While Nyangtsha Kargyen was pregnant with Milarepa, her husband went away on a long trading tour, and during his absence the child was born. A messenger was sent to find the father and inform him that he had a new son, asked him to give a name and to return for a festival. His father was filled of joy and named the boy as ‘ Töpa Ga’. ‘ Töpa’ means to hear, and ‘Ga’ means happy or joyous, so his name meant ‘ Milarepa, a Joy to Hear or Milarepa Good News.’ After a while, the father returned home and gave a big celebration in honour of their son.
At the age of four, his mother gave a birth to a girl who was named Peta Gonkyi. When Milarepa was seven years old, his father, Sherab Gyaltsen, became very sick. Realizing that he was not going to recover from his illness, he called together all the relatives for a meeting, including Yungdrung Gyaltsen and Khyung Tsha, the uncle and aunt.
His father agreed to put his family and affirs in the care of a trustee. Then he made a detailed will to insure that his son should later take possession of his patrimony. He also said that Zessay, a young woman from the village, had been promised Milarepa as his future wife through arrangements made with her parents. When Milarepa was of age, he was to be married to her, and all the property was to be given over to them. A letter was written as a testament, and signed and sealed. The aunt and uncle agreed to carry out these wishes, and having settled his affairs, Sherab Gyaltsen died.
Afterwards, the aunt and uncle took the money and the land, everything entrusted to them, and used it for their own benefit. Milarepa, his sister Peta, and his mother were forced to work as servants for the aunt and uncle. They were given clothing and food that was of lower quality than the other servants, and burdened with a tremendous amount of work. The aunt and uncle made it extremely difficult for them. In summer, at the time for work in the fields, they were the servants of the uncle. In winter, while working with wool, they were the servants of the aunt. Their food was fit for dogs, their work for donkeys. For clothes, some strips of rags were thrown over their shoulders and held together with a rope of grass. Working without rest, their limbs became raw and sore. Due to bad food and poor clothing, they became pale and emaciated. Their hair, which at one time had fallen in curls of turquoise and gold, became sparse and gray, filled with nits and lice.
When Milarepa was fifteen years old, his mother bought a lot of beer, and invited the people from the village, including the aunt and the uncle. She declared that mMilarepa was now 15 years old, and it was time for him to get married to Zessay, his fiance, and to begin his own life. So she begged them to return all what has been entrusted to them. But the uncle and aunt refused and denied that there was anything left. Uncle slapped his mother and struck his sister, Peta, and Milarepa with the sleeve of his chuba. His mother wept, fell and rolled on the ground.
Revenage through Black Magic
In order to revenge, his mother sold half the field, called Little Fur Carpet. With the money she bought a turquoise called Great Sparkling Star, a white horse, well-loved in that area, named Senge Submey (Unbridled Lion), two bundles of dye, and two packs of raw sugar for the preparation provisions and a gift for the lama.
Milarepa’s mother sent Milarepa to Kyorpo it Yarlung, where he met Lama Yungton Trogyel. When Milarepa prsented himself before the lama, he gave everything, gold and turquoise and offer his body, speech and mind. About a year passed, and all he had given Milarepa were a few incantations to make heaven and earth clash, and a smattering of various formulas and useful practices. But he was not satisfied. These practices were not powerful enough to produce any effect in his village. He told lama his misery. The lama sent his monk to his village to verify his story. The monk quickly returned and report that Milarepa told the truth.
The lama told Milarepa ,”‘In the region called Nub Khulung in the Tsangrong lives a lama named Yonten Gyatso (Ocean of Virtues) of Khulung, who is a great doctor and magician. I gave him my secret formula. And in return he taught me how to call down hailstorms with the tip of one finger. After he had taught me this, we became friends and associates. Go with my son and find him.”
The elder son of the lama was called Darma Ouangchuk. In addition to provisions for the journey, the lama gave us a length of broadcloth and serge from Lhasa, a few small gifts, and a letter. Having arrived at Nub Khulung, they met the young lama of Nub. they offered him some pieces of wool and serge as well as the gifts and the letter from the lama. Milarepa carefully told him all the circumstances of the story and earnestly begged Lama Yonten Gyatso to teach him magic.
Upon the guidance of Lama Yonten Gyatso, Milarepa build a cell above the ground with a continuous enclosure of stone blocks as big as yaks, so that, no one else could see a door to the house. Then the lama gave Milarepa the magic incantation.
He performed the spell, seven days passed. Then the lama came and said, ‘Formerly seven days were enough, and that should still suffice.’ But Milarepa replied, ‘As my magic must work at a distance, I ask to continue for seven more days.’ The lama answered, ‘Very well, continue.’ And so he did.
On the evening of the fourteenth day, the lama returned and said, ‘Tonight there will be a sign around the mandala that magic has taken place.’ And that same evening the loyal deities, guardians of the Order, brought us what we had asked for: the heads and the bleeding hearts of thirty-five people. They said, ‘For several days you have repeatedly been invoking us. Here is what you wanted.’ And they piled the heads all around the mandala.
The next morning, the lama returned and said, ‘Of those to be destroyed, two people remain. Should they be destroyed or spared?’ Milarepa was full of joy and said, ‘I beg you to let them live so they may know my vengeance and my justice.’ Thus it was that the uncle and aunt were unharmed.
Through his black magic, in his village of Kya-Ngatsa, there had been a wedding feast for his uncle’s eldest son. Milarepa was able to make the house collapse and thirty-five people were killed.
His mother saw my uncle’s house reduced to a cloud of dust and heard the shrieks of the villagers. She was filled with happiness and took all the red cloths she had, tied them to the end of a stick, and, waving it like a victory banner at the top of the houseand cried in a loud voice,“ Gods, lamas, and the Triple Refuge! There is an answer to our enemies. My mind is finally satisfied. I am happy.”
After the spell, the villagers conspired to kill her. His mother meet one yogin from U province and asked him to send a letter to Milarepa. In her letter, she requested Milarepa to send hailstorms. So he returned to Lama Yungton Trogyel of Nyag. The lama gave him a secret formula, then he performed the rites in his old cell. Through his other magical powers, he sent hail on the village and that destroyed the harvest.
Seeking the Dharma
Milarepa was filled with remorse for the evil he had done by magic and by hailstorms. While he remained in the lama’s service, he asked himself unceasingly and passionately by what means he might practice the true teaching.
The lama replied, “All composite things are impermanent. I have done harm to many beings by evil spells, magic, and hailstorms. You also have accumulated crimes of magic and hailstorms. These crimes will be on my head. Since you are young and have a great faith. You must practice the Dharma yourself and help us all achieve the higher realms and liberation. I will support you with all the provisions you need.”
The lama gave Milarepa a yat with a load of woolen cloth from Yarlung. He said, ‘In the village called Nar in the Tsangrong, there is a lama called Rongton Lhaga. His knowledge of the teaching of Dzogchen has led him to the goal. Go there and have this teaching explained to you and purify yourself. ” Following the lama’s instructions, I went to Nar in the Tsangrong and made inquiries.
Milarepa went to Rinang in the Upper Nyang, to Lama Rongton Lhaga. He offered him his yak and the woolen cloth as gifts. He told the lama the whole story and asked him to give him the teaching in this life which wouldl deliver him from the cycle of existence. The lama gave his initiation and instruction.
Then Milarepa thought,”‘ In the past, I attained great results with spells in fourteen days. Seven days were enough for the hailstorms. But here is a way to attain enlightenment that is even easier than sending hailstorms and death through magic. If I meditate on it by night I will be purified in one night, if I meditate on it by day I will be purified in one day. ” Through this meeting, he though he had become one of these fortunate Bodhisattvas who, having heard the teaching, did not even have to meditate on it. Triumphant, and thinking in this way, without meditating, he spent the time sleeping.
After few day, the lama came and said to him, ” You are a great sinner. I am not able to guide you to liberation. Go to the monastery of Drowo Lung (Valley of the Birches) in the southern province of Lhobrak. There lives the renowned Marpa, personal disciple of the Great Master Naropa of India, saint of the new esoteric order and king of translators, who has no equal in the three realms. You and he have had karmic links in the past. You should go to him.”
Hardly had he heard the name of Marpa the Translator that he was filled with ineffable happiness. In his joy every hair of his body vibrated. He sobbed with fervent adoration. Locking his whole mind in a single thought, he set out with provisions and a letter.
Meeting his Guru, Marpa
The night before my arrival at Drowo Lung, Marpa saw the Great Master Naropa in a dream. The latter blessed him. He gave him a slightly tarnished, five-pronged vajra made of lapis lazuli. At the same time he gave him a golder vase filled with nectar and told him, ‘ With the water in this vase wash the dirt from the vajra, then mount it on top of the banner-of-victory. This will please the Buddhas of the past and make all sentient beings happy, thus fulfilling both your aim and that of others. ” Then Naropa vanished. Following the instructions of his Master, Marpa washed the vajra with water from the vase, and mounted it on top of the banner-of-victory. Then the brilliance of this vajra lit up the whole universe. Immediately the six classes of beings, struck with wonder by its light, were freed from sorrow and filled with happiness. They prostrated themselves and paid reverence to the Venerable Marpa and his banner-of-victory, which had been consecrated by the Buddhas of the past.
Somewhat surprised by this dream, Marpa awoke. He was filled with joy and love. At this moment his wife, Dakmema, came to serve him a hot morning drink and said, ‘O Lama, last night I had a dream. ” After hearing her dream, Marpa though,” These dreams are very much in accor.,” His heart was filled with extreme joy, but to Dakmema he only said, ‘I do not know the meaning since dreams have no source. Now I am going to plow the field near the road. Prepare what I need.”
The lama paid no attention to her and said,” Bring me plenty of beer, ‘I will drink this beer. Bring more for a guest.”
He took another full jar, and departed. When he reached the field he buried it in the earth and covered it with his hat. Then, while plowing the field, he watched the road. And having drunk his beer, he waited.
In the meantime, Milarepa was on his way. Starting from the lower part of the Lhobrak, he began asking all passers-by where great Marpa the Translator lived. But no one knew him. As he reached the pass from where one could see the monastery of Drowo Lung, he put the same question to a man who was passing, asking, “And this pass, what is it called?’ he answered,” It is called Chola Gang, the Ridge of Religion.”
Milarepa continued on his way, still inquiring. There were many shepherds and he questioned them. The old ones answered that they did not know. Among them was a child with a pleasant face, well-oiled hair, and good clothes. He spoke well and said, “Do you speak of my father? If so, he bought gold with all our wealth and went to India with it. He brought back many books studded with precious stones. Usually he does not work, but today he is plowing his field.” He thought to himself, “From what the child says it seems to be the lama, but would a great translator be plowing his field? “
And he continued on his way, at the side of the road,a tall and corpulent monk, with large eyes and awesome look, was plowing a field. He had scarcely seen him when he was filled with unutterable joy and inconceivable bliss. Stunned for a moment by this vision, he remained motionless. Then he asked, ” Have you heard the name of the Translator Marpa, Where is his house?” Then he said, ” Who are you? “
He explained he came from Upper Tsang and came to beg for his teaching. Lama said he would arrange for him to meet Marpa, but plowing the field first. Lama took from the ground the jar of beer which he had hidden under his hat and gave it to Milarepa. Then lama went away.
Having drunk all the beer that remained he worked with a will. Some time later the young child came to fetch him, saying,” ‘Come to the house and serve the lama. “
As he was impatient to introduce me to the lama, Milarepa said to him, ‘I am anxious to finish this work.’ So he plowed the part which remained to be done. As this field had been the occasion of my meeting with the lama, he called it Tuhngken (Field of Opportunity).
