I saw your film this year in your company at the Boulder Theater. I enjoyed it very much. The reason I went is that, 20 years ago or so, one of my Teachers (not
your father) said that my son was a tulku. At the time, we were told to keep him squeaky clean, no crawling on the floor, no playing with his friends on the block, no skiing, certainly no ice hockey, lots and lots of praying (in Tibetan). We were never told who that Teacher thought he had been. In any case, all the strictures were a deal-breaker both for my son personally and for my wife and I as a family. Eventually, we left that sangha and that Teacher in large part (at least for me) because of the way They were trying to force my son's life to be a certain way. It was also causing a real problem in our marriage. Up until that time, our Dharma center was in our home, with a group practice session seven night a week. So my son had very much grown up with all the trappings and practices of Tibetan Buddhism. After we left that Teacher, the center moved out of our home. I continued practicing Tibetan Buddhism with other Teachers; my wife and son did not. So, from 9-10 years old, my son grew up with a very "normal" American lifestyle. (My wife did eventually come back to the practice.)
Over the years, I would sometimes try to have a conversation with my son about the subject of his being a tulku. He never had much interest in these discussions, although he never rejected the idea. A few years ago, I asked Lama Dawa Chodrak to do a mirror divination. A) Was my son a tulku or not, B) if so, a tulku of whom, C) who is his karmically destined Guru in this life, and D) what, if anything, should I do about any of this? Answers: A) Yes, he is a tulku. B) Lama Dawa gave his previous life's name and location. He was a "new" Bonpo abbot from Nangchen, a student of Khyungtrul Rinpoche. When I checked out the history, such a Bonpo abbot did exist and his date of death was quite reasonable given my son's birthday -- although, I gotta say, the idea that he had been a Bonpo threw me personally a curve. C) His karmically destined Guru has/had Yungdrung as his middle name; and D), Lama Dawa said to try to help my son reconnect with the Bonpo lineage. When I ran all this by my son, he said that, even if this was all true, which he in no way denied or dismissed, that was then and this was now, that he has this life to live, not some previous life that was over and done.
So what, you might ask, has my son been doing with himself (he'll be 30 next month)? For the last several years he's been teaching English in various parts of Asia. Most recently, he's been a volunteer at a Cambodian NGO in Phnom Penh working with inner city, poverty-stricken kids -- the children of prostitutes, people with AIDS, junkies, alcoholics, and gang members. For me, this is evidence that he has compassion and a good heart. (Even as a very young child, he would never be cruel to an animal, insect, or another person, nor was he interested in guns, war, hunting, or fishing like many little boys are.) Do I wish he would practice the Dharma formally. I gotta say a part of me says yes. However, when I really think about it, in many ways, my son's practice of the Dharma is more real than my own (at four thun per day). On the other hand, I also get the feeling that he has yet to "find himself," that there's a part of him that's still not sure what he wants to do with his life. This seems to be one of the common denominators of the American tulkus in your film.
In any case, I hope you find this story interesting. Keep up the good work.