Part II Chapter 7 - The Meditation in Solitude
Retchung asked, 'Master, where did you practice asceticism and meditation?' 

Milarepa continued: 
The next day, my tutor's son said to me. 'Take these provisions, and remember us in your meditation.' 

He gave me a sack of barley flour and some excellent dried meat. I withdrew to a good cave on the hill behind my house to meditate. As I was sparing with my provisions, my body began to weaken. Nevertheless, I was able to withstand several months of ardent meditation. 

When my provisions were exhausted and I had nothing left to eat, I felt I could not hold out much longer. 

I thought, 'I will beg for meat from the herdsmen in the highlands and for grain from the farmers in the valley. By carefully rationing my food, I will be able to continue my meditation.' And so I went to beg from the herdsmen. 
At the entrance to a tent, I called out, "Please give a hermit some food.' 

I had chanced upon the encampment of my aunt. As soon as she recognised me, she became furious and set her dogs on me. I defended myself with stones and staff. Then my aunt, seizing a tent pole, shouted at me, 'Disgraceful son of a noble father I Dishonor to your family! Destroyer-demon of your village! Why have you come here? Such a son - born to such a good father!' 

Speaking in this way, she threatened me. I drew back, but as I was starved and weak I tripped over a stone and fell into a pool of water. Although I was nearly dead, my aunt continued to curse me. I got up as best I could and, leaning on my staff, I sang this song to her: 

          "I prostrate myself at the feet of Marpa the Compasisionate. 
          In the evil land of Tsayi Koron, (1) 
          Mother children and we, were hated by our relatives. 
          We are scattered like beans with a stick. 
          Uncle and aunt, it is you who have scattered us. 
          Remember that! 
          While I wandered to the ends of the earth begging, 
          My mother was killed by the sword of poverty and sorrow. 
          My sister wandered away to beg for food and clothing. 
          As I had never stopped loving my mother and sister, 
          I returned to the prison of my homeland, 
          And found my beloved mother dead 
          And my unhappy sister wandering to the ends of the earth. 
          Sadness and bitterness overflowed in my breast. 
          With this suffering of mother and children, 
          O cousins, have you not plotted to overwhelm us with grief? 
          Yet it is this intolerable grief 
          Which has called me back to the religious life. 
          While cut off in a mountain retreat, and meditating 
          On the teachings of Marpa the Compassionate, 
          My body, though a mere illusion, was deprived of food. 
          Setting out to beg, 
          Like an insect dying at the opening to an anthill, 
          I found myself at the doorway of my aunt's tent. 
          She sent a ferocious dog to welcome me. 
          With weakened body I fought it off. 
          Her curses, evil words, and slander 
          Caused my heart to overflow with grief. 
          Armed with a tent pole, 
          She, rained blows upon my body, causing great pain and suffering, 
          And nearly deprived me of my precious life. 
          Although I have good cause for anger, 
          I shall fulfil the teachings of the lama. 
          O aunt, forget your anger, 
          And give me provisions for my retreat. 
          O noble Marpa, Merciful Lord, 
          Bless your disciple, and calm his anger.' 

Thus I sang these harmonious lamentations, which shamed even my aunt. Accompanied by a young girl, who was weeping, she went into their tent. 

The aunt sent the young girl to me with a pat of butter and a partly spoiled cake of cheese. I went to beg at the other tents where I knew none of the people, but everybody, knowing who I was, looked at me curiously and gave me bountiful alms. Carrying these offerings with me, I left quickly. 

I knew that my uncle would act in the same way as my aunt, and I thought to myself, 'I must avoid going in his direction.' But while asking for alms from the peasants in the valley of Tsa, I arrived at the door of the house where my uncle was living. 

Even though I looked like a decaying corpse, he recognized me, and shouted, 'Ah, you are just the one I wanted to see.' 

And he threw a murderous stone, nearly hitting me. 

As for me, I recognized my uncle and fled. He threw stones at me with all his strength, and I kept running. He then went for his bow and arrow. 

'Unnatural son! A disgrace to your family! Have you not brought about the ruin of your village?' And he shouted to the villagers, 'We have now got hold of our enemy. Come quickly.' 

With these words, he shot arrows at me. Some young men from the village also began to throw stones. I decided to threaten them with black magic, as I feared they might do something terrible to me because of my sorcery in the past. I cried out, 'Father Lamas of the Kagyii lineage! O you ocean of guardian deities, drinkers of blood! The Dharma-practicing hermit is surrounded by enemies. Come to my rescue.' And to the villagers I said, 'I may die, but my guardian deities are deathless.' 

Terrified, the men seized my uncle and stopped harassing me. The stone throwers asked for forgiveness. Each of the others brought an offering. Only my uncle refused to give anything. But, as my stay in the region would have aggravated their anger, I decided to leave. 

In the evening I had a dream foretelling a happy event if I were to remain for a few days. So I stayed, and Zessay learned of my arrival in the village. She came to see me, bringing provisions and some excellent beer. She embraced me and burst into tears. She told me how my mother had died and that my sister had become a wanderer. Overcome with grief, I too shed many tears. 

I said to her, 'Why, after all this time, have you not married?' 

She replied. They were afraid of your guardian deity, and no one would have me. If anyone had proposed, I would have refused. That you have taken up religion is astonishing. What are you going to do with your house and your field?' 

I understood her idea and I thought to myself. That I did not marry her is only by the grace of Marpa the Translator. From the worldly point of view I must tell Zessay that there is no hope of marriage with me, but from the religious point of view I shall say earnest prayers for her.' 

And I said to her, 'If I find my sister again, I will give her my house and my field. Meanwhile, make use of the field yourself. If it becomes known for certain that my sister is dead, you may keep the house and the field.' 

'But do you not want them yourself?' 

'In accordance with my ascetic practice, I will seek food as do the mice and birds, so I have no need of a field. My abode will be an empty cave; therefore I do not need a house. Even if one were Master of the Universe, at the moment of death one must give up everything. If one renounces everything now, one will be happy here and hereafter. That is why, quite the opposite of what others do, I have now given up everything and everybody. Do not expect me to be a man in the worldly sense.' 

She replied, 'So, your practice is opposed to that of other religious people?' 

'First of all, those who think only of worldly goals are content with studying a few religious books. They rejoice in their own success and in the failure of others. In the name of religion, they amass as much wealth and fame as they can. They take holy names and put on yellow robes. I turn away from them and always will. 

'But other devotees, if their minds and practice have not been so corrupted, are in agreement with me, no matter what robes they wear, and I cannot turn my back on them. I shun only those who do not follow the essence of the Dharma.' 

'I have never seen a religious devotee like you. You look even worse than a beggar. What kind of Mahayana is this?' 

'It is the best of all. It throws the Eight Worldly Reactions to the winds in order to realize Enlightenment in this lifetime. This appearance of mine conforms with that tradition.' 

Zessay replied, 'As you say, your way and theirs are quite opposite; one of them must be false. If they were both equally true, I would prefer their way to yours.' 

'I do not like what you worldly people like. Even those monks in yellow robes who follow the same path as I do see him not entirely free from the Eight Worldly Reactions. Even if they are free, there is an immeasurable difference in the time it takes to attain Enlightenment. This is what you do not understand. If you can, practice the Dharma. If you cannot, then go on living as you are and take possession of my house and field.' 

Zessay answered, 'I want neither your house nor your field. Give them to your sister. As for me, I shall practice the Dharma, but I cannot follow a path like yours.' Having said this, she went away. 

My aunt learned that I no longer had any use for my field and my house. A few days passed and she thought, 'Since he says that he will follow the instructions of his Master, I will see if I can get this field for myself.' 

She came to me, bringing barley flour, beer, and some dried meat. 'The other day I acted stupidly.' she said. 'But since: you are a holy man, you will forgive me. Now I, your aunt, will cultivate your field and bring you provisions.' 

I answered, 'Very well, aunt, bring me a sack of barley flour each month and keep the rest for yourself.' 

'I will do that.' 

For only two months she brought the barley flour to me as agreed. After that, she came to me on one occasion, and said, People say that if I cultivate the field, my nephew's guardian deities will cast evil spells upon us. But you would not let that happen,  would you?' 

I answered, 'Why should they do that, since it is beneficial for both of us that you cultivate the field and bring me my provisions?' 

'Very well, nephew, since it makes no difference to you, it will ease my mind if you take an oath.' I did not know, how she would feel about all this in the future, but I took the oath since to make others happy is the Dharma. Then she was happy and returned home. 

