Part II Chapter 3 - The Initiation
Then Retchung spoke: ‘Master, how were you admitted as a disciple by the Lama Marpa?’ 

Mila continued: 

After the monks had gone back and forth many times between us, the lama broke his silence. His mind now being pacified, he sent for Dakmema, the mistress. Having been invited to come, she appeared before him. 

The lama asked her, ‘Where have Ngok Choku Dorje and the other monks gone?’ 

‘ln accordance with your order to bring back the jewels of Naropa and his rosary of rubies, Lama Ngokpa immediately set out to fetch them, and has now returned.’ 

She related in detail how Great Magician was imploring Ngokpa to help him and how Ngokpa was consoling him. Lama Marpa shed tears and said, ‘Disciples of the secret path must be such as these; indeed they are so. I have compassion for them. Summon all my disciples.’ 

A monk who was sent to invite Ngokpa said, ‘Now the lama is calm. He sent me to ask you to come.’ 

I exclaimed, ‘Happy are those with a good karma! As for me, a sinner, even though the lama is calm, I will not have the good fortune to see him. If I went, he would only curse me and beat me.’ 

Weeping, I stayed behind. Ngokpa, who stayed with me, said to the monk, ‘Go and tell the lama how it is with Great Magician. Ask if he should come before him. If I do not remain near him now, I fear this man may do something terrible.’ 

The monk related all these events to Marpa. Marpa replied, ‘In the past he would have been right. But today, I shall not do the same as before. Great Magician is to be the principal guest. Let the mistress go and fetch him!’ 

The mistress, both smiling and fearful, said to me, ‘Brother Great Magician, the lama now appears to be taking you as a disciple. He seems to be deeply moved by compassion. He said that you are the principal guest, and has sent me to fetch you. He has said no harsh words to me. Let us rejoice and go.’ 

I wondered if it were true, and, wrongly filled with apprehension, I went in. 

Then the lama spoke: 
‘If everything is carefully examined, not one of us is to be blamed. I have merely tested Great Magician to purify him of his sins. If the work on the tower had been intended for my own gain, I would have been gentle in the giving of orders. Therefore I was sincere. Being a woman, the mistress was also right not to be able to bear the situation, yet her excessive compassion in deceiving with the sacred objects and the forged letter was a serious indulgence. Ngokpa, you were right in the matter you have related. However, go now and bring me those sacred objects and afterward I will give them to you. Great Magician was burning with desire for religion, and he was right to use any means to obtain it. Ngokpa did not know that the mistress had sent someone under false pretenses. This is why he gave Great Magician initiation and instruction. Thus, I shall not look for a way to punish him. 

‘Although my anger rose like floodwater, it was not like worldly anger. However they may appear, my actions always come from religious considerations which, in essence, conform to the Path of Enlightenment. As for the rest of you who are not yet immersed in religion, do not let your faith be shaken. 

‘Had this son of mine completed nine great ordeals, his complete Enlightenment, without future rebirth, would have been achieved without leaving any bodily residue. Since, due to Dakmema's weakness, that did not take place, there will remain a faint stain of defilement with him. However, his great sins have been erased by his eight great afflictions of mind and by his numerous small agonies. Now, I receive you and will give you my teaching, which is as dear to me as my own heart. I will help you with provisions and let you meditate and be happy.’ 

As he was saying these words I wondered, ‘Is this a dream or am I awake? If it is a dream, I wish never to awaken.’ At this thought my happiness was boundless. Shedding tears of joy, I prostrated myself. The mistress, Ngokpa, and the others thought, ‘What skillful means and power the lama has when he wants to accept a disciple! The lama himself is a Living Buddha.’ And their faith grew still more. Out of love for me they all cheerfully prostrated themselves before the lama. 

At the end, all who had gathered joyfully participated in performing a ritual feast. On the evening of this day, at the very place where we had assembled, we set the offerings before the altar. Marpa said to me, “I ordain you with the common vow of liberation.’ And he cut off my hair. 

When my clothes had been changed to a monk’s robe, the lama said, ‘Your name, Mila Vajra Banner-of-Victory, was revealed to me by Naropa in a dream, even before you came here.’ 

He bound me by the layman’s vow and gave me the Bodhisattva precepts. Through meditation he consecrated the wine of inner offering in the skull-cup of libation(1). We all saw the wine bubbling with the light of the five colors. Marpa made an offering to his lama and to the yidam, then he drank. He handed me the cup and I drained it. 

The lama said, ‘This is a good omen. A mere taste of my wine of inner offering is in itself superior to receiving the complete initiation of any other lineage. Starting tomorrow, I shall confer on you the Initiation of Transformation according to the secret path.’ 

Then an elaborate mandala, Chakrasamvara(2), with sixty-two deities, was set up for the initiation. When giving the initiation he pointed to the mandala of colored powders. ‘This,’ he said, ‘is just a symbol of the mandala.

