Lama Soto, Beloved Member of the Tergar Community, Passes Away in India

Lama Soto

We recently received the news that Lama Soto, Mingyur Rinpoche’s close friend and long-time attendant, passed away last week in India.

Lama Soto was in the three-year retreat that Mingyur Rinpoche led while still in his teens. Since that time, Lama Soto served as Mingyur Rinpoche’s attendant and traveled with him around the world.

Those who had the good fortune to know Lama Soto will always remember his gentle presence and warm smile, and the care and devotion he showed toward Mingyur Rinpoche. He will be greatly missed in the Tergar Community.

--Cortland Dahl


February 9, 2012

27 responses on "Lama Soto, Beloved Member of the Tergar Community, Passes Away in India"

  1. I thought it would be nice for us to share our fond memories of Lama Soto here. I have many, but one that stands out is my memory of the frequent attempts we made to speak to each other in Tibetan. Lama spoke had a very thick eastern Tibet accent. He could understand my Tibetan, but i could hardly understand a word that he said. The result of this linguistic equation is that i would often tell him something, and then we would spend ten minutes or so with him telling me the same thing repeatedly, and me trying to figure out what the heck he was saying. We did this over and over again, and each time we’d just end up laughing, since we’d done it so many times before. He was just a wonderful man. A perfect example of a dedicated practitioner with a heart as big as the world. I’ll miss him a lot.

  2. Beautiful words,Cort.
    I met Lama Soto on several occasions recently, and although I never talked with him more than exchanging a greeting, I took him to my heart at once. When I think of him I immediately remember his heartwarming laugh and the boyish sparkle in his eyes when he smiled.
    And then to me it was almost a revelation to see him attend to Rinpoche. Every movement and every look was all mindful, all loving care and devotion.
    A heart as big as the world… yes, that must be it 🙂

    There´s one situation I particularly remember. During the empowerments at the Hong Kong 10 day retreat he sat on stage, just behind the curtain in the background. We could only see his feet and the Mala going round and round… and from time to time he would glimpse out and watch us while we listened to Rinpoche. Usually with what looked like a chuckle…

    I will miss him, too.

  3. Fond memories of Lama Soto, he came to the UK on many occasions with MIngyur RInpoche and was a close friend of Lama Rabsang from Palpung centre UK, where Rinpoche taught. Lamala always came across asa simple, sincere and dedicated practitioner with great devotion. He will be missed.

  4. I was always impressed with his presence. There was something of quiet and depth I always noticed. Good to have such people in our lives, good examples of different culture, and devotion.

  5. Lama Soto was such an inspiration in so many ways. He still warms our hearts it seems. I wanted to share one funny experience with him, while he and Rinpoche were staying with us. He and I sharing the same bathroom and I could tell he didn’t know how to get the water to come out of the shower head and of course he would never say anything. He was sitting in his room so I beckoned for him to come with me. When we got to the bathroom and I motioned for him to come in he gave me the most puzzled look, as if,” What does this crazy westerner want with me in the bathroom!” He got as far as the doorway but definitely wasn’t coming any further. When I showed him the control to get the water to come out of the shower head he lit up and thanked me, and was greatly relieved I think. It was a precious moment.

  6. I remember meeting Lama Soto for the first time at a Chinese Restaurant in Toronto. There were about 10 of us sitting
    at a table. Of course Mingyur Rinpoche was there as well. I was just getting to know Rinpoche then, so it was nice to
    be able to sit and eat with him and Lama Soto. I said something cute and Lama Soto’s eyes twinkled and he cracked a big smile. I then asked him a question. He just looked at me smiling some more. So, I asked again ….

    Rinpoche noticed some frustration starting to rise in me. Then Rinpoche said, Lama Soto understands more than he
    lets on. He just doesn’t speak …. too much.” Lama Soto brightened and he I knew he understood Rinpoche.
    A heartfelt connection was born.

    I’ll miss your deep chanting voice and gentle soothing presence Lama. Till next time. Om Mani Padme Hung.

