THE LIFE OF MILAREPA
Part II Chapter 2 - Ordeals
I went begging throughout the entire valley. In this way I collected twenty-one measures of barley. With fourteen measures I bought a cooking pot with four handles, free of rust, smooth inside and out. With one measure I bought meat and beer, and the remaining measures I poured into a big sack. Then, carrying the cooking pot on top of everything, I returned to the lama's dwelling.
Trembling with fatigue, I dropped the heavy load and the room shook. The lama, who was eating his meal, was so startled he stopped eating.
'Little man,' he said, '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.'
And he pushed it away with his foot. While I was dragging the sack outside, I said to myself 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 myself, I offered him my empty cooking pot. He 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 I was overcome with emotion and was burning with desire for religion. Again, I begged the lama to instruct me.
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.'
I sent a fierce hailstorm to these two regions. Then I 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 then, the mountaineers at Lhobrak pass attack my disciples coming from Nyal Loro. They laugh at me. You, who 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 I had cast my spells, the moutltaineers fought among themselves and many of the more belligerent perished by the sword. At the sight of this the lama said, 'It is true that you are a great magician.' From thenon he called me great Magician.
I asked for the teaching on Enlightenment. But he 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.'
In this harsh way the lama rebuked me. Overcome with sorrow, I wept. The lama's wife consoled me.
The next day the lama himself came and said to me, '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 which I will give to my son, Darma Doday (Young Man of Sutra). When you have done that I will instruct you and I will supply your food and clothing.'
'During this time, if I die without religion, what will become of me?'
'I guarantee that you will not die during this time. My teaching can be expressed in a few words. If you can meditate with perseverance according to my instructions, you will show whether you can or cannot attain Enlightenment in this life. In my lineage an enlightening energy is transmitted which has no similarity to that of others.'
After these comforting words, I was filled with joy.
Then I said, 'Do you wish to tell me about the plan of the tower?'
All the cousins on Marpa's paternal side had taken an oath among themselves not to build any fortifications. But Marpa had not taken the oath. Now as he was thinking of building a tower, he found at the same time a way to deceive his relatives and a way for me to expiate my evil deeds.
And he said to me, 'Build a tower like this on the eastern crest of the mountain.'
And so I began building a round tower.
When I had half finished, the lama came and said, 'The other day I had not fully considered the matter. Tear down this tower and take the earth and stones back to their places.'
This I did. Another time, on the western crest of the mountain, the lama pretended to be drunk and said to me, Make a tower similar to this.'
And so I made a semicircular tower. It was hardly half finished when the lama came and said, 'It is not yet right. Tear it down and carry the earth and stones back to where you got them.'
This time we went to the top of the mountain to the north and the lama said to me, 'Great Magician, the other day I was drunk and did not give you good direction. Build a sturdy tower here.'
I replied, 'To tear something down while it is being built makes me miserable and is a waste of your wealth. Please think carefully beforehand!'
The lama replied, 'Today I am not drunk. I have thought about it very carefully. This tower will be called Tower of the Tantric Yogin. It chould be triangular. Build it. It will not be torn down.'
I began to build a triangular tower. About a third of it had been completed when the lama came and said, 'Great Magician, for whom are you building this tower? Who gave you the instructions?'
'It was the lama himself who ordered this tower for his son.'
'I do not remember having given you such orders. If you are right, I must be crazy. Have I completely lost my mind?'
'I clearly remember suspecting it would be like this and respectfully asking you to think about it carefully. You replied it was fully thought out and that this tower would not be demolished.'
'Very well then, who is your witness? Perhaps you are thinking of shutting us up in your triangular tower, as in a magic triangle, and casting spells on us; yet we have not robbed you of your patrimony, we have not eaten up your father's goods. If that is not so and if you wish for religion, since you have displeased the gods of the region, go and put this earth and these stones back in their places. Afterward, if you want the teaching, I will give it to you. If you will not do this, then leave.'
As he spoke, he was roused to anger.
Overwhelmed by grief and still thirsting for religion, I obeyed. I carried back from the triangular tower, to their places, first the earth and then the stones. It was then that I got a sore on my shoulders. I thought, 'If I show it to the lama, he will only revile me. If I show it to his wife, I will appear to be critical of my task.'
And without showing my sore, I tearfully implored the wife of the lama to help me obtain the teaching. The mother went before the lama and said to him, 'The useless work on those towers has only brought grief to Great Magician. Have compassion and grant him the teaching.'
The lama replied, 'Prepare him a good meal and bring him to me.'
The mother prepared the meal and brought me before the lama, who said, 'Great Magician, do not tell lies about something I have not done. Since you desire the teaching, I will give it to you.'
He gave me an exposition on the Triple Refuge and the basic precepts. And he continued, 'This is the general law for everyone. But if you want the secret teaching, here is what must be done.'
And he told me the story of Naropa's liberation and of the way he underwent his terrible ordeals.
For you this way will be difficult.'
