Mingyur Rinpoche

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The VIIth Mingyur Dorje Rinpoche was born in Nubri, Nepal in 1976, the son of Sonam Chodron a descendent of King Trison Deutsen, and Urgyen Tulku Rinpoche of  Chogyur Lingpa's lineage.  He is considered an incarnation of 17th-century terton Yongey Mingyur Dorje, foretold by Guru Rinpoche.  Mingyur Dorje was recognized by the 16th Gyalwa Karmapa.  Dilgo Khyentse confirmed that he was also an emanation of Kangyur Rinpoche, a renowned Nyingmapa. 

While still a young child, he would go off to the caves saying he intended to meditate there.  This motivation resulted in his completing his first three-year retreat at age seventeen.  He was officially enthroned by the 12th Tai Situ Rinpoche and has received transmissions and Mahamudra teachings from him, as well as from Lama Tashi Dorje, Adi Rinpoche and Saljay Rinpoche.  He was instructed in Dzogchen by his father, Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, and by the Nyolshul Khenpo.  From Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, he received the Kagyu Dam Ngak Dzo transmission.  His foundation in philosophy was at the Dzongsar shedra as well as at Sherab Ling.  

Mingyur Rinpoche is a principle representative of His Eminence Tai Situ, whose seat of Palpung Sherab Ling in India is where he is the current retreat master (replacing the late Saljay Rinpoche.)  He has already had the opportunity of blessing his own monastic seat in Tibet, and will soon head Tergar Monastery, under construction in Bodhgaya, India.   

June 2011

Excerpt from a letter written by Rinpoche before his retreat
( http://tergar.org/resources/2011-6-letter-from-rinpoche.shtml )

 In my early years, I trained in a number of different ways. The time I spent with my father involved rigorous meditation training, but I was not in strict retreat, in the sense that I met other people and could come and go freely. My three-year retreat at Sherab Ling Monastery, on the other hand, was held in complete isolation. A small group of us lived in an enclosed compound and didn't have any contact with the outside world until the retreat ended. These are two forms of practice, but they are not the only ways. As demonstrated by the great yogi Milarepa, there is also a tradition of wandering from place to place, staying in remote caves and sacred sites with no plans or fixed agenda, just an unswerving commitment to the path of awakening. This is the type of retreat that I will be practicing over the coming years.

This tradition isn't very common these days. My third main teacher, the great Dzogchen yogi Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche, was one of the few recent masters to practice in this way. Khen Rinpoche practiced in closed retreats when he was younger, but later he took up the life of a wandering yogi. He completely dropped his normal life and activities. Nobody knew where he was or what he was doing. He spent time meditating in isolated caves and other places where the great masters of times past, such as Milarepa and Longchenpa practiced, and at one point he even lived among the Hindu sadhus of India. His story is a perfect example of a modern, carefree yogi.

After more than 4 years of wandering, in 2015 on the anniversary of Lhabab Duchen, Rinpoche returned to take his seat again at Tergar Monastery.

Sept. 24, 2003 

Members and friends of Rigpe Dorje Centre, at its latest quarters above Teva on Decarie Boulevard in Montreal, were treated to a surprise visit from Mingyur Rinpoche on Wednesday evening.  He taught on the subject of Mahamudra, the topic of his KTD visit of Oct. 3 - 5, 2003.  He was in the company of some monks including his translator, Lama Tenzin and Lama Phuntsok of Kitchener-Waterloo.   French translation was by Esther Rochon.  

Despite short notice, the premises was packed with more than 60 people.  Though there was lots of cushion space, it was interesting to find that at a gathering of this nature  a young man did not consider offering his chair.  I finally found a seat to the right of Rinpoche but any view of his body was blocked by a pillar, and the periodic roar of the air conditioner fan made it more difficult than usual for me to hear.  Nevertheless, the restrictions afforded an unexpected opportunity to appreciate this young teacher, who is at once self-contained and energetic.   These admirable qualities were emphasized by the fact that I could not see his face, but only hear his voice and watch the precision of expression displayed by his hands.

What is it that performs Mahamudra?

