Meeting Zong Rinpoche
A connection from previous lives…
It was at TDL that Rinpoche met H.H. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche who changed his whole life. When Zong Rinpoche arrived to teach at the centre for six months, Rinpoche immediately recognized him as his root Guru.
Tsem Rinpoche was elected to be Zong Rinpoche’s assistant despite the protests of a few powerful sponsors who thought he would misrepresent Zong Rinpoche due to his youth, inexperience, dressing and hairstyle. Their comments did not discourage the young Rinpoche; on the contrary, he made even more effort to serve Zong Rinpoche to the best of his abilities, leaving no room for criticism.
Every day for six months, Rinpoche would serve H.H Kyabje Zong Rinpoche tirelessly. Starting early in the morning, he would prepare lunch and dinner, cooking for Zong Rinpoche, his entourage and Geshela. He would always serve Zong Rinpoche first, making three prostrations after offering the food.
“I made prostrations because I did not know how long I could be with him, and I did not want to prostrate to a statue; I wanted to prostrate to the living Buddha.”
Rinpoche also washed the dishes, cleaned the kitchen, tidied Zong Rinpoche’s room, and assisted during private audiences and Dharma teachings, which were held daily from 6pm to midnight or 2am during those six months.
After the teachings, he would give Zong Rinpoche a massage, or continue cleaning the center, ensuring that the place was neat and tidy and represented his Gurus well. All this was done on top of his other jobs outside the center. With dedication and effort, Rinpoche silenced everyone who doubted him at the start!
“I will never forget those days. I never look back on those days as work. I have never regretted, felt tired or felt I did not want to do it. Never. Not even once in my life for the last 20 years. I felt I was collecting merits with a person without faults, that everything that I did would accelerate my Dharma practice and my Dharma attainments. In that one year, I did not go out to any clubs or meet any of my non-Dharma friends, and the year passed so quickly.”
Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, a strict and fierce Lama, saw Rinpoche’s qualities and pure devotion, and their tender and playful way of relating to each other amazed everyone. Kyabje Zong Rinpoche let the tight jeans clad-red haired teenager know that he was a ‘Rinpoche’ (Precious One), the incarnation of a highly attained Dharma Master, and invited him to come stay with him at Zong Ladrang in Gaden Monastery, where he would take care of him.