According to the Tibetan world view, highly evolved adepts are reborn as tulkus—children who embody a developed capacity for spiritual attainment. The search for such a gifted child is based either on the precise instructions left by the deceased, or on the signs inspired by dreams and visions, and from the intuitions of other great lamas. Tulkus are only fully recognized as such at the age of two or three years old. They are commonly enthroned at the age of four or five and usually do not enter a monastery until they are six years old. Each tulku receives a private education by one of two tutors. The child may be brought up with other tulkus but the rules vary according to each monastery. Tulkus, even as children, are given the honorific title of “Rinpoche,” which means “precious one.”

Shechen Monastery at Bodnath, Nepal.
Shechen Monastery at Bodnath, Nepal.

Tulku Kentrul Lodro Rbsel, thirteen, and his tutor Lhagyel. At the age of five, the child decided he had lived long enough with his family and was now ready to enter the monastery.

Palace of the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, India.
Palace of the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, India.

The Dalai Lama in discussion with the tulku Kalu Rinpoche, now eight years old, surrounded by his family and an escort of monks.

Shechen Monastery at Bodnath, Nepal.
Shechen Monastery at Bodnath, Nepal.

Tulku Khentrul Lodro Rabsel with his tutor Lhagyel.

Shechen Monastery at Bodnath, Nepal.
Shechen Monastery at Bodnath, Nepal.

Tulku Jigme Nhima Tenpei Gyatsen, who is thirteen years old, studying religious scriptures.

Monastery of the Gelupa Lineage, Bodhgaya.
Monastery of the Gelupa Lineage, Bodhgaya.

Tulku Ling Rinpoche, age eleven, with his English tutor, Ingrid Norzin, a Buddhist nun of German-Canadian extraction.

Temple at Sonada Monastery, Darjeeling, India.
Temple at Sonada Monastery, Darjeeling, India.

The newly enrolled Kalu Rinpoche, then two-and-a-half, with his tutor, who will supervise his education and spiritual formation.

Monastery of Ha Nying Shedrup Ling near Bodnath, Nepal.
Monastery of Ha Nying Shedrup Ling near Bodnath, Nepal.

Khyentse Yangsi, at two-and-a-half years old, is the reincarnation of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche (1910-1991). He has not yet been enthroned. He will later enter the Shechen Monastery in Nepal to pursue his studies. 

Monastery of Ha Nying Shedrup Ling near Bodnath, Nepal.
Monastery of Ha Nying Shedrup Ling near Bodnath, Nepal.

Khyentse Yangsi playing with a drum used during the prayer ceremonies (the pujas).

Palace of the Dalai Lama, India.
Palace of the Dalai Lama, India.

Khyentse Yangsi looking as if he thinks the ceremonies are running too long.

Martine Franck, a member of Magnum, resides in Paris. She has worked as a photographer in the Far East since 1963. These photographs were taken during a trip to Nepal and India in 1996.

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