Mingyur Dorje began by saying that Mahamudra is not applied by the body but rather by the mind. He then asked, "What is the mind?" adding he would only allot 1 minute for discussion.  The audience may have taken this for a rhetorical question, as not a person stirred for almost 30 seconds.  A teacher myself, I was impressed by the confidence and composure he displayed as he waited patiently without expanding except to joke, "Well, how is it?  You are welcome to say."  

Finally someone had the confidence to raise a hand and then we heard such replies as "Mind is that which produces thought," and "It is that with which I listen," "It is an energy that carries and organizes our memories," "It is that which is clear and aware," and ironically, "It is complicated and indefinable."

The translator, who also functioned as an intermediary at times, said," Rinpoche appreciated your efforts; they are all good answers."  When someone added, perhaps inspired by Bardor Rinpoche's recent teaching on Prajnaparamita, "Is it not Emptiness?"   Rinpoche was swift to respond, "Since it is [that,] then that is how we are able to think of multiple things."  

"If we do not recognize our own nature [as Mind] then we are continually subject to our emotions and our negative energies.  But by knowing our nature, then happiness arises."

Where is Mahamudra applied?

It works on the mind that knows its own nature. We do this by using the skills called in Sanskrit shamatha and vipashyana.  That is, the restful and then the analytical type of meditations.  With these two, we can achieve Mahamudra.  Of the three aspects of an individual:  body, speech and mind, it is the latter that is most important.

[The Buddha at the first "Turning of the Wheel," when he enumerated the 4 "Noble Truths" explained how] We desire happiness and do not desire suffering. All sentient beings are the same [in this regard.]  Therefore, it is useful to inquire into, and investigate the origins of suffering.

Rinpoche: "Where does it come from?"

Now knowing they are actually expected to speak out, some voices call: "Ignorance" "Desire," "Attachment."  Like students in any class, we tend to supply knee-jerk responses rather than actually continue the train of reasoning, so Rinpoche's remark, "Most of you agree it comes from the mind" is followed by laughter.

He continues:  "It occurs through perception.  There are no happy or unhappy objects. It may seem as though like and dislike proceeds from the object, but who decides that?  We do.  So we have to learn about that, and once we do, then it is called Wisdom." 

(Someone wants to know whether the Tibetan word here is "sherab" or "yeshes."  The reply is the former.) 

"We are used to looking outward, but we do not know how to look inward." 

The Flower

Rinpoche seems to be fiddling with two flowers in the glass on his desk, and one falls out.  From my vantage point, they do not look real.   He holds up the pink one between thumb and forefinger, palm upward -- for a moment I am reminded of the famous Zen story in which only one monk understands the message of the flower --  and Rinpoche asks, "When you look at the flower how many feel it is beautiful?  How many feel positive towards it?" Most raise their hands.  "Do any of you feel negative towards it?" No hands.  "How about neutral?"  A very few hands go up.  

Rinpoche's own hands are not large nor long, but smooth, graceful and young.  The palms contrast sharply with the backs which are much darker -- they resemble the paintings of mudras in traditional texts.  

"The flower's innate quality contains neither good nor bad.  Yet from our perspective, we [generally] see it as beautiful, and that is where desire occurs.  If you look in a more neutral way, ... ."  (Here, as he is making his main point, his voice rises and thins in timbre and pitch.  Since he is concealed from me, the effect is as if another person entirely is speaking.  I am surprised enough to look up from my notes.)  "If a person were to perceive the flower as neutral, they would be more happy."

"So therefore, it is clear  because of the two factors involved in perception, [the object and the mind] that the object itself does not contain happiness."

The translator:  "Rinpoche assumes most of you, on perceiving the flower, like it."

Rinpoche all the while is holding the flower and uses it to gesticulate as he says, "Having the idea that beauty is [resides] in the flower is what makes [engenders] unhappiness."

"So let's look this way:  Your enemy is someone who always challenges you.  Imagine that he is holding the flower right in front of you.  Then you would probably not like the flower. And you would say, 'What an ugly flower!' (At that instant, the other, white, flower tumbles out of the glass.) Now let's say the enemy has to leave the table -- to go to the toilet, say -- so you grab the flower where it lies, and rip it up and stomp it underfoot." 

