It was slightly past midnight when everyone in the Ladrang was urgently summoned to the conference room. Before we knew it, we were told that His Eminence Tsem Rinpoche was about to give refuge vows and an oral transmission to the Belgian boy named Kilhan. The little boy, whose name means ‘little lion’ in Celtic, is the son of Thierry Janssen and Andrew Boon’s friend. The whole ceremony would take place via teleconferencing.
It was sudden but yet not totally surprising turn of events. Earlier during the day, Rinpoche had been forwarding MMS updates and pictures of this boy, sent by Andrew and Thierry who are currently visiting their friends in Belgium. According to the updates, Kilhan had been talking incessantly about visiting the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala ever since he was 9 years old. Now that he had just turned 12, he was about to get his chance.
Thierry related that it is a tradition in Kilhan’s family for his grandmother to take each of her grandchildren on a trip anywhere in the world when they turn 12. Of all of the places in the world Kilhan could visit, he had chosen to visit His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala. With this in mind, Kilhan wrote to His Holiness’ office, requesting for an audience but was very disappointed when he learnt that the Dalai Lama would not be in Dharamsala during the time of his visit. He was apparently so depressed that he said he did not want to go anywhere anymore. His family found it strange that Kilhan had (and still has!) such an obsession to meet the Dalai Lama and could not understand why.
And so we found ourselves in the Ladrang conference room, making the call to Thierry and Andrew. With Thierry acting as a translator for Kilhan, who can speak and understand a smattering of English, Rinpoche began to ask Kilhan a series of questions whilst simultaneously doing divinations.
Rinpoche asked Kilhan if he sometimes dreamt of doing meditation with other people like monks or spiritual people who wore robes, in a place other than Belgium. Rinpoche also asked if Kilhan saw himself travelling or moving in the mountains – Kilhan answered ‘yes’ to both questions. Rinpoche then asked if the mountains Kilhan saw in his dreams had snow or caves, or if the area was barren and with white buildings. Kilhan replied that it had snow, and there were no buildings.
Next, Rinpoche asked if, in his dreams, Kilhan could see caves or a clearing in the mountains where he can sit inside and feel safe. Kilhan said yes and Rinpoche asked if there was an older person wearing robes inside that he talked to. Kilhan said that there was an older person, and that he wore oriental monk robes. Kilhan also replied in the affirmative when Rinpoche asked if this man had oriental features, and if Kilhan felt comfortable with him.
Rinpoche probed further, asking Kilhan whether this man wore a hat and if so, what the colour of the hat was. Kilhan said he did wear a hat, and that the hat was orange – Rinpoche asked for clarification on whether the hat was orange, or orange bordering gold, to which Kilhan said it was light orange. Rinpoche said that the answer was correct, and asked Kilhan to describe the shape of the hat. Through Thierry’s translation, Kilhan replied that the hat had a tip but not a pointed tip, and that it went up in a roundish fashion. Happy to hear Kilhan’s answers, Rinpoche then asked Kilhan to describe what he was doing in the cave and what was going on. Kilhan said he saw other children like him.
Having learnt from Thierry that Kilhan also had other dreams which scared him, Rinpoche proceeded to ask him about those. Rinpoche asked what type of dreams they were, and if Kilhan saw dark figures coming to him. Kilhan said that there were, so Rinpoche asked about their colour, to which Kilhan replied that they were black. When asked if the figure was male or female, Kilhan said that the figure was male and in fact, there was more than one of them. So Rinpoche asked if they had two arms or many arms – Kilhan replied that there were two arms before Rinpoche asked if they had animal faces. Kilhan said some of them did have animal faces but said no when Rinpoche asked if it was a buffalo or cow face. Rinpoche continued to ask if the animal face had a long nose, whether or not he recognise the animal – Kilhan said no, he did not think the animal figures had a long nose.
Satisfied with Kilhan’s answers so far, Rinpoche asked what these figures were doing when they appeared to him. He said they were talking amongst themselves, but he did not know what they were talking about. Rinpoche asked if Kilhan could feel what they were saying, and if he felt like they were talking about him – Kilhan said no, he did not know what they were talking about. Sensing that Kilhan was having trouble expressing himself, Rinpoche told Kilhan not to worry, that there was no reason to be afraid. Rinpoche also reassured Kilhan, saying that there were no right or wrong answers, that this call was not a test.
