The Life of Milarepa - part 1
Milarepa is one of the most widely known Tibetan Saints. In a superhuman effort, he rose above the miseries of his younger life and with the help of his Guru, Marpa the Translator, took to a solitary life of meditation until he had achieved the pinnacle of the enlightened state, never to be born again into the Samsara [whirlpool of life and death] of worldly existence.
Out of compassion for humanity, he undertook the most rigid asceticism to reach the Buddhic state of enlightenment and to pass his accomplishments on to the rest of humanity. His spiritual lineage was passed along to his chief disciples, Gambopa and Rechung. It was Rechung who recorded in detail the incidents of Milarepa's life for posterity. The narrative of his life has thus been passed down through almost a millennium of time and has become an integral part of Tibetan culture.
In addition to Rechung's narrative of his life, summarized below, Milarepa extemporaneously composed innumerable songs throughout his life relevant to the dramatic turns of events of himself and his disciples in accordance with an art form that was in practice at the time. These songs have been widely sung and studied in Tibet ever since and have been recorded as the Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. His faithful devotion, boundless religious zeal, monumental forbearance, superhuman perseverance, and ultimate final attainment are a great inspiration today for all. His auspicious life illumined the Buddhist faith and brought the light of wisdom to sentient beings everywhere.
The Life of Milarepa
Milarepa was born into the family of Mila-Dorje-Senge in the year 1052. His father was a trader in wool and had become wealthy by the standards of the time when his wife bore a son. The son was named Thopaga which means delightful to hear, and Thopaga, later known as Mila-repa [Mila, the cotton clad], lived up to his name as he had a beautiful voice and charmed his companions with his singing. The family lived in a large stone house that consisted of three stories held in place by a large central pillar and supporting columns - a mansion in comparison to the modest homes of his neighbors.
The brother and sister of Milarepa's father had also settled in the area along with their families, and the clan would often congregate at the great stone house of Mila-Dorje-Senge. The family was well to do and generous and became the darling of all the relatives and neighbors in the area. They would often gather at the house to enjoy feasts. The gathering of friends and neighbors would often fawn over the small children - the young son Milarepa [then called Thopaga], and his sister, Peta who was four years younger.
During this period the family enjoyed the admiration and attention of their neighbors, ate only the finest food and wore nothing but fancy clothes and jewelry.
About this time the father, Mila-Dorje-Senge, became gravely ill and accepting his impending death, called together the extended family and made known to all that he wanted his entire estate and all possessions put into the care of his brother and sister until such time as Milarepa had grown and married Zesay, one of the neighboring girls who had been betrothed to him in childhood according to the tradition of the times.After the fathers death, however, Milarepa's greedy Aunt and Uncle who had been given charge of the property, divided the estate between them, dispossessing Milarepa, his mother, and sister Peta of all their worldly possessions. They were forced to live with them in the lowest accommodations and were given only coarse food and even made to work in the fields.
Over the ensuing years their health suffered, their clothes were rough and tattered, the heads of the two children became invaded by lice. The mother and her two children who had formerly been the darlings of the village, now became objects of derision and abuse by all, who now spurned and ridiculed them.
When Milarepa reached his fifteenth year, his mother decided on a plan to recover the lost inheritance. She scraped together whatever resources she could borrow from neighbors and relatives and put on a feast, inviting all who had been present when her husband had died and made known his last wishes. As the assembled neighbors and relatives were feasting and drinking large cups of chang [fermented barley], she stood up and recounted all that her husband had said on his deathbed, reminding her husband's brother and sister that they were to be only caretakers of the estate. Now that Milarepa had attained his majority, she requested that all the property be restored to themBut the greedy Aunt and Uncle now claimed that they had been the original owners and had only loaned the property to the Mila-Dorje-Senge family and thus, Milarapa and his mother had no real claim on the property. The aunt and uncle now began indignantly slapping Milarepa's mother and the two children, calling them ungrateful wretches to act thus after accepting the charity of living with them and eating their food. Thus they drove them out of the large stone house to let the mother and children fend for themselves.
Some of the relatives and neighbors were sympathetic to Milarepa's family, but they were not sufficient in strength or numbers to oppose the clan of the Aunt and Uncle. And so it happened that the three were turned out of their own house. After that they lived meagerly, supported by the relatives of Milarepa's mother and charity from Zesay's family. The three were forced to work hard, exchanging their labor for a bit of food or a scrap of clothing. During this time they found no joy in their lives whatsoever.
One day Milarepa happened to be singing loudly, proud of his voice, when his mother overheard him and was stung to the quick by his unseemly outburst of happiness. She immediately berated him for his transgression in the face of the relentless misery of their existence. She thought over the situation and decided to take action. She wanted him to learn the black arts of sorcery in order to wreak vengeance on their enemies, the greedy Aunt and Uncle. Milarepa agreed that he would apply himself under a good teacher if his mother provided him with fees for the apprenticeship and living expenses. In order to do so, She sold half of the small plot of property that had belonged to her side of the family before her marriage and sent Milarapa off with money. Before he took his leave she very solemnly told him that she would kill herself in his very presence if he returned without having learned sufficient magic to be able to wreak some havoc on their enemies.