[That is how we often react. We make associations which contribute to further unhappiness, and this can even lead to violent actions.  Further examples were given.] 

"Because one's mind is always looking outwardly and not inwardly, then one suffers." As if reflecting on his own words, Rinpoche's left hand is occupied with his mala.

Rinpoche had the chance of attending the conference with the Dalai Lama in Boston.  The scientists may have been studying the effects of meditation, but it seems that the lamas were studying the scientists: "Most people there were looking at the world from a third person perspective, while the Buddhists were looking from the first person point of view.   

Inward [part 2]

"If you look outwardly for Liberation, you will never find it.  The moment one finds that happiness takes form internally, then this is opening the door to true happiness. If you look outward for it, you are blinding yourself rather than liberating yourself."

"To achieve happiness and liberation from suffering is the most important thing -- what we are all looking for is inner peace. " 

"Of course, it may be that we have external situations that can help us, but it is the inner situation that is important.'

"Buddha said from the beginning that our true nature is Happiness.  To realize it, we rely on the Method part and the Wisdom part."  (Rinpoche then explained these two complementary aspects.) 

How to Apply Shamatha Meditation

"Shamat'ha or in Tibetan, shinay, means "just leave it as it is."   Because Mind has love and compassion, it has the power to attain wisdom.  Yet if these are not applied, then it is not expressing its true nature.  So for the beginner, there are two aspects [to attend to]:  1. The body and 2.  the mind."  1.  Concisely, the body should be straight, relaxed with the head not inclined to either side.  The hands may either be open one on the other (and it does not matter which is on top) or on the knees.   

We should be straight, calm and relaxed. We should not be "meditating" [as distinct from other mental activity] but we should not be distracted.  We are paying attention to the self-occurring mind -- not something you create but something that is with you all the time.  Do you understand?  So now we will apply this together."

(We sit in silence for barely 2 minutes.) "So.  How was it?"

"If you don't have any questions, that means ... ."  

Someone asks, "When everyone around us is practicing, that seems to make it so much easier. Why is that?"  

Answer: "Alone, it may be that one is tired -- but why? Because we plan; we have expectations.   For example, 'I want to have a good session.'  Also, there are individual differences [including karmic ones.

Then, after a pause, as if Rinpoche has been monitoring himself -- he is obviously very alert, intelligent and self-aware; proof of some of the practical benefits of Mahamudra -- he adds,  "With the blessing of the Lama, it is better."

"One's attitude should be that no matter what happens, let it happen.  So the moment you [correctly] apply the meditative technique, you will be free of [anxiety or obsessive thinking] such as whether you will be reborn in hell or in Buddha-hood.  Hell is OK and so is the buddha state."  He tells of one master who specifically requests to be reborn in hell in order to continue to be able to benefit beings.

Rinpoche, again monitoring his words, this time for possible  misinterpretation adds: "Afterwards, in post-meditation, it is necessary to know that Buddha-hood is to be achieved, and the hell realm to be avoided. "

"We have to rest as naturally -- as it is -- so, as the Mahamudra lineage prayer goes -- to be free of any fabrication [or contrivance] in order to perceive the nature of Mind."

Question:  "Why all those complicated [hatha yoga] postures.  Is that shinay?"

A:  "There are two kinds of mindfulness.  We can be trained in different ways. For example, we do not walk the same way on flat ground as on a steep and dangerous slope.   In the latter situation, we have to pay careful attention. [This refers to those who seek certain extra-ordinary attainments.  However here] with Mahamudra, we need the mindfulness of meditation combined with the mindfulness of daily life.  

Sometimes when you sit, you are only pretending to meditate and the mind wanders all over the place -- as though you were walking [aimlessly] through Jean-Talon market."  

Rinpoche raises a scolding finger, while the local reference is greeted with the usual good humoured response.   Then he reaches with his other hand to grab the "wandered" finger, and addresses his translator who speaks: "But no matter how the mind wanders, we are still in meditation.   How does one do this?  While wandering, look where you are in the marketplace, then be aware of it.  In this way, we gain 100 times in meditative skill."

Q:  What is the difference between a relaxed mind and the meditative state? 

