The Cultivation Story of Buddha Milarepa (Part 5)
(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 4)
“Ngokton Chodor and his family came with many offerings to request abhisheka from Hevajra. Master's wife told me, 'Marpa only cares about money, and he won't even teach dharma to an ascetic cultivator like you. Let me think of a way to obtain an offering. You need to get abhisheka no matter what. Please take this and go make a request. If he still does not teach you the dharma, I will go beg for you.' She then took a dragon-shaped ruby out from her undergarments and handed it to me. With this shining, bright ruby, I went into the chapel. After prostrating myself in front of master and turning in the ruby, I said, 'Master, please help me with abhisheka this time regardless.' With those words, I sat in the seat of the recipient.
“Master took the ruby, turned it over and looked at it for a while. He then asked, 'Powerful Man, where did you get this?'
“'It's from master's wife,' I replied.
“Master said with a smile, 'Call Dakmema in here!'
“Master's wife came, and master asked her, “Dakmema, where is this from?”
“His wife kowtowed numerous times and said, trembling with fear, 'This ruby has nothing to do with master. When I got married, my parents said you appeared to have a bad temper. If life were to get rough someday, I may need money. So they gave me this ruby and asked me not to show it to others. This is my secret property. But this disciple is too pitiful, so I gave the ruby to him. Please accept it and kindly perform abhisheka for him. In the past, you repeatedly drove him out during abhisheka, causing him to despair. This time, I hope Ngokton Chodor and other disciples can all help me to beg master together.' She then kowtowed again and again.
“Seeing master still wearing an angry expression, Ngokton and the others did not dare say anything. They simply prostrated themselves to master. Master said, 'Dakmema, how can you be so silly and give such a good ruby to others? Humph!' He then put the ruby on his head and continued, 'Dakmema, you are wrong. Everything you have is mine, including this ruby. Powerful Man, if you have offerings, I will perform abhisheka for you. This ruby is mine and does not count as your offering.'
“However, I thought master's wife would explain again why this ruby would be an offering. Everyone else was also begging for me. So I brazenly waited there and did not move.
“Master became furious. He jumped out of his seat and scolded me, 'I told you to get out. Why are you still here?!' He lifted his leg and kicked me all over. As my head bowed toward the ground, he stomped on it. I felt dizzy as if everything went dark. He suddenly kicked me again, rolling me over so I faced upward. The surroundings seemed to turn bright suddenly, and I saw stars. After the kicking, master picked up a whip and beat me. Ngokton came up and urged master to stop, but master truly looked extremely formidable. Jumping about in the hall, his mighty wrath had truly reached an extreme. I thought, 'Aside from pain, I will not obtain anything here. I should just kill myself.' As I cried bitterly, master's wife came to console me. Holding back tears, she said, 'Powerful Man, don't be sad. In this world, there is no disciple better than you. If you want to find other masters to learn dharma, I will certainly help introduce you. I will provide you living expenses and offerings to the master.' Usually master's wife would attend the follow-up ceremonies, but that time I cried the whole night, and she stayed with me the entire night.
“The next morning, master sent for me. I thought he would teach me dharma and ran over. Master asked me, 'I did not perform abhisheka for you yesterday. Are you upset? Did you have any ill thoughts?'
“I replied, 'My faith in master does not waver. I thought about it for a long time. This is because my sins are too great.' With deep sorrow in my heart, I sobbed as I spoke. Master said, 'Why are you crying before me instead of repenting?! Get out!'
“I went out feeling extremely pained, as if I had a mental disorder. I thought, 'This is really strange. When I committed wrongdoings, I had both living expenses and offerings. While studying dharma, however, I have neither and am this poor. Suppose I had half the money I had when I was doing bad things, I would have received abhisheka and verses. Without offerings, this master will not teach me verses. Even if I go to others' places, it will not help since I still have no offerings. Since I cannot obtain dharma without money, and this physical body continues to accumulate karma without gaining dharma, why not just kill myself? Ugh, what should I do?!' I thought about lots of things, and my mind was chaotic. I concluded that my priority was to get money. I could probably go work for someone wealthy and accumulate some assets to study dharma. Or, should I get money by casting spells and doing bad things? Alternatively, I could go back home. It would be so great to see mother. Actually, going back home would not be a bad thing, I just may not get money there. Ugh, no matter what, I have to get something—either dharma or money, instead of staying here for nothing. So I decided to leave. Thinking that taking anything from master would lead to more scoldings and beatings, I ended up taking no food with me, only my own books and other belongings.
“On the road, I thought about master's wife's help and felt sad. When I was a half-day's walk from Drowolung, it was noon and time for lunch. I begged for food and got some roasted barley flour. I then borrowed a pot and started a fire outside to boil some drinking water. Half a day passed, and I thought to myself: when I worked for master, I did that partly to serve master, but partly it was also to earn my food. Master's wife cared about me and treated me well. This morning I did not say farewell to her before leaving. It was not right. Thinking this over, I wanted to go back but did not have the courage. When I returned the pot to its owner, the old man said to me, 'You are still young. Why not do something useful instead of begging? If you can read, you can probably read scriptures for people. Otherwise, you can work for someone and get some food and clothing. Hey, young man, do you know how to read scriptures?'
“I don't read scriptures a lot. But I do know how!' I replied.
“'All right then. I need someone to read scriptures. Can you do it for me for five or six days? I will pay you!' the old man said.
“'Of course!' I answered happily.
“So I stayed at the old man's house reading Prajna Paramita. In the book was a story of Sada Prarudita. Like me, he was very poor. But he gave up everything in order to learn dharma. Everyone knows that a person would die if their heart were removed. Sada Prarudita nonetheless took his own heart out in order to learn dharma. Compared to him, what I have suffered is nothing. So I thought: master would probably teach me dharma. If not, his wife told me she would introduce me to other lamas. With these thoughts, I headed back.
“As to master, his wife told him after I left, 'Master, you have driven away the very enemy of yours. He is no longer here. You should be happy now!'
“Master Marpa asked, 'Who are you talking about?'
“'You don't know? It's Powerful Man—you always treated him like an enemy and made him suffer.'
“Hearing those words, master immediately turned pale and burst into tears. With his palms together, he prayed, 'All previous masters of this dedicated heritage, and all dakinis and divine custodians, please help my disciple with very good inborn quality to come back!' After those words, he became speechless.
“After coming back, I first kowtowed to master's wife. She said ecstatically, 'Ah, I feel much better now. I think master will probably teach you dharma this time. When I told him that you had left, he called aloud for his disciple with very good inborn quality to come back. He was even in tears. Powerful Man, you have brought out master's compassion!' I thought to myself: Master's wife probably said these things to comfort me. If master did have tears and called me someone with good inborn quality, that means he was satisfied with my behavior. On the other hand, if he just asks me to come back without abhisheka or verses, then my inborn quality still counts for nothing. I would continue suffering unless I go to other places. As I thought these things, master's wife told him, 'Powerful Man does not want to leave us, and he has come back. How about asking him to kowtow to you?'
“Master Marpa said, 'Humph! It's not that he does not want to abandon us. He is unwilling to abandon himself.'
“When I went to prostrate myself in front of master, he said, 'You need to be patient and get rid of those messy thoughts. If you are truly sincere about obtaining dharma, you should be ready to give up your life for it. Go build a three-story house for me. I will perform abhisheka for you once it is done. I do not have much food and can’t give it away for nothing. If you cannot get over it and want to travel, you can leave at any time!'
“I could not say a word and left the room.
“I went to master's wife and said, 'I miss my mother. Master does not want to teach me dharma. Once again he said he would teach me after I build a house. Even after the house is done, he probably still won’t teach me and will only scold and hit me. I have decided to go back to my hometown. I wish you and master peace and happiness.' With those words, I packed up my luggage and got ready to leave.
“Master's wife said, 'Powerful Man, you are right. I will definitely find a good master for you. Ngokton Chodor is a principal disciple of master, and he has obtained the verses. I will think of a way to send you to learn from him. Don't rush. Stay here for a few days.' Thus, I did not leave.