Milarepa joined the child and went into the house. The same monk whom he had met a short time before was seated with a pillow at his back on two square cushions that were covered with a rug. He thought, ” This is the same monk as before. Where can the lama be? “
Then the lama said, ” It is true that you do not know me. I am Marpa. Prostrate yourself! “
So Milarepa bowed down at his feet, ” Lama Rinpoche, I am a great sinner from Nyima Lato. I offer you my body, speech and mind. I ask for food, clothing, and the teaching. Please teach me the way which leads to Enlightenment in this lifetime.”
Then he confessed fully the story of my crimes. The lama said,” It is good that you offer your body, speech, and mind. But I will not give you food and clothing as well as the teaching. I will give you food and clothing, but you will have to ask another for the teaching. Or, if I give you the teaching, look elsewhere for food and clothing. Choose between the two. But if you choose the teaching, then whether or not you reach Enlightenment in this life will depend solely on you own striving.”
He replied, ” Well, since I came to you for the teaching, I will look elsewhere for food and clothing.’” As he was placing his book in his shrine room, Marpa said, ” Take that filthy book away; it would defile my sacred objects and my shrine.”
So Milarepa thought,” He responds in this way because my book contains black magic! ” Carefully, he put it away. He remained with Marpa for several more days. The lama’s wife gave him good meals.
Hardships Serving His Guru
Then Milarepa went begging throughout the entire valley. In this way, he collected twenty-one measures of barley. With fourteer measures hebought a cooking pot with four handles, free of rust, smooth inside and out. With one measure he bought meat and beer, and the remaining measures he poured into a big sack. Then, carrying the cooking pot on top of everything, he returned to the lama’s dwelling. Trembling with fatigue, he dropped the heavy load and the room shook. The lama, who was eating his meal, was so startled he stopped eating.
Marpa said, “Little man, you are too energetic! Do you also intend to bury us under the ruins of the house with your magic? You are obnoxious! Take your barley away.” Then he pushed it away with his foot. While Milarepa was dragging the sack outside,he said to himself simply and without evil thought, ‘This lama is irritable! I will have to watch my behavior and my way of serving him.’” Returning and prostrating himself, he offered Marpa his empty cooking pot.
Marpa took it in his hands and held it for a moment, his eyes pensive. Tears fell from his eyes, and he said, ” Your gift is auspicious. I offer it to the Great Master Naropa.” Marpa raised it in offering. Shaking the handles of the vessel in order to apprise the sound, he made it ring and carried it into his shrine room. He filled it with melted butter from the altar lamps. At this moment Milarepa was overcome with emotion and was burning with desire for religion. Again, he begged the lama to instruct him.
He replied, ” Faithful disciples come to me in large numbers from U and Tsang. The inhabitants in Yadrok Taklung and those of Ling attack them and steal their provisions and their gifts. Bury these two regions in hail. This will be religious work. Afterward, I shall instruct you.”
Milarepa sent a fierce hailstorm to these two regions. Then he asked the lama to instruct me. The lama replied, ” For the few hailstones you have sent, am I to give you a teaching which I have brought back from India with such great difficulty? You want my teaching. Well, the mountaineers at Lhobrak pass attack my disciples coming from Nyal Loro. They laugh at me. You call yourself a great magician, cast your spells upon these mountaineers, and if you prove your magic, I shall give you the teaching of Naropa to attain Enlightenment in one life and one body.”
After Milarepa had cast my spells, the moutltaineers fought among themselves and many of the more belligerent perished by the sword. At the sight of this Marpa said, ” It is true that you are a great magician.” From then on, he called Milarepa great Magician.
Again, Milarepa asked for the teaching on Enlightenment. But Marpa replied, ” Ha! Is it to reward your many crimes that I went to India at the risk of my life? You say you want these teachings which are the living breath of the dakinis and for which, disdaining riches, I offered gold without measure. I hope you are only joking! Anyone else would kill you for that! Now restore the harvest in the land of Yadrok and heal the mountaineers; after that I will teach you. But never come back if you cannot do this. “ Marpa rebuked him. Overcome with sorrow, Milarepa wept. Dakmema, Marpa’s wife consoled him.
The next day Marpa himself came and said to Milarepa, ” Last evening, I was very hard on you, but do not be distressed. Be patient. Teaching is very slow work. You have the energy to work, so build a tower of Sutra. When you have done that I will instruct you and I will supply your food and clothing.”
Milarepa began to build towers. The first one was a round tower on the eastern crest of the mountain. The second was a semicircular tower on the western crest of the mountain. The third was a a sturdy tower on the northern crest of the mountain. But every time when they half finished, Marpa came and demolished the towers . He ordered Milarepa to return the earth and stones back to their places .
Overwhelmed by grief and still thirsting for religion, he carried back from towers, to their places, first the earth and then the stones. It was then that he got a sore on his shoulders.
Marpa wanted to build a square white tower nine stories high with a superstructure and a pinnacle, forming ten stories. He said to Milarepa , ” It will never be torn down. When you have finished, I will give you the secret teaching. Then you may retire to meditate and during your retreat I will provide for your sustenance.
Beause of previous miserable experience, Milarepa requested Dagmema, Marpa’s wife to be witness to all these promises. Marpa agreed that his wife could be the witness.
Then Milarepa laid the foundations for a square tower. While he was putting up the wall, the disciples Ngokton of Shung, Tshurton of Dol, and Meton of Tsangrong playfully rolle a large rock in his direction and placed it as the cornerstone.
When he had built to the second story on both sides of the large door, the lama came and carefully inspected everything pointing a finger at the large boulder that had been rolled into place by the three disciples, said to Milarepa,” you cannot ask my disciples for help. They are practicing the two advanced stages. Do not demolish everything, but take away the stone and put it back where it was.”
Then Milarepa demolished the building from the top down and returned the rock to its place. Alone, he had to exert as much strength as the three disciples. Because he had carried away the stone himself and brought it back, he named this stone as “ Giant Stone“.
By the time he reached the seventh story, he had a sore on his back. At that time, the great Meton of Tsangrong came to request the Yidam Chakrasamvara initiation. He sat among the crowd. Marpa called to him, ” Great Magician, what gift do you bring me? If you have the price of my teaching, give it to me. Otherwise do not stay here among the initiates of the secret teaching.” Speaking thus, the lama slapped him, grabbed him by the hair, and threw him out. Milarepa wanted to die and he wept the whole night. Dagmema came to console him.
The next morning the lama himself came, “Great Magician, do not continue with the tower. Build a shrine room at the base of the tower surrounded by a covered walk with twelve columns. Then I will give you the secret teaching.” He laid the foundations and built the covered walk. All the while the Dagmema, Marpa’s wife, brought him well-seasoned food and beer. She was full of goodness and she comforted him.
When he was about to finish, Tshurton Ouangnye of Dol came to ask for the Guhyasamaja initiation. Dagmema gave him a tub of butter, a piece of cloth, and a small copper cooking pot to give to the lama. Having offered his gifts, he joined the others
Marpa asked Milarepa,”Great Magician, what gift have you brought that you place yourself in these ranks?” He replied,” This tub of butter, this piece of cloth, and this copper cooking pot.”
Marpa replied, ” These things have already been given to me by someone else. Do not give me my own goods! If you have something of your own to give, go and fetch it. If not, do not remain here.” And getting up, he cursed and kicked Milarepa, and threw him out. At this monent, Milarepa wanted to sink into the earth.
The next morning the lama came and said, ” Now finish building the covered walk and the tower. Afterward I will give you initiation and instruction.” Then Milarepa finished the tower and undertook the completion of the covered walk. By that time he had sores on my back. Pus and blood ran from three wounds. He showed his back, which was one mass of sores, to the Dagmema. She looked with concern at his sores, and tears poured from her eyes. After she came to Marpa and discussed about his wound.
Milarepe was sent to Marpa’s room. Marpa said, ” Great Magician, show me your back.” When he had finished examining it carefully, he said, ” My Master Naropa underwent twenty-four mortiflcations, twelve great and twelve minor trials, all of which surpass yours. As for me, without a thought for my life or my wealth, I gave both to my Master Naropa. So if you seek the teaching, be humble and continue the work on the tower.”
Dagmema said to Milarepa, ” the lama will not give you the teaching now, but in the end he will surely give it to you. Meanwhile, I will instruct you.” Then, she gave him the method for meditating on Dorje Pahgmo
Seeking a new Teacher
After few weeks, Marpa came to Milarepa, said, “Great magician, if from the bottom of your heart you wish for religion with such impatience and restlessness, you must give your life for it. Complete the three remining stories of the tower and I will give you the teaching. Otherwise, since it is costly to feed you and since you have somewhere to go to, go now.”
There was nothing he could say, so he left. Milarepa said to Dagmema, ” The lama still refuses to instruct me. If I were sure he would give me the teaching when I finished the tower, I would stay. But, if when the tower is finished, he still decided not to teach me, there would be nothing I could do. I long to see my mother. Therefore,I ask permission to leave for my village. ”
Since Naropa had the custom of celebrating the tenth day of each moon by a great sacrifice of offerings, therefore, Marpa also celebrated the tenth day of the moon. On that day, Dagmema made one measure strong, one light, and one medium. She gave the light beer for sacramental libations. To the monks, to be offered to the lama, she gave more and more of the strong beer. The monks became drunk. As for Marpa, he took so much beer, and so much more was offered to him, that he became completely drunk and fell into a deep sleep. Meanwhile, Dagmema removed the gifts – the jewels of Naropa and the rosary of rubies – from his room. She then forged a message from the lama. Affixing his seal on a letter prepared in advance, she wrapped them in a precious cloth, sealed it all with wax and gave it to Milarepa, saying, ” Act as if these things were sent by the lama. Go and offer them to Lama Ngokpa and ask him to teach you.”
When Milarepa was arriving at Mount Kyungding in Shung, Lama Ngokpa was expounding an esoteric text entitled ” The Two Divisions” to his disciples. His discourse was interrupted while expounding these verses:
I am the Master of the Dharma.
I am the Assembly of the Hearers.
I am the Master of the Universe and the Object of Realization.
I am the Conditioned and the Unconditioned.
I am the Innate Nature of Spontaneous Bliss.
As he was pronouncing these words, Milarepa prostrated myself at a distance. He responded by removing his hat, and said, ” This is the manner of greeting used by Marpa’s disciples. ” He said to his disciples, “For this man will be the Master of all the Doctrines. Go and ask him who he is.”
One of the monks went to meet Milarepa and, recognizing him, said, ‘Why have you come?’
Milarepa answered, “Since the Lama Marpa is very busy, I am the only one that he has not had time to instruct. I have come here to ask for the teaching. As gifts I bring the jewels of Naropa and his rosary of rubies. “
The monk returned to his master and told him, ” It is Great Magician.’” Lama Ngokpa was filled with joy. He exclaimed, ‘The jewels and the rosary of the Great Master Naropa in my dwelling! This is as rare and marvelous as the Udumbara flower. We must go out to receive them and ask Great Magician to take his place in the procession.”
Since Milarepa had remined where he first made his greeting, a monk came to give him this message. I called this place Chaktsal Gang (Ridge of Salutation).
Milarepa prostrated himself and gave Lama Ngokpa the letter with the gifts. With tearful eyes, lama rised the gifts to his forehead and received their blessing. He placed these sacred objects on the altar, giving them the most prominent place and setting offerings in front of them. Then he read the letter.
