Andy Le, a 10-year-old monk at the Ventura Buddhist Center, is believed to be on a spiritual path that will help bring peace to humanity in the 21st century.
“This is an amazing little boy,” said Venerable Thich Thong Hai, founder of the Ventura Buddhist Center. “We are very happy and honored he was born in this county. It’s a great blessing.”
“In a previous life, he was a high ranking monk in Thailand,” he said. “That’s why his parents and the monks and nuns here are trying to help … keep him on the right track. That’s why we protect him.”
As young as 2, Andy was exhibiting behavior unlike most little boys, said his father, Thanh Le.
“We’d see him sitting at table. We didn’t know what he was doing, but he was meditating,” Le recalled.
When the boy received a toy car for his birthday, he played with the object for a few minutes then threw it aside, his dad said.
“He wanted a Buddha toy,” said Hai, recalling a day the family visited a gift shop in Santa Ana filled with Buddha statues. “He said, ‘This one, I need it.’ After that we bought him more and more.”
At age 3, Andy was chanting to Buddha in Vietnamese and sitting in meditation poses with finger positions called mudras.
“Nobody taught him … he did it by himself,” Le said. “That’s when we knew he’s not a normal little baby.”
Seeking advice and guidance, Andy’s parents met with monks and nuns at a Buddhist temple in San Jose who came to Oxnard to visit the boy at home. The spiritual leaders then took Andy under their wing on Buddhist retreats and missions to feed the homeless in San Jose.
“When he was 4, he went out with food containers,” Le said while flipping through pages of a photo album with pictures of Andy surrounded by Buddhist monks and nuns wearing traditional yellow robes feeding the needy.
“Sometimes when I tell people they don’t understand,” Le said. “But I know he’s different.”
Nevertheless, school is made a priority for the fifth-grader at El Rio School in Oxnard until he becomes an adult at age 18, his father said.
“He wants to chant and meditate every day, but he’s only allowed Monday and Friday when he doesn’t have homework and Saturdays and Sundays when he’s at the temple,” Le said.
In May, Andy underwent his initial ordination as a monk at the Ventura Buddhist Center and given the Vietnamese Buddhist name Thich Tinh Lien, which means calm, clear and clean, Hai said.
“He’s the most special boy I’ve ever met in my life,” Hai said. “We have many children here but he doesn’t like to play with them. When we have a ceremony he acts like a high-ranking monk. But he’s not in this life … but really in a previous life.”
At the Ventura Buddhist Center, Andy spends the weekends tending the outdoor meditation garden, watering plants inside the center, cleaning numerous statues of Buddha and leading meditations.
A quiet boy, he speaks only when spoken to or prompted by a question.
When asked what age he knew he wanted to be a Buddhist monk, he replied, “4.” When asked if he was a Buddhist monk in a past life, he said, “Yes.” When asked why he wants to be a monk, Andy replied: “Because Buddha respects people.”