Thank you Robert Stone
When I was 18 years old, a student of Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen, a person by the name of Mr. Doren Harper had picked me up in his van from where I was staying in Los Angeles and took me over to Thubten Dhargye Ling Center. This was just before I had moved back into the center, and I was living on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood. He had picked me up so that we could join the Tsok puja in Thubten Dhargye Ling. Tsok is a bi-monthly ceremony we have to do after receiving Tantric initiation. On the dashboard in his car, he had an approximately 3 inch by 2 inch framed picture of His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. I sat in his car and we were driving to the center from where I was staying. It was a fifteen to twenty-minute drive without traffic. I got a bit curious and asked who the picture was of, and he said: “Oh that is His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche.” I asked: “Who is that?” He said: “Well, he is basically Geshe-la’s Guru and the Guru of many thousands of monks, also, he is an emanation of Heruka Chakrasamvara.”
The minute Doren told me that Kyabje Zong Rinpoche was Heruka Chakrasamvara, I developed very strong faith and an urge in me to devote myself to this lama. I have heard of other lamas being emanations of this deity or that deity, or that saint or that mahasiddha; I am impressed and I have faith. But when he told me that Zong Rinpoche was Heruka, something in me just clicked very deeply, which I cannot describe. This hasn’t happened for anyone or anything else. I instantly felt a connection, I felt tremendous faith, and has the urge that I wanted to devote myself to Zong Rinpoche. It was like when Naropa heard Tilopa’s name for the first time and instantly developed faith. He even went to search for his guru for 12 years traveling the length and breadth of ancient India. So I asked Doren if I could have the picture and he said: “Sure”. Doren gave me the picture and after Tsok finished, I brought it back to my house, I had it framed and kept it on my altar. Doren also told me that after seven to nine months, Zong Rinpoche will be visiting us and staying in our center. I thought, wow, how does a young, basically unknown person like me have an opportunity to get teachings from Zong Rinpoche and get so close to him? So I thought, since he is Heruka Chakrasamvara, I would have to make a lot of offerings, I would need to make a lot of supplications and prayers to make a karmic connection. So, that’s what I did. Doren was always very nice to me.
I placed Zong Rinpoche’s picture on my altar and from that day onwards, I engaged in 100 prostrations to Zong Rinpoche’s picture every single day. I visualized him as Heruka and the emanation of all the Buddhas. I developed tremendous faith and I did full length prostrations every day until the day I met Zong Rinpoche. I made offerings of incense and tea to him and prayed that I may get teachings from him, that i may have a strong connection to him and become his disciple.
Lo and behold, at the stipulated time, His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche came to the center and I was elected to be one of his attendants and cooks. I was extremely honoured to be chosen to do so by Geshe-la. There was one or two people at the center who were not very happy with me having that position so they said some things, but Geshe-la kind of over-rode them. They said that I was not very clean and that I should not be serving Zong Rinpoche. Geshe-la said I am very clean and I would be the perfect person to serve, so what they said was overridden.
When Zong Rinpoche was there for six months, he gave teachings nearly every day and I was the cook, I was the clean-up boy, I vacuumed his room, and I cleaned his room. I cooked breakfast and dinner for him, his entourage, guests and Geshe-la nearly every day. I was not a great cook but I managed. Lunch was cooked for him and the others by someone else because I had to go work part-time at Fotomat to support myself at the center. I cooked breakfast and dinner for Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, his attendant Wangchuk, Geshe Gyeltsen, Lodro Rinpoche the translator from Switzerland and his uncle, and two German lady students of Zong Rinpoche every day. It was a big job as I had to go to the supermarket nearly daily and clean up afterwards. By the time Zong Rinpoche had come to our center, I had moved back into the center from West Hollywood and I was living in Thubten Dhargye Ling. So, Zong Rinpoche would be upstairs, Geshe-la would also be living in the center on our property in a camper due to the lack of space and I would be in a small room in the garage. It was a great honour for me because I would help set up for pujas and teachings, I would clean up after teachings, I would help clean up Zong Rinpoche’s room, serve him breakfast and tea; I would do all of that. In the process, I became very close to Kyabje Zong Rinpoche, very close and intimate with him where I could just walk into his room, sit on the floor and basically give him a foot massage; or have very light conversation (through translators of course) because I did not speak Tibetan. While he was there, after accomplishing my daily duties late at night around 1am, I would go upstairs quietly and prostrate in front of Zong Rinpoche’s room, directly to Zong Rinpoche, while he was sleeping. So every day I would do 100 prostrations to Zong Rinpoche right outside of his room. I prayed that I would become close to him, to live with him, to be with him and to never be separated from his attainments.