As he was speaking these words, my faith increased so that I shed tears. I swore to carry out everything the lama asked of me.
After several days had passed, the lama took me for a walk. We came to the land protected by the cousins.
The lama said to me, 'Build in this place a square white tower nine stories high with a superstructure and a pinnacle, forming ten stories. 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.'
'Then,' said I, 'would it not be good for the lama's wife to be witness to all these promises?'
'Very well,' said the lama.
Then he traced on the ground the placement of the walls. I invited the lama's wife to come, and in their presence said, 'I have already built three towers and have destroyed them. The first time the lama said he had not given it enough thought. The second time he said he was drunk. The third time he wondered if he were crazy, or if he had lost his mind and no longer remembered anything. When reminded him of the instructions he had given me, he asked me who was my witness and moreover he heaped reproaches upon me. Now that I have called you to hear these new promises, please be my witness.
The lama's wife replied, 'I am glad to be a witness. But it will be difficult to have my testimony upheld since the lama is very autocratic. First of all, the lama builds without reason and destroys without reason. Furthermore, this land does not belong to us alone; it belongs to the cousins as well. That will be a cause for quarrels. No matter what I say, the father will not listen.'
The lama said to his wife, 'You bear witness. As for me, I will act according to my promise. Great Magician, if you have no trust and if you will not make a pledge, then go away.'
So I laid the foundations for a square tower. While I was putting up the wall, the disciples Ngokton of Shung, Tshurton of Dol, and Meton of Tsangrong playfully rolled a large rock in my direction and placed it as the cornerstone.
When I 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, he said, 'Great Magician, where did this stone come from?'
I replied, 'Your three foremost disciples brought it here for their amusement.'
'Well, you must not put one of their stones in the structure you are building. So take it out and put it where it was.'
You promised that this tower would not be destroyed.'
Quite right. Yet it is not fitting for you to be served by my disciples who are practicing the two advanced stages. Do not demolish everything, but take away the stone and put it back where it was.'
Then I demolished the building from the top down and returned the rock to its place.
'Now,' said the lama, 'fetch the stone again and put it back as the cornerstone.'
I put it back. Alone, I had to exert as much strength as the three disciples. Because I had carried away the stone myself and brought it back, I named this stone My Giant Stone.
While I was laying the foundations of the tower on the crest of the mountain, the cousins took counsel and said, Marpa is building a tower on the Mountain of Solemn Oath. We must safeguard our land.'
Some of them said, 'Marpa has gone crazy. He has a novice from Lato with great strength who is building towers with no definite plan on every hillock and ridge. When half finished, he demolishes the towers and returns the earth and stones to their places. Likewise he will demolish this one. If he does not tear it down, we can then prevent him from continuing. Let us see what he is going to do.'
Far from demolishing it, I continued to build the tower. By the time I reached the seventh story, I had a sore on my back. The cousins then said, 'This time he is not going to tear it down. The destruction of the previous towers was only a ruse hiding the intent to build this one. We will demolish it ourselves.'
They prepared for war. Then the lama conjured up some phantom soldiers, clad in armor, and put them everywhere, inside and outside the tower. His enemies said, 'Where did Marpa get all these soldiers?'
Filled with terror, they dared not attack, but each one in secret prostrated himself and offered his respects, and they all became benefactors and disciples of Marpa.
At that time, the great Meton of Tsangrong came to request the Yidam Chakrasamvara(1) initiation.
The lama's wife said to me, 'Now try by every means to obtain the teaching.'
In my heart I thought, 'Now that I have built this tower without anyone else bringing a single stone - even the size of a goat's head - a single basket of earth, a single bucket of water, or a single hodful of mortar, I am going to receive the initiation.'
Then, after having greeted the lama, I sat down with the others. The lama called to me, 'Great Magician, what gift do you bring me?'
I answered, 'I rendered you homage by building the tower for your son. You promised to give me initiation and instruction. That is why I am here.'
'You made a little tower which isn't even as thick as my arm. It is hardly worth the Doctrine which I, with great difficulty, brought all the way from India. 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 me, grabbed me by the hair, and threw me out. I wanted to die and I wept the whole night. The lama's wife came to console me.
'The lama has always said that the teachings were brought back by him from India for the good of all sentient beings. Were even a dog to present itself to him, he would teach it the Doctrine, and dedicate the merits of the teaching for the benefit of all. Why he refuses you, I do not know. In any case, do not have bad thoughts because of it.'
Having cheered me up, she left. 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.'
I laid the foundations and built the covered walk. All the while the lama's wife brought me well-seasoned food and so much beer that I became a little drunk. She was full of goodness and she comforted me.
When I was about to finish, Tshurton Ouangnye of Dol came to ask for the Guhyasamaja(2) initiation.
The lama's wife said to me, 'Now, my son, you should be able to receive the initiation.'
And she gave me a tub of butter, a piece of cloth, and a small copper cooking pot to give to the lama.
