Memory of the VW van

20 Apr


Rinpoche brought back a lot of purchases that he was planning to give out to various students and friends. Amongst these purchases was an old VW van (pictured above) that Pastor Shin had purchased and offered to Rinpoche. Rinpoche related the whole extensive story of the van and its significance. Fortunately, I recorded it and have transcribed the story for your reading pleasure. Some parts of it was related in one of Rinpoche’s paranormal story of Wenatchi and generally, it was his time on the road when he ran away from home along the highways that span coast to coast of America…



Tsem Rinpoche in his youth had to runaway from home due to the abuse that he received from home due in part to the undiagnosed schizophrenia his foster mother suffered from and his foster parent’s rejection of his wish to practice the Dharma and becoming a monk.  

When I was on the road hitch-hiking, I met this man who drove an old beat-up VW van. He opened the side door and got out of the van and I could see that all he owned was inside. He was driving from the east coast to the west coast. And then, the minute he opened the door, which was on the left driver side. There was a table on the right side and there was a Buddha statue on it. Wow! It was a big stone Buddha. He said to me, “I will give you a ride.” I thought he was safe because he got a Buddha. So, I sat inside here and we were talking and he said he was going to join Bhagawan Rajneesh’s center in Oregon. Now, they call him Osho and they have an ashram-commune there. So, he gave up everything in the east and put everything he owned in the van. Then he drove cross-country to join the ashram to be one of this Guru’s disciples.

So, he asked me, “What am I doing?”

I told him, “I am a Buddhist and I am this Tibetan master, Kensur Lobsang Tharchin’s disciple and I am going to California to look for my teacher.”

He said, “Oh wow!”

We had heated debates about Hinduism and Buddhism. There was nothing rude. He was very passionate about Hinduism and so was I with Buddhism and we debated. And then as we drove a little along the way, we picked up an American Indian boy. He was in his late 20s, very good looking, very pleasant and had longish hair. He was also slim and well-spoken. As we drove, we drove past him and he felt guilty. So he said he would turnaround to pick him up and give him a ride. I said ok. So, we turned around, picked him up and the Indian guy was sitting there with us. So, the 3 of us in the front – me, him and the American Indian guy.

The American Indian guy was talking a lot and I was talking as well. I got tired so I went to the back. In the back, there was a space to lay down. I went there to lay down and the Indian guy came down to lay down with me as well and as we were talking, he can hear us. The Indian guy told me about Wenatchi and that Wenatchi is a special spirit that foretells the future that lives in a cave in the Arizona mountains. If you get off in Arizona and you go on this road and you walk up to the Indian reservation and go up into the mountains, you will find Wenatchi. He said if you get up to that area, they sell Indian things. It’s not very expensive. They sell rabbit pelts that you can take sticks and erect a small teepee. So, you take 5-6 sticks and wrap the rabbit pelt around it. He said that this is an offering to Wenatchi and when Wenatchi accepts your offering, you will see that there would be another one appearing next to it the very next day.

So, if you see another rabbit pelt teepee next to yours, you have to wait there and Wenatchi will come and get you. So when Wenatchi comes, he will come in the form that you are familiar with and he or she will take you into a cave and you can ask any question about the future. Wenatchi is a spiritual being and has psychic abilities. He will tell you your future. At this point, I said, “Even to me?”

He said, “To anyone who asks.”

He said he needs to see how sincere you are. So I asked, “For how long?”

“Some people who would go in there for a few minutes, they will come out 3-4 days later.

So, I said, “Do we come out?”

He said, “Definitely you will come out. He doesn’t harm you and after you finish the questions.After you finish asking the questions, then he will let you go.”

So, I asked him more about Wenatchi and then I told him, “I am lost and I am a runaway and I need to ask questions.”

So, he told me, “Well, if you want, you can do that.”

So, we were driving through a few states and when we arrive in Arizona, I told the Indian boy and I told the driver that I want to get off in Arizona and the white guy was telling me, “Are you sure?” I thought I have nothing to lose. I have no where to go and I am sleeping outside and he said ok. So, I said goodbye to the Indian boy and before I got off, I asked the Indian boy, “What are you doing?” He said “I am hitchhiking all over the US because I am joining the army and I want to see what I will be fighting for. I want to see my country.”

So, I got off in Arizona, I said goodbye to them and I went along the road. The Indian boy had pointed the way for me, “It’s that way. You can go this way, straight.”

So, I hitchhiked and from the time I left New Jersey to California, it was the most difficult part of the journey. I could not get one single ride and I don’t usually have problems getting a ride. I can get rides easily. I could not believe this. So, I am in the middle of Arizona and I am down one of these country roads that’s green on both sides. The only thing you see is huge billboards on the grass at the side. All these cars would drive by but nobody would pick me up. I just wanted to go see Wenatchi because I didn’t know what to do and I was hitchhiking for half a day. The guy dropped me off in the morning and I hitchhiked all the way up to the afternoon and I had no rides. So I ended up buying some apples. There were some people selling  US$1 for 12 apples grown from their farm.

