By John Tribbett
With wide-open smiles and hearts, over 300 members of the international Tergar community welcomed Mingyur Rinpoche back to St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota, for a seven-day retreat, lasting from May 26 - June 1, 2016, on Awareness, Compassion and Wisdom: Essential Teachings on the Joy of Living.
It was a precious gift to have Rinpoche back with us after his four-and-a-half year retreat. Many members of the Tergar community had never had teachings directly from Rinpoche. But all of us, even those who had met him directly before he departed, felt a bit of surreal joy and weirdness to have “that short Asian guy,” as he often refers to himself as, walking amongst us at a small rural Minnesota college campus, so far from the hot plains of India and towering grandeur of the Himalayas he so recently wandered.
The retreat did not disappoint: Rinpoche breathed fresh life and insight into the essential path of the Joy of Living teachings. All of us had watched his videos, read his books, and listened to his teachings over and over, but now we had a chance to explore this secular path of awakening through dialogue and interaction. Rinpoche clarified the importance of calm-abiding, loving-kindness/compassion, and insight, and how each aspect of practice supports the others in realizing our basic goodness. He also emphasized the need for conduct; as meditaters we need to bring our practice off of the cushion and into the world to be of benefit to others.
Rinpoche peppered his teachings with anecdotes and humor garnered from his retreat, assuring us that his time away was fruitful and for the benefit of us all. Over the days of the retreat, surreal reality gradually yielded to a grateful acceptance that the voice and smiling face inhabiting our screens for so long was, in fact, a living embodied human being filled with wisdom, love, and compassion.
As the retreat progressed, Rinpoche shared how it was good to return to his home in Nepal after being gone for so long. He added that it also made him very happy to return to St. John’s, because that too felt like home.
Rinpoche, we too are glad to have you home.