Having offered my gifts, I joined the others. The lama asked me, 'Great Magician, what gift have you brought that you place yourself in these ranks?'
This tub of butter, this piece of cloth, and this copper cooking pot.'
'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 me, kicked me, and threw me out. I wanted to sink into the earth.
Was this punishment for the murders I had committed through sorcery and for the destruction of numerous crops by my hailstorms? Did the lama know that I would never be able to practice the Dharma(3)?' Or was it through lack of compassion that he would not teach me? Whatever it may be, of what use is this human body which, without religion, only accumulates defilement? Should I kill myself?
At that moment the lama's wife brought me a portion of the sacrificial cake. She consoled me very much and went away. But I had no desire to eat, and spent the whole night weeping.
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 I finished the tower and undertook the completion of the covered walk. By that time I had sores on my back. Pus and blood ran from three wounds. I showed my back, which was one mass of sores, to the lama's wife. I begged her to come to my rescue, to ask the lama to teach me and to remind him of the promises he made at the time of laying the foundation of the tower. The mother looked with concern at my sores, and tears poured from her eyes.
'I am going to speak to the lama,' she said.
And going before the lama, she spoke in this way: 'Lama Rimpoche, the work Great Magician is doing has skinned and rubbed all his limbs raw. On his back are three sores streaming with blood and pus. I have heard of, and even seen, horses and donkeys with sores on their backs, but I have never yet seen, nor heard of, such sores on the backs of men. I would be ashamed if other men were to see or hear of such a thing. I am even more ashamed, knowing it was caused by a great lama such as yourself. Because he is truly worthy of compassion, give this child instruction. You said in the beginning that you would give him the teaching when he had built the tower.'
The lama replied, 'That is just what I said. I said that I would give him my teaching when he had built a tower ten stories high. Where are the ten stories?'
'He has built more than the ten stories. He has constructed a lower covered walk.'
'Do not talk so much. If he builds ten stories I will instruct him. Does he really have sores?'
Not only does he have sores but there is almost nothing left of his back but sores. But you have so much power you can do whatever pleases you.'
Having thus spoken, with great sorrow, she then hastened to me. 'Well then, you had better come with me,' she said.
On the way I thought, 'Is he going to instruct me?'
The lama said to me, 'Great Magician, show me your back.'
I showed it to him and when he had finished examining it carefully, he said, 'My Master Naropa underwent twenty-four mortifications(4), 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.'
I thought to myself that he was right.
From my clothing he made a pad to protect my wounds and said, 'Since you work in the manner of horses and donkeys, use this pad for your wounds and continue to carry the earth and stones.'
I answered, 'How will the pad for the wounds cure the sores on my back?'
The pad is to keep the dirt away from your sores.'
Thinking this was an order, I carried the earth in a vessel which I held in front of me, and, as I was making mortar, the lama saw me and thought, 'This submission to everything that is commanded is extraordinary.' And he secretly shed tears.
My sores became infected and I fell ill. I told this to the lama's wife. On my behalf she asked that I be initiated or, at least, that I be permitted to rest and heal my sores.
The lama replied, 'As long as the tower is not finished, he shall have nothing. If he can work, let him do what he can; if he cannot, then let him rest.'
The mother said to me, 'As long as your sores are not healed, rest.
She fortified me with good food and drink during this time. For a few days I was happy except for my grief at not having obtained instruction. While my sores were healing, the lama came to me and without speaking of the Doctrine, said, Great Magician, it is time for you to go back to work on the tower.'
I was about to do this when the lama's wife said to me, Between the two of us, let us work out a scheme for you to get the teaching.'
Having reached an agreement with her, I tied my book and few possessions on top of a little sack of flour, as if I were leaving. In order to be seen by the lama, I asked his wife to help me.
She said in a loud voice, 'If you ask the lama, he will give you the teaching. Stay here despite everything.' And she pretended to restrain me.
Seeing this, the lama asked, 'Woman, what are you two doing there?'
She answered, 'Great Magician says that long ago he came from a far-off village to learn the teaching. Instead of the teaching, he has received only abusive words and blows. For fear of dying without religion, he is going to look for another lama and is taking his belongings with him. Thanks to my pleas and promises that he would obtain the teaching, I have been able to delay his departure.'
The lama said, 'I understand.' And he came out and slapped me again and again.
'When you arrived here you at once gave me your body, speech, and mind. And now where are you going? Surely you are not leaving? Since you belong to me, I could cut you, body, speech, and mind, into a hundred pieces. If in spite of that you are going away, tell me, why are you taking my flour?'
Speaking in this manner, he kept slapping me. He grabbed the sack of flour and took it into the house. My despair was like that of a mother who has lost her only son. Following the advice of the lama's wife, and because the lama was so terrible, I went back into the house trembling, and began to weep.
The lama's wife said to me, 'Whatever we may try, 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.'
She gave me the method for meditating on Dorje Pahgmo(5). It brought me no inner experience but was very beneficial to my mind and it lifted my spirits. I showed my gratitude to the lama's wife for her kindness.