I made a serious effort to meditate, but I was completely unable even to attain the blissful experience of inner warmth and, while I was wondering what to do, I had this dream: I was plowing a strip of my field. The earth was hard and I asked myself if I should give it up. Then the venerable Marpa appeared in the sky and said to me, "My son, strengthen your will, have courage, and work; you will furrow the hard and dry earth.' 

Speaking in this way, Marpa guided me and I plowed my field. Immediately a thick and abundant harvest sprang up. I woke up full of joy, and I thought, 'Since dreams are nothing more than projections of hidden thoughts, not even fools believe they are real. I am more foolish than they are.' Even so, I took this dream to mean that if I persevered in my efforts in meditation I would attain a new quality of inner experience, and I sang this song to elucidate the meaning of my dream: 

          'I beg you. Compassionate Master, 
          Bless the mendicant that in solitude he may live. 
          I cultivate the field of fundamentally non-discriminatory mind 
          With the manure and water of faith, 
          And sow the seed of a pure heart. 
          The powerful thunder of my invocations reverberates, 
          And the rain of your blessings falls effortlessly. 
          Upon the oxen of a mind free from doubt 
          I put the yoke and plow of skilful means and wisdom. 
          Steadfastly I hold the reins without distraction. 
          Cracking the whip of effort, I break up the clods of the five poisons. 
          I cast away the stones of a defiled heart, 
          And weed out all hypocrisy. 
          I cut the stalks and reap the fruit of action 
          Leading to liberation. 
          I fill the granary with the fruit of excellent instructions, 
          Without the support of mental concepts. 
          This excellent grain, roasted and ground by the dakinis, 
          Is the hermit's food for inner growth. 
          This is the meaning of my dream. 
          Realization does not arise out of words. 
          Understanding does not come from mere suggestions. 
          I urge all those who work for Enlightenment 
          To meditate with perseverance and effort. 
          Endurance and effort overcome the greatest of difficulties. 
          May there be no obstacles for those who seek Enlightenment.' 

Having sung these words, I resolved to go and meditate at Horse Tooth White Rock. 
The same day, my aunt brought me three loads of barley flour, a worn-out fur coat, a garment of good linen, some dried meat, and some butter and fat. And she said to me: 'Here is the price of your field. Take it and go someplace where I will never see you or hear of you again. People are beginning to say, "After all the misery Good News has caused, now you are having dealings with him. Rather than let him kill the rest of us with his black magic, we will do away with both of you." That is why it would be good for you. my nephew, to go to another village. In any case, if you stay, they have no real reason for killing me. But as for you, nephew, they will not hesitate to kill you.' 

I knew very well that the people of the village had not said that. I thought to myself, 'What if I did not act according to the Dharma? In principle I have not taken an oath against casting spells on anyone who takes my field away from me. Moreover, particularly for a yogin, an oath is a dream without reality. There is nothing to prevent me from sending hailstorms the minute she turns her back. But such things I shall not do. For how can one practice patience if there is no one to be angry with ? If I were to die tonight, what would I do with my field and all this? 

'It is said that patience is the best means of attaining Bodhi [Enlightenment], My aunt is the support of my meditation. It is thanks to my uncle and my aunt that I have entered the path of liberation. As a token of my gratitude I will pray unceasingly for their Enlightenment. In this life I can give them not only my field, but also my house.' 

And, explaining my thought to my aunt, I said to her, "As I have no other means for attaining Enlightenment in this life except to follow the instructions of my lama, please take not only my field, but also my house.' And I sang this song: 

          'Venerable Lama, in your hands are the joys and sorrows 
          Of this mendicant whom you have guided into the mountain solitude. 
          For one tortured by the karma of universal samsara, 
          Defilement bursts the vital artery of liberation. 
          What human beings cultivate are evil deeds. 
          If indulged in, they will suffer the miseries of the lower realms. 
          Love of kith and kin is a citadel of demons. 
          Were I to build it, I would be sucked into a furnace. 
          If one accumulates food and wealth, 
          It becomes the possession of others. 
          Everything one accumulates 
          Becomes the property of one's enemies. 
          Tea and beer when craved are poisons. 
          If I drink them, I will burst the vital artery of liberation. 
          The price my aunt paid for my field is her avarice. 
          To have any part of it would cause me to be reborn among the hungry ghosts. 
          The words of my aunt are words of anger. 
          Were I to speak the same language, we would destroy one another. 
          Aunt, take my house and field. 
          Take them and may you be happy. 
          Through my devotion to the Dharma, you will be released from blame, 
          And I will make my way to the temple of ultimate truth. 
          It is through compassion that I overcome the demons. 
          Slander is thrown to the wind, and I turn toward higher aims. 
          O Gracious Lama, immutable in essence, 
          Bless this mendicant that he may fulfil his life in the mountain solitude.' 

After this song, my aunt replied, 'You, nephew, are a true and sincere seeker. That is marvellous! ' And she departed, full of joy. 

Disturbed by this event, I was overwhelmed by a terrible sadness. At the same time, I was happy and relieved to have disposed of my house and field. Once more I thought of going to meditate according to the dictates of my heart at the cave of Horse Tooth White Rock. Since I had consolidated my contemplative practice here in this cave where my aunt visited me, I called it Cave of the Foundation. 

The next morning, taking the payment for my field and some other small things which remained, I arrived at Horse Tooth White Rock without anyone knowing, and stayed there in a pleasant cave. 

I placed a small hard mat as a cushion for meditation and took up my abode. Then I made a vow not to descend to an inhabited place: 

          'So long as I have not attained the state of spiritual illumination, 
          I will not descend to enjoy alms, or offerings dedicated to 
          The dead, even if I die of hunger in this mountain solitude. 
          I will not descend for clothing even if I die of cold. 
          I will not indulge in worldly pleasures and distractions, 
          Even if I die of sadness. 
          I will not descend to seek medicine, even if I die of sickness. 
          Without allowing myself to be distracted in body, speech, and 
          Mind I will work to become Buddha. 
          O lama and yidam, bless me, that I may fulfil all these vows. 
          May the dakinis and guardian deities of the Dharma support me 
          With their power of action. 
          It is better to die than to live as a human being that breaks 
          Vows by not striving toward self-realization. 
          O Ocean of guardian deities, destroy my life instantly upon any violation. 
          O lama and yidani, bless me so that I may meet with religion 
          In my next life and be reborn in a human body capable of 
          Striving toward Buddha-hood.' 
Having made these vows, I sang this Song of Promises and Prayers: 
         'O Son of Lord Naropa, bless the mendicant so that he may 
          Achieve in solitude the path of liberation. 
          Shelter me from the distracting forces of Mara 
          And increase the depth of my meditation. 
          Without being attached to the lake of inner tranquillity, 
          May the flower of transcendent insight bloom within me. 
          Without arousing fleeting thoughts of discrimination, 
          May the leaves of my non-conceptual state spread. 
          Let not doubt inhabit my cell, 
          But may the fruit of awakening grow ripe. 
          Let not the Maras (2) dare to create obstacles. 
          May an absolute certainty arise in my mind. 
          Without hesitation on the path of skilful means 
          May the son follow in the footsteps of the father. 
          O Compassionate Lama, immutable in essence, 
          Bless the mendicant that he may attain perfection in the solitude of the mountains.' 

Having thus prayed, I sustained myself solely on thin soup with a little roasted barley flour, and began meditation. 
Even though a definite awareness arose in my mind concerning Mahamudra (the Great Symbol), I could not control my breath because of the weakening of my body; no blissful Fire of Tummo warmed me and I experienced intense cold. Then I invoked my lama with great concentration, and one night I perceived, in an inner state of lucidity, a multitude of women officiating at a sacrificial feast, who surrounded me and said, 'Marpa has sent us to tell you that if you do not feel the Fire of Tummo, you may use these methods of body, speech, and mind until the blissful warmth arises within you.' 

They demonstrated yogic postures. I sought physical bliss through the sitting position known as the six interwoven hearths. I sought control of vocal energy through the force of the vital element in air. I sought and meditated on mental harmony through the vital powers of the self-releasing snake's coil, and soon the Fire of Tummo began to spread through me. 

A year passed. 
Then I had a desire to go out and refresh myself. I prepared to leave. But I recalled my earlier vow and reminded myself with this song: 

          'O Marpa, Manifestation of Dorje-Chang, Upholder of Ultimate 
          Truth, Bless the mendicant so that he may complete his retreat in solitude. 
          Milarepa, O proud one, may this song be your reminder and your help. 
          You are cut off from companions and their pleasant talk. 
          Empty are the views of the valley you long to see. Nothing external can lift your heart. 
          Do not indulge in wandering thoughts, but let the mind be tranquil. 
          If you indulge, you will succumb to unwholesome thoughts. 
          Do not be distracted, do not be distracted, but attentive. 
          If you are inattentive, your devotion will be carried away by the wind. 
          Do not leave, do not leave, but stay where you are. 
          If you leave, your foot will stumble against a stone. 
          Do not seek pleasure, but control yourself. 
          Seeking pleasure will serve no purpose. 
          Do not sleep, do not sleep, but meditate. 
          If you sleep, the five poisons of corruption will overwhelm you.' 

