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Osel Hita Torres

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Osel young.jpg

Osel Hita Torres (born 12 February 1985 in Bubion, Granada) is a Tibetan Buddhist tulku and aspiring cinematographer from Spain.

Hita was designated soon after his birth as the reincarnation of Lama Thubten Yeshe—making him one of only a handful of Western tulkus—and renamed Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche. For many years "Lama Ösel" was expected to succeed to leadership of the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition (FPMT), the organization co-founded by Yeshe. As a university student, however, "Oz" (as he is now known) gradually distanced himself from the FPMT, and in 2009 made media statements clarifying his intention to pursue a life independent of that organization.


Hita's parents, María Torres and Francisco Hita, had been students of Lama Yeshe, and the suggestion was raised soon after his birth that Hita might be Yeshe's tulku (reincarnation). Fourteen months later, after certain traditional tests, the Dalai Lama formally recognized him as such. As a child "Lama Ösel" was heavily promoted by the FPMT, and made the subject of a book by Vicki Mackenzie, Reincarnation: The Boy Lama (Wisdom Publications, 1996).

As a youth Hita studied traditional Tibetan subjects at Sera Monastery in southern India, and simultaneously received private tutoring in Western subjects. He later attended St. Michaels University School, a private high school in Victoria, British Columbia. The question of his Tibetan education, and involvement with the FPMT, was one of the issues surrounding his parents' divorce.

At some point Hita gave up his monastic robes and has distanced himself from the FPMT in favor of a more avant-garde lifestyle, for example performing at the 2007 Burning Man festival. In 2008 he graduated from the University of Madrid[disambiguation needed] with a three-year BA degree in cinematography.

Osel Hita Torres is the fifth of six siblings: Yeshe, Harmonia, Lobstang, and Dolma (all older); and (younger brother) Kunkyen.

2009 Controversy

After attaining his majority, formulaic greetings regularly appeared in FPMT publications. In May 2009, Hita gave an interview for Babylon Magazine, a bilingual (Spanish/English) Madrid periodical. In it he expressed belief in reincarnation, and admiration for Lama Zopa and the Dalai Lamae complaining of discomfort with his exile Tibetan environs:

"I returned to Spain because I had arrived at a point where I no longer fitted within that life. I couldn't find myself, because for me it was a lie being there living something that was imposed from outside."
Tenzin Ösel Rinpoche2.jpg

Having left Sera monastery at eighteen, without going on for the geshe degree, he felt unqualified to teach, as the FPMT expected of him: "The literal translation of lama is teacher, and I'm no teacher."

Similar, but more pointed, remarks soon appeared in the Spanish newspaper El Mundo:

"Con 14 meses ya me habían reconocido y llevado a la India. Me vistieron con un gorro amarillo, me sentaron en un trono, la gente me veneraba... Me sacaron de mi familia y me metieron en una situación medieval en la que he sufrido muchísimo. Era como vivir en una mentira."
["At 14 months I was recognized and taken to India. They dressed me in a yellow hat, they sat me on a throne, people worshipped me ... They took me away from my family and put me in a medieval situation in which I suffered a lot. It was like living a lie."]

Extracts appeared the following day in The Guardian (UK). Wisdom Publications (the FPMT publisher) then reported on the controversy on its blog under the title "Tempest in a Teapot," claiming that Hita's original comments had been misrepresented and taken out of context. According to Wisdom, the article from El Mundo had been based on the one for Babylon Magazine.

On June 3, a message from Hita appeared on the FPMT website, saying that despite the difficulties alluded to above, he was "privileged" to have received an education rooted in both Eastern and Western cultures.

"That experience was really good and I so appreciate it. However, certain media find ways to sensationalize and exaggerate an unusual story. So I hope that what appears in news print is not read and taken too literally. Don't believe everything that is written! Experience shows that however hard one tries in interviews to sincerely and honestly convey key information, the printed result can tend towards sensationalism to get the most attention. FPMT is doing a great job and Lama Zopa is an immensely special person - very inspiring and a great yogi. [...] There is no separation between myself and FPMT..."

Hita reiterated his plans to pursue a career in cinematography.

The Reluctant Lama

A documentary about Hita's life, called The Reluctant Lama, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 28th September 2012. The documentary was produced by Beth O'Dea and presented by Jolyon Jenkins.


Wikipedia:Osel Hita Torres