I thought that she, being the wife of the lama, could purify sins. In the summer when she was milking cows, I held the bucket for her. When she roasted grain, I held the pans for her. Thus everywhere I rendered her service.
At that time I dreamed of looking for another lama. I thought to myself, 'If Marpa does not have the teaching for becoming a Buddha in a single lifetime and single body, certainly no other lama will have it. Even if I do not become Buddha at once, at least I have stopped accumulating action which lead to rebirth in the lower realms. When I have suffered in the name of religion the same trials as Naropa, the lama will proclaim with great joy that I have become worthy of the teaching. Then I will meditate on it and hope in this way to attain Enlightenment in this lifetime.' Having thought it over, I began bringing up stones and earth.
As I was mixing mortar for the covered walk and shrine room, Ngokton Chodor of Shung and his followers, bringing numerous presents, came to ask for the great initiation of Hevajra(6).
The lama's wife said to me, 'If the lama is not satisfied with the tower that has been constructed and if he desires riches, offer him a gift and make sure that he grants you the initiation.'
She gave me a large deep blue turquoise that she had kept secretly and said, 'You ask him first, and offer him this. If he refuses, I shall ask for you.'
I offered it to the lama, saying, 'I beg of you, give me instruction on this occasion.'
And I stood among the disciples. The lama examined the turquoise, turning it over and over.
'Where did Great Magician get this?'
I answered, 'The mother gave it to me.'
The lama smiled and said, 'Go and fetch the mistress.'
I begged the mother to come.
The lama said to her, 'Mistress, where did we get this turquoise?'
Having bowed deeply, the mother replied, 'This turquoise is not your concern. When I was given to you in marriage by my parents you flew into a furious rage. Then my parents secretly gave me this turquoise and said to me, "Put this away without showing it to anyone. If ever you and your husband divorce, you may need it." I have given it to this child, for whom I feel unbearable pity. Accept it and grant the initiation to Great Magician. Lama Ngokpa*, you and your followers, who understand his grief at being excluded from initiation, help me in my prayer.'
So saying, she prostrated herself many times. The lama was so terrifying that Ngokpa and his followers did not even dare utter a prayer. They merely made gestures of approval and prostrated themselves along with the lama's wife.
The lama said, 'Through the good offices of my wife, this fine turquoise nearly fell into the hands of a stranger.'
And, tying it around his neck, he continued, 'Mistress, you do not think. If I am wholly your master, I am also the master of your turquoise. Great Magician, if you have some wealth, bring it, and be initialted. This turquoise is mine.'
Thinking that the mother, in her ardor, would renew her prayer after offering the turquoise, I remined where I was.
But the lama was furious and jumped up! 'I sent you away, yet you are still here. What insolence!'
He hurled me to the groud on my face, and everything went black. He threw me on my back and I saw stars. Then he seized a stick, but Ngokpa held him back. Terrified, I jumped down into the courtyard. Although the lama was concerned, he pretended he was still angry.
I was not hurt, but was filled with grief and longed to die. Then the wife of the lama came up to me in tears, saying, Great Magician, do not be distressed. There is no disciple more faithful or loving than you. If you want to go to another lama for the Doctrine, I shall prepare whatever is necessary for you. I will give you supplies and gifts.' In this way she comforted me.
Up till then, the mistress had wanted to take part in all the lama's gatherings. But this evening she came and wept with me all through the night.
The next morning the lama sent for me. I went to him, wondering whether he would instruct me. He asked, 'Are you not dissatisfied by my refusal to teach you? Do you not have evil thoughts?'
'I have faith in the lama,' I answered, 'and I have not uttered a single word of rebellion. On the contrary, I believe that I am in darkness on account of my sins. I am the author of my own misery.' I wept. And he continued, 'What do you expect to gain from me by these tears? Get Out!'
Then in a state of heart-rending misery I thought to myself, I had provisions when I was committing sins. Now that I am practicing religion, I have nothing. If I had even half the gold that I gave away to do evil deeds, I could obtain initiation and the secret teaching. Now, without gifts, this lama will not teach me. Even were I to go to another lama, he too would require gifts. Religion is forbidden to the poor. Without religion, a man is only an accumulator of sins and I would do better to kill myself. What to do? What to do? Shall I go and serve a rich man? Shall I earn wages and obtain gifts to offer for the teaching? Since I did cast my spells, should I now return to my village? My mother would be happy to see me agin, and I would be able to earn some money. Either I must search for some other place or seek wealth.'
I thought to myself, 'If I take the lama's flour for provisions it will only enrage him more.' I took my books and left without saying anything, even to the lama's wife. On the way, I remembered her kindness and I cherished it.
Half a day's march from Drowo Lung I stopped to take my meal. I begged for some tsampa and borrowed a pot. Gathering some dry wood, I cooked my meal and ate it. It was now past mid-day and I thought, 'Half my work was service due the lama; the other half was payment for my food. Preparing this one meal was difficult for me. The lama's wife cooked and served my food every day, and I did not even say goodbye to her, evil man that I am! Should I go back?'