Milarepa traveled a distance away to a Lama who was known about the countryside as one who was proficient in the black arts. Along with some other young apprentices, Milarepa spent nearly a year learning mostly ineffectual magic rites with high sounding titles. At the end of the year, the pupils were sent off and told that if they applied themselves diligently they would succeed in their quest. Milarepa accompanied his companions for a time as they took their leave but then turned back to the Lama's house. Along the way, he collected a quantity of manure and dug a whole and buried it in the Lama's garden as a small gift to his teacher. The Lama observed this from his roof, and is said to have remarked that he had never had a pupil more affectionate and industrious as the young lad Milarepa was. The latter, went in to the Lama's presence and told him of his mother's vow to kill herself in his presence if he didn't learn some real magic. He then recounted his tale of woe in all its detail to the Lama who was greatly saddened by the story.
The Lama decided to confer some real power on Milarepa but he wanted to make sure that the magic would not be used unjustly so he sent a fleet disciple to Milarepa's homeland to find out if the tale was true. On the disciples return, he agreed to show him the true and potent rituals for evoking the Tutelary deities to take revenge.
Milarepa absorbed all the teachings thoroughly and carefully carried out the prescribed ritual for 14 days. At the end of the ritual the Tutelary deities appeared to him in a vision with the bloody heads and hearts of 35 of the relatives who had most ill-treated him. The Lama informed him that two of the guilty ones had been missed and asked Milarepa if he wanted their lives as well. He replied that he wanted them to be spared as witnesses to the power of his magic. Thus it came to pass that his two very worst enemies, the greedy Aunt and Uncle were spared from harm.
From a phenomenal aspect, the sorcery took the form of a disaster that occurred at the family wedding. All the relatives and friends who had been most offensive to him had gathered at the great stone house to celebrate the wedding. There was a big commotion outside and some of the horses kept in the yard started kicking and running about violently agitated, until one of them ran into the main supporting column of the three story house with such force that the entire house came crashing down on the wedding party with tremendous noise and force killing everyone inside except for the Aunt and Uncle.
All this was observed by some of those sympathetic to the Milarepa family who were just approaching the house.
Milarepa's mother quickly learned of the catastrophe and was ecstatic with cruel joy. She came gloating over the destruction that her son had caused telling everyone what joy her son had brought to her aging heart by causing so much death and destruction. The relatives of the dead were quite upset at the tragedy and more so to learn of her gloating. They talked it over but were divided on whether to get together and kill her in revenge, or to go after her son Milarepa, who had directly caused the destruction. After due consideration they decided to find and kill the son. Soon word their plans got back to the mother so she sent a message to her son, along with several gold pieces she got from selling the remaining half of her plot of land. In the note she described her joy at his success and requested him now to launch a powerful hail storm on the area, ruining the crops of their enemies and striking fear into their hearts so as to prevent further retaliation.
Milarepa received the note from the pilgrim courier and gave the gold pieces over to the Sorcerer-Lama, requesting him to teach him the art of launching hail storms.
Armed with his new magic, Milarepa traveled incognito back to his homeland and set up his ritualistic site on a hillside overlooking the valley of his homeland below. He began his incantations and soon dark clouds began to gather and then a succession of three powerful hail storms utterly ruined the entire barley crop of that year, a crop that had promised to be one of the heaviest in years.
After the destruction, Milarepa retreated to a cave in the hillside to escape the cold wind and lit a fire for warmth. After a few hours he heard some of his former neighbors walking by the cave he had taken refuge in. They had guessed who was responsible for this fresh mischief and were immensely angered by the all destruction he had caused, first to the 35 people killed in the wedding party, and now to the season's rich harvest of barley - utterly laid waste. The men were talking amongst themselves, saying as they walked past the cave that if Milarapa fell into their hands at that very moment, their vengeance could hardly be satisfied by chopping his body into tiny bits; such was their anger. At that instant one of them spotted the fire and guessed that it was Milarepa himself taking refuge in the cave. They hurried quickly and quietly away to go gather a party to go after him. Meanwhile as soon as they had left, Milarepa made good his escape and journeyed back to the Sorcerer-Lama.
The Lama congratulated Milarepa on his success but by now Milarapa was deeply repenting all the evil deeds his mother had urged him to commit. He longed for religion and wanted to be delivered from committing further evil acts. He worried greatly over the heavy debts of karma he had incurred through his evil actions and could think of nothing else. He wanted to ask the Lama Guru for religious instruction but didn't have the nerve to broach the subject so he stayed on, faithfully serving the Lama and waiting for an opportune moment to bring up the subject of his salvation.
The Lama now was called away to attend to one of his followers who had died after a short illness. The Lama returned lamenting that such an excellent man in the prime of his life had died so suddenly. He spoke on the transitoriness of life and the misery of this earthly existence and then started ruminating over his own life. He had spent his entire life up to that point practicing the art of dealing death and destruction and teaching those same black arts to many others. By doing so he had to take at least a portion of the karmic responsibility for all the evil acts that had come out of it.
In his mood of deep remorse, he urged Milarepa to go and seek out a teacher of the Holy Dharma and at least deliver himself and maybe even the Lama into a higher state of existence in a future life. This was precisely the opportunity Milarepa had been waiting for. He prayed to be allowed to take to the religious life and his teacher readily agreed, giving him gifts and a letter of introduction to a well known Lama versed in a doctrine called "The Great Perfection".
Published by Natha.net