In many ways, Jalue Dorje is a typical American teenager. He grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, enjoying soccer, Pokémon and rap music. Yet in a few years, he hopes to say goodbye to his family and his homeland and join a monastery at the foot of the Himalayas. From an early age, he was recognized by the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders as a reincarnated Lama. Since this recognition, he has spent much of his life training to be a monk, memorizing sacred scriptures (often rewarded by his father with Pokémon cards), practicing calligraphy, and learning the teachings of Buddha.
He is now 14 and entering his first year of high school. After graduating in 2025, he will travel to northern India to join Mindrolling Monastery, more than 11,500 km from his home in Columbia Heights. After a period of contemplation and asceticism, he hopes to return to America to teach in the Buddhist community of Minnesota. His goal? “To become a leader of peace,” he told The Associated Press. “Like the Dalai Lama or Gandhi or Nelson Mandela.”
The process of identifying a llama is based on spiritual signs and visions. Jalue was around four months old when he was identified by Kyabje Trulshik Rinpoche, a revered master of Tibetan Buddhism who was the head of the Nyingma lineage. He was later confirmed by several other lamas as the eighth Terchen Taksham Rinpoche, the first of whom was born as Taksham Nüden Dorje in 1655. After the Dalai Lama also recognized him at the age of two as the A reincarnation of the guru, Jalue’s parents took him to meet the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism during his visit to Wisconsin in 2010. The Dalai Lama cut a lock of Jalue’s hair in a ceremony. He also advised parents to let their son stay in the United States so that he could improve his English. Jalue is fluent in English and Tibetan and graduates often like in class. Although he was officially inducted in a ceremony in India in 2019, he still lives in Columbia Heights, where his parents decided he would stay until he graduated. In Jalue’s bedroom, a photo of the Dalai Lama rests above the DVD collections of The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park, next to the volumes of Buddha—A series of graphic novels by Osamu Tezuka, a master of Japanese manga. Would it be easier if he was just an ordinary teenager? “Nothing like that occurs to me,” he laughs. He knows he’s Tibetan. He also knows he’s American. But like the young people of today, he is also a citizen of the world.