“Indian master Naropa had a large chanting ritual on the tenth day of each month to worship Buddhas. Following this tradition, master Marpa also had a chanting ritual on the tenth day of each month. This time, master's wife brewed three types of wine from one big bag of rye: one strong, one medium and one light. She invited master for the strong wine, other lamas for the medium one, while she and I had the light one. Many people toasted each other that day, and the lamas all became drunk, including master. Seeing master was drunk, his wife went to his bedroom and took out a seal, ornaments, and a ruby rosary from a small suitcase. She stamped a letter she had prepared and put the seal back. After wrapping the fake letter, rosary, and ornaments together, she sealed the package with wax and handed it to me. 'You need to go to Ngokton Chodor and tell him master gave this to you as an offering for him,' she said.
“After kowtowing to her, I took the package and headed to Ü. Two days later, master asked his wife, 'What is Powerful Man doing these days?'
“'He is gone! That is all I know.'
“'Where did he go?' Master asked.
“'He worked very hard to build houses. You not only refused to teach him dharma but also scolded and beat him. He has left to learn find other masters. He planned to tell you but was afraid you might beat him again. So he left without notice. I tried hard to stop him but could not.'
“After hearing these words, master Marpa's face turned blue. He asked, 'When did he leave?'
“Master thought quietly for a while and said, 'My disciple will not go far.'
“When I arrived at Ü, master Ngokton was teaching many lamas the Hevajra Tantra. After I prostrated to him from far away, he removed his hat to greet me back and said, 'This position is that of a disciple of Marpa. This is a very good karmic relationship. This person will become a king of dharma in the future. Could you check who it is?' One monk came to look, and we had met before. 'Oh, it's you. Why are you here?' he asked.
“I said, 'Master Marpa is very busy, and he did not have time to teach me. So I came to learn dharma. Master Marpa gave me ornaments from Naropa and the rosary as proof.'
“The monk went to master Ngokton and said, 'Powerful Man is here!' He then repeated my words.
“Master Ngokton was very pleased, 'Coming here with ornaments from Naropa and rosary, it is like udumbara flowers blossoming, rare and unimaginable. We should welcome him with respect. Let us stop the lecture for now. Those of you in the audience, quickly go get the canopy, banners, ornaments, and musical instruments. Also, ask Powerful Man to wait outside for a while.'
“The monk thus asked me to wait there as they prepared. The place where I kowtowed was later named 'Kowtowing Hillock.'
“After a while, with the canopy, banners and music, they escorted me into the grand hall. I kowtowed again and turned in the presents. Master Ngokton was in tears and put the ornaments on his head. After praying for strengthening, he placed them in the center of the altar, surrounded by all kinds of exquisite offerings. He then opened the letter, which said:
“'Ngokton Chodor, I am in a meditation retreat and have no time to teach Powerful Man. I am now asking him to come and seek dharma from you. Please give him abhisheka and verses. I am now giving you ornaments from master Naropa and the rosary.'
“After reading the letter, Ngokton said, 'This is an order from master. I will provide you with abhisheka and verses no matter what. For a long time I have been thinking of asking you to come and learn dharma here. Now you have come, and it is with master's blessing.' He paused before continuing, 'Ah, Powerful Man! I remember that many lamas from Yarlung, Kham, and Dakpo often came here to learn from me. But bad people from Yepo in Dol always harassed them, stopping them from giving me offerings. Please go cast a hailstorm there. I will then give you abhisheka and verses.'
“Hearing this, I was surprised and thought, 'I am indeed a sinful person. I have to commit wrongdoing everywhere I go! I came here to learn the righteous dharma, not to harm people with a hailstorm. I did not know I would have to do this again. If I do not cast the hailstorm, it is against master's will, and I will be unable to learn dharma. If I do follow the instructions, I am doing bad things again. Ugh! I'd better follow master's order and cast another hailstorm.'
“With no other choice, I prepared the necessary materials, strengthened them with an incantation, and arrived at Dol. After casting a spell, I went to an old woman's place for shelter. The lightning and thunder immediately started, with dark clouds coming one wave after another. Before the big hailstones arrived, small ones started to come down. The old woman cried out, “Heavens! My wheat is gone. How will I survive?!”
