THE LIFE OF MILAREPA
Part II Chapter 8 - The Hermitage and Service rendered to Sentient Beings
Then Retchung asked, 'Master, there is nothing more marvelous than the essence of your life which is indeed a matter for joyous laughter. But its outer form gives cause for unhappiness and tears. Please tell us about those aspects of your life which cause laughter.'
The Master replied, The form of my life which is cause for joyous laughter is my perseverance in meditation resulting in my service to the Dharma in guiding human and non-human beings to achieve liberation.'
Retchung asked, 'Master, who were the first of these human and non-human beings?'
The Master replied, 'First, non-human beings came to torment me, and after them came the first human disciples. Then the goddess Tseringma (1) came to me in human form. Finally other human disciples appeared. I now foresee that the goddess Tseringma and my disciple Upa Tonpa (Gampopa) from U will propagate my teaching.' Thus spoke the Master.
Repa of Seban then asked, 'Master, your principal places of retreat were Lachi and Chuwar. Besides the caves that you mentioned earlier, where else have you meditated?'
Milarepa replied, 'At Mount Yolmo Gangra m Nepal; in six well-known caves open to view, in six unknown caves, in six secret caves, and in two others, making twenty in all. In addition there were four widely known large caves and four unknown large caves. This includes all my places of meditation, except for some smaller caves where conditions were favorable. As a result of my meditation I have achieved total awakening wherein the object meditated upon, the action of meditating, and the subject who meditates merge into one, so that now I no longer know how to meditate.'
Then Retchung said, 'Master, because you have completely eradicated the stains of discrimination, your humble disciples are deeply grateful to you for the joy of having achieved real understanding and authentic experience. For the spiritual benefit of future disciples, please identify each of these known, lesser known, and unknown caves as well as the large caves.'
The Master answered:
The six outer well-known caves are: the middle cave of Dakar Taso Umadzong (Horse Tooth White Rock), Minkyug Dibma (Shadow of the Pleiades), Lingpa Dakmar Dzong (Red Rock), Ragma Jangchub Dzong (Ragma Cave of Enlightenment), Kyangphen Namkha Dzong (Banner of the Sky), Dagkya Dorje Dzong (Gray Rock Vajra). The six unknown caves are: Chonglung Kyung (Eagle of Chonglung), Kyipuh Nyima Dzong (Upper Castle of Joy), Khujuk Enpa Dzong (Lonely Cuckoo), Shelpuhk Chushing Dzong (Crystal Bamboo Tree), Betse Doyon (Sensory Pleasure of Betse), Tsikpa Kangthil Dzong (Base of the Wall). The six secret caves are: Gyadak Namkha Dzong (Rock and Sky), Takpuhk Senge Dzong (Lion and Tiger), Beypuhk Mamo Dzong (Secret Cave of the Goddess), Lapuhk Pema Dzong (Lotus of the Grotto), Lango Ludu Dzong (Elephant Gate of Serpent-Gods), Trogyel Dorje Dzong (Wrathful Vajra King). The two other caves are: Kyipuhk Nyima Dzong (Sun Castle of Joy) and Potho Namkha Dzong (Sky of Peaks).
The four widely known large caves are: Nyanang Dopa Puhk (Stomach-like Cave of Nyanang), Lachi Dudal Puhk (Demon Conqueror of Lachi), Dringi Diche Puhk (Tongue of the Dri in Drin). Tisi Dzutrul Puhk (Miracle Cave of Mount Kailas). The four unknown caves are: Tsai Kangtsuk Puhk (Cave of Firm Root), Rongi Osey Puhk (Luminous Clarity of Ron), Ralai Zaok Puhk (Silk Cave of Goat Mountain), Kuthangi Puhkron Puhk (Pigeon Cave of Kuthang).
'If you meditate in these caves you will have solitude and favorable conditions. Go there and meditate and you will have the blessings of my lineage.'
When the Master had spoken in this way, all the disciples and followers, men and women, felt in their hearts an abhorrence of samsara and an urge for liberation, and were deeply moved by a faith and compassion that knew no bounds.
As a deep aversion arose in them to the earthly vanities of the Eight Worldly Reactions, they dedicated themselves in body, speech, and mind to the teachings of the Buddha and the welfare of sentient beings. They vowed to cease their wanderings and to meditate in mountain solitude with intense determination, perseverance, and asceticism. The guardian deities promised to protect the teaching.
The best among the lay followers renounced worldly life, and many men and women who had followed the Master meditated and awakened to the true nature of reality. Lesser followers took vows to meditate for several months or several years. Even beginners vowed to abstain from at least one vice and to practice at least one virtue for the rest of their lives. Everyone fulfilled his or her vows.
I have recorded the exact words spoken by the Master, showing how he brought great benefit to all who follow the path of meditation.
I am now going to enlarge a little on the Master's life. There were three large groups of followers: the malevolent non-human beings whom the Master conquered, those dedicated disciples whom the Master guided toward liberation, and lay followers at all levels from different regions for whom the Master turned the Wheel of the Law.
