Part II Chapter 5 - The Parting from the Guru
Then Retchung asked, ‘Master, what circumstances led you to leave Marpa? Lama Marpa asked you to live near him for a few years. How long did you stay?’ 

The Master replied: 
I did no stay there many years. Certain circumstances lead me to visit my village. While in seclusion I did not normally fall asleep but early one morning I dozed off and had this dream: I had come to my village of Kya Ngatsa. My house, Four Columns and Eight Beams, was cracked like the ears of an old donkey. The rain had leaked throughout the house and had damaged the sacred books, Castle of Jewels (1). My field, Fertile Triangle, was overrun with weeds. My mother and my relatives were dead. My sister had left to wander and beg. Because our relatives had risen up as enemies against mother and son, I had, from my youth, been separated from my mother and had not seen her again. This thought caused me immense pain. I called to my mother and sister by name and wept. I awoke and my pillow was wet with tears. 

I became thoughtful and evoked the memory of my mother. I shed many tears and resolved to do everything necessary to see her again. Then day broke. I tore down the door of my cell and went to see the lama. He was asleep. I approached him, and bowing humbly at the head of his bed, I sang this song: 

          ‘O Master, Buddha Immutable, 
          Send this poor mendicant to his homeland 
          In the valley of Kya Ngatsa. 
          Mother and children, hated by our relatives, 
          We have been separated for years. 
          My love can no longer endure the separation. 
          Let me see my mother just once more and I will return without delay.’ 

Such was my request. The lama awoke. At that moment the sun rose and through the window its rays fell on his head. At the same time the lama’s wife entered, bringing his morning meal. The lama spoke. 

‘My son, why have you so suddenly broken the strict seclusion of your retreat? It might engender inner obstacles and open the way to Mara. (2) Go back and remain in your solitude.’ 

Once more I told him about my dream and implored him: 

          ‘O Compassionate Master, Buddha Immutable, 
          Send this poor mendicant to his homeland. 
          In my village of Kya Ngatsa, 
          Nothing is left of my possessions, 
          Yet there is much to make me fearful. 
          I wish to see in my house, Four Columns and Eight Beams, 
          Is in ruins or still standing; 
          To see if rain now falls drop by drop 
          On the sacred texts, Castle of Jewels; 
          To see if the rich field, Fertile Triangle, 
          Is overrun by weeds; 
          To see if the mortal body of my old mother 
          Is now in good health; 
          To see if my sister, Peta Happy Protectress, 
          Is now a wandering beggar; 
          To see if Zessay, bound to me by karmic link, 
          Can now be wed to someone else; 
          To see if my maternal uncle and neighbor, Yung the Victorious, 
          Is still alive; 
          To see if my aunt, Demoness who Equals Tigers, 
          Is dead or alive; 
          To see if the family priest, Konchok Lhabum, 
          Is still there. 
          But above all it is my mother,  
          Who begat me, body and mind, 
          For whom my longing is unbearable. 
          Let me go just once to my homeland, 
          And I shall quickly return to you.’ 

I prayed thus and the lama answered: 
‘What are you saying, my son? When you first came to me you declared that you were no longer attached, either to your homeland or to your neighbors. Now you want quite a few things. If you go to your village it is not certain that you will see your mother. As for others, I do nor know if they are there. You have passed several years in the region of U and Tsang, and a number of years here with me. If you wish to leave, I shall let you go. But if you count on returning, know that your coming here to make your request and finding me asleep foretells that we shall not see each other again in this life. 

‘However, the sun rising in space foretells that you will make the Buddha’s teaching shine as splendidly as the sun. Most important of all, the rays of the sun striking my head foretells that the Kagyu Teaching will be spread far and wide. The arrival of the mistress bringing the meal signifies that you will be nourished by spiritual food. Now, it is only for me to let you go. Dakmena, prepare a special offering.’ 

The lama set up the mandala and the mother arranged the offerings. The lama bestowed upon me by meals of esoteric symbolism the Initiation of the Path of Awakening according to the most secret oral transmission of the dakinis and also gave me the complete instruction of the path of Enlightenment. There are transmitted from one teacher to one disciple only and therefore remain unknown to others. Then the lama said: 

‘In truth, these instructions were given me by the Master Naropa, who commanded that they be transmitted to you. And you in turn must pass on this oral transmission to one of your closest disciples, designated by the dakinis, placing him under pledge of maintaining the single line of transmission which must continue for thirteen generations. If you give away these instructions in return for food, riches, or simply to please others, you will incur the wrath of the dakinis. Keep them in your heart, and practice them yourself. If there comes to you a predestined disciple, even if he has no gifts to offer, bind him to you by initiation and instruction in order to preserve the teaching. To impose trials on a disciple, as Tilopa did on Naropa, or as I did on you, will be profitless for undeveloped minds. Give the teachings with discernment. 

