A Buddhist Monk's 4-Year Quest For Awareness

By John Merfeld, WPR, July 21, 2016

Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche Left His Monastery And Survived Alone In A Cave

Bodhgaya, India
-- One morning in June 2011, residents of the Tergar Monastery in Bodhgaya, India, awoke to find that celebrated the master of Buddhist meditation, Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, had vanished.

<< Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche

He appeared to have packed nothing, but did leave behind a short letter to his followers. It said that he would be traveling "with no plans or fixed agenda, just an unswerving commitment to the path of awakening."

No one in his community saw him again for four and half years.

Rinpoche was already a major leader in the Buddhist world before embarking on his wandering retreat. He was the leader of a global meditation practice and had been formally recognized as a reincarnated 17th century lama. His mission, then and now, is to make meditation accessible to the modern world. After his years of retreat, he said that he returned as a different person.

At a young age, Rinpoche was inspired to take such a solitary journey by his meditation teachers, including his father. But when the time came, he had a hard time leaving his community behind.

"If I tell them, then they will drag me, you know, 'Don’t go, please!'" Rinpoche said, laughing. "So, I cannot tell them. So then I just leave one day, in the middle of the night."

Although he has been a devout Buddhist all his life, Rinpoche also comes from a well-off family in the Himalayas. Living and begging on the streets of India was a new and difficult experience.

"I felt very embarrassed staying on the street," he said. "I didn’t mind that there was no bed, I didn’t mind that there was no room. But I felt like, 'Everybody’s looking at me,' feeling very uncomfortable."

He overcame that embarrassment, but more difficult to conquer was his body’s need for nourishment. Begging was his only source of food, and an unreliable one at that. Rinpoche’s contemplative practice helped him maintain faith that he would survive.

"I tried to meditate," Rinpoche said. "And then, after some time, I have trust, some belief, kind of like, 'Okay, nothing happened today, and something will happen tomorrow, and I can get food.'"   

However, after just a few weeks of life on the street, Rinpoche became violently sick. A severe bout of food poisoning brought him to the brink of death. He described the illness as "vomiting and diarrhea for three days. And on the fourth day, I could not move, and I thought, 'I’m going to die.'"

Rinpoche knew that with a single phone call, he could be taken back to his monastery and saved, but he stayed where he was. Looking back on the decision, he laughed deeply and said "suicide mission," adding that in that moment, he chose to remain open to the idea of death.

"I just let it go," he said. "Whatever happens, happens. You can learn until the last breath. So death is the best adventure in our life!"

Now firmly believing he was about to die, Rinpoche entered a state that he called "resting (his) mind in open awareness." He couldn't see, hear or move, but his mind became utterly clear, free of what Rinpoche calls "the monkey mind," the clamor of ordinary thoughts and worries.

"Like blue sky without clouds, and sun shining," he said. "There’s no time. This monkey mind is gone. At the same time, I know … but it was knowing without thinking. And that experience was so precious, so blissful, so joyful. And I stayed there within that state, somehow, maybe four or five hours."

As the sun began to rise, a new feeling came over Rinpoche: it wasn't his time to die. He regained his health and set out into the mountains, living in caves and eating wild vegetables and mushrooms. It was during this period that he realized how his near-death experience had changed him.

"Staying in a cave was so nice for me," he said. "After I have this almost-die experience, everything’s okay. I can stay everywhere."

Before this experience, even though he'd been meditating for a long time, Rinpoche said he still struggled to let go, which is called grasping.

"Then after that, I’m so happy," he said. "I have so much gratitude, so much appreciation for just being. Just seeing. Just hearing. Just experiencing."

It's this lesson of the joys of simply being present that Rinpoche has integrated into his teachings across the world.

"You can meditate everywhere, anytime," he said. "You can meditate at the office, and going to exercise, only two seconds, three seconds, okay. You don’t need a special cushion. You don’t need perfect posture. Just being, resting your mind and body, just being with the present moment. Awareness is always present."

People should view meditation more in the context of their daily lives, not as some esoteric ritual, Rinpoche said.

"One minute in the morning helps all day," he said.
We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv