#16: Journey to Gaden

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For a few months after the passing of H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, H.E. Tsem Rinpoche remained in L.A., working to pay off his debts and saving up for India. Robert Stone, one of the centre’s main sponsors, was so impressed with his dedication that he paid off Rinpoche’s debts in L.A. so his ordination would not be delayed any further. Before leaving the US, Rinpoche returned home to New Jersey for the last time to say goodbye to his family.

When Rinpoche arrived in India, he received his monk’s vows from the Spiritual Head of Tibetan Buddhism, and spent the following nine years studying and serving his Masters H.E. Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche and H.E. Lati Rinpoche at Gaden Shartse Monastery.

Two of Rinpoche's Gurus in Gaden, H.E. Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche and H.E. Lati Rinpoche

After my ordination, I rejoiced, went home and did a puja. I rejoiced because it’s not about having family and friends coming to see me, it was about me becoming a monk and doing what I had to do.

Rinpoche offering body, speech and mind to his Guru, H.E. Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche as a young monk in Gaden

Rinpoche offering body, speech and mind to his Guru, H.E. Kensur Jampa Yeshe Rinpoche in later years. Rinpoche always showed utmost respect to his Gurus

Rinpoche endured much hardship in Gaden, where he stayed in Zong Ladrang in a small room with a leaky roof. With little or no sponsorship, Rinpoche suffered from hunger and malnutrition, mainly eating just tsampa (barley or corn flour) and tea. Although he appealed to his family and his friends from L.A. for help, none was forthcoming.

Rinpoche used to live in this converted cowshed in Zong Ladrang

Rinpoche visits his old room in Zong Ladrang during a pilgrimage in 2006

I was starving. All I ate was tsampa (barley or corn flour) mixed with tea. I would roll into little balls and eat it with butter. If there was no butter, I would just eat it on its own. I wrote to many people to ask them to help me and to please send me some money but they all said no. My parents wrote back to me and said that I had made my own bed so I should sleep in it, and that I shouldn’t embarrass them anymore.

Later on, Rinpoche started receiving small amounts of sponsorship, enabling him to buy better food and repair the leaky roof.

Rinpoche’s room used to leak very frequently and it was only later that he gathered enough sponsorship to repair the roof

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