Having thus scourged myself, I meditated without distinguishing night from day. The quality of my practice improved and three more years passed in this way. 

Each year I consumed one of my sacks of meal. And if I had had nothing else to sustain me, it would have been the end of my life. When men of the world, having found one-tenth of an ounce of gold, rejoice over it and then lose it, they despair. But that cannot be compared to dying without having attained Enlightenment. For a life which leads to Enlightenment is more precious than a billion worlds filled with gold. I thought, 'What shall I do? It is better to die than to break my vow. I shall not go down to the village. I will not break my vow. But since it is for a religious aim, I must find just enough food to sustain my life." 

I went out in front of the White Rock cave where the sun was warm and the water excellent. Here were many nettles - an open place with a distant view. Joyfully, I stayed there. 

Sustaining myself with nettles, I continued my meditation. Because I had no clothes on my body and no other nourishment whatever, my body, covered with greyish hair, became like a skeleton and my skin turned the colour of nettles. When this happened, I took the scroll that the lama had given me and placed it on my head. From that time, although I did not eat anything, my stomach felt full and there was the taste of food in my mouth. I was tempted to break the seal of the scroll to look at it. But an omen warned me not to open it yet. So I let it be. 

About a year passed. Some hunters from the market of Kirong who had had no luck hunting suddenly came to my cave. Upon seeing me, they cried, 'It is a ghost !' and they ran away. I called out to them that I was a man and a hermit. That is hard to believe.' they said, 'but let us see.' Returning, they rushed into the cave and demanded, 'Where is your food? Give it to us. Later we will return it in kind. If you refuse, we will kill you.' With these words, they threatened me. 

'I have nothing but nettles,' I told them. 'Lift me up and see. I have no fear of being robbed.' 'We will not rob you.' 

'What would happen if we were to lift up the hermit?' said one. 'It might bring us a blessing,' said another. One after the other lifted me up and dropped me down again. Although my body, disciplined by asceticism, was filled with pain, I felt a terrible and unbearable pity for them. I wept. 

One of the hunters, who had stood by without hurting me, said to the others, 'Wait! This man seems to be a real seeker. Even if he was not; you do not prove your manhood by harassing such a bag of bones. It is not his fault that we are hungry. Stop what you are doing.' And he said to me, 'You are a wonderful yogin. Since I have not tormented you, place me under the protection of your meditation.' 

The others said, 'And we who lifted you up, protect us also.' One of them said, 'Yes, but there are different kinds of protection, believe me.' He burst out laughing and left. 

Although I did not think of using sorcery, they eventually received retribution at the hands of my guardian deities. The regional chief punished the hunters. The leader was killed, and all the others had their eyes torn out, with the exception of the one who had said, 'Do not harm the hermit! ' 

After a year had passed and when all my clothes were worn out and the old fur coat given to me by my aunt in payment for my field was in tatters, I thought of sewing together the empty flour sack and the rags of my clothes to make a cushion. But I said to myself. 'If I were to die this evening, it would be wiser to meditate than to do this useless sewing.' Meanwhile, having given up the idea of sewing, I spread the tattered fur over my cushion and pulled up the edges of the fur to cover my lower body. The upper body I covered with pieces of the sack wherever it was necessary. When this cloth fell apart, I began to think that my renunciation was going too far and that I must sew it together. But there was neither needle nor thread. I knotted the three parts of the sack to cover the upper, middle, and lower parts of my body and fastened these with bits of jute rope. I wore this by day; by night I put the scraps of fur over my cushion for as long as they lasted. And in this fashion I passed another year meditating. 
The voices of many men were heard. Some hunters, laden with game, arrived at the entrance to my cave. Seeing me, they cried out, 'It's a ghost!' and the nearest one ran away. Those farther away said. There are no ghosts to be feared in the daytime. Take a good look. Is it still there?' 

Some old hunters came forward and they too became frightened. I explained to them at length that I was not a ghost but a hermit meditating in the mountains, and that lack of food was responsible for the condition of my body. 

'We shall see if it is true,' they said, and they went into the cave. There was nothing there but nettles. Deeply moved, they offered me a large supply of meat along with other provisions, and said, What you are doing is wondrous. Please save the creatures that we have killed, let them be reborn in the higher realms. As for us, wash away our sins.' 

Having spoken, they paid their respects and left. 'What good luck,' I said to myself joyfully. 'Now I can eat like a human being.' 

After I had eaten cooked meat, my body began to feel tranquil bliss. My health improved, my sensitivity was keener, and my practice was strengthened. I experienced a blissful state of emptiness as never before. I saw that the few gifts received in the mountain retreat were far more beneficial to me than a hundred offerings enjoyed in towns and villages. 

I ate the meat sparingly, but what I saved eventually became infested with maggots. I intended to eat it after picking them out, but then I thought to myself. This is neither my fate nor my right. It is not fair to rob the maggots of their food. I no longer want it.' I left the meat as food for them, and returned to my ascetic diet of nettles. 

One night a man came in search of food. He searched the entire cave. I burst out laughing and said, 'Just try to find something in the middle of the night, when I can find nothing even in broad day-light." 

Then also laughing, the man went away. 
Another year passed. One day some hunters from Tsa, not having shot any game, arrived at my cave. I was clothed in the sack gathered in three places by rope, and I was in deep meditation. At the sight of me, one of the hunters pointed at me with his arrow and said, 'Is it a man or a ghost ? Is it a scarecrow? Judging by its clothes, it appears to be a ghost.' 

I smiled and said, 'It is me, I am a man.' 

They recognized me by the gap in my teeth. 

'Are you Good News? ' 

'I am he.' 

'In that case, give us something to eat now. We will pay you back later. It has been many years since you came to the village. Have you been here all that time?' 

'I have been here all along. I have nothing good for you to eat.' 

'Give us what you eat yourself. That will be enough for us.' 

'Very well, make a fire and cook some nettles.' 

When they had made the fire and cooked the nettles, they asked for meat. 

I replied, 'If I had meat, my food would be nourishing. I have not had any for many years. Use more nettles instead.' 

Then we want bones.' 

'If I had bones, my food would not be so tasteless. I have done without them for years. Just use more nettles.' 

'But we cannot do without salt.' 

'Use the nettles as salt.' 

'It is certain that with such a way of eating and dressing you will never look normal. You are not a man. Even a servant eats his fill and wears warm clothing. There is no man on earth more miserable or pitiful than you.' 

'Please! Do not speak that way. I was born the most fortunate of men. I have met Lama Marpa of the Southern Cliffs. From him I obtained the instructions, which allow me to attain Buddha-hood in this life and with this body. By renouncing the world and meditating in this solitary mountain, I am trying to reach a goal in eternity. I have sacrificed food, clothing, and status, thereby destroying the enemies, passion and prejudice, in this very life. There is no worldly man braver or with higher aspirations than I. Although you were born in a country in which the teaching of the Buddha has been spread, you have not even the urge to listen to the Dharma, let alone meditate. There is no conduct more dangerous than piling up faults little by little, and handful by handful - it fills the depth and duration of hell. Now forever at peace, I shall have supreme bliss and from now on I am assured of happiness. Therefore, listen to my song.' And I sang to them this Song of the Five Happinesses: 

          ‘I prostrate myself at the feet of Marpa the Compassionate. 
          Bless my renunciation in this life. 
          Horse Tooth White Rock is the Fortress of the Middle Way. 
          At the summit of the Fortress of the Middle Way, 
          I, the cotton-clad Tibetan hermit, 
          Have renounced food and clothing in this life 
          To become a perfect Buddha. 
          I am happy with the hard cushion beneath me, 
          I am happy with the cotton cloth, which covers me, 
          I am happy with the cord of meditation which ties my knees, (3) 
          I am happy with this phantom body, neither starved nor satiated. 
          I am happy with my mind, which has gained insight into reality. 
          I am not unhappy; I am happy. 
          If it seems to you that I am happy, do as I have done. 
          If you do not have the good fortune to be religious, 
          Consider the true and lasting happiness 
          Of all beings, of you and of me, 
          And do not mistakenly pity me. 
          Now the sun is setting, 
          Return to your homes. 
          Since life is short and death strikes without warning, 
          I who strive toward Buddha-hood 
          Have no time for useless words. 
          Therefore, leave me to my contemplation.' 

