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The Wanderer

He was a bestselling author and rising star of the Buddhist world, but one day Mingyur Rinpoche just walked out and left it all behind. ANDREA MILLER reports on a modern lama braving the ancient path of the wandering yogi.

The old monk Lama Soto knocked on Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s door. Then he knocked again. It was noon at Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, India, and Lama Soto was bringing Mingyur Rinpoche his lunch, just as he’d done for the past five days, ever since Mingyur Rinpoche had announced that he was going to intensify his practice and remain alone in his room, eating only once a day. Their custom was that Lama Soto would knock on the door; in response, Mingyur Rinpoche would open it a little, then Lama Soto would walk in. But on this day early last June, Mingyur Rinpoche did not open the door and no sound came from his room. At one o’clock, Lama Soto pushed open the unlocked door and on the bed he found a long white ceremonial scarf and a letter. Mingyur Rinpoche was gone and he had taken nothing with him—not money, not a change of clothes, not even a toothbrush. Lama Soto nearly fainted.

The letter, written in Tibetan, explained that from a young age Mingyur Rinpoche had wanted to practice by traveling alone from place to place in the style of a wandering yogi, and that he’d finally made the decision to do so. “Though I do not claim to be like the great masters of times past,” he wrote, “I am now embarking on this journey as a mere reflection of these teachers, as a faithful imitation of the example they set. For a number of years, my training will consist of simply leaving behind my connections, so please do not be upset with my decision.” He urged his students to continue practicing in his absence and not to worry about him.

More than eight months have passed since Mingyur Rinpoche disappeared, and still no one knows where he is. Cortland Dahl is the president of the board of Tergar International, a network of meditation centers and study groups under Mingyur Rinpoche’s guidance. When I ask Dahl if he has any guesses regarding his teacher’s whereabouts, he tells me that the short answer is no, but that there have been rumors.


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