Lama Ngokpa said to Milarepa,” Since it is an order from Marpa, I will instruct you. I had thought of sending for you but happily by the grace of Marpa you have come. Many disciples come to me from Kham, from Tagpo, from Kongpo, and from Yarlung. The evil people of the villages of Yehpo and Yemo of Dol always steal our provisions. Go and strike them all with hail. Afterward you will receive initiation and instruction.”
Milarepa could not refuse his request. Therefore, charged some sesame seeds with magical power and brought them along. Arriving in the province of Dol, he set to work and prepared to bring on the hailstorm. At Yehpo he stayed at the house of an old woman and made myself a shelter nearby.
The storm gathered quickly. The thunder rumbled. The old woman cried out, ” When my crops are struck by hail, what will I have to eat? ” Milarepa told the old woman to give him the drawing of the shape of her field. She drew an elongated triangle, which he reproduced. Then he formed his hand in the mudra of watching and covered the triangle with a wide pan. After the spell, he went out to verify the results. The mountain slopes behind the two villages were transformed into torrents. Only the field of the old woman remained intact and fertile. At the edge of a thicket, he found many small dead birds. When he returned to the lama I heaped them all up at his feet. He wept and said, “Lama Rinpoche, I came here for the holy religion but in truth I have only sinned. Have compassion on me, a great sinner.
Lama Ngokpa replied,” Brother Great Magician, have no fear. We, the disciples of Naropa and Maitreya, know the secret formula which enables great sinners to achieve Enlightenment instantly. In the future all these creatures now killed by the hail will be reborn around you and will form a procession when you attain full Enlightenment. Rejoice that from now on, they will not be reborn in the lower realms. If you do not believe me, I will show you. ” After collecting himself for a moment, he snapped his fingers and immediately the bodies were revivified. In an instant some flew skyward and others raced over the ground and returned to their nests.
Then the lama gave him initiation into the mandala of Hevajra. He moved into an abandoned cave. But Milarepa meditated without respite because he had left Marpa without his permission, He had no inner experience. Lama Ngokpa was astounded, ” With these teachings, there’s no way that nothing can happen. What’s going on? “
Meanwhile Marpa had completed his son’s tower and he sent a letter to Ngokpa. Lama Ngokpa came to the small opening of his cell and, showing him the letter. Finally Milarepa told the truth that the letter was not from Marpa and neither was the mala or the bone ornaments.
Lama Ngokpa replied, ” Well, that must be the truth, because without the lama’s blessing, experience and realization cannot arise.”
Lama Ngokpa carried all of his own collection of images, scriptures, and stupas, his gold and turquoise, his silks and his garments, and all the household utensils, leaving behind the gifts given by Marpa. He ordered Milarepa to leave an old goat which had a broken leg and could not follow the herd. He took away all his other animals from the stable and the meadow. Meanwhile, Lama gave himsilk and this turquoise as an offering to Lama Marpa and his wife also gave him a bag of cheese to offer to Dagmema, the wife of Lama Marpa.
Meeting Marpa Again
Lama Ngokpa and all his students assembled for the empowerment, and yet again Milarepa was not allowed to attend and refused his offerings. When Lama Ngokpa offered him his gifts, saying, ” Lama Rinpoche, since you are already the Master of my whole being, body, speech, and mind, I now offer all my worldly goods, except for a long-haired goat, the decrepit forebear of all my goats, who, unable to come here on her broken leg, has been left behind. Mercifully grant us initiation and profound instruction and the secret teaching written on the scrolls.’” And he prostrated himself.
Maropa replied,” But even so, my initiation and profound instructions are the shortest path of Vajrayana which, without having to wait for innumerable kalpas, leads directly to Enlightenment in this life. The precepts written on the scrolls are being kept by me under safeguards according to the strict commands of my own lama and the dakinis. That is why it will be difficult for these precepts to be given you if you do not offer me this old goat, in spite of her age and broken leg. As to the other teachings, I have already taught them all to you. “
Ngokpa replied, ” If the goat is brought here and I offer it to you, will you reveal the secret teaching to me? ” Marpa answered, “‘If you bring the goat yourself, and offer it to me, you may have the teaching.”
On the following day, the goat on his back and offered it to Marpa, who cried out joyfully, ” You are an initiated disciple such as is worthy to be called faithful to his sacred bond. I have no need of this goat. I only wanted to stress the importance of the teaching that I am giving you.” He gave him initiation and instruction as promised.
After few days, monks who had come from afar, together with a few close associates who were brought together, arranged a ritual feast. Marpa put a long acacia stick near his seat. Looking at Ngokpa with narrowed eyes and pointing his finger at him, he said, ” Ngokton Chodor, why have you conferred initiation and instruction on this wicked man called Good News?” Saying this, he glanced toward his stick. Ngokpa was afraid and, prostrating himself, answered, ” Lama Rimpoche, you yourself wrote to me to initiate and instruct Great Magician, and you gave me the jewels of Naropa and his rosary of rubies. Thus I carried out your order. I have no cause to reproach myself and I feel neither shame nor remorse.”
Speaking thus, Ngokpa fearfully raised his eyes. Furiously, Marpa pointed his finger at me and asked, ” Where did you get these objects? ” Milarepa was mute with terror. His heart agonized as though it had been torn out. In a trembling voice I confessed that the mother had given them to him.
Marpa jumped up and brandishing the acacia stick went out to beat his wife, Dagmema. Having been listening attentively, she got up and ran away. she locked herself in temple.
At this point, he was totally depressed. Extremely disappointed, he was about to kill himself, Ngokpa restrained him. Some of the other monks came to comfort him. Some of them were overcome by grief and fainted.
After the monks had gone back and forth many times between them, Marpa broke his silence. His mind now being pacified, he sent for Dagmema, the mistress. Having been invited to come, she appeared before him.
Marpa asked her, ” Where have Ngok Choku Dorje and the other monks gone? “
” ln accordance with your order to bring back the jewels of Naropa and his rosary of rubies, Lama Ngokpa immediately set out to fetch them, and has now returned.” she replied.
Dagmema related in detail how Great Magician was imploring Ngokpa to help him and how Ngokpa was consoling him. Lama Marpa shed tears and said, ” Disciples of the secret path must be such as these; indeed they are so. I have compassion for them. Summon all my disciples. Milarepa is to be the principal guest.”
Initiations and Instructions
Lama Ngokpa and Milarepa both went in the shrine. Then, Marpa spoke, ” If everything is carefully examined, not one of us is to be blamed. I have merely tested Great Magician to purify him of his sins. If the work on the tower had been intended for my own gain, I would have been gentle in the giving of orders. Therefore I was sincere. Being a woman, the mistress was also right not to be able to bear the situation, yet her excessive compassion in deceiving with the sacred objects and the forged letter was a serious indulgence. Ngokpa, you were right in the matter you have related. However, go now and bring me those sacred objects and afterward I will give them to you. Great Magician was burning with desire for religion, and he was right to use any means to obtain it. Ngokpa did not know that the mistress had sent someone under false pretenses. This is why he gave Great Magician initiation and instruction. Thus, I shall not look for a way to punish him. Although my anger rose like floodwater, it was not like worldly anger. However they may appear, my actions always come from religious considerations which, in essence, conform to the Path of Enlightenment. As for the rest of you who are not yet immersed in religion, do not let your faith be shaken. Had this son of mine completed nine great ordeals, his complete Enlightenment, without future rebirth, would have been achieved without leaving any bodily residue. Since, due to Dagmema’s weakness, that did not take place, there will remain a faint stain of defilement with him. However, his great sins have been erased by his eight great afflictions of mind and by his numerous small agonies. Now, I receive you and will give you my teaching, which is as dear to me as my own heart. I will help you with provisions and let you meditate and be happy.
As he was saying these words, Milarepa was full of joy. His happiness was boundless. Shedding tears of joy. He prostrated himself. After the puja, Marpa ordained him with the common vow of liberation, cut off his hair and gave him the Bodhisattva precepts. Meanwhile, Marpa gave him the name of ” Mila Vajra Banner-of-Victory” which was revealed by Naropa in a dream, even before he came here.
Then, placing his hands on Milarepa’s head, Marpa said: ‘My son, from the very first moment, I knew you were a disciple capable of receiving the teaching. The night before you came here I learned from a dream that you were destined to serve the teaching of Buddha. The mistress, in a similar but even more remarkable dream, saw two women guardians of a stupa, indicating that the dakinis will protect the teaching of our lineage. In this way, my lama and the guardian deity sent you to me as a disciple. I went to meet you in the guise of a laborer. You drank all the beer I had given you. This beer and the work that you had finished signified that, in penetrating to the heart of the Doctrine, you will grasp the entire teaching. The copper pot you gave with the four handles signified the coming of my four great disciples. Its unblemished surface signified that your mind will become free from blemish and in your body you will have power over the bliss of the fire of Tummo. The empty pot symbolized the meagerness of your food during the time of your meditation in solitude. But in order to sow the seeds of your long life, of well-being for your many disciples, and of your filling your disciples with the sweetness of the teaching, I with my blessing filled the pot with butter from the altar lamps. I made it ring to signify your future renown. To purify you from the darkness of evil, I burdened you with the increasingly terrible work of the towers. Each time that I cruelly drove you out from the ranks of the disciples and overwhelmed you with grief, you had no bad thoughts against me. This signifies that your disciples will have first of all the zeal, perseverance, wisdom, and compassion necessary for every disciple. Next, not desiring the wealth of this life, they will endure meditation in the mountains through their ascetic discipline and energy. So finally, through inner experience, spiritual energy, wisdom, and compassion, they will all become perfect lamas. The transmission of this teaching will be like the waxing moon – so rejoice! “
Undertaking an arduous journey to India
Marpa told him to meditate with perseverance. He provided him with ample supplies and directed me to meditate in a cave called Tiger Nak at the Southern Cliffs. Then Milarepa filled an altar lamp with butter, lit it, and placed it on my head. he meditated day and night in this way, without moving, until the butter in the lamp was exhausted. Eleven months passed. Then the lama and his wife came to visit him, Marpa said, ” My son open an entrance and came home for a rest so you may talk with me, your old father, about your inner experience.” Just then Dagmema returned and said, “There is nothing wrong. Such an auspicious event as this meeting with the lama can only have a good result. It is a law of the secret path. Refusing would anger him and spoil the auspicious event, so break open the entrance and come out.”
Knowing that the mother spoke the truth, Milarepa tore down the wall and came out. He started to speak his insight regarding impermanence and death, the consequences of action, and the pain of samsara. Then Marpa said, “My son, I had great hope and my hope has been realized.” And he was filled with joy. After many religious talks, Marpa and his wife returned to their house. And Milarepa walked back to the cell and mediated.
One night, A young girl appeared in a dream. She was blue as the sky, and beautiful in her brocade dress and bone ornaments, her eyebrows and lashes sparkling with light. She said to Milarepa, “My son, you already have the Teaching of the Great Symbol (Mahamudra) and instruction in the Six Esoteric Doctrines. These lead to Supreme Enlightenment through continuous meditation. But you do not have the special teaching concerning the Transference of Consciousness to Dead Bodies, which leads to Buddhahood in one moment of meditation. Ask for it.” Then she disappeared.
Next day, Milrepa was thinking of his dream, ” This young girl was dressed in the costume of the dakinis. Is it a warning from the gods? Hebroke down the wall of my cell and went before Marpa, who cried out, “Why have you come out of strict seclusion? This could hinder your progress. Why have you done it?”
