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Lions Roar : March 2016
Varanasi, because when I wore Buddhist robes everyone would look at me. Even the police were curious and asked me, “Are you Chinese or Japanese?” After I left the hotel, I went to the cremation temple about two kilometers from the Parinirvana Temple and slept on the streets there. People didn’t notice me because I looked like just another sadhu. It was very difficult to change my attire, because I had such strong attachment to my robes. It was a good way for me to practice my meditation on letting go. It was a difficult transition to be out on the streets. Giving up my identity as a monk was one thing, andofcourseIhadtoletgoofmy desire for comfort, food, and the basic necessities of life, and even the desire to be safe. There were wild dogs around, and when I would get up in the middle of the night, they would chase after me, barking. A Near-Death Experience In Kushinagar, I got very sick with vomiting and diarrhea. Probably it was the water I was drinking living on the streets. That lasted for two or three days, I think, and then one morning my health got so bad that I was sure I was going to die. This near- death experience was actually the best experience of my retreat. As a Dzogchen practitioner, my main meditation is simply to rest in the nature of mind. The main advice in this kind of practice is to sim- plify—to really, really let go. When I got sick, it felt like I went through some kind of a wall. It was like a wall of subtle stone, of solid attachment to my body, my comfort, my robes, and even the idea of Mingyur Rinpoche. So many things. I slowly let go, let go, let go, let go. In the end, I even let go of myself. I thought, “If I’m going to die, okay. If I’m going to die, no problem.” At that moment, I didn’t have any fear. Then I had some kind of dissolution experience, as they call it in the texts. I saw different colors, and then slowly I could not hear or see. The elements of the body were dissolving, and then I lost touch with my physical body altogether. I watched this process happening. Then I had a wonderful experience. There was no thought, no emotion, no concept. Mind was clear and wakeful, like a blue sky with the sun shining, transparent and all-pervasive. There was no inside and outside, no subject and object, no sense of body and no ordinary senses. At the same, mind was pervasive, knowing, and very clear. I knew what was going on, but it was not like normal experience. It’s very, very difficult to describe. It cannot really be put into words. I don’t know how long that was in normal time. But at a certain point, something stirred in my mind. I felt the move- ment of compassion. and tI had the thought, “Okay, this is not the time for me to die.” This thought was somehow related to compassion mind. First there was the thought, then it became compassion, then the compassion got stronger and stronger. Then I could feel my body again. Slowly, mind narrowed into my body and was no longer all-pervasive. Then I heard a sound like SSHHAAAA. When you first hear sound, it’s like SSHHAAAA, but normally we don’t hear this subtle level of sound. Then I could hear many normal sounds around me, and I opened my eyes. I was feeling thirsty, so I stood up to get some water. As I was going to the well, I suddenly became unconscious and collapsed. I woke up in a local clinic with a glucose drip in my arm. For one day, they gave me injections and some medicine. The next day, I recovered and left the clinic. After this experience, my mind felt so fresh and my meditation really improved. My boundaries and hesitation were totally gone. I could appreciate being alive. I could appreciate everything. All resistance was gone, and I felt like I was one with the environ- ment. I could go on the streets and rejoice in everything. Upon his return, Mingyur Rinpoche pays his respects to Tai Situ Rinpoche, whose teaching encouraged him to take the plunge. PHOTOBYPAULMACGOWAN LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2016 57