Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on January 19, 2014

Here is a bit of news that dharma students will enjoy, something that is happening right now, and the message I consider to be essential, at least to me. I am talking about the adventures of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, who has now become a wandering yogi in the style of Tibetan's great yogi-saint Milarepa. I will try to be brief, but still give you the flavor.

Mingyur Rinpoche, who was born in 1975, is the son of the celebrated Buddhist Dzogchen master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, who in addition to Mingyur Rinpoche had three other sons, today all important Buddhist masters: Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsikey Chokling Rinpoghe, and Tsoknyi Rinpoche.

I have had the good fortune to meet many dozens of rinpoches over the years, both here in this country and while traveling in Nepal, India, Tibet, and China. Mingyur Rinpoche, one of the youngest I have seen, struck me on sight as particularly clear and bright, and by bright I mean shining with light. It was just enlightening to sit with Mingyur Rinpoche at an interview Margaret and I had with him at KTD Monastery in New York. In other words, he definitely got my attention, and with that in mind, this story.

Mingyur Rinpoche was trained by his father in meditation and has had a number of great teachers, both Kagyu and Nyingma lineages, with H.E. Tai Situ Rinpoche as being perhaps the last of his main teachers. In fact, Mingyur Rinpoche did the traditional 3-year closed retreat under Tai Situ Rinpoche's guidance and eventually became the retreat master himself. Getting to the story…

In early June of 2011, in the middle of the night, Mingyur Rinpoche quietly left his monastery in Bodh Gaya, India and became a wandering yogi. He took no money or belongings, but just the clothes he was wearing. He was not accompanied even by his attendant. He was just gone. No one knew where he was and all that remained was a letter left to his students. The letter, which is rather long, contained these words to his many students:

"In parting, I would like to give you one small piece of advice to keep in your heart. You may have heard me say this before, but it is the key point of the entire path, so it bears repeating: All that we are looking for in life — all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind — is right here in the present moment. Our very own awareness is itself fundamentally pure and good. The only problem is that we get so caught up in the ups and downs of life that we don’t take the time to pause and notice what we already have."
"Don’t forget to make space in your life to recognize the richness of your basic nature, to see the purity of your being and let its innate qualities of love, compassion, and wisdom naturally emerge. Nurture this recognition as you would a small seedling. Allow it to grow and flourish."
Except for the letter, there has been no word about where Mingyur Rinpoche is or how he is until early this year when Lama Tashi (Rinpoche's attendant and good friend) managed to find him and gave him a sleeping bag and some clothes. He had almost nothing at the time. Although he did not stay on, Mingyur Rinpoche gave Lama Tashi this letter to share with his students, and I quote:

"To my dear mother, relatives, monastic community, students, and all those with whom I share a connection,

"Due to the blessings of the gurus, I am in good health and not experiencing any obstacles. At present, I am wandering without any fixed location from place to place. Right now I am with Lama Tashi, whom I met unexpectedly. Lama Tashi earnestly asked to accompany me and I accepted his request. He gave me some food, clothing, and other necessities. He also relayed to me both good and bad news, which left me feeling a mixture of happiness and sadness.

"Recently, Lama Tashi has been diligently practicing the foundation practices (ngondro) and main practices of Mahamudra and Dzogchen. I myself am wandering without any fixed location, staying in isolated mountain hermitages and other such places. I have experienced feelings of happiness and suffering, rising and falling like waves on the surface of the ocean. At times, food and clothing have been hard to come by and I have felt cold, hungry, and thirsty. Even when I have begged for alms, I received nothing but insults and harsh words. At other times, I have received food and clothing effortlessly, without even asking for them, and in my mind it felt as though I were enjoying the pleasures of the gods. While I have experienced both happiness and suffering, the most important thing is that a deep and heartfelt sense of certainty has arisen in the depths of my being, such that no matter what happens, I know that the true nature of these experiences, their very essence, is that of timeless awareness and vast compassion.

"This natural clarity of awareness has been with us from the very beginning. It is the very essence and true nature of our minds. Day and night, it is always present. Therefore, one must maintain the flow of pure awareness to the best of one’s ability, without meditating, yet not getting lost in distraction. Great love and compassion are also innate qualities of our being. All the thoughts, destructive emotions, and suffering we encounter are, in essence, completely permeated by vast compassion. As a sign of this, we naturally wish to enjoy happiness and to be free of suffering. While all beings have great wisdom and compassion, this is not always apparent. This is simply because they have not recognized what they already have. Thus, aside from merely recognizing our own true nature, there isn’t the slightest thing to meditate on. Recognizing the importance of this, I have passed my days feeling joyful and content, wandering through the mountains and valleys and staying here and there. From my heart, I sincerely encourage all of you to practice diligently in this manner as well.

"Lama Tashi has now returned to the city with this letter, along with some pictures of my retreat that he requested. I hope you enjoy them. I pray that we meet again before long, gathering together with joy and happiness to enjoy the richness of the Dharma.

"Mingyur Tulku
"January 2nd, 2014

I find this story inspiring and wanted to share it with readers. I remember last seeing Mingyur Rinpoche in August of 2009 in Toronto, Canada. Margaret and I were there for a special teaching on the 84 Mahasiddhas being taught by the great Thrangu Rinpoche. It was evening and we were invited to a dinner at Lama Namse's center. Suddenly there was a fierce windstorm that either was or was close to being a full-blown tornado, and it passed perhaps only a block away. It was terrifying.

Margaret and I were huddled in a small book room in Lama Namse's center, while the storm raged outside just a few feet away. In that little room with us were Mingyur Rinpoche, Lama Namse, Thrangu Rinpoche, and our own teacher Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche. I felt safe. That was the last time I saw Mingyur Rinpoche. I find his message electrifying and spot on.