Milarepa described his dream, the young girl and what she had said to him. Marpa reflected a moment and said, ” It is certainly a warning from the dakinis. Before I started back from India, the Master Naropa spoke about the teaching of the Transference of Consciousness to Dead Bodies. Since I was about to leave, I may not have asked for it. So we must search for it through all the books from India.” Finally, they spent days going through them looking for the teaching, but they could not find it.
Marpa again undertook the arduous journey to India to meet Naropa. Marpa did not find him in his usual place, as Naropa had become a realized siddha, and moved freely. After a long search, he met Naropa in a virgin forest and invited him to come to the hermitage of Puhlla Hari. There he asked for instruction in the Transference of Consciousness to Dead Bodies.
The Master Naropa replied, ” Did you think of this or did you receive a sign? “
Marpa answered, ” This did not enter my mind, nor did I have a sign. One of my disciples, Milarepa, received an exhortation from the dakinis and came to ask me for the teaching.”
Naropa cried, ” What a marvel! In the dark land of Tibet, this disciple is like the sun rising over the snows.” He raised his joined hands above his head in veneration. Then, he closed his eyes and bowed his head three times. And in India the mountains and the trees inclined three times toward Tibet. To this day, the treetops and the mountains of Puhlla Hari bend toward Tibet.
Naropa gave Marpa in its entirety the secret teaching transmitted by the dakinis. Then he interpreted certain omens. Marpa’s manner of prostration foretold that his own family line would be short, but that the spiritual lineage molded by the unfolding action of the teaching would be longer than a great river.
Marpa then returned to Tibet. Some time later the monks and disciples were commemorating the anniversary of the death of Marpa’s son, Darma Doday, which had taken place as foretold by the omen. When all were assembled for that occasion, the disciples asked Marpa, “Lama Rinpoche, our best hope has gone, and you are no longer young. How will the precious Kagyu Doctrine be transmitted? Tell us what our discipline and our task should be.” Marpa answered,” answered, ” I, and all the descendants of the Master Naropa, have the power to prophesy through dreams. Go now and await your dreams.”
Dream of Four Great Pillars
Later, the disciples related their dreams. Even though all had happy dreams, they were unable to extract a premonitory sign. Milarepa told his dream of four pillars to Marpa,
” I dreamt of four great pillars, one in each direction. In the Eastern direction, the snow lion (i.e. Tsurton Ouangnge of Dol, one of four main disciples) was on top of his pillar. His mane of turquoise flowing everywhere (i.e. Realization of secret instruction). He spread his four claws upon the snow ( i.e. Possession of the Four Infinite Attributes). In the Southern direction, on top of this pillar was a tiger (i.e. Ngokton Chodor of Shung). She smiled three times (i.e. Knowledge of the Trikaya) and spread her claws over the forest (i.e. Accomplishment of the four unfolding actions). The cedars of the forest were thickly tangled (i.e. Signify a line of heirs and grandsons). In the Western direction was a giant garuda (i.e. Great Meton of Tsangrong). The garuda’s wings were spread (i.e. the realization of the secret instruction) and its horns rose toward the heavens (i.e. Signify perfection in meditation and insight). On the Northern pillar was a vulture (i.e. Milarepa of Gungthang). Its nest perched on a crag (i.e. His life will be harder than the rock). This vulture had a fledgling (i.e. He will be without rival). And the sky was full of little birds (i.e. Signify the propagation of the Kagyu Doctrine). “
Thus he spoke, Marpa joyfully answered, ” This dream is a happy dream! ” All those present were filled with joy. The chief disciples asked Marpa to explain what this one foretold.
Farewell to his Guru, Marpa
As prophesied by Naropa, Milarepa withdrew to the cave called the Dzangpuhk Drok. While in retreat, he had a dream: he came back to his village of Kya Ngatsa. His house was crashed. And his mother was dead and his sister had left to wander and beg.. He became thoughtful and evoked the memory of his mother. Then day broke. Milarepa tore down the door of his cell and went to see the Marpa.
He was asleep. Milarepa approached him, and bowing humbly at the head of his bed. Such was my request. The lama awoke. At that moment the sun rose and through the window its rays fell on his head. At the same time the lama’s wife entered, bringing his morning meal. The lama spoke,” My son, when you come here to make your request and finding me asleep foretells that we shall not see each other again in this life. However, the sun rising in space foretells that you will make the Buddha’s teaching shine as splendidly as the sun. Most important of all, the rays of the sun striking my head foretells that the Kagyu Teaching will be spread far and wide. The arrival of the mistress bringing the meal signifies that you will be nourished by spiritual food. ” Then Marpa asked his wife,Dagmema, to prepare a special offering and gave Milarepa the complete instruction of the path of Enlightenment.
Then Marpa said: ” In truth, these instructions were given me by the Master Naropa, who commanded that they be transmitted to you. And you in turn must pass on this oral transmission to one of your closest disciples, designated by the dakinis, placing him under pledge of maintaining the single line of transmission which must continue for thirteen generations. If you give away these instructions in return for food, riches, or simply to please others, you will incur the wrath of the dakinis. Keep them in your heart, and practice them yourself. If there comes to you a predestined disciple, even if he has no gifts to offer, bind him to you by initiation and instruction in order to preserve the teaching. To impose trials on a disciple, as Tilopa did on Naropa, or as I did on you, will be profitless for undeveloped minds. Give the teachings with discernment. However, in India there are nine other forms of oral transmission of the invisible dakinis which are not so restrictive as the one-to-one transmission between master and disciple. Of these I have given you four. Concerning the five others, someone of our lineage should go and ask for them from the descendants of Naropa. They will be profitable to sentient beings. Learn them as well as you can. “
As he said these words, his eyes overflowed with tears, ” If you think that you have not received my whole teaching because you had few gifts to offer me, know that I am not concerned with gifts. It is the offering of your endeavor toward realization and your zeal that have brought joy to me. Be ardent and raise the banner of perfection.”
” Take refuge in the solitude of the barred mountains, the snows, or the forests. In the solitude of the mountains there is Gyalgyi Sri (Glorious Victory) of Lato, which has been blessed by the greatest saints of India. Go there to meditate. There is Mount Tisi, which the Buddha spoke of as Ganchen (Snowy Mountain) and which is the palace of the Yidam Chakrasamvara. Go there to meditate. There is Lachi Gangra, which is the Gandavari, one of the twenty-four sacred regions. Go there to meditate. There is the Riwo Palbar of Mangyul and the Yolmo Gangra of Nepal, which are the holy places prophesied in the Mahayana Sutras. Go there to meditate. There is Drin Chuwar, dwelling place of the dakinis who protect the region. Go there to meditate. Meditate in every other favorable solitary place. Raise a banner of meditation in each. Adjacent to each other in the east there remain the great sacred places, Devikoti and Tsari. The time to open them has not yet come. In the future your spiritual descendants will establish themselves there. But you, yourself, go first and meditate in these foreordained sacred places. If you meditate, you will serve your lama, you will show your gratitude to you father and mother, and you will achieve the aims of all sentient beings. If you cannot meditate, there will only be an increase in evil actions during a long life. For this reason, devote yourself to meditation, wholly rejecting the bonds of passion of this life, and abandon association with pleasure-seeking people.”
Then Marpa gave him a scroll of paper sealed with wax,” Father and son will not see each other again in this life. I will not forget you. Neither will you forget me. One day in your practice of a certain exercise you will encounter an obstacle. When that time comes, look at this which I now give you. Do not look it before.”
Finally, the lama said, “Mistress, prepare for the departure of Mila Vajra Banner-of-Victory tomorrow morning. And so Milalrepa slept near the lama. When the mother came in she was weeping and lamenting.
The dawn of the next day appeared. Bringing ample provision, the Master, with about thirteen disciples, accompanied Milarepa for half a day’s journey. All this time they walked with the sadness of loving hearts, speaking words of affection and showing signs of love.
Then at a mountain pass from where the Ridge of Religion could be seen, they sat down to take part in a ritual feast. And the lama taking his hand said, ” My son, at Silma Pass in Tsang there is a strong chance of meeting brigands. I had thought of not letting you leave without a good companion, but the time has come when you must go alone. Now I invoke my lama and yidam and command the dakinis to keep my son from harm on the way. Go from here to Lama Ngokpa. Compare your instructions and see if there are any differences. After that, set out quickly. Do not stay more than seven days in your own district, and go immediately into solitude. It is for your own good and for that of all sentient beings.”
Milarepa arrived at the house of Lama Ngokpa. They compared their instructions, In explaining the Tantra, he was greater than him. In actual practice Milarepa was not far behind, but in the secret transmission of the dakinis Milarepa surpassed Lama Ngokpa.After paying respects, he left for my village. he arrived there in three days.
His field was overgrown with weeds. He entered the main room. There were many bleached and crumbled bones. he realised that these were the bones of his mother. His sister abandoned her mother’s body and disappeared. At the memory of hid mother, he choked with emotion and, overcome with grief, he nearly fainted. Immediately thereafter, he remembered the lama’s instructions. He seated himself f upon my mother’s bones and meditated with a pure awareness without being distracted even for a moment in body, speech, or mind. He saw the possibility of liberating his father and mother from the suffering of the cycle of birth and death.
Awareness of Impermanence after Seeing His Mother’s Bones
Seven days passed and Milarepa emerged from his meditation. He began to reflect: Being convinced of the futility of samsara, he will have a reliquary made from the bones of his mother, and as payment he will give the books. Castle of Jewels. After that, he will go to Horse Tooth White Rock and dedicate himself to meditation both night and day for the rest of his life and will kill himself if he so much as think of the Eight Worldly Reactions. If he succumb to the law of desire, may the guardian deities of religion take his life. Her epeated this terrible oath again and again from the depths of his heart.
Overcome with immeasurable sorrow,he gathered together the bones of his mother and the books which was undamaged, and carried them on his back. He went to the home of his tutor but learned that he was dead, so he offered the first pan of the Castle of Jewels to his son and asked him to make earthen figurines with the bones of his mother. They then performed the consecration ceremony and in-stalled the figurines in a stupa.
Afterward Milarepa prepared to leave. Tutor’s son asked Milarepa to stay here for few days and talk , but since he yearned to mediate. Then he consented to stay one night. During the night, he asked Milarepa very detailed questions. Then he suggested Milarepa to repair the house,marry Zessay, and continue in the footsteps of your lama. Milarepa refused and said,” The Lama Marpa took a wife for the benefit of sentient beings. But I have neither the intention nor the ability to act as he does. To do so would be like a hare imagining it could follow in the footsteps of a lion. It would fall into an abyss and surely die.
Saddened by the cycle of birth and death, he wish for nothing but to meditate and obey the teachings of the lama. Next day, tutor’s son gave him some provisions of a sack of barley flour and some excellent dried meat. He withdrew to a good cave on the hill behind his house to meditate.
Meeting his aunt and uncle while asking for alms
When his provisions were exhausted and he had nothing left to eat; ;his body became to weaken. He went to highland and begged for meat and grain from herdman and farmedf.
At the entrance to a tent, he called out, ” Please give a hermit some food.” He had chanced upon the encampment of my aunt. As soon as she recognised him, she became furious and set her dogs on him. She threatened and cursed him. Milarepa drew back, but as he was starved and weak. He tripped over a stone and fell into a pool of water.