The hunters replied, 'You have said many beautiful things. Certainly you have the gift of speech. But, however commendable your example may be, we cannot follow it.' And with these words they went away. 


Each year at Kya Ngatsa a great festival was held for the casting of figurines.(4) On this occasion, these hunters sang the Song of the Five Happinesses. My sister Peta, who was begging at the feast, heard the song. She cried out. 'Whoever spoke these words is a Buddha!" 

One of the hunters laughingly said, "Well, well, she is singing her brother's praises.' 

Another added, 'Whether your brother is a Buddha or an ordinary man, this is his song, and he is on the point of dying of starvation.' 

Peta replied, 'My father and mother died long ago. Our cousins turned against us. My brother wanders to the ends of the earth. I myself am a beggar and will never see him again, so I do not wish to make merry.' As she said these words, she wept. 

Zessay came up to her and said, 'Do not cry. Your brother is alive. I saw him some time ago. Go to Horse Tooth White Rock and see if he is there. If he is, then we will all be reunited.' 

Persuaded that this was so, Peta took a full jar of beer, which she had begged from door to door, and, with a small vessel filled with flour and mixed condiments, she arrived at Horse Tooth White Rock. She looked at me from the threshold. My body was wasted by asceticism. My eyes were sunk in their sockets. All my bones protruded. My fleshes were dried out and green. The skin covering my fleshless bones looked like wax. The hair on my body had become coarse and grey. From my head it streamed down in a frightening flood. My limbs were about to fall apart. 

At this sight, my sister, terrified, thought at first that I might be a ghost, but the words she had heard, 'Your brother is dying of starvation,' made her hesitate. 

'Are you a man or a ghost?' she asked. 

'I am Mila Good News.' 

She recognized my voice. She came in and embraced me. 'Brother, elder brother! ' She cried. And overcome with feeling, she fainted. 

I had recognized Peta. I was at the same time joyful and sad. I did my best to revive her. After a few moments she recovered consciousness. She placed her head on my knees and, covering her face with her hands, said between sobs, 'Our mother died of grief and loneliness for her son, and no one even came to bury her. I gave up all hope and left the house. I went to another province to beg. I wondered if you, too, were dead or, if alive, whether you had found some happiness. But look at you I Such is my brother's destiny! And such is the sister's suffering! There is no one on earth more wretched than we too, brother and sister.' 

She called to our mother and father by name, and she wept. All my attempts to comfort her were useless. Then I, also filled with sadness, sang this song to my sister: 

          'Obeisance to the venerable lamas. 
          Bless the mendicant that he may fulfil his task in solitude. 
          O sister, sentient being of the world, 
          All joys and pains are ephemeral. 
          But since you grieve in this way now, 
          I am certain that for you there exist a lasting happiness. 
          For this reason, listen to the song of your elder brother. 
          To give thanks due 
          To all sentient beings who are my parents, 
          I do religious work in this place. 
          This place is like a lair of savage beasts; 
          At the sight of it, others would be roused to indignation. 
          My food is like the food of dogs and swine; 
          At the sight of it, others would be moved to nausea. 
          My body is like a skeleton; 
          At the sight of it, a savage enemy would weep. 
          My behaviour appears to be that of a madman, 
          And my sister blushes with shame. 
          But my awareness is truly Buddha; 
          At the sight of it the Victorious One rejoices. 
          Even though my bones have pierced my flesh on this cold stone 
          Floor, I have persevered. 
          My body, inside and outside, has become like a nettle, 
          It will never lose its greenness. 
          In the solitary cave, in the wilderness, 
          The recluse knows much loneliness. 
          But my faithful heart never separates 
          From the Lama-Buddha of the Three Ages. 
          By the force of meditation arising from my efforts, 
          Without doubt I will achieve self-realization. 
          And when one has attained deeper experience and illumination, 
          Happiness comes of itself in this life 
          And Enlightenment in the next. 
          This is why I ask my sister Peta, 
          Instead of being overcome with frustration and sorrow, 
          To strive with perseverance toward the Dharma.' 

Peta answered me, "If this be so, your words are astonishing and it is difficult to believe that they are true. For if they are true, other followers of the Dharma would have practiced, partly if not fully, the same path, but I have never seen anyone so miserable as you.' 

Having spoken, she gave me the food and the beer, I ate and drank, and at that moment my mind became crystal clear. On that evening my practice was greatly enhanced. 

The next day, after the departure of Peta, my body, unaccustomed to such food, knew both ease and discomfort. As my mind began to wander between positive and negative thoughts, I meditated with all my strength, but obtained no results. 

Several days later, Zessay came to see me with Peta, bringing meat, butter, tsampa, and a great deal of beer. I had gone to look for water and met them. As I was naked, they blushed on seeing me, and they wept for my misery. They offered me the meat, butter, and flour, they poured the beer, and while I was drinking, Peta said, 'From whatever point of view one looks at my elder brother, one cannot call him a man. You should ask for alms and little by little eat the food that humans eat. I will give you what you need to make clothes.' 

Zessay said, 'Whatever you do about asking for food, I too will give you clothing.' 

I answered them, 'I do not know when I shall die, and I have neither time nor desire to go begging to obtain food. Were I to die of cold, I would have little regret since it would be for religion. I would not find satisfaction by indulging in food, drink, and laughter with relatives and friends gathered around me and by wearing fine clothes and having ample food obtained at the expense of my meditation. Therefore, I want neither your clothing nor your food. I will not listen to you nor will I go begging.' 

Peta answered, 'Well then, elder brother, what do you think will satisfy you? Is there nothing better than your misery? ' 

I answered. The three lower realms are infinitely more terrible than my misery. Many are the beings who seek such suffering. Here is how I shall attain happiness through fulfilment of my aim.' And I sang this Song on Fulfilment of My Aim: 

          'I invoke my lama in his manifestation 
          To bless the mendicant so that he may complete his retreat in solitude. 
          My happiness unknown to my relatives, 
          My misery unknown to my enemies, 
          If I could die in solitude, 
          The aim of this yogin will be fulfilled. 
          My growing old unknown to my friends, 
          My growing sick unknown to my sister, 
          If I could die in solitude, 
          The aim of this yogin will be fulfilled. 
          My dying unknown to men, 
          My rotting corpse unseen by vultures, 
          If I could die in solitude, 
          The aim of this yogin will be fulfilled. 
          Without a vigil around my corpse, 
          Without lamentation over my death, 
          If I could die in solitude, 
          The aim of this yogin will be fulfilled. 
          With no one to ask where I have gone, 
          With no one to say that I am here, 
          If I could die in solitude, 
          The aim of this yogin will be fulfilled. 
          In this solitary cave in the mountains 
          May this wish about the mendicant's death 
          Be fulfilled for the benefit of all beings, 
          Thus my aim will be realized.' 

Zessay said to me, 'Your present conduct is in accord with your earlier words. And I marvel at this.' 

Peta spoke again. 'No matter what my brother says, I cannot bear his complete lack of food and clothing. Good food and clothing will not keep you from meditating, so I am going to bring you materials to make a cloak. Since you do not wish to ask for alms, then, according to your desire, die of misery unattended In the wilderness. But if you do not die, I will bring what you need to make clothing.' 

They left, and I ate the good food they had brought. The sensation of pleasure and pain and the feelings of hunger increased so much that I could no longer meditate. I thought that there was no greater obstacle for me than this inability to meditate. Breaking the seal of the scroll that the lama had given me, I looked at it. It contained the essential instructions to overcome obstacles and improve practice, instructions for transforming vice into virtue, and more especially the advice to take good food at this time. 

I understood that, through the force of my former perseverance in meditation, my nerves had absorbed creative energy. Due to my inferior food the energy remained inactive. Peta's beer had stimulated my nerves to some extent and Zessay's beer and food had completed the process. Following the directions on the scroll, I worked hard on the vital exercises recommended for body, breathing, and meditation. As a result, the obstructions in the smaller nerves as well, as those in the median nerves were cleared away. I attained an experience of joy, lucidity, and pure awareness similar to what I had known about in theory. In fact it was an extraordinary experience of illumination, which was very powerful and stable. Having overcome the obstacles, I realized imperfections as perfection; even through discriminating thought, I perceived the inherent simplicity of the Dharmakaya. 

I understood that in general all things related to samsara and nirvana are interdependent. Furthermore I perceived that the source consciousness (5) is neutral. Samsara is the result of a wrong point of view. Nirvana is realized through perfect awareness. I perceived that the essence of both lay in an empty and luminous awareness. More particularly, this special experience of my illumination was the fruit of my previous meditations and the immediate effects of the food and the profound instructions of the lama. I also had a very special understanding that the methods of the Esoteric Path (Vajrayana) are for the transformation of all sensory experience into spiritual attainment. 