But I did not have the courage to go back. As I was returning the cooking pot, an old man said to me, 'Young man, you seem fit for work. Rather than beg, go into homes and recite prayers if you know how to read. If you do not know how to read, work as a servant for food and clothing. Can you read?'
I replied, 'I am not a beggar, and I know how to read.'
'Good. Go and recite the prayers at my house, and I will pay you well.'
I was overjoyed. And while staying there I read the Eight Thousand Stanzas(7). I then read the story of Taktugnu(8) (Who Weeps Perpetually). I thought, 'Taktugnu, who was also without money, gave his body and his life for religion. He would have torn out his heart and sold it, he would have cut it into pieces. Compared to him, I have given nothing for religion. It is possible Lama Marpa may give me the teaching. If he does not give it to me, his wife has promised to help me meet another master.' This thought gave me courage to return, and I started back.
When I had left the lama, his wife said to him, 'Your indomitable enemy has gone. Now are you happy?'
'Who has gone?'
'Well, upon whom else but Great Magician have you inflicted every misery and whom else have you treated like an enemy?'
At these words, the lama's face clouded and became wet with tears. 'Lamas of the Kagyu(9) Order, dakinis, and protectors of religion, bring back my predestined son.'
Having prayed, he covered his head with his cloak and remained motionless.
At that moment I came betore the lama's wife and greeted her. Joyously she cried out, 'Here you are at just the right moment. It appears that the lama will now teach you. I told him of your departure, and he cried out, "Give me back my predestined son." Then he burst into tears. It seems you have softened his heart.'
I thought to myself, 'The mistress is only soothing my heart. If it were really true that he had shed tears, that he had said "predestined son," I would be completely happy. If, in the contrary, he had merely said "Bring him back to me" in the way he has previously refused me initiation and instruction, then I am indeed unfortunate. I have nowhere else to go. Must I be miserable here, without ever obtaining the teaching?'
The mother said to the lama, 'Great Magician has not left us. He has returned. May he come before you?'
The lama replied, 'He did forsake us, but he has not forsaken himself. If you wish, let him come.'
I came before him, and he 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 I could say, so I left. I said to the lama's wife, '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. May both the lama and you remain in good health.'
I prostrated myself and, taking my books, prepared to leave.
The mother said, 'My son, you are right. As I have already promised you, I will find a way to have you taught by Ngokton, who is a great disciple of the lama and who is initiated. Stay a little longer and pretend to work.'
With joy I stayed and worked.
Since Naropa had had the custom of celebrating the tenth day of each moon by a great sacrifice of offerings, Marpa also celebrated the tenth day of the moon. From a bushel of barley that she had saved, the mistress brewed three large measures for the libations. She 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 mistress and myself were pouring it for him. The monks themselves drank the medium beer. The mother, touching the weak beer to her lips, drank very little. I did likewise and did not become drunk. The monks became drunk. As for the lama, 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, his wife 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 me, saying, 'Act as if these things were sent by the lama. Go and offer them to Lama Ngokpa and ask him to teach you.'
She sent me to Shung. I departed, placing all my hopes in Lama Ngokpa.
Two days later the Lama Marpa said to his wife, 'What is Great Magician doing now?'
'He is on the road. I know nothing more.'
Where did he go?'
'He told me that even if he finished the work on the tower, you would not give him instruction but would shower him with blows and reproaches. He said that he was going to search for another lama and prepared to leave. I had the thought that I had warned you in vain, since you paid no attention. You would have beaten him again. To avoid this shame, I said nothing to you. I did everything to delay his departure. But, without listening, he left.'
With an angry face the lama asked, 'When did he leave?'
'He left yesterday.'
The lama remained thoughtful for a moment. 'My son cannot be far away yet.'
Now, at that very moment I was arriving at Mount Kyungding in Shung. Lama Ngokpa was expounding an esoteric text entitled 'The Two Divisions(10)" to his disciples. His discourse was interrupted while exllunding 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
I prostrated myself at a distance. He responded by removing his hat, and said,
This is the manner of greeting used by Marpa's disciples. And the words
that he interrupted are of good omen(11). 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 me and, recognizing me, said, 'Why have you come?'
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.' And he repeated my words.
The lama 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(12) flower. We must go out to receive them. For today, let us stop at this auspicious place in our lesson. Monks, fetch a parasol, and quickly, some flags and cymbals, and ask Great Magician to take his place in the procession.'
Since I had remined where I first made my greeting, a monk came to give me this message. I called this place Chaktsal Gang (Ridge of Salutation).
I stepped back and then joined the monks, who formed the procession with parasols, banners, and cymbals. We entered the lama's house. I prostrated myself and gave him the letter with the gifts. With tearful eyes, the 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:
'To Choku Dorje (Diamond of Ultimate Reality): Since I have gone into retreat and Great Magician lacks patience I am sending him to ask you for the teaching. Give him initiation and instruction. As testimony of my permission to do this, I am sending you the jewels of Naropa.'
