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Milarepa 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.

Another 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.

Nyoshul 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.

Yongey 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.

 

Mingyur 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 .

Mingyur 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.”

When 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.


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