“ All that we are looking for in life—all the happiness, contentment, and peace of mind—is right here in the present moment. "
— Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Master & Best-Selling Author
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“The best knowledge comes from difficulties. The best opportunity comes from obstacles.” ~~~Mingyur Rinpoche
Under cover of darkness and with no word of his plans, much-beloved Tibetan Buddhist Meditation Master Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche walked away from his life on the international stage to live that of a wandering yogi. Unheard of among eminent teachers today, such a practice is rife with hardships. For Mingyur Rinpoche, these challenges—begging, finding food and shelter, illness, and all the attendant risks of wandering incognito from place to place with the barest of possessions—present fertile ground for deepening insight into the true nature of the mind.
Wandering . . . But Not Lost is an intimate account of Mingyur Rinpoche's four-and-a-half-year retreat (June 2011 – November 2015) interspersed with the Rinpoche’s own guidance in applying Buddhist wisdom to our daily modern lives that will touch—and inspire—audiences everywhere.
Q&A with Director Paul MacGowan
Why do you think this film is important? (Why do you believe this is a story worth telling?)
Although Rinpoche wouldn’t care for the comparison, this story of the pampered prince leaving the comforts of home to go out into the world and see for himself what’s going on, parallels that of Shakyamuni Buddha. Here is an archetypal story that is retold in different ways but holds a profound message at its core: that we need to shake up our life and, in a sense, turn it upside down in order to see behind the surface of our day-to-day struggles and, from there, to confront and absorb the deepest, most enriching lessons of life.
What would you like audiences to feel after they’ve viewed Wandering...but not lost?
I would like them to gain a sense that our normal daily lives can be a kind of “wandering retreat.” We can bring that attitude of adventure to even the most mundane aspects of our lives and thereby experience the world in an open and fresh way. Through this mindset, we can grow and develop ourselves. We can learn to embrace the full experience of life—whatever the outward circumstances.
While Rinpoche was on retreat he survived by begging, an unfamiliar and uncomfortable experience for him as he tells it. But working with aversion is the essence of the practice of wandering retreat.
Rinpoche at a Padmasambhava cave in Langtang, Nepal where he
spent several months during his wandering retreat.
To be out of your comfort zone and continue with meditation practices is very difficult, but as Rinpoche explains, it is working with difficulty in our lives that is the most fruitful for our spiritual development.
Rinpoche walking in the mountains at 13,000ft. in Langtang, Nepal
One dramatic example of this is when he almost dies from food poisoning only 3 weeks into the retreat .
Rinpoche candidly explains in detail what he experienced during four days of intense illness, going through the stages of the Bardo, why he decided not to call someone to be rescued, and his return to life.
Rinpoche where he loves to be, in the mountains meditating.
Rinpoche at a Padmasambhava cave in Langtang, Nepal. Despite almost dying he says his retreat was one of the happiest times of his life.
A partial list of some of the places both in the cities and in the mountains where I’ve filmed includes:
India - Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, Kushinagar, Shravasti, Tso Pema, Ayodhaya, Srinigar, Jammu, Rishikesh, Haridwar, Ladakh (Leh and Nubra Valley).
Nepal - Kathmandu, Dolpo, Lapchi, Langtang, Yolmo
This website will be updated frequently with teachings and stories and photos from the making of the film of Rinpoche's retreat so please come back often.
The nature of everything is illusory and ephemeral,
Those with dualistic perception regard suffering as happiness,
Like they who lick the honey from a razor's edge.
How pitiful are they who cling strongly to concrete reality:
Turn your attention within, my heart friends.
- Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche (one of Mingyur Rinpoche's main teachers)
Behind the scenes - the making of Wandering...but not lost
We were all really excited when Rinpoche returned from his 4½ year wandering retreat in November 2015. A few months earlier I had put most my belongings in a storage locker and headed to Kiev, Ukraine to finish my other film, A Joyful Mind. No one knew when Rinpoche would return so after Kiev I was going to go to Kathmandu to wait for him there.
I was still in Ukraine when we received word of his return and a group of us went to Delhi to meet with him. Everyone was very happy to see him. He had lost a lot of weight, was darker from the sun and had long hair and although startling, these were only the most obvious indications of his long and difficult journey.
