The Life of Milarepa - part 3
Now Milarepa began his meditation training. Marpa shut him up in a cave with a supply of provisions. Milarepa used to start his meditations each day by putting a lighted lamp on his head. He would continue meditating until the lamp went out. After eleven months of this Marpa and Damema came to take him out of isolation and assess his progress. Milarepa was reluctant to take a break from his meditations because
of the great progress he was making but he followed his Guru's dictates. Marpa now asked him what understandings he had obtained from his meditations. Milarepa first sang a song which he extemporaneously composed honoring his Guru and his wife and the teachings he had been given. In his song he requested that Marpa remain in the world until "The Whirling Pool of Being is emptied". After that he summarized his realizations.
After the recounting, Marpa was exceedingly pleased and told Milarepa that he had expected much but that his expectations had all been exceeded. Milarepa was then allowed to go back to the cave for more meditation.
By now Marpa was getting on in years. Since he began teaching Milarepa, he had made two more trips to India to visit his Guru Naropa and receive the final texts he had not brought back in his earlier trips. Marpa now called together all his chief Lamas and disciples, including Milarepa, and gave to each those mystics texts that would be most valuable according to each person's line of development. Each also received some relic that had belonged to Naropa. To Milarepa was given the teaching of Tum-mo in which the ascending and descending flows along the spinal column are united to produce the vital heat so necessary for meditation in the cold and solitary caves of the Himalayas. Then all returned to their own province except Milarepa who continued for several more years to meditation in a cave under the direction of Marpa.
Usually Milarepa never slept but meditated continuously, however one particular day he had slept for a long time and had a vivid dream wherein he saw the house he had lived in as a child all in ruins. He saw his sacred books within the fallen house being wasted by rain water, his old mother had died, and his sister was roving about the countryside with no attachments and no friends. In his dream he was weeping with great sadness and longing for his mother and sister and he woke up feeling very sad. He tried again to meditate but could not shed his sadness; instead the feeling grew stronger and stronger until he vowed to himself to go out into the world and try to find his family. So he pulled down the rock wall and went to see his guru Marpa.
As he entered Marpa's quarters he found him asleep with the rising sun just lighting his head like a halo. Just at that moment, Damema came in with his morning meal. Marpa awoke, alarmed to find Milarepa had left his cave retreat. Milarepa explained that he was overcome with sadness thinking of his beloved mother and sister he had left behind many years ago. He explained to Marpa his great longing to see them once more. Although Marpa felt there was little chance in finding the mother alive and little merit in making the search, he agreed to allow him to go. But, he warned, the fact that Milarepa had entered his quarters and found him asleep was an omen that they would not see each other alive again in this life.
Marpa was much grieved at heart thinking he would not again see his spiritual son alive but knowing this was the way of all the perishable things of the world, he requested Damema to deck the alter with offerings for their parting ceremony. He then gave Milarepa the final and highest initiation as well as the sacred ear-whispered tantric doctrines. These doctrines he gave only to Milarepa, among all his disciples. He charged Milarepa in his turn to hand them down to his most worthy disciple and so on for thirteen generations. Then in a final ceremony with the entire assembly of Lamas and disciples, Marpa occultly manifested himself in the forms of Gaypa Dorje and other of the tutelary divinities of the Kargyutpa sect and also other divine shapes and forms along with the various symbols associated with each deity such as bells, gems, lotuses, swords, etc. He then explained that these were various psycho-physical powers obtained after enlightenment and that they should never be manifested for an unworthy cause. This was his parting gift to Milarepa, and this, his spiritual son, greatly exalted in his heart to see that his Guru Marpa was veritably a Buddha himself. He vowed that he himself would gain such powers and show them in his turn to his own disciples. Marpa then told him that he could now depart since he had demonstrated the mirage like nature of all existing things. He instructed Milarepa to meditate in various caves made holy by previous saints in the locale of Mount Kailas, Lapchi Kang [Mt. Everest], and other sanctified places. He then gave to Milarepa a sealed scroll that was to be opened only on dire threat of imminent death. With great sadness, knowing they would not meet again in the present life, Milarepa took leave of his beloved Spiritual Father and Mother with the thought that would all meet again in the celestial realms.
He journeyed quickly to his homeland, crossing several high and dangerous mountain passes to get there. When he arrived he found things just as he had seen in his dream. His mother had died, his house was in ruins and all the neighbors were afraid to go near it thinking it inhabited by evil ghosts. His sister wandered homeless, none knew where. His field was choked with weeds.
He entered the ruin that was his house and found a mound with grass growing thickly over it. Moving the dirt he found the bones of what he knew to be his mother. He had the unbearable thought that he would never see his mother again and a deep sadness gripped his soul. He wept bitterly in his loneliness. Remembering his Guru's teachings on the transient nature of reality, he laid down using the mound as a pillow and entered into deep meditation. He soon passed over into the samadhi state in which he remained for seven days. On returning to normal consciousness, he reflected that the world now had nothing left to tempt him or bind him to it. He vowed again and again to himself that the life of solitary meditation was the only path for him. Exchanging his house and land for some food, he left forever his former homeland and proceeded to the Draktar-Taso Cave, the first of many caves he was to inhabit over the remainder of his life.
