(Milarepa by Roerich)
Milarepa is one of the best-loved and most epic characters in the story of Tibet. The bad boy made good.
When he was young his family was dispossessed after his father’s death, and all their hereditary wealth stolen by his aunt and uncle. His mother was very angry about this turn of events and encouraged her son to seek vengeance, so young Milarepa studied to be a black magician. He went to a central part of Tibet and learned powerful dark mantras from Yungton Drogyel, and proved especially good at manipulating the weather. He eventually summoned a hail storm that caused the house of his relatives to collapse so that many family members were killed.
Later Milarepa repented his acts of sorcery, and as an old man is reputed to have said ,
“In my youth I committed black deeds. In maturity I practised innocence. Now, released from both good and evil, I have destroyed the root of karmic action and shall have no reason for action in the future.’’
Milarepa became convinced that the only way to atone for his misdeeds was to gain com plete liberation in one life time, and so he set off to find his path. His teacher was the famous Marpa the Translator. Knowing that the young Milarepa had some karma to burn off as a result of his sorcery, Marpa set him the task of building a huge tower to a very specific design, but as soon as he finished it, Marpa instructed Milarepa to demolish it. This happened twice more, so that through this thankless labour and commitment to his preceptors instructions Milarepa burned off his past bad deeds.
Having received instruction from Marpa, Milarepa left and practised intensively alone for 12 years. He lived, it is told, mostly on nettle tea and soup and because of this his skin took on a green colour. He became fully enlightened due to his diligence. .
Thanks to the blessings of the Buddhas, the Bodhisattvas, my lama and his wife, I was able to attain a little bit of experience, a little bit of realization. In this completely matured body, this physical form of mine, it is possible to reach Buddhahood. This body is a boat that will take me across samsara to Buddhahood. However, it’s also possible that I can use this very body to accumulate negative karma, and this will lead to rebirth in the hell realms. There is a choice. I can turn my mind towards positive activity and achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime or I can turn my mind toward negative activity and go to the hell realm. In order to cross over this fearsome ocean of samsara, the only protection is the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. I go to them for refuge. Amongst these three, the most important is the lama. It is through faith and samaya with the lama that protection comes. There are also the four thoughts that turn the mind: the precious human rebirth, impermanence, karmic cause and effect, and the imperfections of samsara. Meditating upon these turns one’s mind away from samsara. Then one generates bodhicitta, the mind of awakening, practices and dedicates any virtue for the benefit of all sentient beings. In this way, one enters the Mahayana path
There is a lot more to the story of Milarepa and his fantastic adventures and austerities. It is said for example that his practices were so intense and prolonged that the root of trees and plants began to grow around his meditating form, so long and so motionless did he sit. A good book about Milarepa’s life is….’’The Life of Milarepa’’ by Lobsang Llahlungpa.
Milarepa was also known as a great poet. Here are some lines from some of his poems…
When your body is rightly posed,
Mind absorbed in meditation,
You feel that here is no more mind,
Yet it’s only concentration.
Like starling fly unto the vast, empty sky,
Awareness as pure flower, bright lamp shining,
Though, it is void, transparent & vivid,
Yet it’s only a Dhyana feeling.
Like white lion living on mountain
You should not go to the valley
Lest your nice mane become sullied.
To keep it in good order you should
Remain in snowy hill as you could.
Like great eagle flying above mountain
It never falls into a hole
Lest your wings be broken as a whole.
To keep it in good order you should
Remain in snowy mountain as you could.
Milarepa was also reputedly an expert in the Tibetan arts of Tumo (producing great inner heat within the belly by means of breath and concentration such that the adept can live in freezing climates and not be adversely affected) and Lung-Gom-Pa, (which is an old Tibetan magical art of running long distances at great speed. The practitioner usually wore chains around their ankles to keep them ‘’earth-bound’’ for such was their speed and absorption in their practice that they needed these precautions. In her books on Tibet, especially Magic and Mystery in Tibet, Alexander David Neel describes having witnessed practitioners of Lung-Gom-Pa as she made her fantastic and inspirational journeys across Tibet on horseback in the 1920s and 1930s. Well worth reading her books. She was an amazing woman.)
How to Settle Your Mind ~ a poem by Milarepa
How to settle your own mind at rest,
The secret lies in letting go,
Making no strain, doing nothing,
Like sleeping child you should do so.
Like calm ocean without waves,
Like a brilliant lamp without wind,
Rest your mind in peace.
Like corpse without pride,
Rest it steadfastly.
Like sea without tide,
Free from any kind of grind.
Do you know how thought arises?
Like dream is without substance,
Like the vast sunless heaven,
Moons seen in outer distance,
Like the rainbow of maya,
We could not find certain source.
When the light of wisdom shines,
They disappear, no more trace.
Do you know how to cope with thoughts?
Try to see the versatile clouds,
Yet from sky they are not apart,
Try to see the waves of the sea,
Yet from sea they are not apart.
Try to see the heavy thick fog,
Yet from air it is not apart.
Thus the frantic runs in nature.
Yet from nature it is not apart.
He who can weigh the awareness,
Will know mind is rising in breath.
He who seeks sneaking thoughts like thieves,
Will know to watch this subtle mischief.
He who finds the thought running outside,
Knows the simile of dove and boat in tide.
Do you know how to act and comprehend
Like a bold lion, a drunken elephant,
Shadow in mirror and lotus in mud?
Thus you may act the same yet different.
Do you know how to get the attainment,
Dharmakaya gained in non-discernment,
Sambhogakaya through the blissfulness,
Nirmanikaya – one ray of enlightenment,
Shajakaya through the innateness.
Of these four ones I have the achievement.
OM TAT SAT