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The Story of

Lama Tsering Wangdu Chapter Three


Transcribed, Edited and Noted by

Joshua Waldman
As narrated by Lama Wangdu from December 1998 to May 1999
Parphing, Nepal
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Chapter Three: Crossing Over.

Preparations for the Journey:
One day I invited all my practitioner friends to give a tsok puja. Whatever food I
had, I offered as tsok, including my tsampa. Normally, ascetic practitioners are careful
with their tsampa. Some old and young nuns said, He is completely changed, he is
acting crazy. He is giving everything he has as tsok. One old nun said, He must not be
feeling well, he must have gone crazy.
A nun named Kalsang asked me, You have offered all the food you have for
tsok, have you not become a little mad?
Im not mad, but I feel a little crazy-- like Im about to go nuts, I replied.
Having given everything to my close friends there was nothing left except my
wooden back pack.
I reached Langkor at about three or four in the afternoon. I did not dare go to the
village. If I were to tell my mother or sisters about going to Nepal, they might have
cried. So instead, I went to the mani Lhakang1 at dusk.
I left my bags at the courtyard and requested the treasurers permission if I could
see the statue of Pha Dhampa Sangye. He agreed. I had the thought that this might be
the last time I would see this holy statue of Pha Dhampa Sangye, so I prayed in front of it
and circumambulated it three times.2
I saw three people coming down the dark road. I wondered if they might be going
in my same direction. One of these people was wearing a hat typically worn my monks.
They seemed like real practitioners.
It turned out indeed he was a Dharma friend who had received Chd initiation
with me before. [He and his companions] were also going towards Nyalam.

Tib. lha khang; Eng. shrine room, usually where the mani wheel is kept.
Indeed, this statue was destroyed when the Chinese Liberation Army invaded Dingri.

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They brought fire wood with them so we made tea and boiled noodle soup. We
decided to travel together.

Nyalam Village3:
We finally arrived at Nyalam Tsongdu town. Because it was autumn, there were
many people bringing sheep to sell to the Nepalese [for slaughter]. I didnt like seeing all
this killing so I couldnt stay. Lets leave to Nepal as soon as we can, I suggested to
my friends.
A friend who sold yogurt and firewood said, There are [other] places to stay.
Just up there is a place called Pulok; just above that is a monastery called Pelay; and
above the monastery is a mountain with many caves. You can stay there, but you must
have guts because they make noises at night. The woman was from a mountain village a
little away from the town so she knew the area. The lady told me, If you are really
interested I will show you the cave. I went with her.
The next day she took me to a cave above some truly beautiful pastures and the
nunnery called Peley. In this cave you [are likely to] hear noises at night time. Dont be
afraid. If you need food we will offer you food.
People started to come to ask for divinations and other things. I stayed there for
two months practicing Palden Lhamo visualizations.

Crossing the Boarder to Nepal:

When I returned to the market and met my friends, they were totally involved in
their work. They were not willing to leave.
I happened to meet a husband and wife who were from my village who were also
going to Kathmandu. We decided to walk together.

Ferrari. p154. . .

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First we came to Chogsham where we stayed with one family in a wooden house.
In this family was a very sick son. He had been sick for a long time and when we arrived
he was in a lot of pain. He was about to die. The family asked me if I did divination, if I
could help their son. I dont know about divination but I can practice Chd.
So at night I did Chd practice. As I finished my practice the front door flung
open with a loud bang! Everyone was startled.
No problem, I said, the demon has escaped from the house.
Is it true? they asked.
Yes it is true; the demon who was hurting your son has escaped from the house.
I said.
The next morning the father with a bucket of corn flour and rice came to me and
said, My son has recovered completely from his illness, thank you very much!
We reached a market on the other side [of the border] called Dram. The year
must have been 1958.

To Nepal:
Just below was a big river without any bridge. Tied between two trees was a
rope, and on the rope was a basket used to ferry people to the other side. At the time it
cost twelve cents to cross.
When I crossed the river I met a few Tibetans on the other side. I asked them,
Where are you going?
We are going back to Tibet, they said.
Carrying my backpack and my walking stick,4 I walked by the riverside alone,
knowing my fellow Tibetans were going north back to Tibet I felt a little sad and I
meditated on Guru Rinpoche.

A trident similar to the one Guru Rinpoche holds in his left arm.

