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Follow the Yellow Brick Road (to meet an eight year old monk?)!
June 14, 2000

Hey kids, I want to introduce you to a cool person I met.

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The name of this smiling young man is Pierre. His Tibetan name is Thupden. He was born in France. He is eight years old, and he speaks French, English, Bhutanese, Tibetan, Nepali, and a little Hindi. He is a happy, energetic little fellow who likes video games, ice cream, bicycling, and swimming. One of the things that make him unique is that he decided at a young age that he wanted to be a monk. So how did that happen?

When Pierre (who was not yet Thupden) was very young, he and his mother went to India, where they hoped to adopt a child. They met Thupden (another Thupden), whom they adopted. This Thupden was already a monk living in the monastery (It is common for orphans to join a monastery). Pierre decided that he too wanted to be a monk; his mother wanted him to go to school in France.

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larger view
Pierre and his mother, Alison, were both stubborn in what they wanted, and finally they went to a high lama (spiritual teacher) to get advice. He had determined that Pierre had been a lama in a previous life. The high lama told his mother that she should not interfere with Pierre's determination to become a lama, but that he should not neglect his Western education either. Therefore, he should spend half the year in France, and half the year in the monastery in northern India. And that is what he has done ever since.

When Thupden and Thupden are at the monastery, they sleep in a dormitory room with other monks, get up early in the morning to study, have breakfast of butter tea and tsampa (Tibetan porridge), and then study some more. But the weekends are free, at least for the young monks, so the Thupdens have plenty of time to play and have fun. The other half of the year, Thupden goes to school in France, where he keeps his other lifestyle private. He does not wear his robes, and the other kids don't know about Thupden's -- I mean Pierre's -- other life.


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