First, concerning the conquest of non-human beings: the Master gave the Demon King Binayaka at the Red Rock of Chonglung the teaching on the Six Ways of Being Aware of One's Lama.(2) Following Lama Marpa's instructions, the Master went to Lachi to meditate. In the course of compelling the great god Ganesha (King of Obstructing Forces) to accept the precepts, the Master sang of Lachi Chuzang. The following year, when he traveled to Neti in Lachi, he sang his famous Song of the Snows. In accordance with the lama's instructions, and wishing to go to Mount Peybar in Mangyul and to Yolmo Gangra in Nepal, he passed through Gungthang. Attracted by Lingpa Cave, he stayed there for some time and sang a song to the Demoness of the Lingpa Cave. At Ragma, Cave of Enlightenment, close to Mount Peybar, he sang the song that pacified the Goddess of Earth and a local spirit inhabiting the Ragma Cave.
While living at Kyangphen Namkha Dzong (Banner of the Sky), the Master worked for the benefit of many human and non-human beings. From there he went to Mount Yolmo Gangra and lived in Takpuhk Senge Dzong (Cave of the Lion and Tiger) in the forest of Singala, doing work beneficial to many human and non-human beings. Meanwhile he received a sign directing him to go back to Tibet, to meditate in mountain solitude and work for the benefit of all beings. Having returned to Tibet, he dwelt in a cave in Gungthang and sang the Song of the Pigeons.
Second, concerning how he met his spiritual sons: While the Master was living in the cave Dagkya Dorje Dzong (Gray Rock Vajra) and was meditating for the benefit of sentient beings, his yidam predicted the coming of all his disciples, particularly of the disciple Retchung Dorje Drakpa, whose mission would be to bring the secret oral instruction of the dakinis from specified places. And when the Master was at Ralai Zaok Puhk (Silk Cave of Goat Mountain) in Gungthang, he met his spiritual son, Retchung. Later Retchung went to India to be cured of an illness, and on returning, the Master and his disciple met again.
In the cave Ronpuhi Osey Puhk (Cave of Luminous Clarity) he met Tsakuph Repa, and on going to Ragma Jangchub Dzong (Cave of Enlightenment), he met Sangye Kyab Repa (Enlightened Protector). He then went to the Cave of Nyanang, where he met Shakya-guna of Kyo, who was already a devotee, and set him upon the path of liberation by giving him initiation and instruction.
On the way to Tago in the north, he met a woman, Pey Dar Bum (Hundred Thousand Glorious Flags), at Losum below Chung.
On his return he met Repa of Seban at the Inn of Yeru in the north.
While proceeding to Gyalgyi Sri of Lato, he met Repa of Digom.
Having gone to beg during the autumn, he met Shiwa O Repa (Calm Light) at Chumig Ngulchu Bum (Hundred Thousand Beads of Mercury).
Then, at Bachak Gora in Chenlung, he met Repa of Ngandzong (Evil Cave).
While living at Lachi, he was urged by the dakinis to fulfill a certain prophecy of the lama. On the way to Mount Kailas, he met Dampa Gyakpuhwa. When he came to Mount Lowokere, he met Repa of Karchung. While passing the winter on the snowy slopes of Ditse (Summit of Di) in Purang, he met Darma Ouangchuk Repa. In the spring, having gone to Mount Kailas, he sang of Kailas, where he defeated the Bon priest Naro Bonchung in a contest of miracles.
He then returned to Dagkya Dorje Dzong (Gray Rock Vajra), where he met Repa of Rongchung. Directed on his way by the dakinis, he came to Beypuhk Mamo Dzong (Secret Cave of the Goddess). Staying there for several days, he was sought out by a herdsman called Lukdzi Repa. who later became a sage. He then met Repa the Hermit of Shen at Lapuhk Pema Dzong (Lotus of the Grotto). These two men served him later, while he was living at the Lango Ludu Cave (Elephant Gate of Serpent-Gods) and at the Secret Cave of the Goddess.
While traveling to Chorodig, he met a woman named Retchungma. And at Nyishang Gurta of Mon, he met Repa the Hunter. . It was he who spread the renown of the Master in Nepal. Prompted by a message from the goddess Tara,(3) the King of Khokhom honored the Master.
At the invitation of Retchung and Repa the Hermit of Shen, the Master dwelt in a cave called Dho Nyenyon-puhk in Lachi. and the following year he lived on the cliff of Chonglung.
When he had gone to Chuwar, he instructed his disciples in three propitiatory rites for invoking the goddess Tseringma. Going down to Drinding, he met Dorje Ouangchuk Repa. When Master and disciples were dwelling in the Beypo Cave at Nyanang, he met the Indian saint Dharma Bodhi, who paid homage to the Master. Since Milarepa's fame was increasing, Darlo, a master of metaphysics, became envious and challenged him to a debate. The Master victoriously answered with higher spiritual wisdom and with the performance of miraculous feats. Afterward he sang songs about Retchung and Tibu. During this time he met Repa of Megom at the Stomach-like Cave. At Naktra (Black Stripes), a cave of Nyanang, he met a young girl called Sallay O Rema (Shining Light).
