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Lions Roar : March 2012
32 SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2012 YONGEY MINGYUR RINPOCHE was a rising star in the Buddhist world. The author of two bestselling books, he had a large community of students around the globe, and he was the abbot of Tergar Osel Ling Monastery in Nepal and Tergar Rigzin Khacho Targye Ling Monastery in India. Adding it all up, when he slipped away last June, he was leaving a lot behind. Mingyur Rinpoche was born in Nubri, Nepal, in 1975 to an illustrious Tibetan family. His mother is Sonam Cho- dron, a descendant of two Tibetan kings, and his father was the late Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, one of the most renowned Dzogchen teachers of the twentieth century. The couple’s youngest son, Mingyur Rinpoche has three elder brothers who are themselves accomplished Buddhist teachers: Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, Tsikey Chokling Rinpoche, and Tsoknyi . Mingyur Rinpoche had what appeared on the surface to be idyllic early years. After all, he had a loving family and a home nestled in a beautiful Himalayan valley. But in The Joy of Liv- ing he makes a confession, one he acknowledges might sound strange coming from someone regarded as a reincarnate lama who supposedly did wonderful things in past lives. “From ear- liest childhood,” Mingyur Rinpoche writes, “I was haunted by feelings of fear and anxiety. My heart raced and I often broke out in a sweat whenever I was around people I didn’t know... Anxiety accompanied me like a shadow.” When Mingyur Rinpoche was about six years old, he found some relief meditating in the caves dotting the hills around his village. In these caves, generations of practitio- ners had meditated and in them Mingyur Rinpoche tried to follow in their footsteps by mentally chanting the man- tra Om Mani Padme Hum. Though he didn’t really under- stand what he was doing, this practice gave him a tempo- rary calm. Nonetheless, outside of the caves, his anxiety continued to grow until—as we’d say in the West—he had a full-blown panic disorder. In desperation, Mingyur Rinpoche got up the courage to ask whether he could study formally with his father, Tulku Urgyen. His father agreed and began to teach him various methods of meditation. As it was with the solo chanting, this led Mingyur Rinpoche to experience brief moments of calm, yet his dread and fear persisted. He found it espe- cially stressful that every few months he was sent to Sherab Ling monastery in India to study with unfamiliar teach- ers, among unfamiliar students. Plus, there was his formal enthronement as the seventh incarnation of Yongey Min- gyur Rinpoche. Lasting Happiness It’s surprisingly easy to achieve lasting happi- ness—we just have to understand our own basic nature. The hard part, says MINGYUR RINPOCHE, is getting over our bad habit of seeking happiness in transient experiences. I HAVE TRAVELED all over the world teaching people how to meditate. Whether I am talking to a large group or chatting with a few people in private, it seems that everyone wants to know the same thing: Where is lasting happiness to be found? True, not everyone phrases this question the same way—some people may not even know this is what they are asking—but when we reduce our many desires, hopes, and fears down to their essence, this is usually the answer we are seeking. For those of us who follow a spiritual path, we may think we know the answer. Anyone who studies the Buddha’s teach- ings, for example, will be able to tell you that true happiness is found within. But if we really understand that our basic nature is already whole, pure, and complete, why do we con- tinue to act as though our level of contentment depends on the size of our paycheck, the quality of our relationships, or on the number of pleasurable experiences we can surround ourselves with. In other words, why do we expect things that are ephemeral and changing by their very nature to provide us with something stable and secure? The answer is quite simple: It’s a bad habit. We have believed this myth for so long, that it takes a while for any new under- standing to filter down to the core of our being. What’s more, we often bring this same mindset—the expectation that tem- porary experiences can produce lasting happiness—into our meditation practice as well. We mistake fleeting experiences of peace and relaxation for the true relaxation of feeling at ease with whatever manifests in the present moment. We think that calming the mind means to get rid of thoughts and turbulent emotions, rather than to connect with the natural spaciousness of awareness itself, which doesn’t get any better when there are no thoughts or any worse when there are. And we chase after ephemeral experiences of bliss and clarity, all the while missing the profound simplicity of awareness that is with us all the time. What I’m getting at here is that we need to be patient with ourselves, and with the process of loosening this deep-rooted conditioning. The good news is that everything we hear about meditation is actually true. Our essential nature really is com- pletely pure, whole, and infinitely spacious. No matter how trapped we may feel by anxiety, depression, or guilt, there is