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is remembered today for his beautiful, inspired songs and poetry. For
half a lifetime, he wandered the mountains of Tibet. At one point, he
lived in a cave and subsisted on nothing but nettle soup, leaving him
bone thin and his skin a strange green. Frequently, people would
discover that Milarepa, a realized master, was living nearby and they’d
gather around him. When the crowds grew too thick, he’d move on.
well-known wandering yogi is Dza Patrul Rinpoche, a great Dzogchen
master of the nineteenth century. Completely disinterested in fine
clothes and titles, Patrul Rinpoche begged for his supper at nomad
encampments. Once a great lama arrived whom the nomads greeted with
incense and prostrations. Then the lama saw Patrul Rinpoche and hurled
himself to the ground at his feet. Only in that way did the people
understand the accomplishments of the threadbare wanderer.
Khen Rinpoche was one of the few recent adepts to practice as a
wandering yogi. A Dzogchen master, he narrowly escaped Tibet in 1959 and
then wandered the streets of Calcutta, begging and living among the
Hindu sadhus. Khen Rinpoche, now deceased, was one of Mingyur Rinpoche’s
most influential teachers.
Mingyur Rinpoche was a rising star in the Buddhist world. The author of
two bestselling books, he had a large community of students around the
globe, and he was the abbot of Tergar Osel Ling Monastery in Nepal and
Tergar Rigzin Khacho Targye Ling Monastery in India. Adding it all up,
when he slipped away last June, he was leaving a lot behind.
Rinpoche was born in Nubri, Nepal, in 1975 to an illustrious Tibetan
family. His mother is Sonam Chodron, a descendant of two Tibetan kings,
and his father was the late Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, one of the most
renowned Dzogchen teachers of the twentieth century. The couple’s
youngest son, Mingyur Rinpoche has three elder brothers who are
themselves accomplished Buddhist teachers: Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsikey
Chokling Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi .
Rinpoche had what appeared on the surface to be idyllic early years.
After all, he had a loving family and a home nestled in a beautiful
Himalayan valley. But in The Joy of Living he
makes a confession, one he acknowledges might sound strange coming from
someone regarded as a reincarnate lama who supposedly did wonderful
things in past lives. “From earliest childhood,” Mingyur Rinpoche
writes, “I was haunted by feelings of fear and anxiety. My heart raced
and I often broke out in a sweat whenever I was around people I didn’t
know… Anxiety accompanied me like a shadow.”
Mingyur Rinpoche was about six years old, he found some relief
meditating in the caves dotting the hills around his village. In these
caves, generations of practitioners had meditated and in them Mingyur
Rinpoche tried to follow in their footsteps by mentally chanting the
mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.
Though he didn’t really understand what he was doing, this practice
gave him a temporary calm. Nonetheless, outside of the caves, his
anxiety continued to grow until—as we’d say in the West—he had a
full-blown panic disorder.