Can 15-year-old go to India to become a Buddhist monk?

A Flemish youngster is the centre of controversy after he announced his intention to leave for India to train to be a Buddhist monk. Police and officials from the local public prosecutors’ office have visited the lad's home to ensure he is not the subject of any coercion.

The 15-year-old Giel from Sint-Laureins in East Flanders attracted the attention of Ghent public prosecutors when he announced his intention on independent TV. The East Fleming hopes to embark on training to become a monk in a monastery on the border with Tibet. The training will last for 15 years.

Giel wants to make a radical break with western life. He told VRT Radio that this was his choice: "The idea came to me when I was six. I cried to have a monk's robes."

Officials of the youth section of the public prosecutor's office have visited the family. The youngster's mum says that she was able to answer all their questions: "They did not say he couldn't leave. We have all the necessary documentation."

Officials stress that it is their task to protect minors and that is why they were eager to visit Giel at home and see his situation for themselves. Local police have also visited the family to establish whether or not there are any issues regarding the young lad's education.

Giel opted to train in India and not in Belgium because he could then devote all his time on enlightenment: "I will be able to free my spirit of all negative emotions and will no longer be bound by earthly concepts."

Lessons are taught in Tibetan, but that shouldn't be a problem because Giel is already busy learning the language.

The public prosecutors' office has not yet responded following the visit but Giel is convinced he will be able to set off. He told VRT Radio: "No news is good news."