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Unconventional spirituality

By Liu Wei (China Daily)

09:25, August 29, 2012

Tenzin Dorje, 30, a reincarnated Living Buddha at Yangri Gar Monastery in Lhasa, is called a "modern Living Buddha" for his unconventional behavior and lifestyle. (Provided to China Daily)

Tenzin Dorje has been called a 'modern Living Buddha'. Liu Wei interviews him in Lhasa and finds out more.

Tenzin Dorje's iPad skin is red, the same color as his chougu or traditional Buddhist garb. His tablet contains Buddhist music, hip-hop and other English-language songs.

Dorje is better known in Lhasa as the Sixth Balok Rinpoche. Rinpoche is the title given to a tulku - a reincarnated "Living Buddha". For someone spiritual, the topics he touches on during the interview appear rather secular.

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"I am a Libra, what is your star sign?" says the young man who will celebrate his 30th birthday in mid-September. He went on to talk about his favorite football star, who is Ronaldo de Assis Moreira, emphasizing that he is not the same as "the pretty-face Cristiano Ronaldo".

Also unlike the general perception of a "Living Buddha", he posted photos of himself wearing a pair of chic sunglasses on his micro blog, attracting comments from his 5,000 followers.

His unconventional behavior has resulted in some media calling him a "modern Living Buddha", which he feels is an awkward title.

Dorje does not remember very clearly how he was recognized as a Rinpoche. He recalls, however, that when he was about 8, many old lamas came to his home and talked to his father, also a Rinpoche who resumed secular life during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). Soon after, he was recognized as a "Living Buddha".

Indeed, not everyone understands his lifestyle. He says sometimes when he walks into cinemas or restaurants, he is greeted by unfriendly faces.

"How can you be here? How can a lama use an iPhone?" These are some of the questions he faces.

"But the thing is, I can input Tibetan language easily onto my iPhone," he says.

Many lamas in Lhasa use iPhones for the same reason, he adds, and they make good use of the various apps to better practice Buddhism.

Dorje says he has also built an online community on learning Mandarin. One of his fellow monks built another online community with a social instant messaging app called weixin, in which 20 lamas from different monasteries can debate sutras at the same time.

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