THE LIFE OF MILAREPA
Part II Chapter 1 - The Seeking of the Holy Dharma
Then Retchung asked, 'O lama, you spoke of having done white deeds, and no deeds are worthier than those devoted to the Dharma. How, Master, did you first encounter the teaching?' And the Venerable One continued thus:
I was filled with remorse for the evil I had done by magic and by hailstorms. My longing for the teaching so obsessed me that I forgot to eat. If I went out, I wanted to stay in. If I stayed in, I wanted to go out. At night sleep escaped me. I dared not confess my sadness to the lama or my longing for liberation. While I remained in the lama's service, I asked myself unceasingly and passionately by what means I might practice the true teaching.
At that time, the lama continuously received provisions and other necessities from a wealthy landowner. This landowner was stricken by a terrible illness. The lama was the first to be called to look after him, and three days later returned, silent and downcast. I asked him, 'O Master, why this silence and this sad face?'
The lama replied, 'All composite things are impermanent. Yesterday my very kind benefactor died. That is why the cycle of birth and death troubles my heart. But above all I am old. And from the white teeth of my youth to the white hairs of my old age, I have done harm to many beings by evil spells, magic, and hailstorms. You also, though young, have accumulated crimes of magic and hailstorms. These crimes, too, will be on my head,'
I asked, 'Have you not in some way helped these victims to reach higher realms and attain liberation?'
The lama replied, 'All sentient beings have the Buddha-nature within them. I know theoretically how to lead them to higher realms and liberation, but when conditions arise which test my actual attainment, I only remember words and ideas. I have no confidence in my ability to help beings. But now I am going to practice the Dharma to be able to meet any circumstances that arise. Either you must take over the guidance of my disciples so that I can devote myself to the practice leading to the higher realms and liberation, or you must practice the Dharma yourself and help us all achieve the higher realms and liberation. Meanwhile I shall support you with all the provisions you need.'
Thus my wish was fulfilled and I answered that I would practice the Dharma myself.
'Well then,' said the lama, 'Since you are young, since your ardor and your faith are so great, practice the purest of all Dharma.'
And he gave me a yak with a load of woolen cloth from Yarlung.
Then he said to me, 'In the village called Nar in the Tsangrong, there is a lama called Rongton Lhaga (Joy Of Gods). His knowledge of the teaching of Dzogchen (Great Perfection) 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.
The lama's wife and some monks who were there said to me, 'This is the mother monastery. The Lama Rongton Lhaga is not here at the moment. He is at the son monastery on the mountain Of Upper Nyang.'
'Very well,' I said, 'I am a messenger sent by the Lama Yungton Trogyel. Help me find your lama.'
I told them my whole story. The lama's wife asked a monk to guide me to the lama, and I met him at Rinang in the Upper Nyang. I offered him my yak and the woolen cloth as gifts.
After paying my respects, I said, 'The one who comes to you is a great sinner. Grant me the teaching in this life which will deliver me from the cycle of existence.'
The lama replaied, 'This Teaching of the Great Perfection (1) leads one to triumph at the root, to triumph at the summit, and to triumph in the fruits of achievement. To meditate on it by day is to be Buddha in one day. To meditate on it by night is to be Buddha in one night. For those fortunate ones with favorable karma who merely chance to hear it, without even meditating on it, this joyous teaching is a sure means of liberation. That is why I wish to give it to you.'
And the lama gave me initiation and instruction.
Then I 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, I, too, have become one of these fortunate Bodhisattvas who, having heard the teaching, do not even have to meditate on it.' Triumphant, and thinking in this way, without meditating, I spent the time sleeping. So I put religion on one side and the human condition on the other, and at the end of a few days the lama said to me, 'When you first paid your respects to me, you told me you came as a great sinner. That is quite true. Proud of my teaching, I have spoken to you too soon. 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. That is why you should go to him.'
Hardly had I heard the name of Marpa the Translator that I was filled with ineffable happiness. In my joy every hair of my body vibrated. I sobbed with fervent adoration. Locking my whole mind in a single thought, I set out with provisions and a book. Without being distracted by any other thoughts, I ceaselessly repeated to myself, 'When? When will I see the lama face to face?'
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 [scepter] made of lapis lazuli. At the same time he gave him a golden 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 (2). 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(3), 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 came to serve him a hot morning drink and said, 'O Lama, last night I had a dream. Two women who said they came from Ugyen in the north were carrying a crystal stupa(4). This stupa had some impurities on its surface. And the women said, Naropa commands the lama to consecrate this stupa and to place it on the summit of a mountain." And you yourself cried out, "Although the consecration of this stupa has already been accomplished by Master Naropa, I must obey his command." And you washed the stupa with the lustral water in the vase and performed the consecration. Afterward you placed it on the mountaintop, where it radiated a multitude of lights as dazzling as the sun and moon and where it projected numerous replicas of itself upon the mountaintops. And the two women watched over these stupas. Such was my dream. What is its meaning?'
Marpa thought to himself, 'These dreams are very much in accord,' and his heart was filled with extreme joy, but to his wife 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.'
His wife replied, 'But that is a work for laborers. If you, a great lama, do this work everyone will ridicule us. Therefore, I beg of you, do not go.'
The lama paid no attention to her. 'Bring me plenty of beer,' he said. And he picked up a full jar, adding, '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, I was on my way. Starting from the lower part of the Lhobrak (Southern Cliffs), I began asking all passers-by where great Marpa the Translator lived. But no one knew him. As I reached the pass from where one could see the monastery of Drowo Lung, I put the same question to a man who was passing.