Because I owed all this to Peta and Zessay, I expressed my appreciation in meditation so that their merit would contribute to their Enlightenment. And I sang of the Essence of Interdependence: 

          "I prostrate myself at the feet of Marpa of the Southern Cliffs. 
          May he bless the mendicant so that he may fulfil his retreat in solitude. 
          The services rendered by my benefactors 
          Have sown the seed for their illumination and mine. 
          This body, difficult to obtain, easy to destroy, 
          Has regained health, thanks to nourishment. 
          The fertility of this solid earth, 
          And the rain of that blue immensity, 
          These two interact for the benefit of all beings, 
          And the essence of this interaction lies in the sacred law. 
          My illusory body nurtured by my father and mother, 
          And the teaching of the holy lama, 
          These two interacting brought me to the true Dharma. 
          And the essence of this interaction lies in the sacred law. 
          This rocky cave in a deserted land, 
          And my devotion to the noble path, 
          These two interact for the fulfilment of my aim. 
          The essence of this interaction lies in Ultimate Reality. 
          Milarepa's perseverance in meditation, 
          And the faith of the beings of the three cosmic planes, 
          These two interacting herald success in my service to all beings. 
          And the essence of this interaction lies in compassion. 
          The great yogin meditates in the rocky cave, 
          And benefactors bring him food. 
          These two interacting lead them together toward Enlightenment.  
          And the essence of this interaction lies in sharing merits. 
          The compassion of the good lama, 
          And the disciple's perseverance in meditation, 
          These two interacting ensure the upholding of the Dharma. 
          And the essence of this interaction lies in their solemn commitment. 
          Initiation leading to a rapid transformation, 
          And invocation with intense trust and devotion, 
          These two interacting will bring us together soon. 
          And the essence of this interaction lies in blessings. 
          O Lama Vajradhara, immutable in essence, 
          You know the happiness and difficulties of this mendicant.' 

Thus I sang and, redoubling my efforts, I meditated. 

During the day I had the sensation of being able to change my body at will and of levitating through space and of performing miracles. At night in my dreams I could freely and without obstacles explore the entire universe from one end to the other. And, transforming myself into hundreds of different material and spiritual bodies, I visited all the Buddha realms and listened to the teaching there. Also, I could preach the Dharma to a multitude of beings. My body could be both in flames and spouting water. 

Having thus obtained inconceivably miraculous powers, I meditated joyfully and with heightened spirit. 

I was actually able to fly through space, so I flew to the Cave of the Eagle's Shadow, where I meditated. Then an intense Fire of Tummo radiating warmth and bliss arose in me, immeasurably superior to any such experience I had had in the past. As I returned to the Horse Tooth White Rock, I passed over a small village called Langda, where a man was plowing with his son. This man was the older brother of someone who had been killed when my uncle's house collapsed. The son was leading the oxen while the father was guiding the plow and tilling the field. The son saw me and cried out, 'Father, look at that fantastic thing! A man flying through the air!' 

The father stopped and looked up. "It is no great wonder. It is the son of that wicked woman. White Jewel of Nyang; it is that cunning, obstinate Mila, wracked by starvation. Don't let his shadow fall on you. Keep on plowing.' The father kept moving around, fearful of being touched by the shadow. 

His son said to him, 'If a man can fly, obstinate or not, there is no greater spectacle than that! So look, father!'
And the son went on looking at me. 

I thought that I should now work for the good of sentient beings. As I was reflecting on this a prophecy of the yidam came to me: 

'Devote yourself wholly to meditation in this life, in accordance with the lama's instructions. There is nothing greater than serving the teachings of the Buddha and thereby saving sentient beings through meditation.' Again I thought, 'If I meditate as long as I live, I will be setting the best example for future disciples to renounce the world and meditate.' And I was certain that both the traditions of the Dharma and sentient beings would derive much benefit from that. 

Then I thought, 'I have stayed in this place too long and have talked too much about my knowledge of the Dharma to those who visited me. People saw me flying after my experience of illumination. If I stay here any longer I will fall under the influence of the world. There exists a risk of encountering Mara's obstacles, and the Eight Worldly Reactions will disturb my meditation. I must go and meditate at Chuwar according to the prophecy of the lama.' 

Then, carrying the pot in which I had cooked the nettles, I left Horse Tooth White Rock. But I was weakened by privation during long meditation and my foot, roughs and cracked, stumbled on the uneven ground outside the cave, and I fell. The handle of the pot broke off, and the pot rolled down the slope. I ran to stop it. From the broken pot the layers of residue deposited by nettle broth broke loose in a single green piece which had the form of the pot.(6) I consoled myself with the thought that all composite things are impermanent. Understanding that this too was an exhortation to meditate, I first marvelled at it; then, becoming certain, I sang: 

          'At the same moment I had a pot and I did not have a pot. 
          This example demonstrates the whole law of the impermanence of things. 
          In particular, it shows the human condition. 
          If this is so, I. the hermit Mila, will strive to meditate without distraction. 
          The precious pot containing my riches 
          Becomes my teacher in the very moment it breaks. 
          This lesson on the inherent impermanence of things is a great marvel.' 

As I was singing, several hunters arrived to take their midday rest. They said to me, 'Hermit, your song is melodious. Now that you have broken the earthenware pot, what are you going to do with the nettle pot? How did your body become so thin and so green?' 

I answered, 'From the fact of having nothing to sustain it.' 'What a marvel! Well, get up and come over here.' And they gave me part of their meal. 

During the meal a young hunter said, You are a capable man. If instead of this misery you had lived a worldly life, you could have ridden an excellent horse, the equal of a young lion. Girded with armour, you would have vanquished your enemies. Rich and opulent, you would have had the good fortune to protect your kindly kinsmen. Failing that, had you engaged in business, you would have had the pleasure of being your own master. At worst, even as somebody's servant, with good food and clothing you would have been healthier in body and mind. You did not know this before, but now do something about it.' 

An old hunter said, "Indeed, he seems to be a good hermit. There is no danger that he will succumb to our worldly advice. So hold your tongue.' To me he said, 'O you whose voice is so agreeable, please sing us a song for our spiritual benefit.' 

I replied, "In your eyes I may seem exceedingly miserable. You do not know that there is no one happier and more sensible than I in the world. Since I live in the highest happiness you can conceive of, listen to this Song of the Galloping Horse of the Yogin: 

          "I prostrate myself at the feet of Marpa the Compassionate. 
          In the mountain hermitage which is my body, 
          In the temple of my breast, 
          At the summit of the triangle of my heart, 
          The horse, which is my mind, flies like the wind. 
          If I try to catch him, with what lasso will I catch him? 
          If I try to tie him, to what stake will I tie him? 
          If he is hungry, what fodder will I give him? 
          If he is thirsty, what shall I mix with his water?(7) 
          If he is cold, within what walls will I shelter him? 
          If I catch him, I will catch him with the lasso of the unconditioned. 
          If I tie him, it will be to the stake of deep meditation. 
          If he is hungry, I will nourish him with the lama's precepts. 
          If he is thirsty, I will water him at the perpetual stream of mindfulness. 
          If he is cold, I will shelter him within the walls of Emptiness. 
          For saddle and bit, I will use skilful means and wisdom. 
          I will equip him with the strong martingale of immutability. 
          I will hold the reins of life-sustaining energy. 
          The child of awareness will ride him. 
          For a helmet, he will wear the enlightened attitude of Mahayana. 
          His coat of mail will be fashioned from listening, questioning, and meditation. 
          On his back he will wear the shield of patience. 
          He will hold the lance of perfect seeing. 
          At his side will be fastened the sword of knowledge. 
          If the arrow of his source consciousness bends, 
          He will straighten it without anger. 
          He will fetch it with the feathers of the four boundless attitudes. (8) 
          He will tip it with the sharp point of insight. 
          To the bow of the emptiness of things he sets the deep nock of compassionate skilful means. 
          Measuring the infinitude of non-duality, 
          He will loose his arrows throughout the world. 
          Those whom he will strike are the faithful ones. 
          That which he will kill is their clinging to self. 
          And thus, as enemy, he will subdue desire and delusion. 
          As friend, he will protect the sentient beings of the six realms. 
          If he gallops, he will gallop on the plains of great bliss. 
          If he persists, he will attain the rank of Victorious Buddha. 
          Going backward, he cuts the root of samsara. 
          Going forward, he reaches the high land of Buddha-hood. 
          Astride such a horse, one attains the highest illumination. 
          Can you compare your happiness to this? 
          I do not wish for worldly happiness.' 