Rinpoche then asked Kilhan how he felt when the figures appeared to him in his dreams. He said he was very afraid, at which point Rinpoche asked him not to be afraid as none of those beings would harm him or his family. Rinpoche told him that they are not bad, that in fact those figures were Kilhan’s Dharma protectors! We later learnt that at this juncture, Kilhan’s mother looked like she was about to burst into tears, so relieved was she to hear that her son would not be harmed.
Rinpoche then told Kilhan that he is a very special little boy, and that these dreams will begin to fade and go away as he grows older. Rinpoche also told him that the place that he dreamed about is real and still exists. With Thierry’s assistance in translating, Rinpoche then asked Kilhan to listen very carefully to his instructions. Rinpoche told Kilhan:
- Never to lie
- Never to steal
- Never to take intoxicants
- That it would be very important for him to respect and listen to his parents, to help them and be cooperative with them
- That he must finish school and do very well
- That everyday, after he has finished his homework, to do a prayer to a very special being that he will feel familiar with. Rinpoche said he would recommend that he does the mantra of this very special being which Rinpoche will make known to him shortly.
Rinpoche then gave Kilhan the refuge vows and oral transmission of the short mantra of Lama Tsongkhapa…OM AH RA PA TSA NA DHI! After the ceremony was over, Rinpoche also gave him the Dharma name Tenzin Jamyang meaning “Manjushri holding the Dharma”.
He advised Kilhan to recite one to two malas of Manjushri’s mantra everyday after completing his homework, and explained to Kilhan that taking refuge meant he would be protected. Rinpoche also told Kilhan that after receiving refuge, Kilhan would now begin to sleep better and deeper. The oral transmission was to give him the permission to recite the mantra from then on. Rinpoche predicted that if he recites this mantra, it will open up his memory and potential.
Rinpoche told Kilhan that special boys like him always benefit, help and are very kind to other people. Therefore, because he is a special boy, if he wished for Manjushri’s mantra to have effect and power, he must always respect and listen to his parents. He said that Kilhan should never hurt them or talk back to them. If he followed Rinpoche’s instructions, then he would feel very happy when reciting the mantra and it would have a lot of blessings for him.
When he goes to Dharamsala, Rinpoche also advised Kilhan to visit holy monasteries, and do prostrations and circumambulations. Kilhan innocently asked Rinpoche if he could see Rinpoche when he was in Dharamsala – Rinpoche said that they will meet one day in the future. He then told Kilhan about his own experiences as a 12 year old living in America who, like Kilhan himself, was dying to see the Dalai Lama, dying to see Buddha pictures and dying to recite mantras. However, unlike Kilhan, Rinpoche did not have anyone who could show him and had to find this information himself.
Rinpoche advised Kilhan to keep Lama Tsongkhapa very close to him all the time and follow all of Rinpoche’s instructions. If he did that, he would grow up to be someone very special who can bring a lot of happiness to others.
It was an incredibly special evening for all of us who had just witnessed proof of reincarnation in Kilhan, a Belgian boy who knows nothing about Tibetan Buddhism, but is totally attracted to the Dalai Lama. His Holiness is all that he talks about all the time, and he is very attracted to Buddha images. Coming from a Belgian background where there are few traces of Buddhism to be seen, Kilhan’s attraction to His Holiness is definitely not a cultural imprint. An attraction that strong can only be the result of imprints from his past lives.
If this boy is taken care of and nurtured, Rinpoche said he will manifest more and more of who he is as he grows older. In fact, Kilhan is already showing signs of it now – Rinpoche explained that dreams like the ones Kilhan has had usually begin to fade when the child is around five or six years old so the fact Kilhan is still having dreams is a very good sign. However, if Kilhan’s spiritual development is not nurtured, he could grow up to become very naughty. With this in mind, and with his parents’ permission, Rinpoche instructed Thierry to keep in contact with the boy, and be his pen pal, uncle and friend who guides him.
Rinpoche explained that what we had witnessed was just like the ancient tradition of recognising Rinpoches or tulkus in the monasteries. And what’s more, the bizarre circumstances of experiencing it from the modern air-conditioned setting of Ladrang conference room did not do anything to diminish the validity of the event…