Milarepa

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UJetsun Milarepa (Tibetan: རྗེ་བཙུན་མི་ལ་རས་པ, Wylie: rje btsun mi la ras pa) (c. 1052 – c. 1135 CE) is generally considered one of Tibet's most famous yogis and poets. He was a student of Marpa Lotsawa, and a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Born in the village of Kya Ngatsa – also known as Tsa – in Gungthang, a province of western Tibet, to a prosperous family, he was named Mila Thöpaga (Thos-pa-dga'), which means "A joy to hear." His family name, Josay, indicates noble descent, a sept of the Khyungpo or eagle clan.

Sorcery

When his father died, Milarepa's uncle and aunt took all of the family's wealth. At his mother's request, Milarepa left home and studied sorcery. While his aunt and uncle were having a party to celebrate the impending marriage of their son, he took his revenge by summoning a giant hailstorm to demolish their house, killing 35 people, although the uncle and aunt are supposed to have survived. The villagers were angry and set off to look for Milarepa, but his mother got word to him, and he sent a hailstorm to destroy their crops.

Many of Milarepa's deeds took place in the homeland of Chö kyi Drönma, the Samding Dorje Phagmo, and his life and songs were compiled by Tsangnyön Heruka, sponsored by her brother, the Gungthang king Thri Namgyal De.

Milarepa later lamented his evil ways in his older years in conversation with Rechungpa: "In my youth I committed black deeds. In maturity I practised innocence. Now, released from both good and evil, I have destroyed the root of karmic action and shall have no reason for action in the future. To say more than this would only cause weeping and laughter. What good would it do to tell you? I am an old man. Leave me in peace."

According to the book Magic and Mystery in Tibet by French explorer Alexandra David-Néel, Milarepa boasted of having "crossed in a few days, a distance which, before his training in black magic, had taken him more than a month. He ascribes his gift to the clever control of 'internal air'." David-Néel comments "that at the house of the lama who taught him black magic there lived a trapa [monk] who was fleeter than a horse" using the same skill. After witnessing such a monk David-Néel described how:

   He seemed to lift himself from the ground.. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum ... the traveller seemed to be in a trance.

This esoteric skill, which is known as Lung-gom-pa in Tibet, is said to allow a practitioner to run at an extraordinary speed for days without stopping. This technique could be compared to that practised by the Kaihōgyō monks of Mount Hiei and by practitioners of Shugendō, Japan.

Lineage

Milarepa's lama was Marpa Lotsāwa, whose guru was Naropa, whose guru in turn was Tilopa. Milarepa is famous for many of his songs and poems, in which he expresses the profundity of his realization of the dharma. His songs were impulsive, not contrived or written down, and came about while he was immersed in enlightened states of consciousness.

Milarepa's life represented the ideal bodhisattva, and is a testament to the unity and interdependency of all Buddhist teachings – Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. He showed that poverty is not a deprivation, but rather a component of emancipating oneself from the constrictions of material possessions; that Tantric practice entails discipline and steadfast perseverance; that without resolute renunciation and uncompromising discipline, as Gautama Buddha Himself stressed, all the sublime ideas and dazzling images depicted in Mahayana and Tantric Buddhism are no better than magnificent illusions. He also had many disciples, male and female, including Rechung Dorje Drakpa and Gampopa His female disciples include Rechungma, Padarbum, Sahle Aui and Tsheringma. It was Gampopa who became Milarepa's spiritual successor, continued his lineage, and became one of the main lineage masters in Milarepa's tradition.