As if Buddhism weren’t fascinating enough. Now the eastern religion/philosophy/belief-value system/way of life (touch 5 on your touch-tone mind for more choices) has turned the world of fame on its head. To be a star in Buddhism, you have to flee the limelight. Or just about any artificial light. And permanent shelter.
In March, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, author of two books on meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, up and left his comfortable lodgings at the Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, India to wander where fate takes him, a mendicant monk, unaccompanied by people or possessions. In a letter to his followers, Mingyur Rinpoche (“rinpoche” is a Tibetan honorific bestowed on reincarnated lamas and those who achieve great things in meditation) explained that he has wanted to do this from childhood, and that his Tergar colleagues and students should proceed with their Buddhist practice and not worry.
Mingyur Rinpoche was poised on the edge of international stardom, which seems funny to say for a simple Buddhist monk. The disciplines of Buddhism don’t require complete denial of self, but nothing about Mingyur Rinpoche’s writing suggested inordinate ambition or ego. True, he traveled extensively, offering instruction in meditation and what has come to be known as “mindfulness” — the acknowledgement without judgment of mental processes in a way that can lead to a quiet, peaceful and more powerful mind. But he never seemed bent on profit-taking, on opening Minyur Centres or any such thing as you’d find in a strip mall between the Sport Clips and the GNC. Instead, Mingyur Rinpoche appeared content to continue his teachings, perhaps write another book, and live in the tradition he learned from his father, the late meditation master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche.
It was my yoga teacher, Gerry Lishin of Southwest Orlando Yoga, who turned me on to Mingyur Rinpoche. I saw him reading the monk’s second book, Joyful Wisdom: Embracing Change and Finding Freedom. Despite my distaste for anything that sounds like a self-help title, I asked about it. After all, I had been enjoying some of the spiritual and calmness benefits of yoga. Why not dig into the meditative end as well?
“Sure, you can have this copy,” Gerry said. “I’m reading it for the second time.” Next class, he handed it over. I started reading on my last trip to Asia. Seemed appropriate.
No way this guy can have star ambitions. The language is simple (he speaks English, but he did have help from a native English-speaking co-author, Eric Swanson). There is no circular reasoning or faux mysticism. Mingyur Rinpoche acknowledges the difficulties of modern life, whether you live east or west, whether you grew up in a Tibetan monastery or a Toronto duplex. Unlike so many yogis gone Hollywood, M.Y. has no judgment in his tone. You’re not bad for being who you are, or for not being like him.
This has been refreshing, and with my psychic defenses discarded as unnecessary, I have been able to learn some things. (I’m a little more than halfway through the book.) And what I don’t know or understand, I eventually will. No rush. The whole experience has made me want to meet Mingyur Rinpoche.
Which I may end up doing sooner than I thought. I mean, where is this dude? I don’t care how serene he is; I’m worried about him. There was a rumor of a sighting in Nepal, but the reporter of the gossip predicted that if Mingyur Rinpoche caught wind of any sort of publicity, he would vanish.
No. No one is that serene.
To relieve the tension of all this uncertainty about our hero, Gerry and I speculate on Mingyur Rinpoche’s whereabouts in the midst of our Vinyasa flow.
“He’s a greeter in Vegas,” Gerry says. “Wrap your right hand around your ankle aaaaand breeeeathe your energy through your shoulder.”
“What’s serene about that?” I say, deepening into the stretch. “He’s at the Gardena ramp off the 405, teaching motorists object attention.”
“How could they NOT judge that?” Gerry objects. “People are only human, you know.”
“He’ll go where needed,” I say.
“Well, he’ll stick out like a sore thumb in the Pirates dugout. Shorten your stride and get your feet stable before finishing Warrior One.”
“Cheap shot.” (Wait…about my baseball team or my Warrior One?) “He’ll be fine in his Sunday day-game robes.”
There was a long silence while we moved into Chair Position.
“Gerry,” I say. “You’ll tell me if he ends up at your place, right? Gerry? GERRY!”
I am NOT serene. — Adam Barr
Copyright 2012 Adam Barr (but everything is impermanence, and impermanence is everything….)