  7. Dear Friends,

    I had the pleasure of seeing Lama Soto the day before he passed. He was staying in the same small temple that I was in southern Delhi. I sat with him for a minute, speaking in Tibetan, but like Cortland, struggling to understand what he was saying. A mutual friend was in the room and he served as an interpreter, offering the Tibetan in a more easily understood accent. The interaction was only about 15 minutes, as Lama Soto ate his breakfast. He held my hand for a while and, as always, embraced me as a family member arriving from a far off valley in Tibet. His presence was candid, authentic, peaceful and so much more beyond words. I never felt uneasy when Lama Soto was around- that general angst that can occupy my mind in foreign places, would disappear, almost instantly. On our previous interaction, a couple months earlier, he had requested me to carry a pair of shoes for him back from the US. In my rushed, forgetful nature, I never brought them. It has occupied my mind since that last meeting. I hope Lama Soto always has a comfortable, supportive base to stand on. I will never forget his beautiful, simple way- just being who he was in every situation, regardless of surroundings. I too will miss him a lot. I don’t think there is anyone who can replace his space in this Sangha. Thanks for beginning this, Cortland. Thanks for everyone sharing.

    • Wow, Justin. You saw him the day before he died. Was he okay? Was his passing unexpected? So precious that you were with him.

      • Jonelle,

        It was very precious and I feel very blessed, as always, to have seen him. He seemed better than the prior time I had seen him. He had some life in his face and was eating a little. From what I was told by the hotel management, he was just beginning to take food and hadn’t been eating for a while. He did not rise from his chair, which I attributed to the fact that he had recently had a few kidney stones removed and the wounds were probably very sore. His body was taken to Sherab Ling for cremation within a few hours, so I didn’t have a chance to speak with my friend who was caring for him. I hope to ask him, however, as it seemed very surprising to me. May Lama Soto be in peace.

  8. Although we never spoke, I felt a quiet joy in Lama Soto’s presence. He radiated kindness and his smile gently penetrated my heart. Whenever I thought of him, a sense of gratitude arose that such a man lived in this world. A lovely, unforgettable open heart.

  9. I will never forget Lama Soto’s capacity to cultivate a space in which compassion may proliferate. Rinpoche was teaching a course to a group largely composed of business-people, and on the second day, was going to talk about compassion’s place in the business world. As my wife and I walked into the auditorium on that second day, Lama Soto was sitting in the front quietly chanting. Immediately we looked at each other and smiled… we could feel the emanation of compassion taking root, and knew something very special was about to occur. Lama Soto was so humble and unassuming, yet could transform an auditorium into sacred space. We wile will be missed by so many.

  10. I love everyone’s memories. Thank you!

    One time at a big lunch in Phoenix, when the kitchen was crowded, Lama Soto spotted me from across the room, limping with a walking cane. He got up from his table and asked me to sit in his spot at the table. I refused, saying I was fine, but his big smile and gentle insistence won me over. I sat there for him, because his joy was so great in seeing me settled in what was probably the best seat in the kitchen.

    On many visits I observed him use his spare time for practice. I mimicked him one time sitting on top of my bed and doing mantra with a mala like he always used to do in hotels, even when busy with lots of people. I’m sure every time I do this I’ll see him doing it, too! So, in essence, he’s not gone!

  11. Lama Soto was very ordinary, thats how I will always remember him. And I think thats exactly what Rinpoche meant by “No special is the best special”.

  12. Lama Soto had this presence that seemed to open my mind with his look or watching silently reciting mantra’s while Rinpoche taught. I am pleased Justin saw him when he did.
    I captured this photo when he rode into Sama, nearly breaking the back of his donkey. When I got home and downloaded it i was stunned that he was surrounded by rainbow light. Causes and Conditions.
    I drove he and Mingyur Rinpoche to DIA from Shambhala Mountain Center in 2003. It was a horrible ice storm – cars rolled over ona I25, and I kept thinking “what if we crash and I kill a Rinpoche and a Lama?” I looked over and Rinpoche was in the front seat, legs crossed – sleeping. I looked in my rearview and Lama Soto saw my eyes and grinned in that mind expanding view.

  13. Lama Soto was a very special, kind person. He made me feel so welcome at St. John’s College and Ribum. I will never forget the way he looked riding into Sama. He will be missed!

  14. Thanks all for your stories of Lama Soto. His kindness and utter humility will be what I will always remember.
    May his mind stream recognize the clear light awareness and merge with the mother luminosity.