A: When you ask, "How did I get here?  When did I arrive?  this is normal mind, but if you apply the skill, then as you wander you are continuously aware that you are there [when and as] you go.  If you have lots of thoughts that's fine, and if you have no thoughts that is also fine.  And the occasional moment when you reflect on mind going about the market, and then it vanishes and there is a gap?  That is OK, too.  It is shamatha without an object, and that is very good."  

(So shamatha with an object and also without [one] is already explained.)

The Benefit or Usefulness 

"We are often carried off by various emotions.  When this happens, you have no freedom since you are actively engaged.  And although one does not desire suffering, with attachment [as manifested by these emotional reactions] suffering occurs. "

Rinpoche gave the example of a difficult inter-personal business situation. "The practice of meditation allows us to create a kind of space [during complex interactions with others] for the accumulation of merit or wisdom -- or both." 


"Next is the topic of vipashyana [lhatong in Tibetan] that concerns two concepts, 1.  Emptiness and 2.  Natural Mind.  The first is [a whole topic in itself and]  because of time [constraints] we will skip it, but of the second, a few words:  Emptiness doesn't contain anything yet it is a condition during which anything can occur." 

"So that's it -- the complete explanation.  Do you understand it?"  

As the laughter that followed the rhetorical question died away, Rinpoche once more reaches for the peach-coloured flower:

"If you examine this carefully, you will not find it.  How one doesn't find it is not intended to lead to a discussion on the nature of the atom; we do not mean in a physical sense [as regarding the fact that atoms are mainly space,  or that they are energy packets] and also not in the sense that time is subjective [and results from  the interplay of energy and matter.]"

(He is referring to the fact that we perceive phenomena due to conditioning -- he is reminding us of the links of interdependency or "dependent origination" -- the 12 nidanas. In vipashyana, that is, insight or 'clear seeing' meditation, the thought-object is systematically examined in a progressive way with a view to reminding us that there is no there there.)

"So this flower is not really here, right now.  In the same way, this water is not there either, yet it is delicious.  And the flower is beautiful.  That is called 'appearance.' So how does it all take place?  It is due to delusion. 

"Now, the flower is not a sort of vacuum; it does take place -- there is a sort of unity; there is activity. It is like [well known metaphor of] fire -- we cannot separate [that which is called] 'the warmth' from it."

Q.  What is the gain?  

A.  The gain is one's happiness. When we realize this, then we are free.  That is the wisdom part, and there is [subsequently,] the effect of Buddha-hood.  The reason to practice this is to stop the suffering -- to see that sickness and death do not really exist.  Phenomena are like that.  And knowing it for a fact [engenders] happiness.  Now we are generally mistaken as to existence, hence we suffer.

We would like to thank you and to say goodnight.  Bon soir."

We concluded by a recitation of a prayer for Mingyur Rinpoche's long life, and the dedication of merit to the benefit of all sentient beings. 

After this clear and concise presentation of the essence of the crown jewel of the Kagyu denomination that is called in Sanskrit, Mahamudra, Rinpoche favoured a number of the members with a brief private audience during which he blessed each one individually. 

NB. These notes are not a complete verbatim account, mainly for reasons given above. Nevertheless, they are an accurate reflection of what transpired.  Where square brackets are used, the words might be editorialization, due mainly to failure of notes or memory, and ought not be interpreted as a "correction" of the teachings. 


Yongey Mingyur Dorje:  Among other practices revealed by that master is the guru yoga for the 2nd Karmapa Karma Pakshi.  He was also praised by the 10th Gyalwa Karmapa for having turned back armies and brought peace.  Successive Mingyur incarnations were all superior masters of meditation besides being excellent scholars and compassionate teachers.

replies:  A third of the responses or comments were in the French language.

two flowers: They were a peach-coloured rose bloom with a small bud beside it; very like a lily in shape.  The other is a gardenia, the scent of which, I was later told was almost overpowering.  Both were remarkable in their perfection and no wonder, having come  from the garden of Mme. Kissel. 

It is said that a new tradition was born "when the World-honoured One was at Mount Garudhakuta, he twirled a flower before his assembled disciples. All were silent, and only Mahakashyapa broke into a smile. ... ."

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