“Her words pained me. I sighed, 'I’ve committed major crimes!' So, I asked her, 'Where is your field? Can you draw a picture of it?' She then drew a triangle that resembled a long lip skin. I made a gesture and covered the triangle under a pot. Her land was protected from the disaster. But a corner of it was not covered well, and the crops in that corner were blown away by the rainstorm. After a long time, the storm stopped, and I went out to take a look. A heavy flood had come down from the hills above the two villages and washed away all the crops. Only the old woman's field was spared, and her crops were healthy as usual. Interestingly, whenever a hailstorm happened again later on, the field was always spared. This woman no longer needed to invite lamas for rituals to protect her land.
“On the way back, I saw two old shepherds, whose oxen and sheep had been driven away by the flood. I said to them, 'Stop robbing disciples of Ngokton Chodor from now on. If you do it again, I will come back with more hailstorms!'
“After this incident, people in the area did not dare to rob anymore. Gradually they began to believe in master Ngokton and worship him. Later on they became his almsgivers.
“On a grassland with brambles, I collected dead birds and rats, all of which had been killed by the hailstorm. Carrying a bag of dead animals, I returned to the temple. I put them in front of master and said, “Master, I came here for righteous dharma, but I did not know I would have to incur bad karma again. Please kindly forgive me.” With those words, I began to cry.
“Master Ngokton said to me calmly, 'Powerful Man, please don't worry. The dharma and power of Naropa and Maitripa are able to liberate people with great sins based on their Buddha-nature. I also have the verse to offer salvation to hundreds of birds and animals instantly. All sentient beings that died during the hailstorm will be reborn as the first congregation to listen to your lecture in your pure land when you attain Buddhahood. I can use my abilities to prevent them from falling into unfortunate destinies before rebirth. If you do not believe it, just watch.' He went silent for a while. All the birds and animals came back to life and either ran or flew away.
“Seeing such an extraordinary reality, my heart was filled with joy and admiration. I regretted that I did not kill more animals. Otherwise, couldn’t I have saved more sentient beings?
“Master Ngokton then taught me dharma. At the altar of Hevajra, he performed abhisheka and taught me the verses.
“I then found an ancient cave. The entrance faced south, from where I could see master's residence. I briefly repaired the cave and began to meditate inside according to the dharma from master. However, without approval from master Marpa, I did not experience any effect, although I practiced very hard.
“One day, master Ngokton came to visit me and asked, 'Powerful Man, you should have such and such sensations already. How do you feel now?'
“'I do not feel anything.'
“What? What are you talking about? With this dharma, everyone will achieve sensations in a short time unless they have violated the precepts. Plus, you came here because you believed in me.' He then thought for a while and talked to himself, 'If master Marpa did not approve of this, he would not have given me those items. Well, this is strange. Why is it?' He then said to me, 'Try again, keep meditating and thinking diligently!'
“Master's words terrified me. But I dared not tell him the whole story. I thought to myself, 'No matter what, I need to obtain approval from master Marpa.' But at the same time, I continued to practice diligently.
“At the time, master Marpa was building a house for his son, and he wrote a letter to Ngokton Lama, 'My son's house needs lumber. Please send as much fir wood as possible. After the house is finished, we will chant Mahaprajnaparamita Sutra and have a big celebration. You should come at that time. Powerful Man is a bad person and must be at your place now. You can bring him with you. Marpa.'
“Ngokton Lama brought the letter to me and said, 'Why did master call you a bad person? What is this about? I am afraid master did not approve of this.'
“I had to admit it, 'You are right! Master did not really approve it. The letter and items I gave you were from his wife.'
“'Oh, if that is the case, both of us have done something meaningless. Without approval from master, of course there is no mighty virtue. Ugh, there is nothing we can do. He wants you to go with me.'
“'All right, I will go then,' I replied.
“'After sending over lumber, I will pick a good date. For now, you can continue staying here to cultivate in stillness,' Ngokton Lama said.