There he settled in the spacious comfortable cave, not even sleeping, but meditating continuously except for a single break once a day to prepare a meal of flour and water mixed with whatever root or edible he might find. At about this time Milarepa gained proficiency in the yogic power of Tum-mo, the generation of the Ecstatic Internal Warmth, in which the body generates a great deal of heat. This allowed him to stay relatively warm through the cold Tibetan winters with nothing but a thin cotton covering whereas most people had to wear thick wool and leather hides. For this reason he came to be called Mila - repa or Mila the cotton clad.
His daily routine of meditation continued for four years until his supply of flour ran out. This caused him great concern because he had vowed to himself not to return to the world for any reason - but with no food, he was afraid he might die without having attained liberation. He decided to walk about outside the cave in search of some kind of food. Not far from the cave he found a sunny spot with springs of fresh water, an expansive view of the area, with a large quantity of nettles growing all about. He made a soup of nettle broth and found it to be somewhat palatable. This was now to become his sole source of food for some time to come. He continued his meditations on his new diet, but without any nurturing food, his body soon became emaciated and the hair on his body began to take on a greenish tinge from the nettles. He became very weak and often thought of opening the scroll that Marpa had given him for a time of dire need. But he continued to make progress in his meditations.
About this time some hunters chanced to be in the area after failing to find game. When they first laid eyes on Milarepa's pale green form, they fled in terror thinking he was not a man but some kind of evil spirit. But on assuring them he was indeed a human like themselves they lost their fear of him. They demanded that Milarepa share some of his provisions with them as they were out of food but Milarepa told them he had none to share. They did not believe him, so they searched the area and not finding any began to ill treat him. Three of them picked him up several times and dropped him causing him great pain but in his misery he only pitied them and shed tears thinking of the evil karma they were creating for themselves. The fourth hunter entreated the others to stop ill-treating him and leave him alone as he did indeed seem to be a real lama for showing such forbearance over his ill treatment. Before leaving, the fourth man requested Milarepa to remember him in his prayers since the man had done nothing to offend him, and then the group of them left, laughing boisterously. Later Milarepa learned that Divine retribution had overtaken them as they were arrested by the Governor of the province. The leader was killed and all but the fourth man, who had restrained the others from harming Milarepa, had their eyes put out.
The meditation continued and Milarepa grew even thinner. The hair on his body took on a more greenish color. Again some hunters chanced upon his cave and also wanted provisions but seeing that he was living only on nettles, they left him the remainder of their own provisions and a large quantity of meat. Milarepa was very grateful to have some real food and he began to take some daily. The food gave him a sense of bodily comfort and spiritual zeal which he had not experienced in a long time and his meditations took on a new intensity. But eventually the food ran out and once again he fell back on his nettle broth for sustenance.
Several more years passed in this way and Milarepa's long lost sister Peta heard tales from hunters that had stumbled across his camp. They informed her that her brother was there and looked on the verge of death from starvation. She was amazed to hear even that he was alive and took the news to Zesay, who had been betrothed to Milarepa in childhood. Between the two they agreed that the sister should first go to see him and find out if the rumors were true
Approaching the cave, Peta was horrified to see the emaciated green body of her brother, with protruding bones and eyes sunk in his skull. At first she took it to be some strange being or ghost but recognizing her brother's voice, she ran to him crying and bewailing their fate. She expressed to him that they two were the most luckless people in the whole world. At this Milarepa explained that rather he was the most fortunate person in the world because he had attained to transcendent knowledge and Bodhi mind [the internal vision of a Buddha]. But his sister felt he was only deluding himself.
Peta had brought provisions and a supply of chang and after partaking of some food his mood was greatly elevated. However when he tried to meditate afterwards his mind was filled with a mix of pious and impious thoughts and he was unable to concentrate.
A few days later both the sister, Peta, and his betrothed, Zesay, came to visit him bringing cured meat, flour, butter, and chang. They chanced to come upon him when he was out getting water and he had absolutely no clothes on since his wearing cloth had fallen into tattered pieces over the years. His sister told him that no matter how she regarded him he seemed not to be in any way a sane person. They both urged him to at least go out begging for supplies on occasion. Then they went to get some cloth to cover his body with. But Milarepa felt that the hour of death was uncertain. his Guru had told him that his only avenue of success in this life was through continued meditation. He himself was afraid that if he didn't reach enlightenment in this very life, he would be reborn in a lower state due to the evil he had committed early in life, and so he ignored their advice and persevered in his meditation.
