Tue, Jul 01, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Military service restricts lama from leaving the country

CNA , TAIPEI

A 20-year old Tibetan Rinpoche, or a recognized reincarnated Buddhist lama, cannot leave the country because of compulsory military service.

Puman Rinpoche said if given a choice, he would prefer not to perform his term of compulsory military service, as doing so would go against his religion and would seriously interrupt his Buddhist training and studies.

Puman, whose Chinese name is Luosang Jimei (羅桑吉美), said that as a Rinpoche, he is not supposed to lead a secular life, including doing such things as serving in the military, according to Tibetan Buddhist rules.

His parents, both Tibetans, fled Tibet after the Chinese communists took control in the early 1950s. They moved to India before emigrating to Taiwan several years later.

Puman was born in Tahsi township, Taoyuan County, in 1983. At the age of four, he was officially recognized as a reincarnated Mahayana Buddhist high lama, or a Rinpoche, by authorities from the Drikung school -- one of the schools of the Kagyu faction, one of the four largest factions of Tibetan Buddhism.

Puman was taken to India at the age of six to be trained as a Tibetan Buddhist lama, while his parents stayed in Taiwan.

He said that he did not return to Taiwan until 2000 when his father fell ill and requested to see him. He added that since his initial return, he has regularly returned to Taiwan for one month a year.

The question of whether religious considerations will exempt him from military service remains unanswered, as he has still not received any notice from military authorities.

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