The Cultivation Story of Buddha Milarepa (Part 2)
(Minghui.org) Throughout history, the Himalayas have been an area with many cultivators. The people there lead a simple, modest life, and everyone sings and dances. They also revere the Buddha Fa. Almost a millennium ago, there was a cultivator in this region named Milarepa. While the multitude of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas had taken many lifetimes and gone through many calamities before cultivating to fruition, Milarepa achieved equivalent mighty virtue in one lifetime and later became known as the founder of the White Sect of Tibetan Buddhism.
(Continued from Part 1)
Milarepa smiled and said, “All right, I will tell you.”
“When I was seven, my father became seriously ill. Doctors were unable to do anything about it, and a fortune teller also said my father had no hope of recovering. My relatives knew the sickness was terminal, and my father was also aware that he was close to death. He decided to make arrangements for the three of us and the family's property before his death.
“Father asked my uncle, aunt, relatives, and neighbors to gather together in our home. In front of everyone, he read the will that he had prepared.
“The will clearly stated that all the property shall be inherited by his eldest son.
“After reading the will, my father said slowly, 'I have no hope of surviving this illness. My son and daughter are still young, so I can only trouble their uncle, aunt, and other relatives to look after them. Although I am not exceedingly rich, I do have a decent amount of property. In my ranch, there are oxen, sheep, and horses. Of my land, the major one is this Orma Triangle, and the smaller ones are too numerous to mention individually. The stable downstairs has oxen, sheep, and donkeys. Upstairs, I have furniture, gold and silver antiques, along with jewels, gems and silk clothing. I also have storehouses filled with grains. Overall, I have enough wealth and need not rely on others. After I die, please use part of the property for my funeral. For the remaining wealth, I hope everyone gathered here, especially Uncle and Aunt, could help their mother take care of the two children. When Topaga grows up and it is time for marriage, please receive Dzese, the girl betrothed to him, into our family. The wedding expenses should match our social status. By then, my wealth should be managed by Topaga. I hope Uncle and Aunt could look after these two children and their mother. Please help so that the three of them will not suffer. After I die, I will check on them from between the coffin joints.'
“After saying those words, Father passed away, leaving the three of us behind.
“We buried Father, and after discussion, all of us agreed that mother would manage all the wealth. But my uncle and aunt were resolute and said, 'Although you are kin, we are even closer kin. We will never let the three of you suffer, so we will manage all the wealth according to the will.' My mother's brother and Dzese's father listed many reasons why Mother should take care of the property, but they would not listen at all. As a result, my property went to Uncle, while my sister's property went to Aunt. The remaining property was also split evenly between them.
“They then said to the three of us, 'From now on, we will take good care of you!'
“With that, all of our wealth was gone.
“From then on, Uncle had us till the fields in the scorching summer, while Aunt had us knit sheep's wool in the freezing winter. We ate food that was only fit for dogs and labored like livestock. We wore rags with belts made of grass rope. We worked from morning till evening with no breaks. The excessive labor wore out our hands and feet, and our cracked skin bled. There were not enough clothes to keep us warm or sufficient food to keep us fed. Our skin turned gray, and we were emaciated with only skin and bones. I remember there used to be gold, gems, and rings on the braid in my hair, but now that was all gone, and only a gray-black rope remained. In the end, my hair was so full of lice and lice eggs that they grew in my disheveled hair in nests. Anyone who saw us scolded my uncle and aunt for their cruelty. But with skin as thick as oxhide, they were shameless and paid no mind to these taunts. My mother thus called Aunt a mischievous yaksha, or tigress ghost, instead of Khyungtsa Paldren. The term tigress ghost later spread in the village. The villagers at that time often said, 'Snatching other people's property and treating the former owners like watchdogs, do these kinds of unfair things truly exist in the world!?'
“Before my father died, people rich and poor came to our home to connect with us and flatter us. Now that Uncle and Aunt had money and lived like nobles, these people began to get along with them. Some people even said bad things about my mother, 'There is a saying that a wealthy husband goes with a skillful wife. This is indeed true! See, when Nyangtsa Kargyen's husband was alive, she was a generous lady. Without him, she is so stingy.'
“There is a proverb in Tibet, 'When a person meets with bad luck once, gossip spreads far and wide.' As our situation continued to deteriorate, people's sympathy for us faded. It was replaced with scorn and gossip.
“Dzese's parents took pity on my misfortune and sometimes gave me some clothing or shoes. They also comforted me warmly, 'Topaga, you know, wealth is something that will not last forever. The wealth may come and go transiently like the morning dew. Please do not feel sad about your poverty. Didn't your grandfather also start with nothing? After you grow up, you can also make money and accumulate a fortune!'
“I was very grateful to them.
“My mother had land from her dowry. The name was not beautiful, but it was good land with a decent harvest. My eldest uncle cultivated this land and saved the millet each year for interest. After many years, the principal and interest added up to a fair amount. The difficult days passed one by one. When I turned 15, Mother sold half of the land. With the money from the sale and interest from the grain, she bought a great deal of meat, roasted highland barley flour, and rye to brew wine. Mother's actions astonished the villagers, and thus all of them started guessing among themselves, 'Will Nyangtsa Kargyen hold a feast and officially ask for her family's assets back?' After mother and her brother got everything ready, they laid out row after row of borrowed mats in the drawing room of our home with four pillars and eight beams. They asked Uncle and Aunt to host relatives, friends, and neighbors, especially those who were present when Father announced his will on his deathbed. Mother placed the best meat and dishes in front of Uncle and Aunt, and abundant food was laid out in front of each guest. Everyone also had a large bowl of wine in front of them. It was indeed a grand banquet.