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Soon, a cloud above a high mountain appeared as Guru Rinpoche himself wearing
blue robes, his left hand he held his walking stick and he wore his hat. He motioned with
his right hand the way I should travel. He showed me the way. This was a very clear
image. I felt very happy and comforted.

I pushed myself along the road. When I reached a pass I saw some white houses
with a green field ahead. Just before I reached this village I met an old women with
white hair and a red dress carrying a basket of grasses on her back. Where are you
going? she asked me in Sherpa dialect.
I have no idea and I dont have a place to stay; can you give me a place to stay
Yes, of course. I followed her to her house. Her small quarters faced a triangle
shaped courtyard where two cows were tied to a post. The roof was made of slate.
Inside a grass mattress and some firewood lay next to a stone hearth. Seeing this
mattress and hearth, I felt very happy. Is this okay? she asked.
Yes, I like it very much. I said.
Then you can stay here as long as you want.
I took off my backpack and lay down on the mattress. After some time the old
woman brought me a plate of corn dough and a bowl of yogurt.
She said, If you dont have any other place, you can stay here as long as you
want. I will offer you food.
I will stay for a little bit, then Ill go on to Kathmandu. Later I will return back
here, I said. I ended up staying for one month. I felt very happy with the Nepalese
landscapes and the houses, it was all very beautiful.

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To Kathmandu:
With two Tibetans I had met, I journeyed to Boudha. I stayed with an old man
who painted thankas and took care of the stupa for one month; he offered me food.
From Boudha I walked to Jawelekyel staying in a guest house next to the zoo.
Then [I proceeded to] Pharping were I stayed in a guest house next to a small lake. There
were no monasteries around at the time. There was only one guest house.
In the morning I could hear the birds and the water of the lake. There were no
other noises, it was very peaceful. I stayed in Parphing one month.

On the Road (a strange dream):

After a month I went to Sangkhu-- a holy Vajrayogini temple. Just below the
temple was an animal sacrifice place; it was completely red with blood. Also I saw a
Ganesh statue that was very white. The people in the guest house I stayed at suggested I
live in the caves above. I stayed there for twelve days.
I returned to Tato Pani. Again I had to cross a big river, [however] this time there
was a boat that took people across. It was a long wooden boat people sat single file in.
Two people sat and pushed it across.
As we reached the shore the boat [suddenly] capsized. But my belt got stuck on a
nail on the boat and [fortunately, since I couldnt swim] it took me to the other side
where I immediately grabbed onto a tree. I was safe but all my stuff had fallen in.
The Nepalese people were able to swim and they recovered my baggage. My
tsampa and damaru were soaked. I stayed to dry my stuff while the other people
continued on. I spread my stuff out beneath a tree.
I felt both sadness and happiness in my heart. All my clothes were wet and my
food was wet. I just stayed there naked. Just then two old Tamang ladies and their
children appeared. You are completely naked, are you crazy?

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No, Im not crazy. My boat capsized and all my stuff fell in the river, Im just
drying my clothes.
Oh, are you cold?
Would you like some rakshi? 5
Yes I would. I put up my wooden bowl.
From her flask she filled my bowl up. I slowly drank the rakshi. Then I got
drunk. The melancholy feeling was lost, my body warmed up and I started to sing and
dance. From the hill tops some Nepalese people watched me. [I was still naked.]
Because my blankets were wet I slept under the tree without cover. I had a very
disturbing dream. A black woman stood in front of me. She was tall. Her face
resembled the woman who had given me rakshi earlier. I held a knife two feet long. It
was very bright. I wondered where I got this knife. She told me, The knife is to cut
your head; It would be very good if you cut your head.
Will I not die if I cut my head? I asked.
You will not die; you will not get sick; you will not get hurt." I held my head
and cut my head off. It sliced like butter. Cut one more time. she said. I cut once
more above where I had just cut. I didnt die; I didnt feel hurt or sick.
When I woke up I thought this was a bad woman and that bad obstacles were on
my way. I felt doubt. I didnt find any sickness when I checked my body, so I put on my
pack and started my journey back towards Tibet.
I stopped at a rest stop and began to make tea. I met a geshe and asked him about
my dream.
You shouldnt be afraid, it was a very auspicious dream. The appearance of
Dorje Phagmo in the dream shows you are able to cut through your ego. You should
keep this secret. The geshe advised me very well.