‘However, in India there are nine other forms of oral transmission of the invisible dakinis which are not so restrictive as the one-to-one transmission between master and disciple. Of these I have given you four.

Concerning the five others, someone of our lineage should go and ask for them from the descendants of Naropa. They will be profitable to sentient beings. Learn them as well as you can. 

‘If you think that you have not received my whole teaching because you had few gifts to offer me, know that I am not concerned with gifts. It is the offering of your endeavor toward realization and your zeal that have brought joy to me. Be ardent and raise the banner of perfection. 

‘Among the instructions of the Venerable Naropa, there is the secret oral transmission of the dakinis which none of the other great disciples has received. I have given it all to you as though pouring it from a full pitcher.’ 

My Master swore by the yidam that his teachings were not false and his instructions not incomplete. Having taken this oath, Marpa sang: 

          ‘I prostrate myself before you who are full of compassion, and pray. 
          Contemplating the lives of the Masters, one sees that 
          Even a desire for more instruction is a distraction. 
          Keep the essence of the teaching safe in your heart. 
          Too many explanations without the essence 
          Is like many trees without fruit. 
          Though they are all knowledge, they are not ultimate truth. 
          To know them all is not the knowing of truth. 
          Too much elucidation brings no spiritual benefit. 
          That which benefit the heart is out sacred treasure. 
          If you wish to be rich, concentrate on this. 
          The Dharma is the skillful means for overcoming mental defilement. 
          If you wish to be secure, concentrate on it. 
          A mind that is free from attachment is the Master of Contentment. 
          If you want a good master, concentrate on this. 
          The worldly life causes tears; abandon laziness. 
          A rocky cave in the wilderness was the home of your spiritual Farther. 
          A deserted and solitary place is a divine abode. 
          Mind riding upon mind is a tireless horse. 
          Your own body is a sanctuary and celestial mansion. 
          Undistracted meditation and action is the best of all medicines. 
          To you who have the true aim of Enlightenment 
          I have given instruction without concealment. 
          Myself, my instruction, and yourself, 
          The three are placed in your hand, my son. 
          May they prosper as leaves, branches, and fruit, 
          Without rotting, scattering, or withering.’ 

Thus he sang. Then, placing his hands on my head, he said, ‘Son, your departure breaks my heart. Impermanence is the mark of all composite things, we can do nothing about it. Yet you stay here for a few days. Ponder on the instructions and if you have some uncertainties, clarify them.’ 

And so I stayed several days in accordance with the lama’s orders and clarified my confusions and doubts concerning the instructions. Then the lama said, ‘Mistress, prepare a sacred feast with the finest of offerings. Now Mila is on the point of leaving and I must bid him farewell.’ 

The mother offered a sacrifice to the lama and the yidam, made offerings to the dakinis and quardian deities, and prepared a special feast for the brotherhood of initiates. In our midst, the lama showed the forms of Yidam Hevajra, of Chakrasamvara, of Guhyasamaja, and others: the symbols of the vajra and handbell, the precious wheel, the lotus, the sword, and other symbols; the three letters Om, Ah, and Hum (3) – white, red, and blue – and all the visible and invisible spheres of light. 

Then he said, ‘There are miraculous psychophysical transformations. To display them casually server little purpose. I have shown them on the occasion of Milarepa’s departure.’ 

Having seen the lama as a Living Buddha, I was filled with great joy. I thought that I also would try to achieve such miraculous power through my meditation. 

The lama asked me, ‘Son, have you seen and do you believe in these transformations?’ 

‘I am so overwhelmed that I could not but believe. I thought that I should try to be able to do likewise through meditation.’ 

‘Well, if that is so, son, you may now leave. Since I have identified all things with illusion, practice accordingly. Take refuge in the solitude of the barred mountains, the snows, or the forests. In the solitude of the mountains there is Gyalgyi Sri (Glorious Victory) of Lato, which has been blessed by the greatest saints of India. Go there to meditate. There is Mount Tisi (4), which the Buddha spoke of as Ganchen (Snowy Mountain) and which is the palace of the Yidam Chakrasamvara. Go there to meditate. There is Lachi Gangra, which is the Gandavari, one of the twenty-four sacred regions. Go there to meditate. There is the Riwo Palbar of Mangyul and the Yolmo Gangra of Nepal, which are the holy places prophesied in the Mahayana Sutras. Go there to meditate. There is Drin Chuwar, dwelling place of the dakinis who protect the region. Go there to meditate. 