“'Everyone, today I have prepared some meager food and diluted wine for us to get together as a small token,' Mother said.
Once everybody had sat down, my mother stood up from the middle of all the people and solemnly said, “Although today is my son's birthday, actually that is just nominal. I want to say a few words to everyone. When my husband Sherab Gyeltsen announced his will before his death, everyone, the elders, and Aunt and Uncle were all sitting here and all clearly understood. Now I want to invite everyone sitting here to listen to the will again.'
“Thereupon, her brother stood up and read the will loudly. Not one guest said a word.
“My mother continued, 'Topaga is now an adult and is of age to take a wife. According to the will from his father Sherab Gyeltsen, we should arrange the wedding according to our social status. Topaga should also inherit and manage our family's property in accordance with the will. As for the will we just read, everyone originally heard it firsthand when Sherab Gyeltsen was dying, and I need not repeat it. Today, I ask Uncle and Aunt to return the property they have been safeguarding to us. I also sincerely thank Uncle and Aunt and all of you for your care during all these years.'
“'Hey! Do you still have property?!' Both Uncle and Aunt shouted, 'Where is your property?'
“Normally, Uncle and Aunt disagreed with each other on almost everything. But when devouring other people's property, they were united.
“They said again, 'Do you still have property? Where is your property? When Sherab Gyeltsen was young, he borrowed lots of land, gold, gems, horses, oxen, and sheep from us. Since he has died, of course these should come back to us. What is yours? Your property is not even gold equivalent to one star in the night sky, a handful of wheat, one tael of yak butter, or one old piece of livestock. Humph! Where did this kind of daydream come from? Who wrote this will for you? Providing for you and your children for so many years is already more than enough! There is a saying that some people would return kindness with hatred. I think it was talking about useless people like you!'
“They were furious as they said these things, bellowing, with their teeth tightly clenched and making gnashing sounds.
“They jumped out of their seats, stomped their feet hard on the floor, and shouted, 'Hey! Do you understand? This house is ours. Get out!'
“With those words, they beat my mother with horsewhips and flung me and my sister Peta by our sleeves.
“Mother was on the floor in absolute despair and cried out, 'Sherab Gyeltsen! Do you see this? You said you would check on us from between the coffin joints. Did you see this just now?!'
“My sister and I huddled together with Mother, and the three of us sobbed terribly. Seeing many people cheering Uncle on, Mother's elder brother had no choice but to conceal his anger and remain silent. Some guests sighed, 'Poor mother and children!' Seeing our misfortune, they were heartbroken and in tears, but they could do nothing more than quietly sigh.
“Uncle and Aunt had not finished venting their anger and resentment, and they continued cursing the three of us viciously, like snarling dogs.
“'Humph! You want us to return your wealth? Yes, it is yours, but we just don’t want to give it back. How are you going to get it back? If we happily use it to drink wine and entertain guests, it's none of your business!' They went on ridiculing us with disdain, 'If you have it in you, find some people to fight us to get your property back. If you can’t find anyone, then try reciting some incantations!' With those words, they turned and left with their friends.
“The extreme grief left Mother sobbing breathlessly for a long time. Inside the home with four pillars and eight beams, only the three of us and some sympathetic relatives remained. Dzese, along with her father and brother, comforted us kindly. They were willing to offer us some daily supplies so we could survive. Mother's brother proposed that I learn a skill while Mother and Sister help him with farming. He insisted we needed to accomplish something to show Uncle and Aunt that the family of Sherab Gyeltsen was neither weak nor incapable, nor a family to be demeaned lightly.
“Finally Mother restrained her grief and wiped away her tears. With sorrow and anger she said resolutely, 'Since I do not have the ability to take back my property, I will not rely on others to raise my children either. Right now, even if the children's uncle and aunt return part of the wealth, I will not take it. Nonetheless, Topaga must learn a craft. Before repaying Uncle and Aunt's generosity, my daughter and I are most willing to even be servants or slave girls. We must show them!'
“Mother then turned to her brother and said, 'We are willing to take your place on the farm!'
“Seeing her determination, no one proposed any other ideas, and we followed her plan.
“There was a lama of the Red Sect who specialized in certain dharma skills, who the local villagers strongly believed in. (Note: The Red Sect in Tibet is considered one of the earliest forms of Tibetan Buddhism; the Tibetan name Nyingma originally should have been translated as “old teachings,” but because the lamas all wore red clothing, it was commonly called the Red Sect.) Mother told me to go to study with this Red Sect lama. When I left home, two or three relatives came to see me off. During those days, Dzese's parents often had her bring food, firewood, or oil to the place where I studied. When Mother and Sister could not find work, Mother's brother provided us with food. So that my mother would not have to beg for food, he would go all over the place looking for work for Mother. He did everything in his power to help the three of us. My sister occasionally ran errands, played the drums, cleaned barns, and did other odd jobs to get food and clothing. But we still ate very poorly and wore shabby rags. There was only grief, no joy.”
As Venerable Milarepa spoke to this point, the people listening to his Dharma sadly shed tears, feeling weary of the world. The disciples in the packed cave listening to the Dharma were quietly immersed in the sounds of wailing and sobbing.
(To be continued)