He finished the chang that Peta had brought and was eating well from the food left by Zesay but he found that his mind was now disturbed and his body was experiencing various pains. No matter how hard he tried to meditate he could no longer enter the samadhi state. Feeling there was no greater danger than not being able to continue with his meditations, he opened the scroll that Marpa had given him for just such a time of dire emergency. In the scroll he found the exact instructions needed for treating the present emergency and he immediately put the instructions into effect with the result that his meditations now increased as never before because of the healthy food he was now eating.
The knot of the central spinal column along which the psychic energy flows was now cleared at the plexus [i.e. chakra center] below the naval and the psychic energy current rose up his spine in its fullness. He now experienced a supersensuous calmness and clearness that far exceeded in its ecstatic intensity any of the states he had previously reached. He attained to new heights of realization in which he saw that the highest state of Nirvana and the ordinary state of Samsaric consciousness were but opposite and inseparable states resting on the base of the Voidness of Universal or Supra mundane Mind [ie Ultimate Awareness]. In his new realization he could clearly see that the samsaric or phenomenal existence results when the Universal Mind is directed along the path of self centered and self oriented awareness, and that the Nirvanic state of transcendence results when it is directed on the path of selfless or altruistic awareness.
Greatly encouraged by this new development, Milarepa redoubled his zeal and began to develop the siddhis or yogic powers that accompany full enlightenment. His production of the inner vital heat also developed fully so that he could easily sit amongst the frozen snows and melt the ice into water. A few of the people he had encountered now knew about his siddhis [psychic powers] and so Milarepa determined to go to even more isolated caves to prevent a steady flow of people coming to him with selfish aims.
As he was about to leave the area, his sister Peta came once again bringing him some cloth for him to fasten into a garment for his naked body. She remained a while and he tried to talk her into taking to a life of meditation with him. But the very thought was repugnant to her and she saw only his great deprivation. To her, he was the most miserable person on the earth and she felt that even though she had to beg for her own food and clothes, her life was far better than his. She tried to talk him into becoming a lama of the people so that they might bring him offerings in return for religious blessings. Milarepa saw that he would not be able to convert her to a religious outlook so he at least explained to her the doctrine of karma [i.e. the law of retribution] so that she would at least refrain from incurring any fresh debts from harmful actions.
While Peta was visiting, their evil Aunt arrived, the aunt who had started the entire chain of events so many years back by seizing the property of Milarepa's widowed mother. Peta saw her approaching and tried to prevent her from reaching the cave by withdrawing the bridge that spanned the chasm to the other side, but the Aunt pleaded to be heard. Her brother, the evil Uncle who had conspired with her, had died, and she now deeply repented all she had done and so she had brought a yak load of supplies and found Milarepa by asking about in the villages until she was told a wandering monk resembling a green caterpillar had indeed been through the area. Milarepa finally agreed, although reluctantly, to talk to her and he delivered several religious discourses to her reminding her of all the sufferings and misery she had inflicted on them. In her state of misery, Aunt took his teachings to heart and went on her way having been converted to a path that would confer eventual liberation. The sister Peta now also took her leave, having her mind somewhat turned to religion.
Milarepa now removed to Lapchi-Kang [Everest] and continued his meditation amidst the snows and isolation there. Altogether he meditated in and made holy twenty caves covering the region from Mount Kailas and Lapchi-Kang in Tibet to far off Nepal. It is said that besides his many human converts he also brought to enlightenment some superhuman [ie non-embodied] beings as well, including the Goddess Tseringma [one of the twelve guardian deities of Tibet who reside at Mt. Kailas]. The Goddess came to tempt him with her powers during his meditations and instead was herself liberated.
During his travels over the 84 years of his life he met many worthy disciples that were destined to come under his tutelage. Highest among the disciples was Dvagpo Rimpoche [Gambopa]. The most well known among them was Rechung who entreated him to tell in detail the story of his life [summarized in this narrative] which was recorded for the benefit of all sentient beings, even into the far future. These two disciples were respectively like the sun and the moon. The most exalted of beings met by Milarepa was a Maha-Purusha [Great Being] he had the excellent fortune of meeting - an Exalted Being mentioned by the Buddha himself as one of the guardians and protectors of the human race who live on through the centuries far from human habitation.
Besides his two chief disciples, Milarepa had 25 additional highly accomplished disciples, both men and women, who became saints. Another hundred made such progress that they did not take rebirth. Another hundred and eight Great Ones obtained excellent experience and knowledge from meditation. A thousand sadhus and yogis, both men and women, renounced worldly life and lived lives of exemplary piety. Innumerable lay disciples formed a religious relationship with Milarepa so that the gateway to lower states of existence was closed to them forever.
Thus did Milarepa radiate spiritual light like a beacon, drawing vast numbers of entient beings forward toward the light of deliverance and dispelling in all directions the darkness of selfishness and ignorance.
Published by Natha.net