‘Meditate in every other favorable solitary place. Raise a banner of meditation in each. 

‘Adjacent to each other in the east there remain the great sacred places, Devikoti and Tsari. The time to open them has not yet come. In the future your spiritual descendants will establish themselves there. But you, yourself, go first and meditate in these foreordained sacred places. If you meditate, you will serve your lama, you will show your gratitude to you father and mother, and you will achieve the aims of all sentient beings. If you cannot meditate, there will only be an increase in evil actions during a long life. For this reason, devote yourself to meditation, wholly rejecting the bonds of passion of this life, and abandon association with pleasure-seeking people.’ 

As he said these words, his eyes overflowed with tears. ‘We, father and son, will not see each other again in this life. I will not forget you. Neither will you forget me. And so, rejoice that in the Beyond, we will doubtless meet in the Realm of the Dakinis. (5) One day in your practice of a certain exercise you will encounter an obstacle. When that time comes, look at this which I now give you. Do not look it before.’ And the lama gave me a scroll of paper sealed with wax. 

I imprinted in my heart there last encouraging words of the lama. Later, the memory of each of them strengthened my devotion. 

Finally, the lama said, ‘Mistress, prepare for the departure of Mila Vajra Banner-of-Victory tomorrow morning. Even though the occasion will be sad, I wish to accompany him.’ And to me he said, ‘Come and sleep near me this evening. Father and son will have one more talk.’ And so I slept near the lama. When the mother came in she was weeping and lamenting. 

The lama said to her, ‘Dakmema, why do you weep? Because Mila has obtained the instructions of the oral tradition from his lama and because he is going to meditate in the barren mountains? Is that any reason for tears? A true cause for tears is the thought that all sentient being who are potential Buddhas are still not aware of it and die in misery; and what is especially a cause for tears is the thought that once they have reached the human condition, they still die without Dharma. If it is for this you cry, you should cry unceasingly.’ 

The mother replied, ‘All that is very true. But it is difficult to fell such compassion unceasingly. My own son, who achieved wisdom and the understanding of samsara and nirvana and who would have fulfilled the aim of himself and others, has been separated from us by death. Now this son, full of faith, fervor, wisdom, and compassion, who obeyed everything that was required of him, absolutely without fault, will leave us while still living. This is why I do not have the strength to bear my grief.’ 

Having thus spoken, she redoubled her lamentations. As for me, I was choked with sobs. The lama himself shed tears. Master and disciple alike suffered in our mutual affection and our tears stopped all words. 

The dawn of the next day appeared. Bringing ample provision, the Master, with about thirteen disciples, accompanied me for half a day’s journey. All this time they walked with the sadness of loving hearts, speaking words of affection and showing signs of love. 

Then at a mountain pass from where the Ridge of Religion could be seen, we sat down to take part in a ritual feast. And the lama, taking my hand in his, said, 

‘My son, you are going into U and Tsang. At Silma Pass in Tsang there is a strong chance of meeting brigands. I had thought of not letting you leave without a good companion, but the time has come when you must go alone. Now I invoke my lama and yidam and command the dakinis to keep my son from harm on the way. For your part, it is important that you take care during the journey. Go from here to Lama Ngokpa. Compare your instructions and see if there are any differences. After that, set out quickly. Do not stay more than seven days in your own district, and go immediately into solitude. It is for your own good and for that of all sentient beings.’ 

On leaving I offered the lama this Song of Departure for Tsang: 

          ‘O Master Buddha Vajradhara, the Immutable One. 
          For the first time I go to Tsang as a beggar. 
          For the first time I go to my homeland as a mere seeker. 
          By the grace of my father and compassionate lama, 
          At the summit of Silma Pass in Tsang, 
          The twelve dakinis of the mountain will come to meet me. 
          I invoke the Master, the Blessed One. 
          I put my confidence in the Three Jewels. 
          My escorts are the dakinis of the stages of the Path. (6) 
          I go with enlightened attitude as a companion. 
          Eight armies of gods and their followers will welcome me. 
          I have nothing to fear from a hostile enemy. 
          Even so, it is to you I turn, 
          I beg you to meet and guide me in this life and the next. 
          Turn all danger away from me. 
          Protect my body, speech, and mind. 
          Bring about the realization of my vows. 
          Initiate me into the power of compassion, 
          Strengthen me in knowledge of the Tantra and in transmitting it. 
          Grant me a long life devoid of illness. 
          You who know the joys and sorrows of this mendicant, 
          Bless me that I may have the strength 
          To live in solitude in the mountains.’ 

