#11: Thubten Dargye Ling

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Thubten Dhargye Ling Dharma centre in LA


H.E. Tsem Rinpoche came across Thubten Dargye Ling during his search for an altar to do his sadhana. After unsuccessfully trying Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s Vajradhatu center, which was closed, he went to the University of Oriental Studies. The university did not have an altar but Leo Pruden, a Professor of Eastern Studies, offered to drive him to a nearby Dharma center. It was at this centre, Thubten Dhargye Ling (TDL) that he met his second Guru, Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen.

Rinpoche's second Guru, Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen

The Centre’s committee arranged for a small room for Rinpoche in the centre for a rental of USD150 a month. In February 1983, he moved into the centre and it was one of the happiest days of his life.

As a teenager, Rinpoche worked in various jobs around L.A. to support himself so that he could continue living and studying at the Dharma centre

In order to be self-sufficient, the young Rinpoche held three jobs while spending as much time as he could at TDL. In between his jobs and helping out at the centre, he would do two to three hours of meditation during the week and up to eight hours during weekends. He received many teachings at TDL including Yamantaka’s initiation, which would prove very important as a foundation for him to receive many other practices later.

Rinpoche received Yamantaka initiation at TDL, which was crucial for many other teachings he would receive in future

It was also at this period of his life that Geshe Tsultim Gyeltsen advised Rinpoche to contact his foster mother, Dana, and apologise for “hurting” her, despite the years of abuse and beatings at her hands. Rinpoche did so but she hung up on him and has since passed away.

I needed to look at the positive things and not just the negative. I was there learning Dharma in the centre due to her kindness. I realised that I had created the karma myself to be born there. People would ask me, “You’re a Rinpoche. Why is it like that?” I used to ask myself the same question but then I realised I must have made prayers in my previous lives to be born there. By saying sorry to my mother, I was accepting that situation. It is the Buddhist way of healing.

L.A. was a haven for Rinpoche - he could solely focus on his Dharma practice without any interference from his parents

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