Losing Root Guru, Making Choices

The darkest days…

Upon the request of Tsem Rinpoche, H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche gave Tsem Rinpoche his personal mantra, together with some hair from his beard.

Tsem Rinpoche promised Zong Rinpoche that he would become a monk

The loss of his root Guru was devastating to Rinpoche. The day had started normally, with the usual routine of serving breakfast, tidying up and then leaving for work. While he was at Fotomat, a call came through from the center, telling him that H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche had entered clear light.

After Zong Rinpoche passed away, Tsem Rinpoche had to choose between going to Gaden or staying on in LA. Had he stayed on, he would have become famous as an actor or celebrity. In fact, throughout his teenage years and early-twenties, Rinpoche had many modeling and acting offers, including one from Paramount Pictures. Zong Rinpoche’s divination showed that Rinpoche had powerful karma to be in front of the camera and would become famous, but he would be more beneficial if he was ordained. Knowing this, Rinpoche’s decision was clear; he would go to India and become a monk.

Tsem Rinpoche and Zong Rinpoche in LA's Chinatown

Happier days with Zong Rinpoche in L.A.'s Chinatown

“When Zong Rinpoche passed away, I did not recover for months, almost for years. Even though going to India was exciting, it was empty. I felt empty going to Dharamsala and to Gaden in India. But I went because I promised I would enter his house, I would go to India and I would join Gaden.”

My faith in Zong Rinpoche is unshakeable. I sometimes wish I wasn’t a Rinpoche. I’m sorry the Abbot picked me, I’m sorry that Lord Setrap recognized me. I went to India to be with my Guru and serve him. I would have done anything for him. That was the whole reason I was there – to be with my Guru. He is the only person I miss every single day, and I do not have much attachment to people.