Thus I prayed and the lama answered, ‘My son, it shall be so. Kepp in your memory the last words coming from your old father's heart. Do not forget them.’ 

Then, having placed his hand on my head, he sang this song: 

          ‘Salutation to all Venerable Lamas, 
          May my fortunate son, seeker of the Dharma, attain to the Dharmakaya. 
          Through the indestructible, silent voice of mantra with its nectar-like flavor, 
          May you attain Sambhogakaya. 
          May the tree of you enlightened mind, with its root in human awareness, 
          Be covered with the leaves of Nirmanakaya. 
          May the adamantine words of your lama 
          Live in your heart, never to be forgotten. 
          May the blessing of the yidams and dakinis 
          Penetrate to the very roots of your life. 
          May the guardian deities of religion 
          Ceaselessly watch over you. 
          May this profound and auspicious prayer 
          Be quickly realized. 
          May the compassion of all seekers 
          Sustain you in the past, present, and future. 
          On Silma Pass in Tsang 
          The twelve goddesses (7) will come to meet you. 
          Tomorrow, on your way, 
          The dakas and dakinis will urge you onward. 
          In the beloved field and house of your homeland 
          Is the guru of ephemeral illusion. 
          In your aunt, your sister, and relatives 
          You have a master who dissolves illusion. 
          In the wilderness cave 
          You have an open market you can barter samsara for nirvana. 
          In the monastery of your heart and body 
          You have a temple where all Buddhas unite. 
          From the offerings of fresh food 
          You will make nectar pleasing to the dakinis. 
          By harnessing the vital centers of energy 
          You will harvest precious fruit. 
          In your village where people have little love for you 
          You will practice virtue without distraction. 
          In strict seclusion, without man or dog, 
          You will have the torch to quickly see the signs. 
          In the freedom of obtaining food without begging 
          Is the heavenly blessing of a peaceful heart. 
          In the crystal place of the gods 
          You will be witness to your own victory. 
          In practicing the supreme Dharma whole-heartedly 
          You will achieve the pure spiritual bond. 
          To help you carry out my instructions 
          You will have the treasure of Enlightenment. 
          In the sacred teachings which are the living heart of the dakinis 
          You will find the frontier between samsara and nirvana. 
          For the disciples of Marpa the Translator, 
          There will be may avenues of renown. 
          Thought the persevering heart of Milarepa 
          There will stand the pillar of the Buddha’s teaching. 
          May he who guards the pillar of the Dharma 
          Be blessed with a noble lineage. 
          May he be blessed by the Kagyu lamas. 
          May he be blessed by the excellent yidams. 
          May he be blessed by by Hevajra, Chakrasamvara, and Guhyasamaja. 
          May he be blessed by the sacred Dharma. 
          May he be blessed by the dakinis. 
          May he be blessed by the dakinis of the three stages of the Path. 
          May he be blessed by the guardian deities. 
          May he be blessed by dakini Dusolma. (8) 
          May he be blessed by good disciples. 
          May he fulfill the words of his lama. 
          May future disciples be blessed for all generations. 
          May all those blessings be constant and unchanged.’ 

‘Keep these words in your memory and practice without forgetting.’ Speaking thus, the lama expressed great joy. After that the mother gave me ample provisions, clothing and new boots. Then she said: 

‘My son, these things that I give you as an earthly farewell are only material things. Since it is the end of our reunion as mother and son in this live, I wish your departure to be joyous. I pray that in the Beyond we may be reunited in the Dakinis’ Realm of Ugyen. As a spiritual farewell, I ask you not to forget there words spoken from your mother’s heart.’ 