During the six months, I had told Zong Rinpoche that I wanted to be an actor and also a monk. The reason I wanted to be an actor is because in Los Angeles, if you get good jobs as an actor you can pretty much make a lot of money in a short time and I would be able to support Geshe-la’s center and his Dharma works. I was already doing extra work in some movies and voice over work for tv programs in Los Angeles. That was my motivation. Zong Rinpoche was very kind, he did a divination for me and the divination came out for me that if I do acting I would be very successful, he basically said that anything I do in front of camera would be very successful. If I wanted to pursue it, there would be good results. This was from his dice divination. However, if I became a monk it would be more beneficial than becoming an actor. When Kyabje Zong Rinpoche said that to me, I immediately folded my hands and told him that I would be a monk and that I was committed to it. Zong Rinpoche said, “OK”. So he blessed me and cut a part of my hair as per tradition while reciting some auspicious verses as a sign that I would become a monk. I remember after Zong Rinpoche cut off a lock of my hair himself, he didn’t throw it out but placed it on the lower part of the shrine. I don’t know what he did with it after that.
I folded my hands and I promised Zong Rinpoche that I would be a monk. A lot of things happened during those six months, but the day when Zong Rinpoche was leaving Los Angeles was the saddest day of my life. One of the saddest. But I thought that I’ll go to India and I will see him very soon, so I was kind of excited but also sad because I wanted to go with him. The last place I wanted to be was Los Angeles, in the city, or in America. After Zong Rinpoche left for India, I concentrated on getting rid of my loans. Then I got a better job working in a bank and I also got a job at a real-estate company. I had worked at Security Pacific National Bank as a Teller and then as a Bank Secretary after Fotomat. Later I worked at John Douglas Realtor as an Office Administrator and I also worked at Fred Sands Realtor’s in Beverly Hills as a Personal Assistant to two power brokers. I had committed to Zong Rinpoche that I would become a monk when i was aged eighteen. So I was working, saving money and trying to survive because it was expensive in Los Angeles.
After three to four years, we moved to a new place already, and I was at the center. I was in the kitchen, cleaning up after Tsok again. Funny how things always happened around Tsok… Geshe-la had a very close student and also a sponsor, his name was Mr. Robert Stone. Mr. Robert Stone had lived with Geshe-la for many years. When I was living there he was also living there. He was Geshe-la’s student and sponsor. He did quite a lot of work for Geshe-la including filming and audio recording. Generally he is a very kind and gentle person, he did not want to get married or have a relationship because he actually wanted to become a monk, but his mother did not agree to him becoming a monk, so he had kind of lived like a monk in the center serving and sponsoring Geshe-la because he was quite well off.
He stayed very low key as he was extremely humble. He had been a vegetarian his whole life and he used to tell me that Geshe-la was an emanation of Tsongkhapa, he would fervently and enthusiastically attend Geshe-la’s classes and listen to Geshe-la, and engage in a lot of meditations, retreats and practices. So he was basically like a monk except in lay person’s form because he did not want to disrespect his mother’s wishes at that time. He told me he would be a monk later for sure. He had a really good relationship with his mother, I remember her name was Sunny Stone and just like her name she was really sunny and happy, a very wonderful lady. I have met her once or twice. In any case that’s a little background info on Robert Stone.
So one day, I was in the kitchen cleaning up and washing the dishes and putting things away, which is what I usually do after Tsok. I would say about ninety-five percent of the students would take off after Tsok and a few of us would stay behind and clean up, usually bi-monthly. So we were in the kitchen together and Robert said to me,
“You know a few years ago you had promised Zong Rinpoche that you would go to India and you’d be a monk, and what happened?”
I was a little frustrated with Robert’s question because I felt like he did not believe that I would do that, like I had forgotten or kind of just gave-up on it. So I replied Robert in a nice way, although I was a little frustrated, I said:
“Robert, of course I know my promise to Zong Rinpoche. Of course I am gonna go be a monk and that has never, ever changed. But I have a lot of financial issues and problems, I have loans, you know I have credit-card loans. You know, I can barely make it and I barely saved any money. And so I need money to get to India. I need to pay off my bills.” And he said, “OK. If you needed the money to go, how much would you need?”
So I calculated how much my ticket would be to India. I calculated my loans and my credit card. And It came out to about five thousand U.S. dollars at that time. I think I had about two thousand dollars U.S. in credit card loans and I had some other bills outstanding and some loans to people, I mean I was a young kid and also I would need a ticket and some money in India to travel. So I calculated a roundabout figure of about five thousand U.S. and I said to Robert:
“I probably need about five thousand U.S.”
Then he said to me, “If you have that money would you give up everything and go?”
And I said, “Immediately”.
He says, “OK I’ll give you the money, start packing.” And I froze, because people don’t just give people money like that, and five thousand U.S. is a lot.
So I said to Robert, “Are you sure? You want to give me five thousand? To cover my loans, my ticket and go to India to be a monk?”
He said, “Yeah. I want to give it to you.”
And I said, “Why?”
And he said, “Because if you don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it, cause you’re getting older and time is elapsing, and if money is really the issue and nothing else, well, I have the money and I can give it to you. And you don’t owe me anything, just go.”
And I said, “Well I am going to have to get Geshe-la’s permission. I mean you’re Geshe-la’s student. You’re Geshe-la’s sponsor. I don’t think I can just take money from you. I will have to get Geshe-la’s permission. And if Geshe-la says OK, the deal’s on.”
