The Enlightened Vagabond, The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche – Part 1

Vagabond 1bis

A monk sits above the site where Patrul Rinpoche was cremated in Khormo Olu, Dzachuka, Eastern Tibet. Down in the valley below is also the place where Patrul Rinpoche was born. Photography by Matthieu Ricard.

Patrul Rinpoche (1808-1887) was one of the most revered spiritual masters in the history of Tibet, widely recognized as a scholar and yogi who attained the ultimate spiritual realization. He has never been at the head of a large monastery and occupied no particular rank. He was a wandering hermit. An exemplary holder of the purest Buddhist ideals of renunciation, wisdom and compassion, Patrul Rinpoche spent most of his life wandering through secluded caves, forests, and hermitages around eastern Tibet, bestowing his teachings to the disciples who managed to catch up with him here and there.

When he left one place, he left with no particular destination; when he stayed somewhere, he had no fixed plans. In the wilderness, his favored meditation was the practice of cultivating bodhichitta—the wish to relieve all sentient beings from suffering and bring them to the ultimate freedom of enlightenment.

In the 1980s, I began reading in Tibetan pieces of spiritual advice written by Patrul Rinpoche. I also began to write down stories about his life that I heard from my teachers. My main teachers, Kangyur Rinpoche and Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, in particular, had known direct students of Patrul Rinpoche. For thirty-five years, I have transcribed more than a hundred inspiring stories, each of which is an invaluable teaching. While visiting Eastern Tibet more than twenty times, I collected more testimonies and retraced the steps of the great hermit by visiting the places where he had lived, the caves and hermitages where he stayed in retreat. I also met other masters and hermits, eighteen in total, who told me about various events of Patrul’s life.

This treasury of teachings was now complete enough to be shared with a larger audience. With the help of a long-time friend and collaborator, Constance Wilkinson, an English translation was prepared and published as The Enligthened Vagabond. As His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote in his preface:

Traditionally, biographies of eminent spiritual masters are not just stories for the purpose of entertainment. They serve as an inspiration for those who come after to learn from. I pray that this new book about Dza Patrul Rinpoche will long fulfil this worthy purpose.

The Enligthened Vagabond, The Life and Teachings of Patrul Rinpoche
, Shambhala Publications