Tsem Rinpoche’s Childhood Buddha

19 Aug

I was with Rinpoche at a bookshop just the other day and he flipped through a Bhagavad-Gita and he came across a painting of a sadhu meditating in the jungle with a deity appearing next to him. Rinpoche said that this picture will always remind him of his childhood. He recalls drawing Buddhas and deities when he was very young and recounted a beautiful story. The amazing thing was that he was a normal American kid growing up in New Jersey. No one put that in his head and although he went to the temple like other Kalmyk (Mongolian) kids, no other kid took such a deep interest in the Buddhas like he did. The story rinpoche told was also in the book, Tales My Lama Told Me in the chapter called Childhood Buddhas and I took an excerpt of the story here for your reading pleasure.


A young Tsem Rinpoche grew up a normal American kid but with a passion for Buddhas and meditation. 

In school, the teacher that touched me the most was my art teacher, Mrs Gerber. I wish I could find her again. I would really like to send her a beautiful letter, to tell her how she has affected my life. I miss her very much. She knew exactly what was going on at home because I eventually told her. You know, what was incredible about her was her sensitivity and perception. I had this amazing experience with her in school.

One day during class, she wanted us to draw a picture-graph, which was to use pictures, without words, to tell a story. So I drew six pictures in six slots on an A4 sheet of paper. I drew a story about a person going for meditation. First, I drew the person walking towards the mountains and in the next slot, he finds a mountain and was in a cave. Within the next slot, I drew the seasons, four smaller slots within one slot that showed rain, snow and sunshine. After that, I showed him with longer hair and thinner. In the next slot after that, I drew some animals around him. Finally, in the last slot, I drew a neat picture of him in the cave meditating with long matted hair, with one ray of light going from his heart to a deity in the sky. This deity looked Indian-like and had six arms, I didn’t know who it was when I drew it. She was a six-armed deity sitting on a lotus and this ray of light from the meditator’s heart went to her heart and they connected. That was the end of my picture- graph. I drew that in my sixth grade. It was so cool, I wished I still had that picture with me.

Throughout my life, I wanted to go to a cave and meditate. Even as a child, I believed that if I went to a cave, meditated and identified with the deity, I would become one with the deity. That was why I drew that picture-graph. That was what I knew as a kid so that was what I drew most of the time. My art teacher belonged to the 60s, so-called hippies, the flower-people generation. She always wore very colourful clothes and didn’t care what people thought of her as she was very into the moment and into art. She loved expressing things through art. She was such a great teacher.

I showed her my picture when I finished it. I must say, my artwork stood out from all the other kids as they were drawing very ordinary scenes like going shopping at the mall and stuff.

When I showed her my picture, I tried to explain what it was about,

“Mrs Gerber, let me explain this to you…”
She stopped me from explaining and she just stared at the picture.

She was a very tall lady with long fingers. She held the picture and just looked at it silently.

After a while I asked her again, “Can I explain it to you, Mrs Gerber?”

She just nodded her head and said, “I perfectly understand.” Then she said, “This is just wonderful!”

I said, “Well, this person became one with the deity.”

“I understand,” she said.

I think she wasn’t shutting me up because she didn’t want to hear me. She totally understood and was enjoying it; I never forgot that. I didn’t see this stuff in any books or anything on TV. That was really what I thought would happen if I went to a cave and meditated. That was why I always thought about meditating in a cave. That was why I have always had a big fascination with caves, mountains and lakes; I always imagined meditating amidst such landscape.

If you like this story, it is available at http://www.vajrasecrets.com/tales-my-lama-told-me or at any Kechara Paradise outlets http://www.kechara.com/shopping/locations/bio-us_finding-dharma_01_b


A young Tsem Rinpoche playing with the other kids.

2 Responses to “Tsem Rinpoche’s Childhood Buddha”

  1. Joshua Akers August 20, 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    That is such a wonderful story. I think his art teacher was just amazed at what little Tsem Rinpoche had drawn. This was before he was known as Tsem Rinpoche too. To see a student draw this in a normal art class would have been moving, to say the very least…

  2. Oya August 22, 2014 at 3:10 am #

    Very touching, thank you

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