A Nepalese Liqueur, brewed from fruits and grains.

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The No-Return Ticket:

By that time it had been one year and two months since I left Tibet. When I
started the return to home I met a monk with a twisted mouth. He told me, The situation
in Tibet is not good. The Chinese have invaded and the Dalai Lama has already escaped.
It is not good to go back now. This was the first news I heard about Tibet.
Instead of going [to the border], I went back to my Sherpa family who first gave
me a room when I came from Tibet. It had been nearly a year and she was happy to see
me. Her sons advised me not to go anywhere and offered to let me stay with them [in the

In the mountains was a big village called Tang Shing; on the other side of the
valley was a village called Marme. About fifteen to twenty monks usually participated in
Nyingma rituals [for the villages].
When a person died in Tang Shing village and the Sherpa people got together to
do a ritual and give alms. Four or five Sherpa lamas got together to lead the pujas. I
used to read well so I agreed to help them. They asked me to perform Chd. You dont
have a father, a mother, a wife or children. In our texts it is prophesied that a son without
a father and a mother who works to help other people is a reincarnated lama who came to
the world to benefit beings. You must be like this lama. You dont need to ask for alms
anymore [from anyone]. We will provide you with your food [from now on].

[Meanwhile], no matter how much I tried to return to Tibet I couldnt. More and
more Tibetans were leaving all the time and the news was getting worse. Finally the
border closed completely and there was no chance of ever returning home. I stayed in the
village with the Sherpa family for a total of five years [after that].

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Pilgrimage to India:
Although many Tibetans were escaping, I didnt see anybody from my area so I
decided to visit Kathmandu once again.
In Boudha there were already many Tibetans. A refugee camp was started in
Jawelekyel. In tin houses they were spinning and weaving carpets. They lived in small
thatch roofed houses with bamboo walls.
I stayed for one winter season in Kathmandu, then I planned to go back to the
Sherpa village. But before I left the Tibetans told me, Dont stay in a Nepalese village
so far away. Stay with us Tibetans [here] in the camp. If you die in the village, there
wont be anybody to take care of you. [So I stayed in Kathmandu instead].

I met a Tibetan family from Nyalam village and stayed with them in Boudha [for
some time]. I found out His Holiness was in Dharamsala and I wanted to visit him. I
started to plan to go to India on pilgrimage but no Tibetans knew the language of India.
Out of three families that invited me to go with them only one man could speak the
language. I decided to go with him and his family.
The Nyalam family I stayed with told me I didnt need to take anything with me
for the journey, not blankets or food or anything. They said, The Dalai Lama has
already arrived in India. You dont need to pay for the train. You dont need to pay for
food. Just bring one mug, some beaten rice and a small blanket. This is enough. I
listened to their advice without asking other families about it.
When I met the other family traveling to India they remarked, You dont even
have a pot to carry! I repeated what the Nyalam family told me about everything being
given to us. Nobody will give you anything free. But it was too late and we were
already in the truck on the road.
In the truck with me was the man who spoke Hindi, his mother and his brother
who was a monk. Since nobody had experience driving in a car before, everyone

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vomited in their pots. When they got off the truck they had to boil tea in those same pots.
I ate beaten rice and tea. The next morning I had sores on my face and felt nauseous.
Then I got heat sickness.

Sickness and Recovery:

When we reached a place called Lucknow to catch a train, I fell asleep right on
the platform. An Indian woke me up and asked me to come with him. I asked my
Tibetan friend, What does this Indian have in mind?
He said he would like to take you to a good health clinic. So I let him take me
to a hospital near the station. The doctor gave me a checkup, some pills and ointment.
He didnt charge me any money. After I took the medicine I recovered completely.
We arrived at the end of the month in Dharamsala and in two weeks Tibetan New
Year would arrive. My Tibetan friends, after having two audiences with His Holiness the
Dalai Lama, decided to go back to Nepal. We dont have time to go on pilgrimage
because we need to be home to plant potatoes.

Alone in Dharamsala:
I was alone in Dharamsala without any cooking pots. All I had was my cup. I
carried my blanket and bag to a guest house and asked the old Tibetan who owned the
place if I could stay there. He said, It's not possible.
So I went a little further up the hill. I found an aged monk. I told him, I dont
have any pots to cook with; may I join you?
Okay, you can stay. The old man had some blankets and luggage and also
some pots. He said he was from Yangpachen, a Gelukpa monastery.
He had a hammock on a wood frame to sleep on. He said, You do not have rugs
or padding. I have something to put on the floor; why dont you sleep on the hammock?
He and I became friends and shared our food.