So, I was eating apples and I was hitchhiking up to Wenatchi and I asked a few Indians that I met along the way and they said, “We don’t know who Wenatchi is.” You see, the American Indians are very protective over their beliefs. If you are an outsider, they won’t tell you. So, I asked them, “Where is Wenatchi?” So, they said there is no Wenatchi. But the boy had told me that it is going to be hard to find but if you are sincere, you will find it. Finally, it started to rain and I got very worried because it is hundreds of miles of open fields with mountains and one single solitary road and there is nothing else. So, I backtracked and ran under a billboard. The billboard had some shade and I hid under the billboard along the street so I wouldn’t get wet.


A Mongolian thangka of Pelden Lhamo that as a child, Rinpoche would pray to a lot. 

Then, I prayed to  Palden Lhamo. I prayed, “You know, I am looking for Wenatchi because I need to ask about my future and I don’t know what’s going to happen to me.” So, I stood there for awhile and I was thinking, “That’s it.” I think I will turn back. Then after the rain stopped, I walked to the main road and I stuck my thumb out and within a few minutes, I got a ride. So, I said to myself, “Ok. I am not meant to see Wenatchi.” That’s exactly what happened.

The Indian boy told me that it is very important that you don’t tell anyone about the spirit. It is a secret. You have to keep his location quiet and secret. So, I turn around and I immediately got a ride. Within half hour and it was really quick. I got a ride with 2 Englishmen. They were tourists, they were young and jabbering away excitedly. They were looking on the map and heading to  Los Angeles, California. I was really wary because I got molested a few times before. People tried funny things and so, I was really scared but I was so tired. They got a big car that they rented and so I sat in the back with the two in the front talking away as they were looking at the map. Fortunately, they never tried anything and I was so relieved. Finally, they took me into California.

When we entered into California state lines and then there was a big concert going on. There was all these ‘hippie-ish’ people walking around. Long hair, jeans and tie-dyed t-shirts and all. I was like wow. So, I was hitchhiking and I met up with a part American Indian woman. She is 38 with blond hair. She is a big girl, sweet, very funny and entertaining. She is 38 and her boyfriend is 18. She asked me, “Hey, where are you going, kid?”

I said, “I am going to Los Angeles.”

She said,”Ohmygawd! Why?”

And I said, “Oh, I ran away from home.”

“Oh, that’s so cool. I ran away from home too.”

I asked her, “How old are you?”

“I am 38 but I am still running.”

I said “Oh.”

Then I asked her, “Where do you stay now?”

“I kinda stay with my boyfriend.”

“And who is that?”


I said “Oh, so it’s him.”

“But it’s not working out too well.”


“Well, his parents are not very happy with our relationship. Maybe because I am a little older.”

“Yeah, maybe that’s it.”

She’s cute. So, she drove me to her boyfriend’s house and she he asked her boyfriend’s parent’s permission to use their car. So she drove me 2 and half hours from their house to Los Angeles. She is very sweet and we talked the whole way non-stop. I regret not getting her contact at that time. She was very, very sweet.

Then she just said to me, “Why are you doing this? You are a kid and you are very young and its dangerous and I know what its like when you don’t get along with your parents so badly that you have to runaway.”

She adds, “I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”

I said, “Ohmygawd, you are so nice!”

She gave me a big hug and I said goodbye. So, when I see this car, that’s the memory that comes. So from this car, I met that guy that’s joining the ashram. He had give up everything to join his guru’s Ashram-commune. The actual VW van is not really this color but with white and red color. I wonder what happened to him, is he still with his guru because I still am.

4 Responses to “Memory of the VW van”

  1. Pastor Shin April 21, 2015 at 10:06 am #

    Thank you Pastor David for writing down this story. I find the story inspiring because it was of a melting pot of spiritual people of different traditions, and coincidental meeting of 2 people who are going all the way to pursue their spiritual paths. It is also a story of kindness, especially the American Red Indian woman who would go out of her way to send a kid to his next destination.

  2. Shelly April 21, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    Thank you Pastor David sharing this story with us . It remind me how lucky we are to have a spiritual guide without us going through so much of hardship to look for our guru not like Rinpoche he has to go through so much to look for his guru we as his student should never give up on him and the path.

  3. Joy April 25, 2015 at 5:58 am #

    Neat and adventurous story! Thanks for the sharing Pastor David! It’s great to read such stories of Rinpoche’s personal experiences and hardships that Rinpoche has to go through to learn the Dharma. It also gives us lay beings more hope, because seeing what Rinpoche has gone through, we can relate easier and definitely find strength from Rinpoche’s perseverance. Whatever hardships we have to go through is no way a quarter of what Rinpoche has to go through. We are definitely so fortunate to have Rinpoche with us.

  4. Pema Thinley April 16, 2016 at 4:58 am #

    Thank you Pastor David LAi for sharing such rare stories of Rinpoche. This is really touching, Sorry to hear Rinpoche had tough times to make possible that dharma reach to many. We complain so much over little problems. RInpoche had gone through many hardships. we have to be genuine and waste no time and practice dharma all the way no matter what.

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