    • Just like all of you I was also completely inspired by Lama Soto and his presence. Being really curious about his background and life story – as it is always a blessing to hear or read the life story of great practitioners – I asked Lama Soto to talk about his life and time with Rinpoche one time during a visit to Denmark. However the translator had a really difficult time translating his accent, so I did not get much information. But it was all DVD recorded, as we planned to use parts of it in a documentary that a friend was working on. Lam Soto understood the questions, so I guess we have parts of his life story on recorded. I am planning to show the tape to some Tibetans, who might be able to translate what he is saying and let you know how it goes. He was so kind and I miss him too.

  15. I felt better just seeing him– the way his joy in serving Rinpoche emanated from him, the way he seemed so pleased to see students come to see Rinpoche.

    The way Lama Soto would sit quietly to the side during teachings and murmur mantras. I felt he was praying for us and protecting Rinpoche. He helped secure the mandala, and I even imagined during one teaching that if anyone tried to mess with Rinpoche, Lama Soto would suddenly be up from his seat on the floor, like a bolt of lightening and meteoric steel. Blazing compassion., oth wrathful and gentle.

    For some reason I always get nervous when doing food service. Who knows what those Tibetan Lamas can eat?!? But walkiung into a room and seeing Lama Soto there was like walking into a room and seeing a favorite uncle whom you haven’t met in years. He seemed more appreciative of the offering than of the food itself, and he was a man who really knew the deeper meaning of devotion and service!

  16. Lama Sota was a beautiful and gentle soul. I’ll never forget when he had an opportunity to play one of my instruments. His playful sense of humor was infectious, as he happily hit the keyboard percussion with the mallets and looked as good as any musician who was “getting down” with the music!

    I remember the time also when Mingyur Rinpoche was giving his teaching on what Western and Chinese practitioners do with their necks when meditating. Well, just as Rinpoche mentioned how Tibetans meditate, Lama Soto began to imitate that posture and it was very funny!

    Even though he did not speak in English, his expressions betrayed that he frequently knew what was being said, and the warmth and love from his heart have always moved me.

  17. Lama Soto cut my hair for the rabjung ordination I received from Mingyur Rinpoche in San Francisco. It was such a blessing. He chanted during the whole time. He was such a gently being. You could just feel how he rejoiced. Thank you for this great picture. I will keep on my altar.

  18. I feel much loss knowing that Lama Soto has passed away.
    I always felt very much at ease when he was around and I tried to sit nearby him when possible. I shall miss him very much. I felt very safe the way he attended Rinpoche. I copy the way he practiced mandala offering while practicing, and how attentive he was to Rinpoche every minute. He always was an inspiration to me. He came with Rinpoche to my karate school and I demonstrated for Rinpoche, in fact the last time I’ve every demonstrated karate. Lama Soto was sitting on a bench in the back row, and had a big smile which made me feel happy. I shall certainly miss him. Susan Budge, San Bruno, CA

  19. When I think of Lama Sota, I think of a smiling Buddha.

  20. My wife and I got to know Lama Soto really well when he stayed with us for about 2 weeks recuperating after being hospitalised for urinary infection while accompanying Rinpoche to Penang for the Joy of LIving / Mahamudra programme in March, 2010. We still remembered very vividly that the atmosphere in our house becoming so very peaceful, serene and energised with the deep and gentle voiced chanting emanating from Lama’s room continuously throughout his stay with us. He was such a loving, humble and gentle person. There was an incident when he was still in hospital, the hospital got the lunch serving mixed up and Lama was given somebody else’s food. We visited him immediately after lunch that day and we were really upset and angry when we saw chicken pieces left untouched in the serving tray, that the hospital staff could commit such a glaring mistake of serving meat to a vegetarian – BUT Lama just looked at the tray and burst out laughing!!! Oh, such a Bodhisattva – apparently he just moved the chicken meat aside and finished the rest of lunch without any fuss. Our anger just as easily dissipated on hearing his laughter.
    Although we do not speak Tibetan, we got on quite well with Lama using hand signs and simple drawings.
    We made it a point to visit him whenever we knew he was staying at the places we visited. The last time we saw him was during H H The Dalai Lama’s Kalachakra teachings in Bodhgaya, India in 2011/2012, about 2 weeks before he was scheduled to have surgery to remove kidney stones in Delhi. He was very fit and healthy to us then.
    We were really shocked and sad when we heard that he has passed away on 3rd February, 2012. We would really missed him.

  21. very sad to hear this news, he was a true practitioner and a great inspiration, he will be truly missed.

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