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“Renunciation is the core of the Buddhist path, so if the primary role of the lama is to teach others by giving talks, wandering practice helps them to do that, because it develops their own inner qualities. But lamas can also teach by way of demonstration, and being an exemplar of the renunciate lifestyle is a very powerful way to teach people to rethink their ordinary relationship to their lives and their possessions.”

At the Garrison Institute in July, Sogyal Rinpoche, the author of The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, spoke about Mingyur Rinpoche’s retreat as a wandering yogi. “In the future, Sogyal Rinpoche said, “he’ll be someone we all look toward as a guide and refuge.”

Mingyur Rinpoche’ s close students knew he aspired to become a wandering yogi. What they didn’t know was when he would leave. “I think that was very intentional,” says Cortland Dahl. “Rinpoche obviously wants and wanted to be on his own. But it would have been next to impossible for him to do that if he’d actually told anybody when he was leaving. His Tibetan students—out of a mixture of devotion and caring and fear—would have forced an attendant on him.”

The reverence accorded to wandering yogis in the Tibetan tradition is often in the abstract, says Pitkin. In practice, people don’t generally want their own guru to leave, so the biographies of the wanderers are peppered with people trying to pin them in place. “It’s great that Milarepa wandered,” Pitkin jokes, “but it’s much better if my teacher stays here with me.”

Mingyur Rinpoche is expected to wander for three to five years, possibly longer, and to come back in the same way he left. Without warning.

Meanwhile, Myoshin Kelley believes that Mingyur Rinpoche is spending or will spend at least part of his time in the mountains. “This is not only for his love of them,” she says, “but because they are such a conducive environment for meditation. He has frequently told stories of yogis coming down from the cave to test their practice in the marketplace. Maybe he will first head for the mountains and then find his way to the chaos of a big city. Really, Mingyur Rinpoche could turn up anywhere and I find this a fun thought. Keep your eyes open and treat everyone as if they are your guru!”


From the March 2012 Shambhala Sun magazine. Click here to browse the entire issue online.



 




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