Lama Ngokpa said, '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.'
Then I thought, 'I am destined to perform evil deeds. I can only get the sacred teaching by sending hailstorms, and thereby will again be indulging in harmful deeds. If I do not send hail, I will be disobeying the orders of the lama and I shall not hear the teaching. I cannot avoid sending the hailstorm.'
Having gathered together the ritual objects, I charged some sesame seeds with magical power and brought them along. Arriving in the province of Dol, I set to work and prepared to bring on the hailstorm.
At Yehpo I stayed at the house of an old woman and made myself a shelter nearby. The storm gathered quickly. The thunder rumbled. Dark clouds piled up, one by one, then two by two, and the hail stones began to fall.
The old woman cried out, 'When my crops are struck by hail, what will I have to eat?' And she wept.
I said to myself, 'What I am doing is criminal.' And to the old woman, 'Quickly, draw the shape of your field.'
It is like this.'
She drew an elongated triangle, which I reproduced. I formed my hand in the mudra(13) of watching and covered the triagle with a wide pan. The apex of the triangle, which protruded a little, was devastated by the wind.
I went out to verify the results with my own eyes. The mountain slopes behind the two villages were transformed into torrents. Only the field of the old woman remained intact and fertile. Nothing remained of all the other fields. The far end of the triangle which had been struck was carried away by the flood. I assured the old woman that from now on her field would always be protected and that she would have to pay the tithe for protection against hail storms. She would have to pay it only on the part that the flood had carried away.
I left. On the road I met two shepherds, an old man and a child, whose flock of sheep had been carried away by the flood.
I said to them, 'It is I who have done this. Do not steal from the monks of Lama Ngokpa anymore. If you steal from them again you will be struck by hail each time in the same way.'
They reported these threats and the two provinces respectfully paid homage to the lama. Intending to become his faithful followers, they offered him their services.
At the edge of a thicket, I found many small dead birds. All along the way I gathered up the bodies of birds and rats. I filled the hood and the lap of my rain cloak with them and when I returned to the lama I heaped them all up at his feet.
Lama Rimpoche, I came here for the holy religion but in truth I have only sinned. Have compassion on me, a great sinner.' Speaking thus, I wept.
The lama answered, 'Brother Great Magician, have no fear. We, the disciples of Naropa and Maitreya(14), know the secret formula called "Driving away a hundred birds with a single slingshot," 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, thanks to me, 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. I thought, 'I have seen a real Buddha. Thus how much better it would be, how much better, if many creatures were to die in this way.'
Then the lama gave me initiation into the mandala of Hevajra. After he had given me this teaching, I moved into an abandoned cave on a steep cliff, facing south, from which the lama's home could be seen. I walled myself in, leaving a small opening through which the lama instructed me. I meditated without respite. But because I had left Marpa without his permission, I had no inner experience.
One day the lama said to me, 'Brother Great Magician, have you experienced any inner signs?'
'What are you saying? Unless my spiritual lineage has become polluted with disharmony, it has the power to bring about an awakening quickly. You have come to me in good faith. But if you did not have the permission of Lama Marpa to leave, why did he send gifts to me? What is going on here? Whatever it is, persevere in your meditation.'
I remained, full of fear. I wondered whether to tell the whole truth. But lacking the courage to speak, I thought, 'In any case Marpa is sure to hear of it.' And I plunged into meditation.
Meanwhile Marpa had completed his son's tower and he sent a letter to Ngokpa: Now that my son's tower has reached a point where it needs a wooden frieze, send me as many loads of thin cane as you can(15). When I have set the frieze and the pinnacle you should come for the consecration of the tower, and also to celebrate the coming of age of Doday Bum (Marpa's son). Bring with you a certain evil-doer who belongs to me.'
Lama Ngokpa came to the small opening of my cell and, showing me the letter, said to me, 'It is just as this letter states. The evil-doer of whom this letter speaks was not sent by Marpa.'
I replied, 'It is true that the order did not come from the lama himself. It is the lama's wife who gave me the letter and the gifts and sent me here.'
'Ah ha! If that is the way it is, we have no reason for working together. Without the lama's permission you will not achieve results. There is nothing to be done. He said to bring you back. Will you or will you not go?'
'May I go with you as a servant?'
'Good. When I have sent the wood for the frieze, I will send someone to find out the day of celebration. Until then, stay in seclusion.'
The one who had gone to verify the day of the celebration returned and, through the opening of my cell, said, 'The ceremony for the consecration of the tower and the coming of age of Marpa's son have been discussed in detail.'
'Did they speak of me?'
'Marpa's wife asked what you were doing. I told her you were in strict seclusion. She asked me what else you were doing besides that. I replied that you were living in a deserted place. She then said, "Maybe he missed this which left here. When he was with us he used to be very fond of it. Give it to him." This is what she gave me.'