“A few days later, people at Ngokton’s place knew I was about to leave and came to talk with me. We chatted about the new house and the coming-of-age celebration for Marpa's son. One lama who had recently returned from master Marpa's place came to me, and I asked, 'Did they talk about me over there?' The lama replied, 'Master's wife once asked me: what is my Powerful Man doing these days?' I told her you were meditating. She asked what else you were doing other than meditating. I said there was nothing, since you were only sitting in a cave with no one else. She said you had forgotten something that you were especially fond of and asked me to bring it to you. The lama then gave me several dice made of clay that master's wife asked him to pass to me. I held them in my hand and began to think of her.
“After the lama left, I played with the dice and thought: I never played with this in front of master's wife. Why would she say I am fond of them? Is it that she does not like me? I also thought about my grandfather, who had to leave his village and wander about because of dice. As I thought about all this, one dice fell on the ground and broke. Between the broken pieces was a paper slip. I picked it up and saw the words, 'My disciple, master will provide you with abhisheka and verses. Please come with Ngokton Lama.' After reading the note, I was extremely happy and ran around the cave. After a few days, Ngokton Lama said to me, 'Powerful Man, it is time to get ready for the trip!'
“Other than presents from master Marpa, Ngokton Lama brought everything with him as offerings to master Marpa, including Buddha statues, scriptures, musical instruments, a bell pestle, together with gold, jade, silk, and daily articles. The only exception was an old, lame sheep. The sheep had an eccentric temperament and never wanted to follow the others.
“Ngokton Lama gave me a bale of silk and said, 'You are a good disciple. Please bring this as a present to maser Marpa.' His wife also gave me a bag of yak butter snacks and said, 'This is for master's wife, Dakmema.'
“With these items, Ngokton Lama and I began the trip together with his disciples. When we were near Lhodrak, Ngokton Lama said to me, 'Powerful Man, can you tell master's wife we are here? Hopefully there will be a cup of wine for me.' I followed his instruction and met master's wife. After turning over the yak butter snacks, I said, 'Ngokton Lama has arrived. He hopes to have a cup of wine.'
“Master's wife was very glad to see me. She said, 'Master is in the bedroom. You can go and tell him about this.' I was very nervous when entering the room. Master was sitting in meditation on a bed facing east. I prostrated myself in front of him and turned in the silk. He ignored me and turned his head to the west. I went to the west and prostrated myself again. He turned to the south. I had no choice but said, 'Master, I know you are upset with me and do not want to accept my worship. But Ngokton Lama brought his body, speech, and mind, together with all of his belongings including gold, silver, jade, and livestock as offerings. He hopes to have a cup of wine. Please extend your compassion and fulfill his wish.' Upon hearing my words, master Marpa appeared very conceited. He snapped his fingers and said furiously, 'When I brought back the inconceivable Tripitaka scriptures from India, essentials of four vehicles and sacred verses, no one welcomed me, not even a mouse. Who is he?! Just because he brings a little property with him, I, the great translator, need to welcome him?! If that is the case, he'd better not come.'
“I backed out and told master's wife. She said, 'Master has a really bad temper. Ngokton Lama is an outstanding person. We need to welcome him. The two of us can go.' I said, 'Ngokton Lama does not expect you or master to come. He just wants a cup of wine.'
“But master's wife said, 'Hmm, no no, I will go.' She then went to welcome Ngokton Lama with several lamas and lots of wine.
“On the day of the celebration, everyone in the three villages of Lhodrak gathered for a feast, congratulating the coming-of-age of master Marpa's son and the completion of the new house. During the feast, master Marpa sang an auspicious song.
“After the song was over, Ngokton Lama turned in everything he brought and said, 'Master, everything of mine—body, speech, and mind—all belongs to you. When I came this time, I only left behind an old sheep. She is grandmother of the herd, too old and lame. I brought everything else to you as offerings. Master, please honor me with the sacred abhisheka and verses, especially essentials of the Kagyu (also known as Oral Lineage, passed down verbally from master to disciple in secret).' He prostrated himself again.