The real mandala is up there.’ He pointed to the sky and we clearly saw the Yidam Chakrasamvara surrounded by the dakas and dakinis of the twenty-four sacred realms, the thirty-two holy places, and the eight great places of cremation(3). At the same moment, and with one voice, the lama and the deities of the mandala above conferred upon me the initiatory name Pal Zhepa Dorje (Glorious Laughing Vajra). 

Giving me the recitation of the Tantra in full, the lama showed me in great detail the ways of practicing in accordance with the profound instruction. Then, placing his hands on my head, he said: ‘My son, from the very first moment, I knew you were a disciple capable of receiving the teaching. The night before you came here I learned from a dream that you were destined to serve the teaching of Buddha. The mistress, in a similar but even more remarkable dream, saw two women guardians of a stupa, indicating that the dakinis will protect the teaching of our lineage. In this way, my lama and the guardian deity sent you to me as a disciple. I went to meet you in the guise of a laborer(4). You drank all the beer I had given you. This beer and the work that you had finished signified that, in penetrating to the heart of the Doctrine, you will grasp the entire teaching. The copper pot you gave with the four handles signified the coming of my four great disciples. Its unblemished surface signified that your mind will become free from blemish and in your body you will have power over the bliss of the fire of Tummo(5). The empty pot symbolized the meagerness of your food during the time of your meditation in solitude. But in order to sow the seeds of your long life, of well-being for your many disciples, and of your filling your disciples with the sweetness of the teaching, I with my blessing filled the pot with butter from the altar lamps. I made it ring to signify your future renown. To purify you from the darkness of evil, I burdened you with the increasingly terrible work of the towers. 

‘Each time that I cruelly drove you out from the ranks of the disciples and overwhelmed you with grief, you had no bad thoughts against me. This signifies that your disciples will have first of all the zeal, perseverance, wisdom, and compassion necessary for every disciple. Next, not desiring the wealth of this life, they will endure meditation in the mountains through their ascetic discipline and energy. So finally, through inner experience, spiritual energy, wisdom, and compassion, they will all become perfect lamas. The transmission of this teaching will be like the waxing moon –so rejoice!’ 

All this he predicted. Encouraging us, he inspired us and gave us joy. This was the beginning of my happiness. 

Thus spoke Milarepa. This is the third chapter, in which he obtains initiation and instruction in the secret path. 

1. Skull-cup of libation. Kapala in Sanskrit. The libation cup made from the dome of a skull. 

2. Chakrasamvara mandala. Refers to the mandala representing the ‘temple-palace’ housing the conclave of sixty-two deities presided over by Chakrasamvara and the consort-dakini Vajravarahi. The temple-palace and its dwellers are equally symbolic of the highest reality, which the Buddha’s Dharmakaya is capable of projecting outward and which Lama Marpa also displayed through the action of Enlightened Mind when empowering Milarepa. 

3. The thirty-two holy places and the eight great places of cremation. The eight great wilderness crematoria or cemeteries, mentioned in many important tantric treatises, were believed to be located in various parts of the Indian subcontinent. They were chosen and hallowed by many practicing tantrics or yogins as places to exercise the perceptual transformations of abhorrent conditions and circumstances such as take place at the site of a crematorium. In Tibet, too, cemeteries were located in mountains where yogins would go at a certain stage of their practice. In the Tibetan tradition ‘the twenty-four holy lands’ and ‘the eight great wilderness cemeteries’ are sometimes referred to as ‘the thirty-two holy places’. They are said to have been hallowed by Buddha with his emanations in the form of Chakrasamvara and the conclave of deities. Today these places are considered to be the realms of invisible dakas and dakinis who support the practice of initiates. Buddhist Tantra considers the various sensitive parts of the human body as a microcosmic counterpart of the thirty-two holy places. 

4. I went to meet you in the guise of a laborer. Marpa has performed an act of respect without appearing to do so. Thus all the strange actions of this story have a hidden but very simple meaning. The father one goes to meet a visitor, the greater the honor. Marpa could not have shown a greater deference. 

5. Fire of Tummo. The term ‘Tummo’ means ‘she who terrifies egoistic forces.’ The syllable ‘tum’ implies heroic action as a skillful means, whereas ‘mo’ stands for supreme wisdom. The hidden fire of Tummo is aroused in Tsa-u-ma (the median nervous center) and in the various plexi in the spinal column by rechanneling the active energies of the two arteries of the central nervous system. This ‘fire’ is then used for harnessing the creative energy. This process ensures that purification of physical and physical elements is achieved simultaneously so that the sensation of supreme bliss is produced. Though this by itself is not the true object of seekers, it is nevertheless used as a means for achieving a complete self-transformation in a most effective way. The practitioner is to bring to bear upon this extraordinary experience his meditative perception of reality. Such perfection born of wisdom sees in this supreme bliss the emptiness of substance or self and indeed of all things and therewith is understood the unity of bliss and emptiness. 


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