Most 19-year-old men dream of a pretty girlfriend, a happy life or a good job. He is different.
Born shouldering a sacred mission as one of the two most senior living Buddhas in Tibet, the 11th Panchen Lama has a big dream.
"My dream is, the world is peaceful, our motherland is stable, people live in harmony, Buddhism is prosperous," said the elegant young man, neatly clad in saffron monk robe and wearing a string of prayer beads at his left wrist.
"This is what I will pursue in my whole life. I will devote everything for it."
For this dream, he has to work really hard.
In a half-hour exclusive interview with Xinhua, the 11th Panchen Lama revealed his daily life.
"From 8:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., it is my school time every day, not including the time for meditation. A schedule like this has lasted more than ten years," he said.
About 80 percent of his school time goes to learning Buddhism sutras. Also, he has language classes in Tibetan, Mandarin and English, and studies poets, literatures, computers and Chinese calligraphy.
"About 5 percent of my time will be spent on entertainment such as reading newspapers, books and sports," he said.
The Panchen Lama is a book lover. "I read all kinds of books but I like historical books most. I also read some fictions and essays, in Tibetan and Chinese."
As for sports, he loves horse riding and jogs regularly to keep fit.
Facing the heavy task of study, he is not often seen in the spotlight. "My major task is still to study," he said.
But he paid frequent visits to Tibet and other Tibetan ethnic areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan, to meet his followers. He also toured other places in the country, including attending the first World Buddhist Forum in Hangzhou of eastern Zhejiang Province in 2006 and the second one held in Wuxi of Jiangsu Province from March 28 to 29 this year.
At the opening of the second World Buddhist Forum on Saturday, the Panchen Lama gave a speech in English, impressing many.
He was quite modest when talking about his English. "I am just a beginner." He has three English classes every week, one hour each.
"I don't have a very good environment for improving spoken English. But with the help of teachers, I progressed a bit," he said. "I don't like improving my vocabulary by rote. You have to understand a word's meaning and then remember it. Thus, once I speak this word, its meaning will come to my mind."
He spent quite an effort on his Saturday speech. "I wrote it down in Tibetan, translated it into Chinese and then to English with the help of my teacher. It took me some time to absorb it and at last it came to the speech you heard."
Besides English, he plans to learn more foreign languages. "The more the better. I hope to promote Buddha's thoughts to more places in the world."
A LONG AND SEVERE MISSION
The Panchen Lama realized his responsibility at a young age.
"I always bear the responsibility of propagating Buddhism, safeguard the unity of our motherland and ethnic harmony. This hasn't happened recently. It is the task granted to me by history and reality," he said in a slow and calm voice, with a quiet smile.
At the age of five, he won the approval from the central government of China as the reincarnation of the 10th Panchen Lama after a lot drawing ceremony among three candidates in the Jokhang Temple in Tibet's capital Lhasa.
The boy, with the secular name Gyaincain Norbu, left his family at Lhari county, Nagqu prefecture in northern Tibet, since then.
In face of a life-long mission, he said, first of all, he should acquire enough knowledge.
"Once you have knowledge, you have the strength to realize your dream," he said. "Study is a life-long thing. I have a lot to learn."
Besides learning from teachers and sutras, he would also follow the Buddhist doctrines in daily life.
"There are two ways to pass on Buddhist traditions. The first is to teach sutras and second is to cultivate yourself according to Buddhist doctrines."
The young living Buddha is optimistic about the future of Tibetan Buddhism in China.
"The democratic reform in Tibet five decades ago removed feudal serfdom under theocracy, which purified Tibetan Buddhism," he said. "In old Tibet, because of the theocratic system, the name of Buddhism was tainted by a small group of people. Now monks can concentrate themselves on Buddhism."
All religions are equal in today's China so are all sects in a religion, he said. "There is little conflict between different schools. It is the best chance for us to study and promote Buddhism."
Attending the World Buddhist forum twice, he felt the responsibility of Tibetan Buddhism to the world.
"Through the two forums, we can see Buddhists in China are working hard with their counterparts in other countries for world peace. As part of them, Tibetan Buddhists should also spare no efforts in this cause through implementing and promoting Buddha's teaching in the 21st century."
Besides spiritual issues, the young living Buddha is caring for down-to-earth problems.
At this forum, he attended a sub-forum with a group of businessmen about Buddhist thoughts related to business, listening to lecturers who talked about their stories of learning Buddhism and puzzles in their lives.
Attendants considered his presence as encouragement and blessing. "Although quite young, he looked very elegant and dignified," said Yan Wangjia, running an IT firm in Wuxi, who met the Panchen Lama in person for the first time. "His presence is an encouragement for us. This showed that he was interested in our lives and problems and also had expectations upon us."
FREE OF BEING UPSET? NOT REALLY
The Panchen Lama looked naturally dignified during the whole interview. But, once a while, he gave sunny grins with quick hand gestures.
"I have some opinions about today's young people," he said straightforwardly. "Some of them know little about gratitude. They just take the parent's love for granted. This is not good."
A person is born, brought up and educated thanks to his parents, teachers and the whole society, he said. "Without other people, a person cannot be happy. That's why all of us should be grateful. Then we will know what is the right thing to do."
For a young person who decided to be a monk, the Panchen Lama said he had to be determined once making up his mind because monks believe in Buddha "not only by words but also by heart and actions."
"A good monk follows doctrines and disciplines in monasteries in daily life. Also he abides by secular laws as a citizen," he said. "This is the foundation before a monk starts learning sutras. And once he starts, it will take him his whole life to improve his understanding."
He talked about his understanding of Buddhism as the wisdom of happiness.
"Everyone including me will be upset sometimes. The most important thing is how you think of these moments and find the right way to deal with them," he said. "The core of Buddhism is the path to realize eternal happiness."
He has a wish that all people in the world can cherish life, care for life, help each other and love each other as Buddha says.
(Xinhua News Agency March 31, 2009)