This is an excerpt from an article in the Times of Tibet. The article was much too long to place here, but here's the link if anyone is interested in the entire piece. I've copied the intro paragraph and then the portion pertaining to Steven.
The Buddha's daughter: A young Tibetan-Chinese woman has an unprecedented role to play
Apr 2, 2004
I never met the tenth Panchen Lama, who died at his monastery in Tibet in 1989, but I was introduced to his family in Beijing in the mid-nineties, and recently I went to Washington to see his daughter, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, a twenty-year-old political-science student at American University who likes to be called Renji. She met me at Dulles airport, slightly flustered, thinking that she was going to be late. She had attended a conference on Tibetan medicine that morning, she explained, and had had to go home to change her clothes. Renji, whose mother is Chinese, uses the title "princess." It's on her calling card. The Chinese government-bizarrely for a country that still thinks of itself as Communist-not only permits the royal honorific but endorses it. Renji's role carries certain obligations, among them the self-imposed discipline of wearing Tibetan national dress on formal occasions. She had spent the morning in a traditional chuba, the long robe worn by both men and women in Tibet. Now she was wearing a white knitted top over a black shirt and black trousers
Most weekends during her time at Southwestern, a stretch limo would arrive at the campus to take Renji to the home of the action-movie star Steven Seagal. I had met Seagal by chance some years before in Dharamsala, where the Dalai Lama lives in exile. As I waited in an anteroom, the Dalai Lama's secretary, Tenzin Geyche, appeared in the doorway, dwarfed by an enormous man who was clad from head to toe in green silk. His hair was tied in a ponytail and he seemed to be in a mild dream state. "Do you know Steven Seagal?" Tenzin Geyche asked. We shook hands. Seagal smiled benignly, as though from a great distance.
The Tibetan community in Dharamsala is accustomed to exotic visitors. One more Hollywood star made little impression, despite the rumor that his limousine had proved too big for the hillside community's vertiginous narrow roads. Some days later, I read an interview with Seagal in an Indian newspaper. Asked about his Buddhist beliefs, he replied that there was only one God. Shortly after that, Seagal was recognized as the reincarnation of a lama by a Tibetan guru of the Nyingmapa school. For a while, the Internet hummed with outraged comments from distressed Buddhists and supporters of Tibet. As a choice for Renji's protector in the United States, he was, to say the least, controversial.
One evening, Renji and I drove to Seagal's house in the hills above Los Angeles. We pulled off the road into a driveway and stopped by a metal gate. "It's Renji," Renji said into the intercom, and the gate swung open. We drove along an uneven track and pulled up behind a low house.
Seagal was sitting on a long couch in a cluttered living room, fielding telephone calls. A huge oil painting hung on the wall behind him. It depicted a Tibetan guru, surrounded by monks. Young aides came and went, announcing new calls. Behind another couch, a large collection of guitars were piled up at crazy angles. Two German shepherds came over and inspected me closely.
Seagal looked up and asked if I knew a journalist who, I later discovered, had written a series of articles about what he suggested were Seagal's connections with Mafia figures. "I have had no good experiences with journalists," Seagal said. "But I hear that you understand that Himalayan politics are"-he paused, searching for the right word-"deep." He gave me a significant look.
I asked Seagal how he had come to have charge of the Panchen Lama's daughter.
"Well, because of Tibetan politics," he replied. "When Renji was eight or nine, we got word that she wasn't safe. The Tibetan government in exile has its own spies. So she had to get out. It wasn't going to be a kidnapping but an amiable trade-off. Her mother was to remain in China, and she would get out without it seeming absolute. When she was ten or eleven, we got word that this was going to happen. I spoke with my friends there, and they said I was one of the few people who could protect and take care of her . . . be her father figure, her guardian. Try to guide her so that she kept her heritage in the dharma."
He broke off to take a call.
Seagal's account differs from that of other insiders, and, indeed, from that of Renji. She was not in danger in Beijing, and her leaving seems to have been straightforward. Seagal did, however, send his plane to collect her when she moved from New York to Los Angeles. "This is my home here," she said to me. "He was always there for me. My mother and Steven Seagal are the most important people in my life."
Seagal finished his call. He said that he was closely watched when he went to China. He said that he had been studying Buddhism and martial arts since he was a child, and that in Japan, where he lived for a while, he had often been told that he was a reincarnate lama. The Dalai Lama's entourage had changed, he said. Relations seemed to have cooled since I had seen him in Dharamsala.
"The danger for Renji now is getting in with the wrong people," Seagal said. "She has a pure heart. I just tell her, I'm always there for her. Any wisdom I have is at her disposal.
"You're born naked, you die naked," he added. "In between, you should find a spiritual guide. Certain things, you have to do on your own."
I said good night, and we left. "You see what a nice man he is?" Renji said, anxiously.
Date: 18 March 2008
IN BUDDHIST terminology, her name means "wise holy woman", but to many in Tibet, Yabshi Pan Rinzinwangmo, the daughter of the late tenth Panchen Lama, is better known as "princess".
Renji, as she likes to be called, is the first known child of any Panchen or Dalai lama in some six centuries of the priestly lineages. However, the country has long forgiven her father, Lobsang Trinley Lhündrub Chökyi Gyaltsen, for reneging on his ADVERTISEMENT monk's vow of celibacy to marry Renji's mother, Li Jie, formerly a doctor in China's People's Liberation Army and who is the granddaughter of a famous general in China's civil war.
She may have been raised mainly in the United States under the care of movie star and Buddhist convert Steven Seagal, and boast an LA accent more associated with Hollywood than the Himalayas, but with her Tibetan and Chinese heritage, Renji is seen by many as a key to resolving the conflict between China and the supporters of Tibetan independence.
Her father, who died in 1989 when she was just five, was Tibet's most senior spiritual leader after the Dalai Lama fled the country in 1959. But the Panchen Lama had been held in solitary confinement for almost ten years after falling foul of Mao's regime in 1968.
"I know my goal very clearly. As the daughter of the 10th Panchen Lama, my responsibility (is] to the Tibetan people," Renji has said. "They have hopes and dreams in me. Also I have to honour my father, give something back. People call me princess. They place hopes and dreams upon me. They count on me to do something."
Like many young American women she likes surfing, designer clothes and fast cars, but when she visits Tibet she accepts that tens of thousands of people will turn out to see her.
Dressed in a bright yellow traditional Tibetan dress, or chupa, Renji returned to her father's birthplace in Wendu, Tibet, last month for a ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of his birth. "These prayers demonstrate that my father still lives in the people's hearts. Time has not dimmed his legacy," she said.
But Beijing is determined to assert its influence on Renji, who is studying finance at the Chinese capital's elite Tsinghua University, having been invited there by President Hu Jintao.
And speaking from Beijing yesterday about the anti-China riots taking place in Tibet that have reportedly seen dozens of protesters killed, Renji said: "I have closely followed recent events in Tibet and my heart is heavy. I remember my father always said all nationalities should be united, our world should be stable."
Then, echoing President Hu Jintao's campaign to build a "harmonious society" in the face of social tensions, she said: "We all hope for harmony."
Whether Renji will have any success in bringing harmony to her father's homeland remains to be seen, but for the many Tibetans who have suffered under the communist Chinese regime, and those living in exile, a peaceful solution is something long yearned for.