The Tibetan Buddhist world was abuzz Friday with the sudden appearance on Facebook of images of a thin, bearded young lama in a remote Himalayan cave retreat whose equally sudden disappearance two and a half years ago caused just as much of a stir.
As Shambhala Sun editor Andrea Miller chronicled in an extensive profile published in the March 2012 issue of the magazine, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche was “a bestselling author and rising star in the Buddhist world.” His two published books—The Joy of Living and Joyful Wisdom—had garnered him a growing set of admirers and disciples drawn to him as much by his fresh presentation of Buddhist meditation as by his unusually frank descriptions of his early struggles with a panic disorder, and his open-minded appreciation for contemporary neuroscience and psychology.
But then one day, as Miller describes, Mingyur Rinpoche’s attendant went into his room in Bodh Gaya, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, to find only a letter on the bed explaining “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.”
Since that time, there has been no public knowledge about Mingyur Rinpoche’s whereabouts. While it’s true that this youngest son of one of the great Dzogchen masters of the past century, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, had all the right training and experience—including two previous three-year retreats in a group setting—it seems for this period he truly embraced the life of the ascetic saints of the past, casting away all worldly attachments to focus singlemindedly on mental cultivation in solitude.
With the emergence of these photos, taken by another faithful attendant, Lama Tashi, in September of last year, Mingyur Rinpoche penned another letter on January 2 to his “dear mother, relatives, monastic community, students, and all those with whom I share a connection.” In it, he describes the hardships of the life he’s been leading, but says, “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.”
Visit Mingyur Rinpoche’s Tergar International website here to see more photos and to read the completely translated letter, which contains a striking paragraph about the nature of pure awareness.
It’s said that now Mingyur Rinpoche is headed for the sacred area of Dolpo on the Tibet/Nepal border and it is still uncertain when he will conclude his retreat.