Tokyo Mango's interview with the Dalai Lama's youngest brother


Lisa Katayama says: Here's an interview I did with the Dalai Lama's youngest brother -- he's bipolar and has anger management problems. Nobody's interviewed him at length before.

Tendzin Choegyal is the Dalai Lama’s youngest brother. Aside from being related to one of the holiest persons alive, TC is a rebellious soul who dropped out of college, spent a couple of years as a paratrooper in the Tibetan contingency of the Indian army, survived alcoholism,and found peace through a blend of Buddhism, lithium, and reading the news on the Internet. When I met him at his home in Dharamsala, India–the Himalayan town that houses the Tibetan government-in-exile–we talked about reincarnation, war movies, Steven Seagal’s crazy outfits, and the preservation of Tibetan culture.

The following is a reprint of my interview with Choegyal, published in Issue 52 of Giant Robot magazine. A feature-length profile will be in the Fall issue of Buddhadharma, which goes to press in July.

GR: At a young age, you, too, were recognized as a reincarnate of an important man, right?

TC: Oh, that’s bullshit. I don’t believe it. From a Buddhist perspective, we are all reborn. But choosing a particular person as someone special and saying he’s a reincarnation of so-and-so is bullshit. I don’t consider myself special. I’m just like you. I want happiness, and I don’t want suffering. I think it’s just a sheer accident that I was chosen.

GR: What about your brother?

TC: Ah, that’s different. He is on a completely different level–a much higher caliber, and a lot of tests were done. It may be true for others, but as far as I’m concerned, this is the greatest mistake of the century.



  1. Im completely baffled by this post.
    Deeply affected I’m looking forward to the complete version of the interview!

  2. Wait, he found inner peace by reading the news on the internet? Strange, it usually has the opposite effect on me.

  3. I’ll bet the “peace” he found was 99% Lithium, .99% Buddhism and .01% reading news on the internet.


  4. I’d love to read more of this, but the link crashes my Firefox 3.

    Just wanted to report it in case y’all know of why that might be.

  5. Moon: Ever taken lithium? Many bipolar sufferers don’t like it because of the way it makes them feel. I suspect the Buddhism had a much larger percentage to play.

  6. I really like this guy’s perspective on things. He seems like a no-bullshit, matter-of-fact kind of man. He isn’t pretentious. I can respect a guy like that.

  7. Moon: Ever taken lithium? Many bipolar sufferers don’t like it because of the way it makes them feel. I suspect the Buddhism had a much larger percentage to play.

    You mean a Placebo effect? I suppose Buddhism could supply that.

  8. Moon: so you don’t believe in cognitive behavioral therapy? Only drugs can resolve a persons problem? Seems to fly in the face of about every test and professional opinion I’ve ever heard.

  9. You can be as theoretical as you like about lithium. Personally it saved my life. I found this article interesting though he doesn’t touch on his bipolar disorder.

  10. I don’t doubt that. I’m just saying that drug therapy is more effective when combined with another therapy, such as CBT. Combined drug and non-drug therapies have consistently proven to be more successful than either one alone. In this case, Buddhist philosophy is the non-drug therapy.

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