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Aug 20
Book Review: In Love With the World

In Love With the World: A Monk’s Journey Through the Bardos of Living and Dying 

by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche with Helen Tworkov

Reviewed by Christine Heming

If you do not recognize the truth of impermanence, you cannot attain genuine realization.  You must allow the illusion of ego to die.  Only then can true wisdom arise.  Only with the death of this ego can we know freedom.

Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Mingyur Rinpoche recalls the words of his father, the great master Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche, while sitting on the floor of the lowest class cabin on the train to Varanasi, his body constricting around his resistance to being there, experiencing fear more acutely than he has known for many years.  It was June 2011.  Rinpoche had left his monastery in India in secret to become a wandering sadhu – alone and without support or protection for the first time in his life, his own “ego-suicide mission.”

Rinpoche explains that he needed to do “something a little extreme” to break through his conditioning and old habits.  He admits to being born “with a silver spoon in my mouth,” to never having to face the difficulties most people experience in their lives.  Even though the monasteries that he grew up in were pretty spare, with none of the conveniences associated with the modern world, his was an unusually protected environment.  “Everything had always been taken care of for me due to my role and status.”  He “knew nothing of hunger, or caste prejudices, or racism; I had not lived through war or reigns of terror.”

Rinpoche had confidence in working with his mind and had developed meditative awareness through years of training since childhood.  He had long wished for an opportunity “to discover his limits, and then stretch a bit further.”  He left his monastery with confidence in his capacity to overcome obstacles.  But admittedly, he was not prepared for the initial shock – “too much newness all at once.”

This book is the story of the first few weeks of Mingyur Rinpoche’s journey to let go of all he had known– the person who wore monk’s robes, who was a dharma teacher, who was the abbot of a monastery and head of an international Buddhist organization, who was a son, a brother, an uncle.  All those designations and attachments had to be let go, he writes, “to explore the deepest depths of who I really was out in the world, anonymous and alone.”

Mingyur Rinpoche’s journey is a captivating and heart-warming story.  Here is this clean-cut youthful monk, homeless on the streets of India, trying to navigate even the most ordinary tasks, like buying a train ticket, for the first time.  The descriptions are vivid, and you feel you are right there with him on his journey.  Rinpoche lets you into his inner experience with directness and honesty – the fears, the disgust, the difficulties generating compassion for his homeless companions.   We hear his internal monologue as he brings teachings to mind and applies his awareness to his experience of fear, pain, groundlessness and the near death of his physical body.

Rinpoche’s teachings are so accessible because they are so personal: how our mind projects and clings, how we resist change, and how we can work with aversive experiences.  Rinpoche allows how hard it is to give up the “tyranny of the grasping ego” whose “job is to remain in control.”   His discipline, courage and determination is inspiring; we see how he brings his meditative awareness to each new experience that challenges his state of mind.  He describes “adding wood to the fire” – deliberately bringing difficult situations to the forefront to be worked with directly, turning problems into allies.

In Love With the World is rich in Buddhist teachings.  Rinpoche touches on impermanence and death, emptiness, awareness and more.   The teachings on bardo are potent and central to Rinpoche’s story, particularly his near death experience:  bardo, that in-between space, that gap, that “fleeting moment of naked awareness, a split-second opening that introduces us to our original mind and provides a taste of freedom from confusion.”

Often times we think of bardo simply as that intermediate state between physical death and rebirth, but Mingyur Rinpoche clearly shows that it is a prototype for the transitions that occur within this life, how “these iconic death-to-life transitions emerge in everyday experience.”  Most of us panic in that moment of groundlessness, but therein lies the chance to be reborn, re-awakened to new possibilities.  Without this understanding it is easy to get stuck.

Throughout the book Rinpoche shares stories of his childhood, his early monastic training, and the teachings he received from his father and Saljay Rinpoche, his two main teachers.  These memories shape our understanding of and heart connection with this exceptional teacher-practitioner.

I hesitate to say more about Mingyur Rinpoche’s story.  I want to leave space for the reader to make the journey with him.  As the title of this book suggests, Mingyur Rinpoche passes through the bardos of living and dying, and falls in the love with the world.  And I confess that after reading this book, I have fallen in love with Mingyur Rinpoche.

To read an excerpt from In Love With the World see:  https://tricycle.org/magazine/yongey-mingyur-rinpoche/

To watch a recent short interview with Rinpoche see:  https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/yongey-mingyur-rinpoche-video/

To purchase In Love With the World at Penguin Random House, click here.


Christine Heming is a writer and educator.  She has been a student of the buddhadharma for over 45 years, and a senior teacher and meditation instructor in Shambhala.  She lives in Port Royal, Nova Scotia.

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6 responses to “ Book Review: In Love With the World ”
  1. Linda Mockeridge
    Aug 29, 2019

    This book is to be savored. Read it slowly, although you will not want to put it down. This way you can also look at your own mind.

  2. Christine Heming
    Aug 26, 2019

    I was remiss in not recognizing the contribution of Helen Tworkov to this book. The clarity and style owes much to her. I’m pleased to see the comments posted here.

  3. Paul McIntyre
    Aug 23, 2019

    I just finished reading this book, which I enjoyed very much. As Christine states in her review, there is a lot of dharma teaching, usually framed by Rinpoche’s personal reflections on how to apply the teachings to his personal, and at the time, unfamiliar experience. It seems quite rare for someone with his heritage & training to share so candidly personal challenges & anxieties, and how to apply dharma training to these. Among many examples of pithy dharma topics addressed, I really enjoyed Rinpoche’s discussion of the different levels of mandala, or offering, practice. On another note, despite clearly emphasizing how life & death are a moment to moment thing, I do think it is risky to talk about how “awareness never dies” (because it is unborn). That can be so easily misconstrued in theistic terms. Therefore, personally, I am not a fan of “near death experience” narratives, since that can dominate the conversation. Although it does likely sell books!

  4. Donna Peacock Hanczaryk
    Aug 23, 2019

    Thank you Christine for this wonderfully clear review and tribute to a must-read book ! Mingyur Rinpoche’s writing is so lyrical and interesting, I could not put In Love With The World down !

  5. Nicki Dayley
    Aug 20, 2019

    Beautiful. Thank you.

  6. Alice Haspray
    Aug 20, 2019

    It’s true! This book is amazing–personal, direct, ordinary, and magic! Read it as soon as you can. With love, Alice

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