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The next day was Losar, Tibetan New Year. All the Tibetans made fried cookies
in their small pots, but we didnt have oil to fry our own in. The monk said, You do a
puja for wealth and I will go out to beg for alms. We will have more cookies than the
I put tea and rice in a copper butter pot and did a prayer to the white Ganesh. The
other monk carried his bag on his shoulder and with his damaru he went to beg for alms.
He left early morning and came back after only after a few hours. His bag was filled with
cookies and boiled rice; we ate well that day. We actually had enough food to eat for
After a week [though] I didnt have any food left so I had to get my things ready
to go. I divided my food with my friend and was going to go to Tso Pema, a holy lake.

Pilgrimage (Tso Pema):

Some Tibetans came in the bus and that night we reached Tso Pema. I met [my
acquaintance] Khenpo Kensur from Lama Gyupa. We circumambulated and stayed
together. For him, I performed Chd. He really liked it and we became good friends.
The tree [in the lake] had not been moving for sometime6. The kenpo said, If we
do some purification the tree will move again. The next morning he gave me some
incense to burn and a vase of water. I went to the tree and offered prayers with the
incense and water. Just as soon as we finished the puja a flock of black birds flew up into
the sky and noises came from the trees. Then it started moving.
Everyone said, Guru Rinpoche has arrived. When the tree paused for a little
bit people hung prayer flags and katas. After thirty minutes the tree finished one circle of
the lake. The villagers said it had been a year since they moved like that.

The tree is supposed to circumambulate the lake as a sort of natural phenomena.

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Kenpo Kensur asked me to perform Chd every evening. One evening he said,
You do Chd very well. We live in Sikkim and in Sikkim if anybody knows how to
perform Chd he is considered very special. If you come with us, you will have a good
life. I really felt like going with them but still I had mixed feelings.

Bodhgaya and Buddhas Dream:

The kenpo, his entourage of seven monks and I took a bus to Bodhgaya.
There were many Tibetans, laypeople and monks circumambulating the stupa
there. We stayed in a courtyard. After two or three days I was supposed to leave for
Sikkim with the Khenpo. In front of Buddhas statue I prostrated 100 times and
performed a Chd practice. I asked the Buddha to tell me in my dreams that night
whether I should go to Nepal or Sikkim.
I went to sleep and had a dream: I was in Boudha going with two Tibetans
around the stupa. I couldnt remember how I had gotten there. Since I didnt know
which way I came, I thought this must be a dream. With disbelief I looked at the stupa. I
saw the eyes of the stupa and all the prayer flags so clearly I thought it had to be real. I
looked at the ground and noticed all the white stones; the black stones and broken stones
were all in the right place. I saw everything so clearly.
Outside the gate of the stupa was a chang shop7 called Khola Chenpo. The
woman who worked there was called Phurbu la. She never got angry or rude. If you
drink chang there, a big brass bowl cost only twenty five cents. It was delicious. Not
only does it quench your thirst and fill your stomach, but also got you drunk. Since I was
in India for so long drinking hot water, I wanted to drink cold chang. Because this
really must be Boudha, I need to go to Phurpu las place to drink chang, I thought. In
the dream I went to the chang shop.

Chang is rice beer

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Usually there were many people there, this time there were not many people. In
the middle of the shop was the Phurpu la wearing a black Sari and a white shawl holding
a brass bowl of chang. As soon as I entered, Purpu said, So youve come back, lama.
Yes, I was in India and really missed your chang. All I could drink was boiled
hot water. Now Id really like a cup. Immediately she offered me the brass bowl of
chang. I grabbed it and drank the whole thing without resting. The chang was cold and
delicious and I felt very happy. When I finished the bowl I looked up at Phurpus face
and immediately woke up. I found myself still in Bodhgaya and missed my dream so
I realized Buddha gave me a prophesy that I shouldnt go to Sikkim; instead I
should go to Kathmandu. I told my friends about it.
They didnt believe me saying, It wasnt your dream; someone might have told
you to go to Nepal. Just forget about that. They insisted I go to Sikkim. [But] I also
insisted it was really my dream.

