AUSTRALIA

Mingyur Rinpoche’s First Visit to Australia

By Franka Cordua-von Specht • 4 min read

Joy of Living

“When you find something in your life that you treasure, you just naturally want to share it.” ~ Edwin Kelley

Success Down Under

In December, Australians’ long-awaited wish to receive Mingyur Rinpoche to their continent came true. 

Rinpoche’s visit, which included eight different events in Melbourne and Sydney,  was a stunning success, beautifully orchestrated and delivered. And a long time in the making!

Tergar Instructor Edwin Kelley has been championing Rinpoche’s visit to Australia for more than a decade. After Rinpoche’s return from his wandering retreat in 2015, Rinpoche committed to coming in 2020, but that the visit never happened due to the pandemic.

For this visit, several factors combined to help create the right conditions. For one, lead organizer Jeremy Wortsman played a key role. He’s been the catalyst for establishing a local community focused on Rinpoche’s teachings. Another factor was an in-person week-long retreat last February in Melbourne that Edwin and Myoshin Kelley led. The retreat brought people together and forged personal connections so that a committed core group was ready to help when the planning began for Rinpoche’s visit.

 “To finally have this come to fruition is very special,” said Edwin in an interview from Merimbula, a coastal town halfway between Melbourne and Sydney. In photographs from the event, Edwin can be seen welcoming Rinpoche at the Sydney airport, wheeling his luggage out the airport doors. It was history in the making, and a dream come true for Edwin. “When you find something in your life that you treasure, you just naturally want to share it,” said Edwin. “I’ve wanted for many years to share these teachings with my fellow Australians.”

Indeed, Edwin had been collecting names of Australians interested in Rinpoche’s teachings for more than two decades, amassing quite a collection to contact in the event of Rinpoche’s visit.

The organizing team did a splendid job, with Rinpoche’s visit touching the community’s far reaches, bringing together new meditators and long-time Buddhists, and including two events with the Tibetan community. The series of events even featured a very successful family hour, in which children asked Rinpoche their questions directly. “Parents and kids are often overlooked, so I really wanted to make sure parents could get to meet Rinpoche, and kids could as well,” said Jeremy. “The questions they asked were amazing.” 

For Mingyur Rinpoche, it was a wonderful visit. “The people are really open-minded and receptive, and the environment is very nice,” he said. “The community is really interested to apply the practice and meditation.” He added that he enjoyed the unique Australian culture, which includes influences from Asia, Europe, and North America. 

For many Australians, it was their first opportunity to meet Rinpoche. How important is it to receive the teachings in person? “I  would say it’s like the difference between mono and stereo, or stereo and surround sound,” said Jeremy. “You receive the teachings in such a different way.” 

Jeremy and the team spent months preparing for the visit, with many community members recording personal invitations that Jeremy formally hand-delivered when Rinpoche was in Portland, Oregon, USA, on his teaching tour in the spring of 2022. The organizing team also received tremendous support from Myoshin and Edwin. “We couldn’t have done it without them,” said Jeremy, likening the pair’s knowledge and help, both on or off the teaching stage, to an oral transmission or a “cheat sheet” which allowed the group to streamline its planning, train the volunteers and best prepare for the visit. 

For Jeremy, one of the highlights of the visit was seeing Rinpoche arrive at the airport. “It was very emotional.” The emotions signaled incredible relief after countless hours of effort to orchestrate the visit. As well, standing amidst the crowd at the airport, Jeremy felt deeply touched knowing that Rinpoche’s presence would benefit a great many people.

SPIRIT OF VOLUNTEERING

Since it was Rinpoche’s first time in Australia, the event organization presented a huge learning curve. Every aspect of the event was new, including coordinating the 60 volunteers from across the western and southern states of Victoria, New South Wales, and even Queensland. 

Sue Pratt, a psychologist who has been with the Tergar Melbourne group since its beginnings, was part of the core organizing team and took on the critical role of volunteer coordinator.

“People came with such a sense of how extraordinary that Ripoche was arriving on our shore,” she said. “They felt the specialness of this, and then just wanted to give and give.”

She was deeply moved by the spirit of volunteerism and connection and described a special quality in the air,  something like a nectar, that flowed and imbued a great warmth. “There was this heart-opening, a real sense of relational, collaborative being with each other, and the joy of that,” she shared. “And it just got bigger and bigger.”

The messages the organizing team received after the event were full of gratitude and readiness to help again. “There is one gorgeous fellow, a retired police officer, and he said, ‘I felt like I just played my first football game, and I’m ready for my next!’”

What lies ahead for Tergar Australia? It’s too early to say for sure, but before the end of 2023, the organization will have charitable status and seek to find its place alongside Tergar Asia in the Pacific Rim. 

A day after Rinpoche’s departure, it all feels a bit surreal for Jeremy. “Did it really happen?” Jeremy joked.  “It’s very bittersweet because it was just such an intense peak experience, and then it’s over as quickly as it started.” 

The time is now to integrate all that happened.  “We’re still just soaking it in. It’s going to take a while!” said Jeremy. 

“Rinpoche’s visit has precipitated a real cohesion in the students in Australia,” said Edwin. “It feels like an immense potential of possibilities, which feels really wonderful.”

About the Author

Franka Cordua-von Specht, co-founder of the Tergar Vancouver Practice Group and Tergar Canada, works for Tergar International’s marketing and communication team. She is a Tergar Guide and facilitates Joy of Living workshops.

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