So I spoke and the hunters, showing veneration, went away. When I arrived at Dingri, by the Chuwar road going through Peykhu, I sat down by the side of the road and watched what was going on. Some pretty young girls wearing jewels passed me on their way to Nokme. Seeing my emaciated body, one of them said, 'Look! What misery! May I never be reborn as such a creature.' Another one said, 'How pitiful! A sight like that depresses me.' I thought to myself, 'I have compassion for these ignorant beings.' And, feeling pity, I stood up and said to them, 'Daughters, do not speak in this way. There is no reason for you to be so distressed. You could not be born like me, even if you wished. It is astonishing that you feel compassion, but your compassion comes from pride and a wrong understanding. Listen to my song.' Then I sang to them: 

          'I invoke the Compassionate Marpa, 
          Grant me your blessing. 
          Sentient beings engulfed by their bad karma 
          Show no respect to others, but only to themselves. 
          Unfortunate girls, you have faith only in ordinary life. 
          Your self-esteem and wrong perception burn like fire. 
          I feel pity for such immature beings. 
          In these dark days of the Kali Yuga(9) 
          Deceitful people are honoured like gods. 
          Hypocrites are prized more than gold 
          And the faithful are rejected like stones on the road. 
          I have pity for such confused beings. 
          You proud young girls, my sisters, and 
          I, Milarepa of Gungthang, 
          We are disturbing to each other. 
          Let us compare our pities and by tilting the lance of compassion 
          See which will be victorious in the end. 
          To those ignorant ones indulging in idle talk 
          Milarepa replies by teaching the Dharma. 
          He returns wine for water, 
          He returns good for evil.' 

So I spoke. The young girl who had been moved to pity for me replied, 'It is he who is called Milarepa. We are all full of self-esteem. We have said many unwise things. Now, let us ask his forgiveness.' 

I gave special advice to this girl. Then she offered me seven shells and all the girls prostrated themselves and asked for pardon. In response to their request for instruction, I sang this song: 

          'I invoke the Compassionate Lama, 
          I offer the sacred Dharma in brief song. 
          Above, in the celestial mansion of the Devas, 
          Conventional Doctrine is preferred; true Doctrine is ignored. 
          Below, in the palace of the serpent gods, 
          Worldliness is preferred; the profound teaching is ignored. 
          In the middle, on man's Earth, 
          False teachers are preferred; authentic teachers are ignored. 
          In the four regions of U and Tsang 
          Teaching is preferred; meditation is ignored. 
          In the dark days of Kali Yuga 
          Wicked people are preferred; the good are ignored. 
          In the eyes of these beautiful girls 
          The handsome man is preferred; the hermit is ignored. 
          In the ears of these young girls 
          This brief song sounds pleasant; the profound Dharma unpleasant. 
          These are my instructions in song. 
          This is my response to the gift of the seven shells. 
          This is the celebration of your forgiveness.' 

So I sang. The girls believed in me, and went their way. Then I too left for the region of Drin. I had heard of the caves of Chuwar and Kyipuhk, and I stayed at the cave Castle of the Sun, at Kyipuhk, and meditated there. 

Some months passed and my meditation deepened. People came once or twice and brought me food and drink. This I saw as a distraction and I thought, 'Now my inner experience is increasing. If I attract too many people it will create obstacles in my contemplative life. I must go to an isolated wilderness. According to the lama's instructions, I must go to Lachi.' 

While I was having such thoughts, Peta came to Horse Tooth White Rock bringing the cloth she had woven for me from the wool and goat hair she had collected. Not finding me there, she went to look for me, questioning everyone. 

She was told at Upper Gungthang that a hermit resembling a nettle worm had left Peykhu for South Lato. Thereupon, Peta decided to leave for that region. At Dingri she saw Lama Bari Lotsawa dressed in rich garments of silk, seated upon a high throne and sheltered beneath a canopy. When his monks blew on the trumpets, a great crowd of men surrounded him and deluged him with offerings of tea and beer. 

Peta thought to herself. This is the way other people treat their lama. My brother's religion is one of misery for which other people have only contempt. Even his relatives blush for him. If I find my brother, I must urge him to enter this lama's service and I must convince him to do so.' 

With this thought in mind, she questioned some of the men regarding my whereabouts. She learned that I was at Drin and decided to go there. Arriving at Kyipuhk, where I was staying, she said to me: 

'My elder brother's religion provides him with nothing to eat and nothing to wear. This is shameful and I will no longer stand for it. Make a loincloth from this material which I have woven. Other monks have a lama named Bari Lotsawa. They have erected a throne for him sheltered under a canopy. They dress him in fine silk and offer him tea and beer. Then his monks take up trumpets and sound them to assemble a large crowd of people who offer him gifts beyond belief. He is useful to both his followers and relatives and satisfies their wishes. Religion of this kind is excellent. Try to see if this lama will take you into his service. Even were you the least of his monks you would be happy from now on. Otherwise, this religion and my impoverished condition will not sustain our life.' 

While speaking she wept. I answered, 'Do not speak like that. My nakedness and my unconventional behaviour embarrass you. But I am content with this body of mine which enabled me to encounter religion. So I have nothing to be ashamed of. Since I was born naked, I have no cause for shame. 

Those who knowingly, and without restraint, commit sins break their parents' hearts. Those who live off the lama's wealth and temple offerings, and those who injure beings by crafty means to achieve their own aims -all these only injure themselves and others and displease the gods and holy men. They are a cause for shame both in this life and the next. If you are ashamed of my nakedness you should be more ashamed of your big breasts, which you did not have when you were born from your mother. You think that I meditate without food or clothing through lack of alms? It is not so. Inwardly, I fear the sufferings of samsara and the lower realms as a man fears being hurled alive into the flames. When I see how people indulge in pleasure and in the Eight Worldly Reactions, I am disgusted, like a man gorged with food that vomits it up. I am as horrified as though I were seeing bloodstained hands that had murdered my own father. This is the reason for my renunciation. 
'In the following instructions of Lama Marpa of the Southern Cliffs I was advised to renounce indulgence in the Eight Worldly Reactions: "You must renounce food, clothing, and fame. You must withdraw to one solitary place after another. And you must, above all else, meditate with intense devotion and determination, abandoning the aims of this life." It is these instructions that I am carrying out. And in so doing not only do I assure the happiness of those who follow me but also lasting happiness for all other beings. The hour of death being uncertain, I have renounced the works of this life and the ways of pursuing the Eight Worldly Reactions. If I tried, not only could I join the lowest rung of Lama Bari Lotsawa's retinue but I could even become like him. But wishing to attain Enlightenment in this life, I ardently dedicate myself to meditation. Peta. you too, renounce the Eight Worldly Reactions and follow me to the snows of Lachi to meditate. The sun of happiness will shine on you in this life and the next if you can renounce the Eight Worldly Reactions and meditate. Listen to your brother's song: 

