Running Away

Unbearable yearning for the Dharma…

Tsem Rinpoche in search of the Dharma

Studying worldly subjects, the idea of getting married and pursuing a career felt like a complete waste of his life to Rinpoche. Being deprived of his calling despaired him to such an extent that he attempted to run away to meditate in the mountains, and even tried to end his life several times.

The first runaway attempt came when Rinpoche was just nine years old, running away with a friend to a nearby forest but they were caught by the police and returned to his family. The second time, he got as far as another Dharma center in Washington, NJ – being six to seven hours away, Rinpoche got there by taking buses and hitchhiking through the snow. He requested to join them but was sent home as the center could not lawfully accept juvenile runaways. The situation at home worsened after this incident and it became almost impossible for Rinpoche to visit the center.

In between the first and second runaway attempts, Rinpoche tried to end his life for the first time on Easter Eve, taking an overdose of medicine with Tibetan tea and praying to Manjushri,

“In this life I can’t do Dharma, I can’t get away from my mother, please help me take a new rebirth. Please let me die.”

The second suicide attempt was in the winter of that same year. As depression and desperation mounted, Rinpoche tried to asphyxiate himself by freezing himself in the snow in an abandoned house nearby. Once again, he prayed to Manjushri for his help to die but it was so cold that he could not fall asleep and had to return home.

Tsem Rinpoche in search of the Dharma

Despite an outwardly happy family, Rinpoche attempted to run away again and even tried to end his life

As the shoutings became more frequent and the beatings more violent, Rinpoche continued to feel strongly that he had to be doing Dharma and the thought of suicide was constantly at the back of his mind.

Finally, during the summer, Rinpoche wrote a note to his parents and hitchhiked to New York City, in hopes of staying in the green and peaceful Catskill Mountains. After being told that the winters would be unbearable, he decided to make his way to California instead, hitchhiking his way to as far as Indianapolis.

Once again, he was caught by the police and was made to spend a night in jail. The next day, his uncle came to take him back to New Jersey, and back to the beatings, screaming and abuse.