Then he stood up and sang the harmonious lamentation. Thus he spoke which shamed his aunt. Accompanied by a young girl, who was weeping, she went into their tent.The aunt sent the young girl to him with a pat of butter and a partly spoiled cake of cheese. He went to beg at the other tents where he knew none of the people,but everybody gave him bountiful alms. Carrying these offerings, he left quickly.
But while asking for alms from the peasants in the valley of Tsa, he arrived at the door of the house where his uncle was living. Even though Milarepa looked like a decaying corpse, he recognized him. Then he threw a murderous stone, nearly hitting him, Milarepa kept running. Then his uncle shoot arrows at him. Some young men from the village also began to throw stones. Milarepa decided to threaten them with black magic. Terrified, the men seized my uncle and stopped harassing him. Each of the others brought an offering. Only his uncle refused to give anything. But, as his stay in the region would have aggravated their anger, he decided to leave.
In the evening, Milarepa had a dream foretelling a happy event if he were to remain for a few days. So he stayed, and Zessay learned of his arrival in the village. She came to see him, bringing provisions and some excellent beer. She told me how his mother had died and that his sister had become a wanderer. Overcome with grief, he shed many tears.
Zessay told hem she had not married since they were afraid of his guardian deity. Even If anyone had proposed, she would have refused. Of course, Milarepa understood her idea and replied, ” That I did not marry you is only by the grace of Marpa the Translator, but from the religious point of view I shall say earnest prayers for you.”
He continued said r, ‘If I find my sister again, I will give her my house and my field. Meanwhile, make use of the field yourself. If it becomes known for certain that my sister is dead, you may keep the house and the field. In accordance with my ascetic practice, I will seek food as do the mice and birds, so I have no need of a field. My abode will be an empty cave; therefore I do not need a house. Even if one were Master of the Universe, at the moment of death one must give up everything. If one renounces everything now, one will be happy here and hereafter. That is why, quite the opposite of what others do, I have now given up everything and everybody. Do not expect me to be a man in the worldly sense.”
She replied, ” So, your practice is opposed to that of other religious people? “
Milarepa answered, ” First of all, those who think only of worldly goals are content with studying a few religious books. They rejoice in their own success and in the failure of others. In the name of religion, they amass as much wealth and fame as they can. They take holy names and put on yellow robes. I turn away from them and always will. But other devotees, if their minds and practice have not been so corrupted, are in agreement with me, no matter what robes they wear, and I cannot turn my back on them. I shun only those who do not follow the essence of the Dharma. “
Zessay asked, “I have never seen a religious devotee like you. You look even worse than a beggar. What kind of Mahayana is this?”
Milarepa replied, “It is the best of all. It throws the Eight Worldly Reactions to the winds in order to realize Enlightenment in this lifetime. This appearance of mine conforms with that tradition. I do not like what you worldly people like. Even those monks in yellow robes who follow the same path as I do see him not entirely free from the Eight Worldly Reactions. Even if they are free, there is an immeasurable difference in the time it takes to attain Enlightenment. This is what you do not understand.”
Zessay asked, ” As you say, your way and theirs are quite opposite; one of them must be false. If they were both equally true, I would prefer their way to yours. I want neither your house nor your field. Give them to your sister. As for me. I shall practice the Dharma, but I cannot follow a path like yours.” Having said this, she went away.
His aunt learned that I no longer had any use for my field and my house. A few days passed, she came to Milarepa and asked,” But since you are a holy man, you will forgive me. Now I, your aunt, will cultivate your field and bring you provisions.”
He answered, ” Very well, aunt, bring me a sack of barley flour each month and keep the rest for yourself.”
After two months, his aunt came again and said, ” People say that if I cultivate the field, my nephew’s guardian deities will cast evil spells upon us. It will ease my mind if you take an oath.”
Milarepa though,”I did not know, how she would feel about all this in the future. ” But he took the oath since to make others happy was the Dharma. Then she was happy and returned home.
Ascetic Diet of Nettles
Milarepa made a serious effort to meditate, but he was completely unable even to attain the blissful experience of inner warmth and, while he was wondering what to do, he had this dream : he was plowing a strip of his field. The earth was hard and he asked himself if he should give it up. Then the venerable Marpa appeared in the sky and said to him, ” My son, strengthen your will, have courage, and work; you will furrow the hard and dry earth.” Then, Marpa guided him and he plowed his field. Immediately a thick and abundant harvest sprang up.
He took this dream to mean that if he persevered in his efforts in meditation he would attain a new quality of inner experience. At the same day, his aunt brought me three loads of barley flour, a worn-out fur coat, a garment of good linen, some dried meat, and some butter and fat. And Milarepa decided to give his land and house to his aunt and uncle as a token of his gratitude.
The next morning, taking the payment for his field and some other small things which remained, he arrived at Horse Tooth White Rock without anyone knowing, and stayed there in a pleasant cave. He placed a small hard mat as a cushion for meditation and make a vow: ” So long as he had not attained the state of spiritual illumination, he would not descend to enjoy alms, or offerings dedicated to The dead, even if he died of hunger in this mountain solitude.” Having thus prayed, he sustained himself solely on thin soup with a little roasted barley flour, and began meditation.
Three years passed. All food were consumpted. He understood if there was nothing else to sustain him, it would be the end of his life. He went out in front of the White Rock cave where the sun was warm and the water excellent. Here were many nettles – an open place with a distant view. Joyfully, he stayed there.Sustaining himself with nettles, he continued his meditation.
Because Milarepa had no clothes on my body and no other nourishment whatever, his body, covered with greyish hair, became like a skeleton and his skin turned the colour of nettles. When this happened, he took the scroll that the lama had given him and placed it on his head. He was tempted to break the seal of the scroll to look at it. But an omen warned me not to open it yet. So he let it be.
About a year passed. One day, some hunters from the market of Kirong who had had no luck hunting suddenly came to his cave and demanded the food. Milarepa replied he had nothing except nettles. One of them lifted him up and dropped him down again. His body was filled with pain, he felt a terrible and unbearable pity for them. He wept.
After two year had passed. One day, some hunters arrived at the entrance to his cave. Seeing him, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’ and the nearest one ran away. He explained to them at length that I was not a ghost but a hermit meditating in the mountains, and that lack of food was responsible for the condition of his body. Thus he spoke, they offered me a large supply of meat along with other provisions. After he had eaten cooked meat, his body began to feel tranquil bliss.
Milarepa ate the meat sparingly, but what he saved eventually became infested with maggots. Then he thought,” This is neither my fate nor my right. It is not fair to rob the maggots of their food. I no longer want it. ” He left the meat as food for them, and returned to my ascetic diet of nettles.
Another year passed. One day some hunters from Tsa arrived at his cave and demanded the food. Milarepa replied no meat but nettles. So they had made the fire and cooked the nettles. One hunter said, ” Even a servant eats his fill and wears warm clothing. There is no man on earth more miserable or pitiful than you.”
He replied,” I was born the most fortunate of men. I have met Lama Marpa of the Southern Cliffs. From him I obtained the instructions, which allow me to attain Buddha-hood in this life and with this body. I have sacrificed food, clothing, and status, thereby destroying the enemies, passion and prejudice, in this life. There is no worldly man braver or with higher aspirations than I. Although you were born in a country in which the teaching of the Buddha has been spread, you have not even the urge to listen to the Dharma. There is no conduct more dangerous than piling up faults little by little, and handful by handful – it fills the depth and duration of hell. Now forever at peace, I shall have supreme bliss and from now on I am assured of happiness. ” And with these words they went away.
Each year at Kya Ngatsa a great festival was held for the casting of figurines. On this occasion, these hunters sang the Song of the Five Happinesses. His sister Peta, who was begging at the feast, heard the song and knew it was her brother’s praises. She wept. Zessay came up to her and conforted her that her brother was alive. After few days, Peta and Zessay,bringing with a full jar of beer,meat, butter and tsampa, and a great deal of beer, arrived at Horse Tooth White Rock.
She looked at his brother, Milarepa, from the threshold. His body was wasted by asceticism. His eyes were sunk in their sockets. All his bones protruded. His fleshes were dried out and green. The skin covering his fleshless bones looked like wax. The hair on his body had become coarse and grey. From his head it streamed down in a frightening flood. His limbs were about to fall apart. At this sight, his sister, terrified, thought at first that he might be a ghost, but the words she had heard, ” Your brother is dying of starvation,’” made her hesitate.
” Are you a man or a ghost? ” She asked.
” I am Mila Good News.” He replied. She recognized his voice and cried. And overcome with feeling, she fainted. After a few moments she recovered consciousness. Peta told him everything about family and how she became a beggar.
Peta said, ” From whatever point of view one looks at my elder brother, one cannot call him a man. You should ask for alms and little by little eat the food that humans eat. ”
Milarepa replied,” I do not know when I shall die, and I have neither time nor desire to go begging to obtain food. Were I to die of cold, I would have little regret since it would be for religion. The three lower realms are infinitely more terrible than my misery. Many are the beings who seek such suffering. Here is how I shall attain happiness through fulfilment of my aim.” Then he sang them a Doha .
Perceiving the inherent simplicity of the Dharmakaya
They left, and Milarepa ate the good food they had brought. The sensation of pleasure and pain and the feelings of hunger increased so much that he could no longer meditate. He thought that there was no greater obstacle for me than this inability to meditate. Breaking the seal of the scroll that the lama had given him, He looked at it. It contained the essential instructions to overcome obstacles and improve practice, instructions for transforming vice into virtue, and more especially the advice to take good food at this time.
Due to his inferior food the energy remained inactive. Peta’s beer had stimulated his nerves to some extent and Zessay’s beer and food had completed the process. Following the directions on the scroll, he worked hard on the vital exercises recommended for body, breathing, and meditation. As a result, the obstructions in the smaller nerves as well, as those in the median nerves were cleared away. He attained an experience of joy, lucidity, and pure awareness similar to what he had known about in theory. In fact, it was an extraordinary experience of illumination, which was very powerful and stable. Having overcome the obstacles, He realized imperfections as perfection; even through discriminating thought, He perceived the inherent simplicity of the Dharmakaya. He understood that in general all things related to samsara and nirvana are interdependent.
Futhermore, he perceived that the source consciousness is neutral. Samsara is the result of a wrong point of view. Nirvana is realized through perfect awareness. He perceived that the essence of both lay in an empty and luminous awareness. More particularly, this special experience of my illumination was the fruit of my previous meditations and the immediate effects of the food and the profound instructions of the lama. He also had a very special understanding that the methods of the Esoteric Path (Vajrayana) are for the transformation of all sensory experience into spiritual attainment. Because he owed all this to Peta and Zessay, he expressed his appreciation in meditation so that their merit would contribute to their Enlightenment.
During the day he had the sensation of being able to change his body at will and of levitating through space and of performing miracles. At night in his dreams, he could freely and without obstacles explore the entire universe from one end to the other visited all the Buddha realms and listened to the teaching there. He was actually able to fly through space. He thought that he should now work for the good of sentient beings. But the prophecy of the yidam told him to devote himself wholly to meditation in this life in accordance with the lama’s instructions. He would be setting the best example for future disciples to renounce the world and meditate.
People saw him flying after my experience of illumination.There existsed a risk of encountering Mara’s obstacles, and the Eight Worldly Reactions would disturb his meditation. He left and meditated at Chuwar according to the prophecy of the lama.
But he was weakened by privation during long meditation and his foot stumbled on the uneven ground outside the cave, and he fell. The handle of the pot broke off. From the broken pot the layers of residue deposited by nettle broth broke loose in a single green piece. He consoled himself with the thought that all composite things were impermanent. Understanding that this was an exhortation to meditate.