And he said, “OK, go ask Geshe-la.” So I ran upstairs immediately and Geshe-la was around, I ran upstairs real quick and told Geshe-la everything.
Geshe-la thought about it and said, “Good. You can do it.” So I got Geshe-la’s permission to accept the money.
I ran downstairs to tell Robert and he said, “OK, just tell me when you want the check.” So I said, “Like now!”
In the next few days Robert wrote out a five-thousand dollar check for me. I have never seen that much money in my life. I took it to the bank, deposited it and I put in my resignation from work. I resigned from Jon Douglas company and my very kind boss Ms. Liz Bernard sponsored my first set of monk robes for me when she found out my plans. She was a very terrific boss and so pleasant. I often think of her. Then I started giving away a lot of my Dharma books and my statues and my personal items. I did not have a lot but there were some. I bought my ticket, went to the camping store on Santa Monica Blvd in Hollywood to buy purification pills and water filters for India, then I bought some raincoats; all the things I thought I needed for India. So the next thing you know, everything is packed. I paid off my bills. I said goodbye to my friends, I went out with a bunch of my friends. Some of my friends, well, one of my friends was really sad that I was leaving. Some of my friends thought I’d come back and that it was just a stint. But of course, it was not.
Geshe-la himself, Robert Stone and another student of Geshe-la, the three of them took me to LAX. I was at the airport, Geshe-la put a khata on me, gave me his last advice and told me the motivation of becoming a monk. He wrote letters to his contacts in India to assist me so that the minute I step foot in India, I would have people that were Geshe-la’s contacts that would escort me to wherever I need to go, whatever I needed to do. I said goodbye tearfully. I thanked Robert. I said goodbye to the other student, and I got on the plane. The next thing you know I am on the way to India. That’s how I went to India to be a monk. Since then I heard that Robert Stone, many years back, had a gentle heart attack in his sleep and had passed away. I was very sad because he was in his forties. But I heard the good news that he had reincarnated back as the child of one of Geshe-la’s students and that His Holiness the Dalai Lama confirmed that the child was Robert’s reincarnation. So Robert Stone actually passed away and came back into the family of Geshe-la’s students and he is Geshe-la’s student again as far as I know. Talk about good samaya.
I landed in India in around October 1987, Zong Rinpoche’s attendant and Geshe Tsultrim Gyeltsen’s student Mr. Chatreng Yeshe of Majnukatilla were there at the airport to receive me, and from there I was received in Delhi. Well the rest is history. After that I went to Dharamsala to become a monk and was ordained by H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama in December of 1987. Prior to going to India I directly requested His Holiness the Dalai Lama on his visit to the USA to ordain me and it was caught on film. I have fulfilled my promise to His Holiness Kyabje Zong Rinpoche to be ordained as a monk. I have kept my promises of practice, sadhanas, meditations and the Dharma protector he has assigned me back when I was 18 years old in 1983. I have never abandoned any practice given to me by my root guru Kyabje Zong Rinpoche. Keeping my promises and commitments of practice to my guru is the highest importance to me. I will never break my promise of practice, meditations and lineage given by my guru no matter what. I make no excuses. A promise is samaya and keeping samaya to our guru is the crux of gaining higher insights according to Buddha Vajradhara. I want higher insights (attainments).
This blog post is something short and sweet although it is a deep tribute that has been long and overdue. Thanks to Robert Stone for his generosity, his sponsorship and him believing in me that he would donate such a large amount of money for me to become a monk. I don’t know when I would have made it to India if it was not for his generous sponsorship. The very reason I can become a monk and be ordained by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and also joining Gaden Monastery afterwards is all due to the sponsorship of Robert Stone at that time. I know Robert has passed away but my gratitude has never waned. This blog post and many of my works are dedicated to Mr. Robert Stone who was a friend, a kind person, an inspiration to me, dharma brother and a generous sponsor for Geshe-la. He made many things possible for Geshe-la’s works and activities to manifest and I am grateful for that. He was a very fervent disciple of Geshe-la and a very compassionate human being. He inspired me so much. He was a giant of a person back then when I needed good role models being so young and living away from my parents. I had met Robert when I was 16 when I joined Thubten Dhargye Ling Centre as he was living there with Geshe-la and he really gave me so much good advice. Remember, I left home at 16 from New Jersey and hitchhiked to Los Angeles, California. I had many conflicts with my parents as they didn’t allow me to practice or engage in dharma, so I left to seek dharma. I had hundreds of hours of conversations on life and dharma with Robert who really guided me. Thank you so much Robert. Robert’s devotion and faith to his guru Geshe-la really made an impact on me very deeply and I used to think that was how I should be. I will never forget you Mr. Robert Stone and I am forever thankful to you. Humbly,
(I do not have a picture of Mr. Robert Stone, if any of the senior students reading this from TDL or related have one and can share, I will appreciate it. You can attach the photo below in the comments section.)
For more interesting information:
- My Childhood in Taiwan…Revisiting…
- The Mala
- We Are Our Parents?
- Visiting my parents – Tsem Rinpoche
- I’m Requesting Ordination in 1987
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