the lamas. She ensured that the house was ready in time. She said: 'I wanted to prepare a comfortable place for them to stay while they were visiting. It's not important how much we spent on it -- it's a blessing to have them in our house.'