The Journey Back to Kathmandu:

The very next day I started my journey back to Nepal from Bodhgaya. I met a
Tibetan who helped me find the bus.
I [eventually] got off a train where I had originally arrived in India, where
everyone had drunken tea from the unwashed pot. I slept alone under that [very] same
tree. It might have been three or four in the morning when a Nepali kid called my name,
Hey lama, hey lama. I woke up and he asked me, Are you going to Kathmandu?
Yes, I am.
Then come with me. He took me to a truck that was ready to go. One Sikh
Punjab man asked me if I had eleven rupees. I said yes, so he told me to get in the truck.
The kid said, Climb up from behind. When I got on, the truck was full of goods.

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There was some space in between the bags. You stay here, the kid said. It was really
comfortable and soft. I fell asleep while the truck was going.
I woke up when the truck stopped at a high mountain pass. The driver and kid
were drinking tea at one shop. Come down and drink some tea. they said.
I have a headache, I wont drink tea.
Take your shawl off, the Sikh Punjab man said. I took off my red silk shawl
and he tied it on my head. He massaged my hand very strongly. Now go up to the truck
and sleep. I found out the cargo was actually cotton. No wonder I was so comfortable!
Finally we arrived in the city and the driver asked for his eleven rupees. I gave
him the money and I felt happy knowing exactly where I was; that I could just go about

I visited the family who advised me not to bring anything to India. Since I had
given them all my butter, meat, tsampa and tea, I went to see if I could get it back. It
turned out they had gone back to their Sherpa village and had eaten all my tsampa. They
also finished the butter and left only a big empty tin. When I asked the Nepalese landlord
if they had left any of my things, he said they hadnt.
[With nothing of my own, I decided it was time for me to leave] for my old
Sherpa village once again.

In the village I again stayed in my old landladys house. By then so many new
Tibetans had arrived; many people from Nyalam. Each Sherpa house had [at least] two
Tibetan families living in it. Maybe it was because of the unfamiliar heat but many
people were dying-- mostly children and old people. I had to do all the funerals, the
powas and Chd practices. Sometimes I had to dispose of the body in the river.
Sometimes I had to cut up the bodies, then throw them in the river.

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There was a monk called Urgyen Kelsang whose father died in [nearby] Tanto
Pani. They asked me to come to their thatched house to perform Chd. When I was
doing the ritual, a sound came from the dead fathers mouth. I dont know the reason, a
demon or a god. All the people in the room ran away. I got up to examine him; the body
was swollen in the neck. It seemed like he was trying to wake up; to become a zombie. I
hit him with my bone flute two times on the head. Just then he peed all over the place
and some strange vapors came from him. The next morning I threw the body in the
Tanto Pani river.
Nearby was another Tibetan family from north Tibet called Gharipu. The
husband was a strong man, but he died suddenly. They requested me to do the funeral.
There were three or four brothers who were helping the widow. One younger brother
who limped was adept in reading texts. At night I asked the younger brother to help me
read the prayers. He sat in one corner of the room. I stayed in the other corner with the
rest of the brothers. I felt a little drowsy and dozed off for a second. When I woke up all
the brothers were running out of the room one after the other. I didnt know what was
going on. I just picked up my damaru and continued the practice. The boy wasnt
beating the drum. Whats going on? I asked.
Hes saying something.
Who is? I asked. The boy pointed towards the corpse. I put my drum down to
listen. Grrrrrr!" The corpse was making noise. At first I was scared; then I got angry.
When I uncovered the cotton from the corpse my helper [too] ran away.
The dead body was swollen and his penis was erect. I hit it on its head as its hair
was beginning to stand on end. This wasnt helping.
The grandfather cleverly brought me some sand. I visualized a mantra in it and
threw it at the body. He immediately threw up blood and peed. The room was
completely covered with blood and piss.

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The grandfather said, Its still not good, we need to tie him with rope. I tightly tied the
body to the bamboo ceiling beam. The body again started to produce sounds and again I
threw the sand. He vomited blood.
The other brothers were nowhere to be found, so I hired two people and we
wrapped the body in a white blanket. We carried him to the river side and I did Chd. I
opened the blanket and vapors were coming out of the body. Then I threw him in the
I did about forty funeral services in that area, but only these two funerals
appeared like this. No other bodies made sound or anything like that.

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