___The Boy Monk___


There was something very different about Donald Pham. Even as a child, he seemed strangely wise. His parents came to believe that he was a monk in his previous life and should study in India. We follow his arduous path as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in a four-part series.

Part one: The decision
A few years ago, his name was Donald Pham, and he lived in his family's airy Laguna Niguel home with soaring ceilings, thick carpet and vistas of rolling hills. Today, he is Konchog "Kusho" Osel youngest student at the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics, run by the Tibetan Government in Exile.

Part two: The separation
Don becomes the first foreigner ever accepted at the esteemed Gaden Shartse monastery in India in its 600-year history. It is a path he must take, says his mother. If he doesn't like it, he could come home.

Part three: The struggle
It has been more than three years since his family gave him to Tibetan Buddhism. Since India replaced Orange County as his home. Since he said goodbye to his parents on his 13th birthday and entered the confines of the monastery, a rigid and utterly alien world.

Part four: Resolve
In the Himalayan foothills of northern India is the little town of Dharamsala, seat of the Tibetan Government in Exile. It is also the home of the Institute of Buddhist Dialectics. After two years in the confines of the monastery, Kusho is sent to the institute for a while. Perhaps he will be happier there.

The Orange County Register © 2003: http://www.ocregister.com/features/monk/