          'Lama, Protector of beings and Embodiment of the Buddhas of the Three Ages, 
          Unstained by the Eight Worldly Reactions, 
          You who bless your spiritual descendants, 
          Marpa the Translator, I prostrate myself at your feet. 
          Listen to me, sister Peta, young maiden, 
          Consumed by the desires of this earthly life. 
          First, a parasol with pinnacle of shining gold; 
          Second, encircled with fringes of Chinese silk; 
          Third, the frame adorned as beautifully as the tail of a 
          Peacock, Fourth, a handle made of red sandalwood; 
          These four things your elder brother could obtain, if he so wished. 
          But these things ensue from the Eight Worldly Reactions 
          And your brother has abandoned them because the sun of 
          Happiness has risen for him. 
          Abandon the Eight Worldly Reactions, O my sister. Peta. 
          Abandon them and follow me to the snows of Lachi. 
          Let us go together to the snows of Lachi. 
          First, the brightly painted little monastery, high above the village; 
          Second, the eloquent discourses of a young lama; 
          Third, a good butter tea, warming on the splendid stove; 
          Fourth, the young monks, eager to serve; 
          These four things your elder brother could obtain, if he so wished. 
          But these things ensue from the Eight Worldly Reactions 
          And your brother has abandoned them because the sun of 
          Happiness has risen for him. 
          Abandon the Eight Worldly Reactions, O my sister, Peta. 
          Abandon them and follow me to the snows of Lachi. 
          Let us go together to the snows of Lachi. 
          First, the rites and rituals, divination and astrology; 
          Second, the abbess, high priestess skilled in hypocrisy; 
          Third, those who organize ritual feasts for sensual pleasure; 
          Fourth, sweet chanting to deceive the female devotees; 
          These four things your elder brother could obtain, if he so wished. 
          But these things ensue from the Eight Worldly Reactions 
          And your brother has abandoned them because the sun of 
          Happiness has risen for him. 
          Abandon the Eight Worldly Reactions, O my sister, Peta. 
          Abandon them and follow me to the snows of Lachi. 
          Let us go together to the snows of Lachi. 
          First, the majestic castle with its soaring tower; 
          Second, intense cultivation of the fertile fields; 
          Third, provisions and treasure amassed by avarice; 
          Fourth, the crowd of servants deepening the involvement in samsara; 
          These four things your elder brother could obtain, if he so wished. 
          But these things ensue from the Eight Worldly Reactions 
          And your brother has abandoned them because the sun of 
          Happiness has risen for him. 
          Abandon the Eight Worldly Reactions, O my sister, Peta. 
          Abandon them and follow me to the snows of Lachi. 
          Let us go together to the snows of Lachi. 
          First, the arched neck of a great stallion; 
          Second, the ornamented saddle, glittering with jewels; 
          Third, the warrior brilliant in his armour; 
          Fourth, the passion to subdue the enemy and protect the friend; 
          These four things your elder brother could obtain, if he so wished. 
          But these things ensue from the Eight Worldly Reactions 
          And your brother has abandoned them because the sun of 
          Happiness has risen for him. 
          Abandon the Eight Worldly Reactions, O my sister, Peta. 
          Abandon them and follow me to the snows of Lachi. 
          Let us go together to the snows of Lachi. 
          In not renouncing the Eight Worldly Reactions, 
          In not going to the snows of Lachi, 
          Your sisterly affection distracts me. 
          Worldly talk disturbs my practice. 
          From the moment one is born, he does not know when he will die. 
          I do not have time to put off my practice till later. 
          I will exert myself to meditate without distraction. 
          The instructions of my Father Lama benefit the mind. 
          By meditating according to these instructions, 
          I shall achieve the great tranquillity of liberation. 
          That is why I go to the snows of Lachi. 
          Sister, choose if you wish the Eight Worldly Reactions, 
          Accumulate sins small and large. 
          Bind yourself to the whole cycle of existence, 
          And even try to reach the three lower realms. 
          But if you fear the round of birth and death, 
          Abandon the Eight Worldly Reactions. 
          Let us go to the snows of Lachi. 
          Brother and sister, let us go together to the snows of Lachi.' 

Thus I sang, and Peta replied, 'What my brother calls the Eight Worldly Reactions, people call worldly happiness. We have no happiness to give up. Your high-sounding words are an excuse to cloak your realization that you will never be like Lama Bari Lotsawa. I will not go to Lachi to buy misery and deprive myself of food and clothing. I do not even know where Lachi is. Rather than running away and hiding in the rocks like a deer pursued by hounds, stay in one place and your practice will intensify and also it will be easier for me to find you. People in this region seem to revere you. So, stay for a few days, even if you do not live here permanently. Make yourself a loincloth from this material. I will soon return.' 

I promised to stay there a few days. When my sister had gone to Dingri, I made a hood to cover my head and sewed a sleeve for each of my fingers and for my feet. Then I sewed a sheath for my sexual organ. 
My sister returned at the end of a few days and asked, 'Brother, have you sewn the cloth? ' 
'I have.' 

I put them on and I showed her the sheaths I had made for each of my extremities. 
She exclaimed, 'Look at him! My brother has nothing human left in him! Not only is he completely without shame, but he has also ruined the cloth that I wove with such labour. Is it because he has no time to do anything but meditate, or is it because he has too much time?'

I answered, 'I am the holy man who seeks the essential good from this precious human life. Knowing what real shame is, I remain faithful to my vows and precepts. Sister, you alone blush at my nakedness. Even if I wished to cut off my sexual organ, I dare not. I fashioned a modest covering for it just as you asked me, even though it interrupted my meditation. Since I consider all the parts of my body to be of equal worth, I made these sheaths. Your cloth has not been destroyed. But I see now that you feel more ashamed than I. If you blush at my organ, blush equally at your own. If for you it is better to get rid of an object you consider shameful, get rid of your own.' 

As I said these words, her face darkened. I continued, 'Moreover, worldly people do not know how to feel shame. They feel ashamed of things, which are natural while unashamedly indulging in evil deeds and hypocrisy, which are truly shameful. Listen to your brother's song about shame: 

          'Homage to the venerable lamas, 
          Bless this mendicant that he may understand shame. 
          Maiden Peta, bound by false modesty, 
          Listen for a moment to your brother's song. 
          You who feel ashamed through ignorance 
          Blush at things, which are not shameful. 
          But I, a hermit, know what shame really is. 
          Living normally in body, speech, and mind, 
          How can discriminative shame arise? 
          Knowing that we are born as men and women, 
          The differences are clear to everyone. 
          Real concern for modesty and decency 
          Is not to be found among worldly people. 
          Shameful is the bride, bought for silver, 
          Shameful, too, the child in her arms. 
          Greed and hatred and evil deeds, 
          Robbery, trickery, and fraud, 
          The betrayal of friends, 
          All these are the results of distorted perception 
          And are truly shameful. But few abstain from them. 
          All great hermits who have renounced this life 
          Devote the whole of their lives to the Dharma. 
          Through the secret practice of the profound Vajrayana, 
          Which is the quintessence of all vital practices, 
          There is no reason to feel false shame. 
          Therefore, Peta, do not create your own misery. 
          Bring your mind back to its natural purity.' 

So I sang. Peta, with a sullen face, offered me the tsampa and meat, which she had obtained by begging. Then she said, 'No matter what I say, my brother does not listen to me. But I will not forsake you. Eat these things and I will try to get more.' 

She prepared to leave. I wondered how I could bring her to the Dharma. I said to her, "Even if you do no religious work, live here without committing sins as long as these provisions last.' During the time that she stayed with me, I explained as much as I could about the law of karma. 

My sister gained a definite understanding of the Dharma and her desire for worldly things began to decrease. 


In the meantime my uncle died, and thereafter my aunt began to feel sincere remorse. Looking everywhere for me, she arrived at Drin, leading a dzo loaded with provisions. She left the dzo there and, carrying as much as she could, found her way to my cave. 

Peta, standing on a ledge, caught sight of her. As soon as she recognized our aunt, she exclaimed, 'Because our aunt inflicted all kinds of sufferings on our mother and ourselves, it is better not to meet her.' 

Then Peta pulled back the log, which bridged the entrance to our cave. At that moment the aunt arrived at the other side. 

'Niece,' she said, "do not pull back the log. Your aunt is here.' 

Peta answered. That is just why I pulled it back.' 

'Very true, my niece. But now a terrible sense of remorse has arisen in me. Brother and sister, I have come to find you, so put back the bridge. If you do not replace it, at least tell your brother that I am here.' 

I was on the other side of the crevasse and had climbed to the top of a rock, where I remained. The aunt prostrated herself and repeatedly begged to see me. I thought to myself, 'If I do not eventually meet with her, I will not be acting in accordance with the Dharma; but first I must rebuke her.' 

So I said, 'In principle, I have given up all attachment to relatives, and especially to my uncle and my aunt. First, you plunged us into misery. Even after I set out upon the religious path and came begging, you brutally assaulted me. That is why I do not concern myself with you. The song I am going to recite will tell you why. Listen! ' And then I sang this Song of Shame to my aunt: 