He replied, 'There is certainly a man called Marpa. But there is no one called great Marpa the Translator.'
'Then where is Drowo Lung?'
He pointed it out and I asked him agin, 'Who lives in Drowo Lung?'
'The man called Marpa lives there.'
'And he has no other name?'
'Some call him Lama Marpa.'
'Then that must be where the lama lives. And this pass, what is it called?'
'It is called Chola Gang (the Ridge of Religion).'
I continued on my way, still inquiring. There were many shepherds and I 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.'
I thought to myself, 'From what the child says it seems to be the lama, but would a great translator be plowing his field?' And I continued on my way.
At the side of the road, a tall and corpulent monk, with large eyes and awesome look, was plowing a field. I had scarcely seen him when I was filled with unutterable joy and inconceivable bliss. Stunned for a moment by this vision, I remained motionless. Then I said, 'Master, I have heard that the learned Marpa the Translator, personal disciple of the glorious Naropa, dwells in this region. Where is his house? For a long time he looked at me from head to foot. Then he said, 'Who are you?'
I replied, 'I am a great sinner and I come from the Upper Tsang. Marpa is so renowned that I have come to beg for his teaching.'
'Very well, I shall arrange for you to meet Marpa. Meanwhile, plow the field.'
He took from the ground the jar of beer which he had hidden under his hat and gave it to me. This beer was refreshing and very good.
'Work hard,' he added, and went away.
Having drunk all the beer that remained I worked with a will. Some time later the young child, who had spoken to me from the midst of the flocks, came to fetch me.
Much to my joy, he said, 'Come to the house and serve the lama.'
As he was impatient to introduce me to the lama, I said to him, 'I am anxious to finish this work.' So I plowed the part which remained to be done. As this field had been the occasion of my meeting with the lama I called it Tuhngken (Field of Opportunity). In summer the footpath runs along the edge of the field, but it goes straight across it in winter.
I joined the child and went into the house. The same monk whom I 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 had wiped his face but his eyebrows, his nostrils, his moustache, and his bard were still covered with dust and he was eating his meal.
I 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 I bowed down at his feet. 'Lama Rimpoche(5), I am a great sinner from Nyima Lato(6).' 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.'
The lama replied, 'I don't want to hear your ravings about being a great sinner. I have not made you commit any sins. What sins have you committed?'
Then I confessed fully the story of my crimes. The lama said to me 'So, you have done all that. In any case, 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 your own striving.'
I replied, 'Well, since I came to you for the teaching, I will look elsewhere for food and clothing.'
As I was placing my book in his shrine room, he said, 'Take that filthy book away; it would defile my sacred objects and my shrine.'
'He responds in this way,' I thought, 'because my book contains black magic.'
Carefully, I put it away. I remained with Marpa for several more days. The lama's wife gave me good meals.
Thus spoke Milarepa. Such was the way he met his Master. This is the first chapter describing his good works.
1. The Teaching of the Great Perfection.
This phrase refers to the Atiyoga doctrine, which is the highest form of esoteric
teaching in the Tibetan tradition.
The first phrase to triumph at the root refers to the innermost character of man, his primordial awareness. This awareness is said to be unstainable by the power of egoisic delusion and unalterable even by the Buddhas. The ultimate essence is said to consist of an inseparable unity of supfanormal cognition and its inherent emptiness so that it transcends the duality of samsara and nirvana, which exists as long as man is ruled by his delusion of self and its phenomenal conditions.
This leads to the phrase to triumph at the summit, which implies a higher insight in the path through a spontaneous awakening. This state is brought about first through the enpowerment of initiation and is then rekindled through meditation in all modes of self-transformation. The phrase to triumph in the fruit of enlightenment refers to the non-existence of enlightenment as an object apart from man's original awareness. To meditate on it by day is to be a Buddha in one day, etc., implies that enlightenment is inherent in one's awareness at every moment of man's stream of being and that initiates simply open themselves to this truth.
2. The banner-of-victory
is one of eight auspicious emblems. This traditional standart is raised on the
roottops of Buddhist temples, monasteries, and private dwellings that possess
the complete set of the Buddhist Canon, about 329 volumes, known as Kagyur (the
translated scriptures) and Tengyur (the translated elucidating treatises).
3. Six classes of
beings. This refers to all sentient beings, traditionally divided into six classes:
celestial beings, demigods, human beings, hungry ghosts, animals, and beings
4. Stupa. A reliquary
in which sacred relics or the embalmed body of a lama are preserved. There are
also numerous temples built in the form of a stupa, for in the Buddhist tradition
a stupa stands for the Enlightened Mind of Buddhas or lamas. Like an architectured
mandala, the various structural forms represent the noble principles of the
path, the attributes of excellence, and the stages of spiritual perfection.
Eight great stupas were built both during and after the life of the Buddha,
marking the major events of his life: birth, renunciation, the conquest of the
forces of Mara, enlightenment, the first sermon, his visit to a celestial realm
where his mother was reborn, his victory over opponents in public debate and
mind power, and his final passing away.
5. Rimpoche is a term of reverence, meaning literally the Precious One. Used in addressing lamas. The term is also associated with the ancient traditional symbol of the Wish-fulfilling Gem. In invoking his personal lama, a devotee may adress him as my lama who is the Wish-fullfilling Gem.
6. Nyima Lato. Western
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