When Milarepa arrived at Dingri, by the Chuwar road going through Peykhu, he sat down by the side of the road and watched what was going on. Some pretty young girls wearing jewels passed me on their way to Nokme. Seeing his emaciated body, one of them said, ” Look! What misery! May I never be reborn as such a creature.”
He stood up and said to them, ” Daughters, do not speak in this way. There is no reason for you to be so distressed. You could not be born like me, even if you wished. It is astonishing that you feel compassion, but your compassion comes from pride and a wrong understanding. ” Thus he sang a Doha to them.
The young girl who had been moved to pity for him replied, ‘It is he who is called Milarepa. We are all full of self-esteem. We have said many unwise things. Now,let us ask his forgiveness.” Then she offered him seven shells and all the girls prostrated themselves and asked for pardon. In response to their request for instruction.
Renouncing the Eight Worldly Reactions and Meditating
Then he arrived at the region of Drin and. He stayed at the cave Castle of the Sun, at Kyipuhk, and meditated there. People came once or twice and brought me food and drink. This he saw as a distraction and he thought,” I must go to an isolated wilderness. According to the lama’s instructions, I must go to Lachi.
While he was having such thoughts, Peta,his sister came to Horse Tooth White Rock bringing the cloth she had woven for him from the wool and goat hair she had collected. She wept and said, “At Dingri she saw Lama Bari Lotsawa dressed in rich garments of silk, seated upon a high throne and sheltered beneath a canopy. When his monks blew on the trumpets, a great crowd of men surrounded him and deluged him with offerings of tea and beer. This is the way other people treat their lama. My brother’s religion is one of misery for which other people have only contempt. Even his relatives blush for him. Try to see if Lama Bari Lotsawa will take you into his service. Even were you the least of his monks you would be happy from now on. Otherwise, this religion and my impoverished condition will not sustain our life.
Milarepa replied,” Do not speak like that. My nakedness and my unconventional behaviour embarrass you. But I am content with this body of mine which enabled me to encounter religion. So I have no cause for shame. Those who live off the lama’s wealth and temple offerings, and those who injure beings by crafty means to achieve their own aims. All these only injure themselves and others and displease the gods and holy men. They are a cause for shame both in this life and the next. In the following instructions of Lama Marpa, I was advised to renounce indulgence in the Eight Worldly Reactions. In so doing not only do I assure the happiness of those who follow me but also lasting happiness for all other beings.” Then he sang her a song of renouncing the Eight Worldly Reactions.
But Peta could not understand his realization. She asked him to stay for a few days and make himself a loincloth from the material she brought. When his sister had gone to Dingri, Milarepa made a hood to cover his head and sewed a sleeve for each of his fingers and for his feet. Then he sewed a sheath for his organ.
After few day, Peta returned from Dingri and came to see him. She exclaimed,” You are completely without shame ! “
He replied,”I am the holy man who seeks the essential good from this precious human life. Knowing what real shame is, I remain faithful to my vows and precepts. I fashioned a modest covering for it just as you asked me, even though it interrupted my meditation. Since I consider all the parts of my body to be of equal worth, I made these sheaths. Moreover, worldly people do not know how to feel shame. They feel ashamed of things, which are natural while unashamedly indulging in evil deeds and hypocrisy, which are truly shameful.
During the time that she stayed with him, Milarepa explained as much as I could about the law of karma. His sister gained a definite understanding of the Dharma and her desire for worldly things began to decrease.
In the meantime, his uncle died, and thereafter his aunt began to feel sincere remorse. She, carrying as much as she could, arrived at Drin and saw Milarepa. She wept and sincerelyconfessed her guilt. And then, he sang a doha of Shame to her. Milarepa spoke to her at length about the law of karma. She turned her whole attention to Dharma practice. Afterward, she became a yogini who achieved her own liberation through meditation.
The conquest of non-human beings
The Master gave the Demon King Binayaka at the Red Rock of Chonglung the teaching on the Six Ways of Being Aware of One’s Lama. (note 2) Following Lama Marpa’s instructions, the Master went to Lachi to meditate. In the course of compelling the great god Ganesha (King of Obstructing Forces) to accept the precepts, the Master sang of Lachi Chuzang. The following year, when he traveled to Neti in Lachi, he sang his famous Song of the Snows. In accordance with the lama’s instructions, and wishing to go to Mount Peybar in Mangyul and to Yolmo Gangra in Nepal, he passed through Gungthang. Attracted by Lingpa Cave, he stayed there for some time and sang a song to the Demoness of the Lingpa Cave. At Ragma, Cave of Enlightenment, close to Mount Peybar, he sang the song that pacified the Goddess of Earth and a local spirit inhabiting the Ragma Cave.
While living at Kyangphen Namkha Dzong (Banner of the Sky), the Master worked for the benefit of many human and non-human beings. From there he went to Mount Yolmo Gangra and lived in Takpuhk Senge Dzong (Cave of the Lion and Tiger) in the forest of Singala, doing work beneficial to many human and non-human beings. Meanwhile he received a sign directing him to go back to Tibet, to meditate in mountain solitude and work for the benefit of all beings. Having returned to Tibet, he dwelt in a cave in Gungthang and sang the Song of the Pigeons.
Meeting His Spiritual Sons
While the Master was living in the cave Dagkya Dorje Dzong (Gray Rock Vajra) and was meditating for the benefit of sentient beings, his yidam predicted the coming of all his disciples, particularly of the disciple Retchung Dorje Drakpa, whose mission would be to bring the secret oral instruction of the dakinis from specified places. And when the Master was at Ralai Zaok Puhk (Silk Cave of Goat Mountain) in Gungthang, he met his spiritual son, Retchung. Later Retchung went to India to be cured of an illness, and on returning, the Master and his disciple met again.
In the cave Ronpuhi Osey Puhk (Cave of Luminous Clarity) he met Tsakuph Repa, and on going to Ragma Jangchub Dzong (Cave of Enlightenment), he met Sangye Kyab Repa (Enlightened Protector). He then went to the Cave of Nyanang, where he met Shakya-guna of Kyo, who was already a devotee, and set him upon the path of liberation by giving him initiation and instruction.
On the way to Tago in the north, he met a woman, Pey Dar Bum (Hundred Thousand Glorious Flags), at Losum below Chung.
On his return he met Repa of Seban at the Inn of Yeru in the north.While proceeding to Gyalgyi Sri of Lato, he met Repa of Digom.
Having gone to beg during the autumn, he met Shiwa O Repa (Calm Light) at Chumig Ngulchu Bum (Hundred Thousand Beads of Mercury).
Then, at Bachak Gora in Chenlung, he met Repa of Ngandzong (Evil Cave).
While living at Lachi, he was urged by the dakinis to fulfill a certain prophecy of the lama. On the way to Mount Kailas, he met Dampa Gyakpuhwa. When he came to Mount Lowokere, he met Repa of Karchung. While passing the winter on the snowy slopes of Ditse (Summit of Di) in Purang, he met Darma Ouangchuk Repa. In the spring, having gone to Mount Kailas, he sang of Kailas, where he defeated the Bon priest Naro Bonchung in a contest of miracles.
He then returned to Dagkya Dorje Dzong (Gray Rock Vajra), where he met Repa of Rongchung. Directed on his way by the dakinis, he came to Beypuhk Mamo Dzong (Secret Cave of the Goddess). Staying there for several days, he was sought out by a herdsman called Lukdzi Repa. who later became a sage. He then met Repa the Hermit of Shen at Lapuhk Pema Dzong (Lotus of the Grotto). These two men served him later, while he was living at the Lango Ludu Cave (Elephant Gate of Serpent-Gods) and at the Secret Cave of the Goddess.
While traveling to Chorodig, he met a woman named Retch-ungma. And at Nyishang Gurta of Mon, he met Repa the Hunter. It was he who spread the renown of the Master in Nepal. Prompted by a message from the goddess Tara, the King of Khokhom honored the Master.
At the invitation of Retchung and Repa the Hermit of Shen, the Master dwelt in a cave called Dho Nyenyon-puhk in Lachi. and the following year he lived on the cliff of Chonglung.
When he had gone to Chuwar, he instructed his disciples in three propitiatory rites for invoking the goddess Tseringma. Going down to Drinding, he met Dorje Ouangchuk Repa. When Master and disciples were dwelling in the Beypo Cave at Nyanang, he met the Indian saint Dharma Bodhi, who paid homage to the Master. Since Milarepa’s fame was increasing, Darlo, a master of metaphysics, became envious and challenged him to a debate. The Master victoriously answered with higher spirtual wisdom and with the performance of miraculous feats. Afterward he sang songs about Retchung and Tibu. During this time he met Repa of Megom at the Stomach-like Cave. At Naktra (Black Stripes), a cave of Nyanang, he met a young girl called Sallay O Rema (Shining Light).
Then the Master withdrew to the Cave of Red Rock on a high ridge. He had foreknowledge that Retchung was returning from India and he went to meet him. This was a special occasion for the Song of the Yak Horn and the Song of the Wild Ass.
Then having gone to Chuwar, he met Repa Hermit of Len from Dagpo. On the hill of Trode Tashigang (Blessed Happiness), he met Gampopa Dao Shonnu, the incomparable monk physician from Dagpo, who was a Master of the Vajrayana. A great Bodhisattva, he reincarnated in human form for the benefit of sentient beings, as was prophesied by the Buddha. Gampopa became the Master’s greatest disciple.
Since the Master was living at Omchung (Little Tamarisk) in Chuwar, he met the monk Loton, who at first opposed him and later became his disciple. Then, while living at the Cave Kyipuhk Nyima Dzong (Sun Castle of joy), he met Dreton Trashibar. During the period when the Master engaged in the exercise of great yogic powers, a monk called Charuwa of Likor followed and served him.
As prophesied by the dakinis, the Master had among his disciples eight spiritual sons, thirteen close disciples, and four sisters. All these twenty-five became awakened Masters. There are extensive accounts of his meetings with each of these disciples, very rich in exchange and experience (The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa).
At Tsarma, he met two women disciples, Shen Dormo and Legse Bum. There he gave instruction on Chidro Thigtsakma for preparing oneself for death. He then went with Retchung to Lachi, stopped at the cave Dudiil Puhk (Demon Conqueror), and wandered about in the vicinity.
He continued his journey and visited the cave Nampuhkma of Ramdig. Finally, while dwelling in the Stomach-like Cave of Nyanang, at the request of lay followers, the Master related some episodes in his life and sang of Retchung’s departure for the U Province. Urged by the dakini named Sengdhongma (Lion Face), he met with Dampa, an Indian saint, at Thongla
At Leshing he performed for his mother, in order to repay her kindness, a special rite called Compassionately Guiding the Dead through the Bardo State. At Tsarma he gave his last instructions to the lay disciples and to other inhabitants of Nyanang. During his journey to Chuwar, he met Lhaje Yangde, an inhabitant of Dingri. When he arrived at Chuwar, he sang about the second departure of Retchung for the 0 Province. He met the benefactor Tashi Tsek at Lharo in Drin. At Dakkhar in Drin he met Zessay Bum (his former betrothed), Khujuk, and other lay followers.