          'O Compassionate One, merciful to all beings, 
          Marpa the Translator, I prostrate myself at your feet. 
          Be the support of this mendicant who has no other protection. 
          O my aunt, do you remember what you have done? 
          If you have forgotten, I will remind you with this song. 
          In the wretched land of Kya-Ngatsa, 
          We, mother and children, lost our noble father. 
          Then all our wealth was taken from us and we were given misery in return. 
          We were scattered like beans with a stick 
          By you and by our uncle too. 
          From that day on, I gave up all attachment to my relatives. 
          But when I wandered to the ends of the earth 
          I yearned to see my mother and sister, so I returned home. 
          My mother was dead and my sister gone. 
          Under the weight of sadness and despondency, 
          I devoted myself wholly to meditation. 
          Because I was starving, I left my cave to beg 
          And found myself at my aunt's tent. 
          Recognizing the poor hermit, 
          She was prompted to anger and violence. 
          She called her dog and set him upon me. 
          Using a tent pole as a stick, 
          She beat my body as one flails a sheaf of grain. 
          I fell face down into a pool of water. 
          As I was about to lose my precious life, 
          She screamed at me, "Monster of evil," 
          And reviled me as the shame of the family. 
          My heart, crushed by these terrible words, 
          Was torn with pain and roused to fury. 
          Breathless and stunned, I could not speak. 
          With countless deceptions, she took my house and fields, 
          Even though I no longer wanted them. 
          A demon's mind lives in my aunt's body. 
          From that day on, I abandoned all my feelings for her. 
          Then, when I arrived at my uncle's door, 
          He, with evil in his heart, shouted terrible words at me: 
          "The demon of destruction has come!" 
          And he called the neighbours to help kill me, 
          He cursed me with all sorts of vile words. 
          Showers of stones were thrown at me, 
          And a stream of arrows descended on me. 
          My heart was struck with unbearable pain. 
          At that moment I was close to death. 
          A butcher's heart is in my uncle's body. 
          From that day onward I abandoned all my feelings for him. 
          To this poor hermit, relatives are crueler than enemies. 
          Later, when I was meditating in the mountains, 
          The faithful Zessay, who could not forsake me, 
          Came to me out of her love. 
          With affectionate words, soothing to my mind, 
          She consoled my wounded heart. 
          With nourishing food and drink 
          She eased my thirst and hunger. 
          I am deeply grateful to her. 
          Even so, except for devotees of the Dharma, 
          I have no reason to see anyone, even Zessay, 
          And still less reason to see my aunt. 
          So leave now while it is still day.' 

So I spoke. My aunt, weeping and repeatedly prostrating herself implored me, 'Nephew, all along you has been right. I beg your forgiveness and I sincerely confess my guilt. My remorse is terrible. I never completely lost my feeling for you, nephew and niece, and so I came looking for you. Please let me see you. If you do not grant my wish, I will kill myself.' 

I could not bear to refuse her. But as I was about to put the log in place, Peta whispered to me many reasons why I should not see my aunt. Not heeding her, I replied, 'Normally, a man's mind is defiled by drinking from the same source as one who has betrayed human trust. But my aunt has not betrayed any sacred trust and because I am a devotee of the Dharma, I will receive her.' 

Speaking thus. I put the log in place. I received my aunt according to her wish. I spoke to her at length about the law of karma. She turned her whole attention to Dharma practice. Afterward, she became a yogini who achieved her own liberation through meditation. 

At this moment. Shiwa O Repa (Repa Calm Light) asked the Master, "Master, when you were receiving religious instruction, did you show great devotion to the lama? Your perseverance in meditation was so inconceivably great that in comparison our practice is mere pretence. This will not lead us to liberation. What can we do?' So saying, he wept. 

The Master answered: 
'Considering all the misery of samsara and of the lower realms, my devotion and perseverance do not seem great. Thoughtful people who accept the great law of cause and effect are capable of such perseverance. Those who do not believe in the Dharma have little understanding and are incapable of abandoning the Eight Worldly Reactions. That is why it is important to believe in the law of karma. 

When one has continually shown signs of disbelief, even in the obvious aspects of karma, it is far more difficult to understand and believe in the emptiness of things, regardless of ample explanations based on the Buddha's words and rational considerations. If one believed in the emptiness of things one would perceive the interdependence of cause and effect as being inherent in Emptiness itself. Moreover one would achieve greater devotion to the application of knob’s principles. The foundation of all Dharma practice lies in belief in the law of karma, and therefore it is very important for you to devote yourself wholeheartedly to the elimination of harmful deeds and to the practice of virtue. 

"Even though I was at first incapable of understanding the meaning of Emptiness, I trusted the law of karma. This is why, after having accumulated many crimes, I thought I would not be able to escape the lower realms. My fear was so great that I was compelled to venerate my lama and dedicate myself to meditation. 

"You also must live alone in mountain solitude and carry on the practice of esoteric teaching according to my instructions. And I, an old man, assure you that you will achieve liberation.' 

Then Bodhi Raja of Ngandzong asked: 
'Lama Rimpoche, it seems to me that you are either the incarnation of Vajradhara Buddha and that you engage in all these actions for the benefit of sentient beings, or you are a great Bodhisattva who has attained the state of "Non-returning" and who has accumulated immense merit for many aeons. In you, I see all the characteristics of a true yogin who sacrifices his life for the Dharma practice. We human individuals cannot even conceive the extent of your asceticism and your devotion to your lama, let alone practice it ourselves. If we dared to practice in this way, our bodies could not bear such an ordeal. That is why it is certain that you were a Buddha or Bodhisattva from the very beginning. And so, although I am incapable of religion, I believe that we sentient beings will be led toward liberation from samsara through seeing your face and hearing your words. Revered Master, I beg you to tell us if you are the incarnation of a Buddha or a Bodhisattva.' 

The Master replied: 
'I never heard whose incarnation I am. Maybe I am the incarnation of a being from the three lower realms, but if you see me as Buddha you will receive his blessing by virtue of your faith. Although this belief that I am an incarnation springs from your devotion to me, actually there is no greater impediment to your practice. It is a distortion of the true Dharma. The fault lies in not recognizing the true nature of the achievement of great yogins. The Dharma is so effective that even a great sinner like myself has reached a stage not far from Enlightenment due to my belief in karma, my subsequent renunciation of the aims of worldly life, and due especially to my single-minded devotion to meditation. 

'More particularly, if you receive initiation and the secret instruction which brings spontaneous awakening unclouded by conceptualizations, and if you then meditate under the guidance of an enlightened lama, you will undoubtedly attain Enlightenment. 

'If you commit the ten harmful deeds and the five deadly sins, without doubt you will be reborn into the torments of the lowest realms. This is because there is no belief in karma and but little devotion to the Dharma. 

'Whoever wholeheartedly believes in karma and dreads the suffering of the lower realms, a great longing for illumination will arise in him. This will lead him to devote himself to a lama, to meditation, and to maintaining a deeper insight. It is possible for every ordinary man to persevere as I have done. To consider a man of such perseverance as the reincarnation of a Buddha or as a Bodhisattva is a sign of not believing in the short path. Put your faith in the great law of cause and effect. Contemplate the lives of enlightened teachers; reflect upon karma, the misery of the cycle of existence, the true value of human life, and not knowing the hour of death. Devote yourselves to the practice of the Vajrayana. 

'I deprived myself of food, clothing, and recognition. I strengthened my mind. And without concern for the hardships imposed on my body, I went to meditate in the solitude of the mountains. Then the virtue of the spiritual state manifested itself. Follow my example with your whole heart.' 

Thus spoke the Master. This is the seventh chapter, in which he tells how he obeyed the instructions of his lama, how he renounced this life, practised terrible austerities, and withdrew to meditate in the mountains. 

1. Tsayi Koron. Another name for Milarepa’s birthplace, Kya Ngatsa.
2. The Maras. The plural of Mara. (See Note 2, Second Part, Chapter 5).

3. Cord for meditation. Called gom-thak in Tibetan, this is a meditational belt made from cotton or woolen cloth. The meditator wear it from the left shoulder around his chest and back as well as over one or both knees.
4. Figurines. Sacred images of clay, cast in copper or wooden molds.

5. Source consciousness. This refers to what is known as the source of all consciousness (Alaya-vijnana in Sanskrit). The Indian Buddhist school of idealism (Yogacara) propounds the theory that all thought processes originate from or dissolve themselves into the source consciousness. The whole phenomenal world is but a mental product, ‘objective reality’ an illusion of mind. It is the same mind that creates a ‘real’ self out of mere imagination. While denying a duality, this school confirms the subjective reality of source consciousness – defined as transparency and awareness only. It is considered to be completely neutral, in the sense of being a foundation or base. In esoteric tradition the source consciousness in the mirror-like awareness which is realized when the mind’s delusions are dispelled. Ordinary mind is overcome with defiled thought (nyonyi or nonyid) which may be compared to impurity that stains the source consciousness. Trough the transformative process, the defilement of thoughts is cleared away and the nature of pure awareness then realized as enlightenment.
6. Single green piece which had the form of the pot. This relic still exists and is kept in Tashilhunpo.
7. What shall I mix with his water? Adding barley flour to water is a Tibetan custom.
8. The four boundless attitudes are the same as the Four Infinite Attributes mentioned in Note 13, Second Part, Chapter 4.
9. The Kali Yuga (the Dark Age) refers to the fourth and last cycle of time of our universe. The first three were known as Satya Yuga (complete happiness), Treta Yuga (threefold happiness), and Dwapara Yuga (twofold happiness). The Kali Yuga era is marked by (1) intellectual sophistication at the expense of spiritual attainment, (2) decline is the quality of life, (3) increasing menace to an already shortened life-span, (4) misguided concepts and mental impurity, and (5) widespread violence and conflicts


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