Part of a new generation of teachers who grew up outside of Tibet, Mingyur Rinpoche represents an era of transition in the Tibetan community. Trained by some of the great Tibetan masters of twentieth century, he serves as a link between his father’s generation, who studied in the traditional monastic environment of pre-Communist Tibet, and teachers who were trained in exile.
Born in Nubri, Nepal, in 1976 to a family of renowned masters in the Tibetan Nyingma and Kagyu lineages, he began an education in the dharma at the age of nine, studying with his father, the late Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, at the hermitage of Nagi Gompa in the foothills of the Kathmandu valley. At thirteen, under the guidance of his teacher, Tai Situ Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche entered a traditional Tibetan three-year retreat; for three years and three fortnights he lived and studied, almost entirely in silence, in a small meditation room at Sherab Ling monastery near Dharamsala, India. He later attended the Dzongsar and Sherab Ling monastic colleges in northern India, where he officially completed his dharma education. Now twenty-seven, he is the retreat master at Sherab Ling and gives teachings in India, Nepal, and North America. Tricycle spoke with Mingyur Rinpoche last fall at Rangjung Yeshe Gomde in Leggett, California, the North American seat of his older brother, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. Erik Pema Kunsang translated.
You began to practice very seriously at an early age. Can you say something about that? I entered a three-year retreat at the age of thirteen. It was something I felt strongly about. I wanted to study with Tulku Saljey Rinpoche [1910-1991, an important Kagyu master], who was quite old at the time, at the Sherab Ling monastery, a couple of hours from Dharamsala.
Isn’t it unusual for a thirteen-year-old to begin such intensive practice? In India, yes, but it wasn’t so in Tibet. The major deciding factor in these cases is not age, but resolve, and after that, knowledge of the key points of practice. I had not completed my philosophical education, of course, but I had learned the general rituals, the chants.
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