Loosening his belt, he drew out a clay die and handed it to me. Thinking that this object came from the hands of the lama's wife, I touched it to my forehead with veneration.
The man went away. As I was in a mood to play with the die, I played. Then I thought, 'When I was with Marpa's wife I never played dice. Perhaps now she does not have much affection for me. It was dice which long ago drove my ancestors from their homeland.' And swinging it above my head I threw the die. It broke and out of it fell a roll of paper which read, 'Now the lama will initiate you and give you the teaching. Return with Lama Ngokpa.'
So great was my joy that I danced, leaping from one side of my cell to the other. Then Lama Ngokpa came and said to me, 'Good Great Magician, come out and prepare to leave.'
I obeyed. 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 me 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.
When we were ready to leave, he said to me, 'Since you have been helpful to me, take this silk and this turquoise as an offering to Lama Marpa.' His wife also gave me a bag of cheese to offer to Dakmema, the wife of Lama Marpa.
Then Lama Ngokpa, with his wife, retinue of servants, and my self, arrived at the bottom of the Valley of the Birches. Ngokpa said, 'Brother Great Magician, go ahead of us and tell Marpa's wife that we are coming. See if she will send us some beer.'
I went on ahead. First I met the lama's wife. I greeted her and offered her the bag of cheese.
Lama Ngokpa is coming,' I said. 'Please bring some beer to welcome him.'
Joyfully she responded, 'The lama is in his room. Go and ask him yourself.'
I went. The lama was on his terrace making his devotions, his face turned toward the east. I prostrated myself and offered him the silk and the turquoise. He turned his head away and looked toward the west. I went to this side and prostrated myself again. He looked toward the south.
'O Master,' I cried, 'it is right that as punishment you reject my offerings. But Lama Ngokpa is arriving with his collection of images, scriptures, stupas, gold, and turquoise, with his dzos, his horses, and all his wealth. He only hopes that someone is going to receive him with a little beer. That is why I am asking it of you.'
Bursting with anger, snapping his fingers, the lama shouted in a terrible voice, 'From three collections of sacred books in India I extracted the essence of the four Tantras. When I brought back the teaching, no one came to greet me, not even a little bird. And because Ngokpa is arriving, pushing a few debilitated beasts in front of him, he wishes that I, the great Lotsava(16), should go to meet him. I shall not go and now get out!'
I went to tell all this to the lama's wife. She said, 'The lama answered in anger. Ngokpa is a great man and should be met. Let us both go, mother and son.'
I answered, 'Lama Ngokpa and his wife do not expect anyone to go and meet them. They have asked for something to drink so I will go alone and carry it.'
But the lama's wife went to greet them together with some monks carrying a quantity of beer.
Meanwhile, many people of the Southern Cliffs had gathered together, having been invited to a great feast for the coming of age of the lama's son and the consecration of the house.
And Marpa, in their midst, sang this chant of prise and thanksgiving:
I call upon my Master, the Compassianate One;
Excellence abounds in this precious lineage of mine, unstined by flaw or deficiency.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in the rapid path of secret transmission,
Without error or deception.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in Marpa Lotsava
Guarding the essence of these secrets.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in lamas, yidams, and dakinis
Possessing the power of blessing and of aiding true realizaion.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in the spiritual sons and disciples assembled,
In your faith and in your vows.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in benefactors far and near,
Accumulating merits through their generosity.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in all our actions and endeavors
Achieving enlightenment for the good of others.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in gods and demi-gods of the visible world
Remaining faithful to their sacred pledges.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Excellence abounds in monks and lay people assembled in this place
In their aspiration for peace and happiness.
May all be blessed through this excellence.
Thus chanted Marpa. Immediately afterward,
the Lama Ngokpa offered him his gifts, saying, 'Lama Rimpoche, 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.
Marpa, appearing joyful, 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.'
All those present burst into laughter, and Ngokpa replied, If the goat is brought here and I offer it to you, will you reveal the secret teaching to me?'
'If you bring the goat yourself, and offer it to me, you may have the teaching.'
On the following day, the guests having withdrawn, Ngokpa set out alone.
He returned with 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.
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 rised his eyes. Furiously, Marpa pointed his finger at me and asked, 'Where did you get these objects?'
My heart agonized as though it had been torn out. I was mute with terror. In a trembling voice I confessed that the mother had given them to me.
The lama jumped up and brandishing the acacia stick went out to beat his wife. Having been listening attentively, she got up and ran away.
Taking refuge in the temple, she locked herself in.
The lama shook the door, then returned and sat down. He said to Ngokpa, 'Ngokton Chodor, you acted without my permission. Go this moment and get the jewels of Naropa and his rosary of rubies.'
Then Marpa covered his head with his cloak and remained motionless.
Having prostrated himself, Ngokpa immediately left to fetch Naropa's jewels and his rosary of rubies. I regretted not having fled with the lama's wife.