“Master Marpa replied happily, 'Oh, the sacred abhisheka and verses are a shortcut of Vajrayana. With that, one can attain Buddhahood in one lifetime instead of several life cycles of practice. Previous masters and dakinis specifically emphasized that this needs to be taught verbally. Since you are seeking dharma, although the sheep is old and lame, without it this still cannot be called a whole offering. So I am unable to teach you the verses. As to the other dharma, I have already taught them to you.' Hearing these words, everyone laughed.
“Ngokton Lama said, 'If I include the old sheep in the offering, will you teach me dharma?' Master Marpa replied, 'If you bring it here yourself, I will teach you.'
“The following day, after the celebration ended, Ngokton Lama went back himself and carried the sheep back for master. Master Marpa was very pleased, 'This is what we call the Secret Mantrayana (that is, Vajrayana), and we need disciples like you. In fact, what can I do with an old sheep? But to respect the dharma, we must do this.' Master Marpa then performed abhisheka and taught him the verses.
“Several days later, a few lamas came from far away. Together with some lamas here, we gathered together for a ritual. Master Marpa placed a long sandalwood rod next to him. With eyes wide open and an angry gesture, he shouted furiously, 'Ngokton Chodor! For a bad person like Topaga, why did you give him abhisheka and verses?!' As he spoke, he looked at the stick, and his hand slowly reached for it. Shaking with fear, Ngokton Lama kowtowed and answered, 'Master, you sent me a letter giving me permission to teach him. You also gave me ornaments from master Naropa and a ruby rosary. Powerful Man and I were following your order. Please forgive us!' After those words, he looked around nervously and did not know how to appease master's anger.
“Master pointed at me in fierce anger, 'You scum! Where were they from?' By then, I felt pained, as if a knife was piercing my heart. Terrified and shaking, I could hardly speak, 'That...that...that was from master's wife.' Hearing those words, master jumped out of his seat and went to beat his wife. She knew this would happen and was standing far away from us. Seeing that things were not going well, she rushed into the room and shut the door. Master ran to the door, roared, and hit the door hard. After a long time, he went back to his seat and said, 'Ngokton Chodor, it is you who did something so absurd! Now, go get master Naropa's ornaments and the rosary!' He shook his head as he talked, still enraged. Ngokton hurriedly kowtowed to him and went back to fetch the rosary and ornaments.
“At that time, master's wife and I ran outside of the house. Seeing Ngokton Lama coming out, I cried and said to him, 'I beg you, please guide me in the future!' He replied, 'Without master's permission, even if I guide you, the result would be the same as this time. It won't do any good for you or me. So please stay here. After you receive permission from master, I will help you no matter what.'
“I said, 'I have accumulated enormous sins. Even master and his wife are suffering so much because of me. I don't think I can succeed in learning dharma in this lifetime. I'd better kill myself.' I then took out a knife to commit suicide (Tibetans usually carry a knife with them). Ngokton Lama came up and held me tightly, 'Agh! Powerful Man, my friend, please don't do this. What master teaches us is the Secret Vajrayana. Its teaching says one's own skandhas, dhatus, and ayatanas are all connected to Buddhahood. Before one’s life ends, even if one utilizes Pravritti-vijnana (controlling one's consciousness, including that between life and death), it is considered a crime of killing a Buddha. There is no sin in this world more serious than suicide. Even Exoteric Buddhism says ending one's own life is the worst crime. Please, think about it and give up this thought. Master will probably teach you dharma. Even if he does not, it will be all right since you can learn from other lamas.' As he said that, everyone around us, including all the lamas, sympathized with me. Some came to comfort me, while some went to master to see if there was any chance he could teach me. I think my heart must have been made of iron at the time; otherwise, it would have been torn into pieces by the pain. I, Milarepa, had accumulated a mountain of karma, and to seek righteous dharma I had to suffer such enormous pain!”
After the Venerable finished these words, everyone listening to him was in tears. Some began to feel pessimistic about this world, and some even fainted of sadness.
Rechungpa asked, “Master, how did master Marpa later decide to teach you dharma?”
(To be continued)