She gave me a kapala and a vase filled with ritual wine, and sang this song: 

          ‘I prostrate myself at the feet of the most gracious Marpa. 
          My son, who has the power of perseverance and endurance, 
          Who is gentle and steadfast in affection, 
          O most fortunate son, 
          Drink the nectar of the lama, a wine of perfect wisdom, 
          To your deepest satisfaction, 
          And then depart. 
          May we meet in the Pure Land of the Buddha 
          As friends reunited. 
          Without forgetting us, your farther and mother, 
          Call to us ceaselessly in your distress. 
          Depart after enjoying the teaching that feed the heart. 
          Eat your fill and assimilate them. 
          May we meet again in the Pure Land of the Buddha 
          As friends reunited. 
          Without forgetting your compassionate father and mother, 
          Remember their kindness and persevere in your practice. 
          Wear the cloak of the Dakinis’ deep breath, 
          Let it warm you on your journey. 
          May we meet again in the Pure Land of the Buddha 
          As friends reunited. 
          Without forgetting helpless sentient beings, 
          Let your mind settle in the path of enlightened awareness. 
          Engender an urge to bring about universal emancipation 
          And carry the burden of the Dharma 
          With a great strength as you depart. 
          May we meet again in the Pure Land of the Buddha 
          As friends reunited. 
          My son, I, fortunate Dakmema, 
          Speak to you from my heart. 
          Keep my words in your heart and do not forget them. 
          Your mother will remember you. 
          Mother and son, minds and hearts in harmony, 
          May we meet again in the Pure Land of the Buddha 
          As friends reunited. 
          May my prayer be fulfilled. 
          May you repay the kindness of your lama through the practice of the Dharma.’ 

Speaking thus, she shed many tears. And all those present wept and displayed their grief. As for me, I prostrated myself before the father and mother, touching my head to their feet. I asked for their blessing. I kept walking backward until I could no longer see the lama’s face. All those present tearfully watched me. I was reluctant to leave. At last, seeing that the lama and mother were out of sight, I set out and, after crossing a little valley, I looked back. The lama and his followers, still in the same place, seemed to form a brown mass in the distance. I wondered if I would ever return. Then I reflected, ‘I have finally obtained complete instruction. I will never again have anything to do with profane deeds. I need never separated from my lama, so long as I can visualize him in meditation above the crown of my head. I even have his promise that we will meet again in the Pure Land of the Buddha. Once I have seen the mother who bore me, body and mind, I may still return to the lama.’ 

This thought ended my sadness and I set out again. I arrived at the house of Lama Ngokpa. We compared our instructions, In explaining the Tantra, he was greater than I. In actual practice I was not far behind, but in the secret transmission of the dakinis I surpassed him. 

After paying respects, I left for my village. I arrived there in three days. (9) I was elated to realize I had the yogic powers that made this possible. 

Thus spoke Milarepa, This is the fifth chapter, wherein he masters all the general teachings; wherein, as urged by prophetic dreams, he obtains secret oral instructions transmitted from one master to one disciple; and wherein he leaves the lama to go to his own village. 

1. Castle of Jewels refers to the Maharatnakuta Sutra, a Mahayana sutra. The Maharatnakuta comprises six of the 104 volumes of the collected sutras in Tibetan known as Kagyur. 
2. Mara. Mara exists in four different aspects: (1) as inner delusion, (2) as the five aggregates of psychophysical existence which imprison man in the turning wheel of birth and death. (3) as the unfailing force of death, (4) as a demon in both an external and internal sense – as King Garab Ouangchuk of the Deceiving Heaven of Domination (Shentrul Aungjey), and as the power of inner egoistic attachment; both of these seek to seduce man into harmful action and distract him from beneficial pursuits. 
3. Om, Ah, and Hum. Om symbolizes the manifestation of enlightenment. Ah symbolizes the speech of enlightenment. Hum symbolizes the supreme knowledge. 
4. Mount Tisi. Mount Kailas. For Tibetans this is the sacred abode of Yidam Chakrasamvara and many immortal arhats, while for Hindus it is the realm of Shiva and his consort Uma. 
5. The Realm of the Dakinis. Besides the apparent meaning, the real meaning in the supreme state of Dharmakaya. 
6. The dakinis of the three stages of the Path. Those that dwell in three realms, viz., space, earth, and the subterranean realm. These dakas and dakinis, as invisible beings or as humans, have achieved the primary, higher, transformation or enlightenment. 
7. The twelve goddess. Twelve invisible dakinis who were said to have been subdued by Guru Padmasambhava at Palmo Palthang in Porong, West Tibet, and who were assigned by him to protect practicing initiates and yogins of the Vajrayana Order. 
8. Dusolma. A goddess in wrathful aspect whom Marpa recognized as the guardian of the Kagyu tradition.

9. I arrived in three days. In three days Milarepa made a journey which by natural means would have required several months. 

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