I felt like crying and, as I tried to hold back my tears, Ngokpa saw me. I asked to go with him as a servant. He replied, 'If I take you away without the lama's permission, it will always be the same thing as today. Since he is angry with us both, stay here for a while. If later he sends you away without having accepted you as a disciple, then I will have full power to help you.'
'Well then, since Marpa's wife and you are both in trouble because of my sins, and since with this present body I will not receive the Doctrine but only accumulate more sins, I am going to kill myself. May I be reborn with a body worthy of religion!'
As I was about to kill myself, Ngokpa restrained me. And with tears, said to me, 'Worthy Great Magician, not that! According to the most secret teachings of the Buddha, the faculties and the senses of each of us are innately divine. If you die before your time, you commit the sin of killing a god. That is why suicide is such a great crime. Even in the exoteric tradition of the Sutras there is no greater sin than to cut off one's own life. Since you know this, give up the idea of killing yourself. It is still possible that the lama will give you the teaching. But if he does not, another lama surely will.'
While he was speaking in this way, some of the other monks, not being able to bear my misfortune, went up to the lama to see if the moment had come to intercede for me; others came to comfort me. In spite of that, filled with anguish, I thought, 'Is my heart made of iron? For if it were not, it would have burst and I would be dead.'
It is because of the crimes committed in my youth that I endured such suffering while seeking religion. At this moment, there was no one who was not sobbing tearfully. Some of them were overcome by grief and fainted.
Thus spoke Milarepa. This is the second chapter, wherein Mila is purified of the stain of sin and suffering.
1. Yidam Chakrasamvara. Yidam is the generic term. Chakrasamvara is a particular yidam belonging to the order of Mother tantra. The theory and practice of self-transformation associated with this yidam deal mainly with the development of transcendent wisdom and with the realization of primal awareness, described as the emptiness of luminous clarity. However, it does not exclude the discipline for attaining to the Sambhogakaya form, which is the main practice according to Guhyasamaja as described in Note 2, below.
2. Guhyasamaja. One of the yidams, according to Anuttara Tantra. Guhyasamaja is Dharmakayas manifestation unifying in himself the attributes of all Buddhas. The theory and practice of self-transformation associated with this yidam deal primarily with the development of boundless compassion as a motive force and with skillful transmutations of the psychophysical aggregates, and particularly their hidden energies, into the Sambhogakaya form. This yidam belongs to the order of Father tantra. There exist different forms of Guhyasamaja.
3. The Dharma. Dharma refers to two sets of principles for spiritual perfection. First: the teachings embodied in the Three Containers (Tripitaka) and the practice of self-transformation by means of perfect ethics, perfect contemplation, and perfect wisdom. In Mahayana Buddhism all these are condensed into one single principle, namely Bodhichitta Enlightened Mind the joint development of boundless compassion and transcendent wisdom. Second: the term Dharma refers to the metaphysical standpoint of Buddhism regarding the relative and absolute nature of reality.
4. Twenty-four mortifications. This refers to the ordeals Naropa underwent during his spiritual quest under the Lama Tilopa. These are described in The Life and Teachings of Naropa, trans. By Herbert V. Guenther, Oxford, 1975
5. Dorje Pahgmo. Vajravarahi in Sanskrit. The name of a dakini and a form of meditation practice.
6. Hevajra. One of the yidams according to Anuttara Tantra. The Teaching of this order belongs to the Non-dual tradition (meaning neither exclusively Father nor Mother tantras). It combines the elements of both the Father and Mother tantras. This is a practical sense means combining the two essential practices, namely, the transformation of the earthly body into the Sambhogakaya level and the realization of the inborn emptiness of awareness.
*Lama Ngokpa is another form of the name Ngokton Chodor of Shung.
7. Eight Thousand Stanzas. Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita.
8. Taktugnu. This refers ro a Bodhisattva who went through inconceivably numerous ordeals in search of the Dharma. There is a life of Taktugnu in Tibetan.
9. Kagyu refers to the teachings from which the Kagyupa Order derived its name.
10. The Two Divisions refers to the main divisions of Hevajra Tantra.
11. Good omen. In all Tibetan literature, when an unexpected arrival interrupts a reading or a recitation, the last words pronounced are considered significant in relation to the destiny of the newcomer.
12. Udumbara. According to Tibetan literature, a very rare lotus of fabulous color, immense size, and unmatched fragrance.
13. Mudra. Mudras are symbolic gestures of the hand or postures of the body which form part of the esoteric practice.
14. Maitreya. Maitreya was as Indian Buddhist teacher from whom Marpa, in the course of his journey to India, received the esoteric teaching of Mahamudra. Marpa transmitted this teaching to Milarepa, who passed it down to Gampopa, Retchungpa, and so on, until it reached the teachers of the present time.
15. Religious structures are crowned with a brown frieze of tamarisk twigs set on edge and cut close to the wall like a brush.
16. Lotsava is a general term meaning translator of the Texts of the Dharma.
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