Innumerable people received teachings, both known and unknown, during the period in which the Master set in motion the Wheel of the Law. Guided by the Master, the most highly developed disciples achieved Enlightenment. The less developed disciples were brought to the stage of awakening and shown the path to liberation. The least developed he set on the path to Bodhichitta. Through a diligent application of the Bodhisattvas’ precepts, they were brought to a firm level of awareness. Even in the very least developed ones he sowed the seed of virtue and assured them of attaining the peace of the higher realms in their lives.
With compassion limitless as the sky, the Master protected innumerable beings from the misery of samsara and of the lower realms by bringing the light of the Buddha’s teaching.
Poisoning Milarepa with Curdled Milk
Then At the time when these words were being fulfilled, there was a very rich and influential lama named Geshe Tsakpuhwa who lived at Drin. At first, he made a show of honoring the Master. But later, succumbing to envy and wanting to embarrass the Master before the crowd of his benefactors, he pretended to be troubled by doubts and asked him many questions.
During the first month of autumn in the year of the Wood Tiger, the Master had been invited to preside at a wedding feast at Drin. Geshe Tsakpuhwa also attended. He prostrated himself, hoping that the Master would return his prostration in the presence of the gathering. The Master had never prostrated himself before anyone, nor returned anyone’s prostration except in the case of his lama Marpa. He did not return the prostration.
The geshe thought, ” What! A Master as learned as myself paying homage to an ignorant fool and receiving no homage in return! I shall make him pay for my embarrassment. “
And handing him a text on Buddhist logic, he said, ” Master, would you be kind enough to clear up my uncertainty and explain this to me, word by word? “
The Master replied, ” You know very well the conceptual meaning of this text. But real spiritual meaning is found in abandoning the Eight Worldly Reactions and the personal ego, through destroying false perceptions of reality by realizing the single flavor of samsara and nirvana, and through meditating in mountain solitude. Apart from that, arguing over words, and pointing out what comes after what, is totally useless if one does not practice the Dharma. I have never studied logic. I know nothing about it and if I ever did, I have forgotten it now. I will tell you why.” Then, Master sang him a Doha
The geshe continued and said,” This may be the hermit’s way, but if I were to challenge it with my learned arguments, your discourses would go no further. I had hoped you were a noble man. That is why I prostrated myself before you.”
These words did not please the benefactors. With one voice they said to him, “Master Geshe, however learned you may be, there are many more like you on earth. You are not equal to the Master, not even to a pore of the skin of his body. Just preside and be silent. Increase your wealth as much as you can, since you do not possess even the smell of religion. “
The geshe could not protest since everyone supported Milarepa. His face darkened and red.Then he mixed some poison with curdled milk and promised his concubine the gift of a large turquoise, he sent her with the poison to Drin Cave, where the Master was staying.
The Master knew that his foremost disciples were already enlightened and that, even if he were not to take the poison, his time to die had come. He knew also that, unless the woman were given the turquoise before he drank the poison, she would never get it. So he said to her, ” I shall not drink this now. Bring it back later, and then I will drink it.” Wondering if the Master suspected her, the woman, worried and ashamed, went back to Geshe Tsakpuhwa.
The w0man told Geshe that Master suspected and refused to drink because of his clairvoyance.The geshe replied, ” If he really had clairvoyance, he would not have told you to bring it back. He would have told you to drink it yourself. Since he did not, that proves he does not possess clairvoyance. Take this turquoise. Go find the Master and make sure he drinks the poison.” Then, he gave her the turquoise.
She then mixed some poison with curds and took it to the Master, who was now staying at Trode Tashigang. The Master smiled and asked,” So you have been given the turquoise for the deed you are carrying out?”
Overwhelmed with confusion, she prostrated herself, and said in a weeping and trembling voice, “I do have the turquoise, but I beg you, do not take the drink. Give it back to me. I am a thoughtless evil-doer.”
Master replied,” First of all, I have too much compassion to let you drink it. It would violate the essence of the Bodhisattva precepts and would bring with it grave spiritual consequences. My mission is complete and my life is coming to an end. My time has come to go to another realm. By itself the drink could not harm me in the least. It does not matter whether I drink it or not. But if I had drunk it the first time, you would not have received the turquoise as payment for your crime. Now that the turquoise is in your hands, I will drink, both to satisfy the geshe’s desire and to be sure that you earn the turquoise. As for the geshe’s other promises, they will not be fulfilled. He said many things about my behavior. There is no truth in what he said, so both of you will experience terrible remorse. When this happens, in order to purify yourself, strive toward self-realization in this life. Even to save your life, do not commit any similar crimes. Call upon me and my spiritual sons with a sincere heart. Although you have neither seen with your eyes nor heard with your ears the truth of my previous sayings, keep well in mind these words I speak now. The moment will come when you will see that they are true. ” Having thus spoken, he drank the poison.
Meanwhile the Master spoke,” Men of Nyanang and Dingri, and all benefactors and followers, prepare a ritual feast and gather round me. Let all other men in the region, who have not seen me but wish to meet me, come also.”
All the disciples spread the word. Many of those who heard these words did not believe the Master had actually said them. But faithful laymen and disciples who followed the teaching, as well as other people who wished to meet the Master, gathered at Chuwar. Then for many days the Master spoke to them of the doctrine of karma on the ordinary level and of the essential nature of reality on a higher level.
During this time, several of the chief disciples clearly saw that the sky was filled with gods listening to the words of the Master. Many others, intuitively feeling that the sky and the earth were filled with gods and men listening to the teaching, experienced a state of great joy. In plain view of everyone, a rainbow canopy appeared in a limpid sky. Sacrificial offerings, parasols, and innumerable banners took form in the five-colored clouds, filling the atmosphere. There fell a rain of flowers in five different colors. Exquisite music could be heard and there was the fragrance of exotic perfumes.
Among the godly and human listeners assembled at that place, the most highly developed of them realized the true meaning of the Dharmakaya. The less highly developed experienced awareness of non-duality in a lucid and joyful state, and were set upon the path of liberation. Among the least developed, there was not one who did not embrace the practice of Bodhichitta.
Then the Master said to them, ” Monks and disciples, gods and men, and all assembled here, our coming together in pursuit of the Dharma has been due to our spiritual aspirations in previous lives. Now that I am old, I do not know if I will see you many more times. Try your best to practice the teaching I have given you. Do not waste your time. If you follow my instructions, you will be the first of my disciples to be reborn in the Pure Land of my Buddhahood.”
Upon receiving these blessings , the lay devotees were overjoyed. The people from Nyanang and Dingri, still fearful that the Master might die, came to ask for his blessing and devoted themselves to the Dharma as never before. Each returned to his home and immedi-ately the rainbow and the other visions disappeared. The people of Drin, supported by Calm Light Repa and other great disciples, im-plored the Master not to abandon them. The Master went to live in Drin, in a cell built for him at the top of a rock, shaped like the hood of a snake, called Rekpa Dukchen (Poisonous to Touch), in order to subdue the serpent-god Dolpa Nakpo (Black Executioner). While there, he instructed the benefactors of Drin. At the end of his discourse the Master said, ” Monks, if some of you have doubts about my instructions, hasten, because it is not certain that I will live much longer “
The monks first conducted a ritual feast and then received the complete instructions. Among the rows of monks gathered around the Master were Repa of Digom and Repa of Seban, who said, ” Judging from your words, we do not believe that you will soon pass into nirvana. Perhaps your life is not yet over.”
Master replied,” My life is over and my mission has been completed. Signs of my death will soon become apparent.”
Geshe Making Confession
A few days later, the Master showed increasingly grave symptoms of illness. Geshe Tsakpuhwa brought a little meat and beer, and pretending to inquire about his health, said to the Master, ” It is really a pity that such an illness befalls a saint like the Master. If it is possible to share it, divide it among your disciples. If there is a way to transfer it, give it to a man such as myself. But since that is impossible, what should be done? “
The Master smiled and said,” You know very well that my illness has no natural cause or provocation. And in any case, illness in an ordinary man is not the same as illness in a spiritual man. I should accept it as a special opportunity for inner transformation. For this reason, I bear my sickness as an ornament. A certain being is possessed by the demon of egotism, which is the worst one of all. It is he who has caused my illness. You could neither exorcize the demon nor cure me. If I shared my sickness with you, you could not bear it for an instant. I shall not transfer it.” But Geshe Tsakpuhwa insisted .
Master said, ” Well then, I will not transfer it to you, but I will transfer it to that door. Watch carefully.” And he transferred it to the door of the cell. Immediately there was a loud crack and, shaking violently, the door began to break apart. At this moment, the Master was without illness.
The Master withdrew the sickness from the door and gave it to Tsakpuhwa, who collapsed in pain. Paralyzed and choking, he was on the verge of death. Then the Master took back a large part of the sickness and said, ” I have only given you half of my sickness and you could not bear it.”
Full of remorse for having inflicted such suffering, the geshe threw himself sobbing at the Master’s feet and said, ” O Precious Master, O Saint, it is just as you said. one who was possessed did this evil to you. I offer you my house, wealth, and property. Help me to free myself from the consequences of my actions. I sincerely beg for your forgiveness.”
Milarepa was very pleased and took back the rest of the sickness and said, ” All my life I have had no desire for house, wealth, and property. Now that I am approaching the end of my life, I certainly have no need for them, so take back your gifts. Never again act contrary to the Dharma, even at the cost of your own life. I will invoke my lama to keep you from suffering the consequences of your action. ” Then he sang him a Doha.
At these words the geshe was overwhelmed with joy and said, ” In the future I will do nothing contrary to the Dharma, but will meditate to the end of my life, as the Master has commanded. Formerly, I sinned for the sake of wealth. Therefore I no longer want my worldly goods. If the Master refuses them, let his disciples accept the goods to provide for their needs during meditation.”
The disciples accepted the gifts, which were used later at Chuwar each year to commemorate the Master’s death. The Geshe Tsakpuhwa then became a devotee.
The Master said, ” I came to live in this place in order to accept the remorse of this sinner and help him to achieve liberation from the consequences of his crime. For a hermit to die in a village would be like a king dying in a hovel. Now I am going to Chuwar. “
Leaving The Final Will To His Spiritual Sons
Then he stayed at Driche Cave, manifesting sickness. At this time, the rainbow and all the other signs that had appeared during the Master’s previous discourse could be seen in the sky over Chuwar and on the mountaintops. Everyone was then certain that the Master was going to depart for another realm. Calm Light Repa, the Master of Ngandzong and Repa of Seban all asked,” To which Buddha realm does the Master expect to go? Where shall we direct our invocation? What last instructions will the Master give us? What form of practice should we follow?”
The Master answered, ” Invoke me wherever you wish. Wherever you invoke me with faith I will be with you. Whatever your aims, they will be fulfilled. In an instant I will be in the Pure Land of the Buddha Immutable. After my death, give Retchung the things that you know I have used, my staff, and my robe. They will serve as auspicious symbols for his meditation through the control of breath. Retchung will be here soon. Do not touch my body until he arrives. “
” This hat of the Master Maitrepa, and this staff of black aloe wood, are signs that the teaching of the Buddha will be maintained through profound meditation and perfect seeing. Therefore, give these things without fail to Tonpa of U [Gampopa]. Calm Light Repa, take this wooden bowl. Ngandzong Tonpa, take this skull-cap. Repa of Seban, take this tinderbox. Repa Hermit of Di, take this bone spoon. You other initiated disciples, each take a strip of my cotton robe. These are not great riches, but all are equally tokens. “
” Now, here are very important instructions concerning something which you disciples have not known about. Hidden under the hearth lies all the gold that I have amassed during my lifetime, and a will that distributes it among you. After my death, read the will and follow its directions. “
” As for the manner of practicing the Dharma, there are rich people who consider themselves good devotees. They may give a hundred useful or useless things as alms, but only with the motive of getting back one thousand in return. This is only their way of glorifying worldly life. Human beings indulge covertly in harmful deeds without regard to displeasing their all-seeing guardian deities. Afraid they will not achieve their worldly aims, they try to do good; but since they are unable to renounce the desire for recognition, they are actually consuming poison with their food. Do not drink this poison of the desire for recognition. Abandon everything you call Dharma practice but which actually is directed toward glorifying the worldly life. Devote yourself to true spiritual practice.”
