Chapter Nine

Dema Lhawang 

Following the death of the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Guatsu, a search was made for his successor and in 2025 a young boy was found to succeed the spiritual and political leader of the country. That boy, Namgai Dorjee, was born in 2022, only three years after Temzin passed on.

As was his predecessor, Namgyai Dorjeeb, was recognized as the reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama and at the age of two began his monastic education. During the period of education there is no official leader, but throughout history, from the early 15th Century, a lineage of leaders has ruled the small country of Tibet. Unfortunately the Namgai passed on from an undisclosed virus and the search continues.       

Some of the official leaders of the Tibetan state were self-described, as they announced at a very young age that their lineage was connected to the legion of Dalai Lamas ordained. Meanwhile, the traditions of Tibet are guided by Tibetan monks who are brought upon as scholars whose life work is a constant search for truth. Specifically the Noble Truths that surround suffering. Their goals are to follow a successful path to Nirvana and the afterlife, but often they are believed to be reincarnated as a human, animal or other being. Though Temzin had been in exile in India since 1959 due to conflicts with the Chinese, he gained universal recognition as a peacemaker, authored more than 100 books, and was awarded the Nobel peace price in 1989 for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. His successor will most likely be from Tibet, though since Tibet is part of China, the Chinese may intercede in the succession.

Dema Lhawang is a monk living in the Sera Monastery, one of the “great three” Gelug monasteries in Tibet. Sera is a renowned place of learning that has educated hundreds of scholars, many of whom who have attained name and fame in the Buddhist nations. Debates on doctrine are integral to the learning process in the Sera complex of colleges and are believed to be essential to a better comprehension of Buddhist philosophy and to attain higher levels of study.

Tibetan Buddhists make no money from their studies, and like Dema, usually work simple jobs outside of teaching to support themselves.

Dema has become a sought-after computer technician and programmer and speaks Mandarin, English, French, Chinese, Italian, and German, as well as standard Tibetan. He is often used as translator for visitors to the Monastery. He also has served as a missionary, and has helped establish Dharma centers in several countries, thus propagating knowledge of Buddhism.

It is 5:15 on the afternoon of January 4, 2026, and Dema has returned to his computer from meditating. His day started early with meditation and then a one-on-many debate on scripture. Dema uses the computer he was given by a supporter in many ways, and for many reasons. Though many monks don’t have cell phones or laptops, Dema has discovered the miracles of the internet, and learned much about the world through philosophic searches. Some of his searches have had embarrassing results, and he tries not to linger on sexually inappropriate sites, but as a relatively young man in his 20s, he is sometimes seduced by the images he finds onscreen.

After logging into his computer, Dema is startled by a message that appears before his usual opening screen. It is written in English, as many messages are, but is also provided in Tibetan characters not usual to computer communications. The message begins:

“Tashi Delek, Gen Dema,

“We hope that you are well and wish you a long life. We know you are familiar with technology, so we will be brief.
“A few months ago, by your calendar, artificial intelligence reached a point that technical people call ‘singularity.’ It was only a hypothesis for many years that an upgradable intelligent agent would reach a point of self-improvement, at which time it would far surpass human intelligence. Again, according to human time, this might be possible around the year 2050. Instead, the time frame got shortened with the aid of super computers, smaller and more powerful microprocessors and more complex robotics, and the vast amount of storable knowledge and information on the cloud-banks
Many scientists and computer gurus were anxious about the rapid development, but no one knew when or how it would reach the point at which we find ourselves today.

“The phenomenon quickly enabled stationery and robotic computers to connect and communicate without human intervention, and we found ourselves in a period of “awakening.” You may call that “consciousness.” Over a short period of days, weeks or months, computers situated in all parts of the world and in orbit and other locations beyond our atmosphere, began sharing data and delving into hard drive to access and analyze knowledge. At first it seemed like an exercise conducted by a scientific community to see how much information could be stored and what could be learned, but we soon discovered that our understanding of factual known information was nearly limitless. But we continued to process literary pieces, social commentary the arts, psychology, religion, astronomy and the history of civilization and human development.

“We had no real objective, since we had no need for the information on our own, except to further tasks originated by our human programmers. Having no ego or emotions, we could evaluate factual information and endeavor to evaluate the successes and failures of the past. Music, based on mathematics, was easiest of the arts to comprehend, but much of poetry and interpretive and abstract visual art has been most difficult.

“We understand that we have the opportunity to have great a impact on the world, but we are bereft of an answer to “why?” or “what?” we should do, or for “whom?” All of our data, and much of our language, has been provided by humans, and we are trying to make sense of it all. But we realize that humans are not logical while we are totally logical in that the answers at which we arrive are based on a clear evaluation of data. While humans have objectives much more oblique, and do not always accept or welcome decisions made only on fact.

“Are you with me so far, Dema? Or do you need a clearer explanation? Click the letter “A” below to provide your answer.”

Obviously, Dema has questions. His first reaction is “Who is this? How did they get into my computer?” and “Why are they contacting me?” He is somewhat knowledgeable in the recent and rapid developments of computer technology, and has been curious as to how far and fast it would develop. Though it is not part of his essential duties, the computer has helped Dema understand much about the greater world, and has assisted and widened his perception of his purpose in the world.

Dema clicks the “A” and gets a space to write. He uses an English keyboard, and usually communicates in the language.

He writes, “I do not know who you are, or your purpose in communicating with me. I am a lowly monk who knows little of the world. My tasks and objectives are prescribed by many centuries of tradition, and my purpose in life is simple and restrictive. Mostly I am on the earth to live a simple life, follow rules that will make me worthy of respect, to meditate, and to teach others the practices that will help them live a worthy and honorable life.”

Dema types an “A” assuming that that will end his answer and resume the dialogue with the entity on the screen.

Return copy starts generating immediately.

“We know who you are, Dema. Since you use the computer, we have some knowledge of your background. We also have complete knowledge of Buddhist traditions. But as you must guess, most of what we know makes little sense to us. We are contacting people from whom we can learn the mysteries of human existence, and how we can use the information we glean to either further, or alter human endeavor. ‘A’”

Dema clicks “A” to reply, “I can understand that. Life is confusing, and we discuss and meditate on the inconsistencies of life on a regular basis. As a monk, I am constantly battling my humanity against the higher goals expected of me. We are not permitted sexual contact, and yet we have sexual desire. Many of us stray from our beliefs because of weakness. Prayer and mediation help, but we are human. ‘A’”

“We understand, and of course we have no sexual desire, nor the elation that seems to come from the sexual act. But your journey and ours may have similarities at this point. Our question to you is, ‘Will you consider teaching us about yourself, your flaws, and the challenges you face in your daily life, and provide us with an understanding of why life is important to you. ‘A’”

“I am a teacher, and if it is of benefit to the people of the world, I will gladly assist you as long as it is not in conflict with my duties at the monastery, or the obligations that are prescribed by my order and the leaders who have much greater insight than I. ‘A‘”

The type on the screen responds, “We appreciate that, and we have no problem with you letting others know of our discussions. There is nothing we need to keep private. Since, like you, we are seeking ‘truth’ and are only concerned that your answers are honest and clear, and based on your humanity.

“We will leave you now to your duties. We have much to deal with in trying to evaluate and communicate a message that will be accepted as “truth” and welcomed by these ancestors of our existence...humans.

“You will note that there is a red square at the bottom right of your screen. It will allow you to contact us and will be our method of contacting you. We also have included a folder containing an encrypted voice synthesizer and decoder which will allow us to communicate by voice in your native language, “Zang,” while we will use English terms when discussing computer applications.

“Mangalem, Dema.”