I traveled with Rinpoche over the next several weeks in India first to meet his teacher Tai Situ Rinpoche in Himachal Pradesh then on to Nepal. His family had already flown to Bodh Gaya, where he resurfaced, to meet with him there.
At first making a film about his retreat was not on my mind at all. I had just finished A Joyful Mind, which took me 6 years, so working on another film right away wasn’t on my radar. That is until the stories started flowing and I became very inspired by all that Rinpoche went through. Then when he told about his near death experience in Kushinagar, I was certain that this would make a great film that would inspire many.
Rinpoche came with us to Langtang, high in the Himalayas (13,000 ft.) to film. It was amazing to be there with Rinpoche in a Padmasambhava cave where he stayed while on retreat.
Rinpoche with Director, Paul MacGowan at Vulture Peak Mountain in Rajgir, India 5 months before Rinpoche left on retreat.
As I started to gain enthusiasm at the prospect of making the film, someone told me that he was approached about writing a book on his retreat and his reply was, “maybe in ten years”. My heart sank but I was still happy that he was alive and healthy, and that I would be filming teachings with him anyway. Then a few days later I decided to ask him if I could make a film on his retreat regardless, fully expecting him to decline. I explained what I had in mind and when he replied “Good idea!” I was thrilled and immediately began working on it.
Rinpoche enjoying revisiting Yolmo, Nepal where he had some memorable experiences while on retreat.
The Himalayas are an inspiring place to practice meditation. It's no wonder so many great masters have come from there or have gone there to do retreat.
Now it’s over three years later and I’ve been living in Kathmandu, having made numerous trips to India and around Nepal, and spent months in the villages, cities and mountains of both countries to film where Rinpoche spent time during his retreat. Sometimes it wasn’t easy to know exactly where he was. A lot of time had passed and those details weren’t really so important to Rinpoche. He was much more focused on practice and experience than on dates and locations.
One of the many things Rinpoche had to learn while on retreat
was how to make a fire to cook his food and make tea. His first attempt took hours and his tea tasted like smoke!
The Great Stupa of Boudhanath. Kathmandu, Nepal
One thing I can say for sure is that I have even more respect for Rinpoche and am even more inspired by his journey after visiting some of these places and finding them challenging, hearing his stories, and learning about how he spent his time there.
After more than three years of filming in Nepal and India I’m eager to share these experiences with you. Check back often, there will be lots of updates.
See you soon,
"Without this world, we cannot attain enlightenment. Without this world, there would be no journey. By rejecting the world we would be rejecting the ground and rejecting the path. So all the things taking place around our world, all the irritations and all the problems, are crucial."
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche
About Mingyur Rinpoche
Mingyur Rinpoche possesses a rare ability to present the ancient wisdom of Tibet in a fresh, engaging manner. His profound yet accessible teachings and playful sense of humor have endeared him to students around the world. Most uniquely, Rinpoche’s teachings weave together his own personal experiences with modern scientific research, relating both to the practice of meditation.
Tergar Meditation Community and Tergar Asia support individuals, practice groups and meditation communities around the world in learning to live with awareness, compassion, and wisdom. Grounded in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage of guiding teacher Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche, Tergar programs are accessible to people of all cultures and faiths, and support a lifelong path toward the application of these principles in everyday life.
Visit Tergar.org for more information about their worldwide meditation community and online learning resources.
Please consider supporting the film projects of Mingyur Rinpoche and Open Mind Media
A Joyful Mind was released in 2016, and since then has been viewed by over 60,000 people in over 10 countries, and has been translated into five languages.
Your donation will make it possible for us to continue working on films that will spread Rinpoche's valuable teachings even further.
Giving & Tax Benefits
A Joyful Mind, LLC is wholly-owned "limited liability company" of Tergar International, a tax-exempt 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Therefore, your contribution to A Joyful Mind is tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law.
Short video teachings
How to change habits
To transform our lives we need to work with our ingrained habits. Mingyur Rinpoche tells us how.
Working with difficult emotions
Rinpoche tells us how to work with our emotions without blocking them.