The Repas asked, ” Can we engage in an active life if it proves beneficial to other beings? “
The Master answered,” If there is no attachment to selfish aims, you can. But that is difficult. Those who are full of worldly desires can do nothing to help others. They do not even profit themselves. It is as if a man, carried away by a torrent, pretended to save others. Nobody can do anything for sentient beings without first attaining transcendent insight into Reality. Like the blind leading the blind, one would risk being carried away by desires. Because space is limitless and sentient beings innumerable, you will always have a chance to help others when you become capable of doing so. Until then, cultivate the aspiration toward Complete Enlightenment by loving others more than yourselves while practicing the Dharma. Dress in rags, and content yourselves with little food, clothing, and recognition. Discipline your body and be mindful of your spiritual goal. This should be done for the sake of all sentient beings. To guide you on this path, remember these words.”
Then he added ,” I do not know if I have much longer to live. Now that you have heard me, do as I have done.” He spoke and entered into a deep state of meditation. And so, at the age of eighty-four, at sunrise on the fourteenth day of the twelfth month in the year of the Wood Hare, under the ninth lunar constellation, the Master passed into nirvana.
At that time, over this region there appeared widespread and wonderful signs indicating that the dakas and dakinis had assembled. The clear sky was adorned with a design of interlacing squares in all the colors of the rainbow. At the center of every square was a lotus with eight multicolored petals, four of which, in sacred colors, pointed to the four cardinal directions. Upon each lotus were mandalas which in their geometry and architecture were far more marvelously designed than the works of skilled artists and builders. There appeared in the firmament above them an inconceivable variety of offerings from the gods, such as rainbows and five-colored clouds, forming themselves into parasols, banners, canopies, bunting, and billowing silk. There was a great shower of blossoms in different shapes and colors. The melody of the celestial orchestra was sung in praise of Jetsun, while the most fragrant incense permeated the whole place.
Meanwhile, at Chuwar, the chief disciples and lay followers worshipped the Master’s body. After six days they examined it and found it transformed into a radiant celestial body, as youthful as a child eight years old.
At that time Retchung was residing at the monastery of Loro Dol in Southern Tibet. One morning, in the early dawn, while he was in a mixed state of contemplation and sleep, he perceived a host of dakinis who were about to carry away to another realm a crystal stupa radiating light throughout the heavens. He saw the crystal stupa being praised in song and worshipped with offerings beyond imagination by the comnrunity of the Vajrayana tradition and lay benefactors who filled the earth, and by the celestial beings and dakinis who permeated the sky.
Retchung prostrated himself on seeing Jetsun leaning from the stupa and heard the Master say, ‘Retchung, my son, even though you did not arrive in time as I asked you, my mind is full of joy that we, father and son, are together at last. It is uncertain when we shall meet again, so let us treasure this rare occasion.’ Radiating a joyful smile, the Master repeatedly touched Retchung’s head. Retchung realized the uniqueness of this meeting and a faith arose in him such as he had never known.
Retchung awoke. He recalled the Master’s previous words. Hoping that his lama had not yet died, he felt he must go quickly to see him even though he might not reach Chuwar in time. As he was invoking Jetsun with a faith of unbearable intensity, two women appeared before him in the sky and said, ” Retchung, your lama has passed into the Pure Land of the dakinis. If you do not go quickly you may never see him again in this life. Go now, without delay. ” The warning in the dream and seeing the sky filled with rainbows and lights aroused in him a memory of the lama and a yearning to go to him.
He left Loro Dol at early dawn as the cocks were crowing. Retchung arrived at Chuwar. At the Master’s cave he saw the great disciples, monks, and lay followers mournfully worshipping the Master’s body. Not knowing who this man was, some new monks stopped Retchung and prevented him from going toward the body.
Saddened by this, Retchung sang in an aggrieved tone this Song of Sevenfold Devotion. At the sound of Retchung’s voice. the radiance in the face of the Master’s corpse faded out, and at the same time a fire emerged from the body. Upon hearing the voice of Retchung, Calm Light Repa, Master Repa of Ngandzong, Seban Repa, and several others of the Vajra brethren with the lay devotees came to welcome Retchung. Resenting the action of the young Repas who had prevented him from seeing Jetsun’s body, Retchung would not move forward until his song was finished.
At that time, though the Great Master had passed into the crystal clarity of the Dharmakaya, he came back and said to the young Repas, ” Do not behave like that toward Retchung. One live lion is better than a hundred masks! Let him come to me.”
To Retchung, he said,” My son, do not feel frustration. Do not be overcome by resentment. Come before your father! “
Everyone was astounded and filled with immense joy. Retchung embraced Jetsun’s body, weeping with such joy that he fainted. When he came to himself, he found the great disciples, monks, and lay devotees all seated in front of the cremation cell. The Master was completely free from any illness. Appearing as an indestructible manifestation which united form and emptiness into one, and enthroned upon an eight-petaled lotus, the Master radiated like the anthers of a flower. Sitting in the asana of royal ease, his right hand extended in the preaching mudra, pressing down the flame, the left hand in a supporting mudra at the left cheek, he said to all disciples and devotees, ” Listen to this answer to Retchung’s song and to the final words of this old man.” The Master sang from the cremation cell this indestructible song called Six Essential Principles.
Having thus spoken, Jetsun dissolved himself into the All-Embracing Emptiness. The funeral pyre was instantly transformed into a celestial mansion, square in shape, having four entrances with ornate porticos. Above it gleamed a rainbow and a canopy of light. The parapet of the roof was surmounted by parasols, banners, and other ornamental offerings. The flame at the base took the form of an eight-petaled lotus blossom, and the curling tips of the fire unfolded into the eight auspicious emblems and the seven royal insignia. Even the sparks took the form of goddesses bearing many offerings. The chants of worship and the crackling of the dazzling fire sounded like the melodious tones of various musical instruments, such as iolins, flutes, and tambourines. The smoke permeated everything with the fragrance of perfume and, in the sky above the funeral pyre, young gods and goddesses poured a stream of nectar from the vases they held, and offered abundant delights for the five senses. The lamas and the venerable lay people were filled with joy. All the disciples, monks, and lay devotees saw the funeral pyre in the form of a resplendent celestial mansion, while the corpse itself was seen variously as Hevajra, Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, or Vajravarahi. Then, the dakinis sang a song with one voice.
After this song, day passed into evening. The form of a dazzling flame disappeared. Everyone saw the creamtion cell as completely transparent. Disciples, and lay people, looked at the relics of the corpse. Some saw a huge stupa of light standing in the cremation cell, while others saw such forms as Hevajra, Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, or Vajravarahi. Some others saw sacred implements, such as a vajra, bell, vase, and seed syllables of mantras representing enlightened body, speech, and mind. Others saw in the cremation cell a white light with its golden rays, a placid pool of water, a burning flame, a swirling wind, and invisible offerings delightful to the senses and beyond imagining. Yet others saw the expanse of empty space.
The disciples opened the entrance of the cremation cell, and then all slept beside it in the joyful expectation that a great quantity of sacred relics and evolved crystals would appear in many wonderful forms .
In the early dawn Retchung dreamed of five dakinis in colors of blue. yellow, green, red, and white, draped in silken robes and adorned with ornaments, some made of bone and others of jewels. They were surrounded by their female-retinues in similar colors. All were carrying innumerable offerings of the five sensory ecstasies and were worshipping the cremation cell. The chief dakinis were carrying away a sphere of white light from the cell, draped in a curtain of white silk.
Retchung was fascinated by the spectacular scene. Then he moved toward the cell wondering if the dakinis were taking away the relics and the evolved crystals. The dakinis flew upward into the sky. He awakened all his Vajra brethren. As they began examining the cell, they saw that the dakinis had carried away all the sacred relics, leaving nothing, not even the ashes. Saddened by this, Retchung demanded from the dakinis a portion of the relics as the due share of human beings.
The dakinis replied, saying, “If you, great son of Jetsun, are not content with the direct awakening of your consciousness in its Dharmakaya state, this being the most sacred of all relics, you should invoke the Master so that out of his compassion he might grant your wish! As for those human beings without veneration for the Master – who shone like the sun and moon – no relics or evolved crystals will be left for them either. They never valued him, not even at the level of a glow-worm. These relics therefore belong to us.”
After saying this the dakinis remained motionless in the sky. Then Retchung, recognizing the truth of what the dakinis had said, sang an invocation.
Retchung thus invoked his Master by singing tearfully in a mournful tone. Thereupon the chief dakini cast from her hand a sacred object, as large as a hen’s egg, which projected a stream of light in five colors and descended toward the cremation cell. All the chief disciples stretched out their hands, each claiming it for himself. Then the object ascended again and was absorbed into the light which the chief dakini was holding. The light then split in two, one part becoming a lion throne with a lotus cushion surmounted by moon and sun. A crystal stupa took shape from the other part of the light and came to rest upon the throne. Lights in five colors began to shine forth from the stupa. The stupa was one foot high and was surrounded by the Thousand and Two Buddhas. Its four terraces were occupied by resplendent yidams of the four classes of the Tantra in their natural order. Seated inside its spherical chamber was the form of Milarepa, about six inches in height.
The dakinis who were prostrating themselves and worshipping him, supported by two others who were guarding the stupa. The dakinis moved the stupa through the space above the foremost disciples. Projecting downward a stream of light that touched each head, the stupa thereby endowed each one with power. Most people saw a form of Milarepa emerge from the stupa and ascend to the space above. Each group saw him differently. Some saw him as Hevajra, others as Chakrasamvara, Guhyasamaja, or Vajravarahi. Each yidam was surrounded by a mandala of emanations, male and female, which were then absorbed into the chest of the principal yidam. The mandala itself was transformed into a mass of light in the sky, and moved toward the east. Everyone present saw the dakinis adorn the stupa with silken attire of various kinds, put it in a jeweled casket, and then carry it away to the east.
Some of the disciples saw Milarepa in the form of a Sambhoga-kaya Buddha adorned with jeweled ornaments and seated upon a lion, whose four feet were being supported by four dakinis while Vajravarahi was leading the lion on a halter. They were proceeding toward the east, attended by innumerable dakas and dakinis carrying an assortment of celestial offerings such as parasols and banners, and giving forth a great sound of music. Others saw the stupa being carried away by a white dakini in a palanquin lined with white silk. And there were other wonderful visions of many kinds.
The disciples, monks, nuns, and lay people were heartbroken at having no share of the sacred relics. Mournfully they cried out in heart-stirring prayer. Though his form was invisible, out of space came a voice resembling that of Jetsun, saying, ” O sons, do not allow yourselves to be overcome with so much grief and despair. As for your share of the sacred objects, there is a marble slab on which have appeared four sacred syllables carved in relief. Go and search for it below the rock base of the cremation cell.” The disciples accordingly searched the rock and found exactly what had been foretold. This wonderful stone slab is enshrined for the devotion of human beings at the solitary temple of Chuwar.