Then the Master withdrew to the Cave of Red Rock on a high ridge. He had foreknowledge that Retchung was returning from India and he went to meet him. This was a special occasion for the Song of the Yak Horn and the Song of the Wild Ass.
Then having gone to Chuwar, he met Repa Hermit of Len from Dagpo. On the hill of Trode Tashigang (Blessed Happiness), he met Gampopa Dao Shonnu, the incomparable monk physician from Dagpo, who was a Master of the Vajrayana. A great Bodhisattva, he reincarnated in human form for the benefit of sentient beings, as was prophesied by the Buddha. Gampopa became the Master's greatest disciple.
Since the Master was living at Omchung (Little Tamarisk) in Chuwar, he met the monk Loton, who at first opposed him and later became his disciple. Then, while living at the Cave Kyipuhk Nyima Dzong (Sun Castle of joy), he met Dreton Trashibar. During the period when the Master engaged in the exercise of great yogic powers, a monk called Charuwa of Likor followed and served him.
As prophesied by the dakinis, the Master had among his disciples eight spiritual sons, thirteen close disciples, and four sisters. All these twenty-five became awakened Masters. There are extensive accounts of his meetings with each of these disciples, very rich in exchange and experience (The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa).
Third, concerning disciples and lay followers from many regions, the Master told how he met great disciples at unknown and secret caves. He recorded these meetings, but did not specify in what order they occurred. Included were accounts of the Master's answers to questions put to him by monks and lay followers. When he was with Gampopa, he told the story of how he had encountered a priest of the Bon(4) religion. Then, having gone to Nyanang, he gave initiations and conducted the ritual of empowerment and consecration. At Tsarma, he met two women disciples, Shen Dormo and Legse Bum. There he gave instruction on Chidro Thigtsakma(5) for preparing oneself for death.
He then went with Retchung to Lachi, stopped at the cave Dudiil Puhk (Demon Conqueror), and wandered about in the vicinity.
He continued his journey and visited the cave Nampuhkma of Ramdig (She Who Pierces the Sky).
Finally, while dwelling in the Stomach-like Cave of Nyanang, at the request of lay followers, the Master related some episodes in his life and sang of Retchung's departure for the U Province. Urged by the dakini named Sengdhongma (Lion Face), he met with Dampa, an Indian saint, at Thongla.
At Leshing he performed for his mother, in order to repay her kindness, a special rite called Compassionately Guiding the Dead through the Bardo State. At Tsarma he gave his last instructions to the lay disciples and to other inhabitants of Nyanang. During his journey to Chuwar, he met Lhaje Yangde, an inhabitant of Dingri.
When he arrived at Chuwar, he sang
about the second departure of Retchung for the 0 Province. He met the benefactor
Tashi Tsek at Lharo in Drin. At Dakkhar in Drin he met Zessay Bum (his former
betrothed), Khujuk, and other lay followers.
On top of Red Rock on a high ridge, he vanquished the four Maras. It was there that he answered questions put to him by a devotee of Vajrayana. He brought immense joy to all his disciples and performed bodily transfigurations.
Innumerable people received teachings, both known and unknown, during the period in which the Master set in motion the Wheel of the Law. Guided by the Master, the most highly developed disciples achieved Enlightenment. The less developed disciples were brought to the stage of awakening and shown the path to liberation. The least developed he set on the path to Bodhichitta. Through a diligent application of the Bodhisattvas' precepts, they were brought to a firm level of awareness. Even in the very least developed ones he sowed the seed of virtue and assured them of attaining the peace of the higher realms in their lives.
With compassion limitless as the sky, the Master protected innumerable beings from the misery of samsara and of the lower realms by bringing the light of the Buddha's teaching.
All these aspects of the Master's life are amply expounded in the Gur Bum (The Hundred Thousand Songs).
This is the eighth chapter, in which the Master renders service to the teaching of the Buddha and to all sentient beings through the fruit of his meditation.
1. The goddess Tseringma. One of the five sister goddesses who became disciples of Milarepa and who were later the guardians of his religious order.
2. The Six Ways of Being Aware of Ones Lama. Refers to Milarepas song in which he lists the sixfold remembrance of his lama. (This song is recorded in The Hundred Thousand Songs.)
3. The goddess Tara is one of the yidams. Depicted in many different forms, she is considered to be embodiment of the unfolding compassion of all Buddhas.
4. Bon was the ancient religion of Tibet before Buddhism. The original Bon religion was a form of nature worship. It teaches faith in supernatural forces, including the supreme creator, fellowship among the human community, and harmonious living with surrounding nature. Present-day Bon religion is a highly developed system of metaphysical theories and meditational techniques.
5. Chidro Thigtsakma. Milarepas song with this title deals with the practice of Dharma in order that one may face ones inevitable death with great joy. The term Chidro means joy at death; Thigtsakma, that which is like the timely repair of a leaking roof.
previous | next | table of contents