Real or Pretend?

A Personal AccountPatricia Anderson

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Early on, in the Martin Scorsese film Kundun, there is a scene in which the boy-king is frightened. Alone in his bed in the inner recesses of the Potala, the young Dalai Lama hears noises. A large rat scurries through the shadows. He cries out for his mother. His guardian comes in and sits by his side. The boy says, “I don’t like it here,” and the lama nods, “Yes, it’s an old, dark place.” He tells the child to look to the deities when he is afraid, and the child points to a thangka on the far wall, asking,

“Who’s that one?”

“Palden Lhamo, special deity to protect you and the government of Tibet.”

The boy looks up at the lama and asks, “Is she real or pretend?”

“She’s real.” The answer comes without hesitation. “She’s real.”

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