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Buddhadharma : Fall 2008
37 fall 2 00 8 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly pauses thoughtfully, “Of course, my view of His Holiness is completely prejudiced.” But it’s not all peace and harmony between the two broth- ers. Every once in a while, they’ll have some words with each other; most of the time, it’s the Dalai Lama chastising Cho- egyal for little things. “Sometimes, when he says something I don’t agree with, His Holiness says, ‘Oh, look at your face! You’re already making a face!’ ” I ask Choegyal what the two call each other. “I call him Your Presence,” he says. “And he calls me”—he puts on a fake scolding voice—“Tendzin Choegyal!” He picks up his pack of Benson and Hedges. “I started smoking when I was nineteen as a gesture of rebellion, and now I’m stuck with it,” he says. “His Holiness used to get mad at me for smok- ing. Then one day, I said to him, ‘You don’t know it, but I still smoke. I love you, but this is something I find extremely difficult to give up.’ ” The Dalai Lama never mentioned Choegyal’s habit again. The Dalai Lama lets out a low, steady laugh. We are sitting in a greeting room at the top of the hill at the Tibetan Children’s Village, where a ceremony is being held to honor Jetsun Pema, who is retiring after serving forty-two years as the head of the institution. Outside, children in blue school uniforms mill around a multicolored tent decorated with prayer flags, which is shielding the little dancers in traditional garb from the musty heat. The grandstand at the main playing field is filled with Tibetans who are gathering on this Sunday afternoon to enjoy the folk music that streams in from the open windows. “My brother...,” the Dalai Lama says, an amused look on his face. He then does something he rarely does in public: he rewinds his memory back to the day he was born, and talks about each of his siblings with adoration. “My oldest brother is now very sick in America,” he starts. “My second brother is mostly in Hong Kong; our relation- ship has a little bit of distance. Then his father”—he gestures toward his translator, also his nephew, sitting on his right— “we were very, very close. When he passed away, I felt very sad. When I was born, my eldest sister actually opened one of my eyes. And then I had diarrhea on her lap.” The room explodes with laughter. “My mother was a very dignified, warmhearted person. She was very, very gentle—none of my brothers and sisters ever experienced her temper. My father, on the other hand, was quick to lose his.” “What about your youngest brother?” I ask. The Dalai Lama holds up a finger, gently laughing at my impatience. And then he continues. “My youngest sister [Jetsun Pema] and brother [Choegyal] and I, we are very close. As soon as we get together, it’s just all sorts of nonsense and jokes and teasing and pranks. We’re very, very close; when we’re together, it’s like we’re at the top of the world. I think we’re quite similar, too. Straightforward, openhearted. My younger brother has quite a sharp mind.” The air around the Dalai Lama has changed. A new layer of affection coats his usual aura of universal compassion. The smile on his face right now, I realize, is one he reserves for his family. During his eight-year tenure as the Dalai Lama’s private secretary, Choegyal found himself experiencing extreme emotional highs and lows, and it was getting in the way of his work. Finally, feeling the need for serious treatment, he resigned from the post and sought help from the best doctors in the area. It was the beginning of a lifelong dependency on lithium, and the end of his affair with alcohol. “Not everyone knows that bipolar is treatable,” he says. “But with treat- ment, you can definitely have a certain level of normalcy.” arChivesofThenorbuLingkainsTiTuTe,siDhpur,inDia