The Cultivation Story of Buddha Milarepa (Part 6)
(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 5)
Milarepa said, “When I was about to kill myself, the lamas rushed back and forth, urging me to stop and begging master for help. After a while, master Marpa calmed down and said, 'Oh, tell Dakmema to come here!' After his wife arrived, master asked, 'Where are Ngokton Chodor and the other disciples now?'
“His wife replied, 'When Ngokton followed your instruction to get Naropa's ornaments and rosary, he saw Powerful Man outside about to commit suicide. Powerful Man asked Ngokton to perform rituals to free his soul from suffering after his death. Everyone is trying to stop Powerful Man now.'
“Master heard that and was in tears. He said, 'Such a good disciple! He has met all the qualifications for a disciple of the Secret Mantrayana [Vajrayana], very pitiable. Have all of them come in now.' One disciple thus ran to Ngokton Lama and said, 'Master has calmed down now. He sent me to ask you and Powerful Man to come in.'
“Hearing these words, I panicked and interrupted him, 'I am afraid no one would like it if I go there. With my sins, even if master is in a good mood, I am still unworthy of being in his presence. Suppose I brace myself and go, I'm afraid he would only scold and beat me again.' After saying this, I continued crying bitterly. Ngokton Lama said to the disciple, 'Go tell master what Powerful Man said. Let’s see if Powerful Man can go see master. I need to stay here to take care of him. Otherwise, there could be an incident.' The disciple went back and told master all of this in full detail. Master's wife also went in.
“Master said, 'What he said was true in the past. But the situation is different now, and he need not be afraid again. This time, Powerful Man will be my guest of honor. Dakmema, tell him to come in!' His wife came to me and said with delight, 'Master has the deepest sympathy for you now. This time you will be his guest of honor, and he told me to send you in. You must know that he didn't yell at me. Hurry up, be happy, and go in!' Skeptical, I could not believe my ears. I walked into the house in a daze.
“After everyone was seated, master said, 'Regarding what happened in the past, none of us were wrong. I needed to cleanse Powerful Man's sinful karma, so I intentionally had him do hard labor and build houses. This way, Visuddhimagga [the Path of Purification] could cleanse his sins. This is now finished, so I did not do wrong. Dakmema is a woman and too soft-hearted, too merciful, so it's hard to blame her. But forging the letter was a major wrongdoing. Ngokton did not do wrong, either. But you need to return the ornaments and rosary to me, and I will give them to you later. As for Powerful Man, he was eager to obtain dharma and exhausted every method he could to obtain dharma. So I really cannot blame him.'
“'This time, Ngokton did not know it was a fake letter from Dakmema. He thus taught Powerful Man the verses and performed abhisheka for him. This made me unable to give Powerful Man any further suffering. That is why I was furious and ignored your requests. However, please be aware that this rage is different from the anger of an average person. Anything that manifested in the past was all for the dharma. The svabhava [intrinsic nature] should align with Bodhi [enlightenment or awakening]. If you do not understand the liberation process, please do not develop incorrect understandings. Furthermore, if my son Powerful Man could endure nine major sufferings, great torments, he would be liberated (meaning he would no longer reincarnate within the six paths of transmigration). Without the restriction of these skandhas [elements that form an individual's mental and physical existence], he would attain Buddhahood. Right now, he has not achieved this because he has a small amount of karma remaining. And this was completely caused by Dakmema's soft-heartedness.'
“'Be that as it may, most of his karma was purified fundamentally during his eight major ascetics and countless small ascetics. From this day on, I will support him, perform abhisheka for him and teach him verses. I will impart the most secret essentials and verses to him. In addition, I will provide provisions and other assistance for him to cultivate well. Powerful Man, you can really be happy now!'
“At that time, I thought to myself: Is this real, or is this a dream? If it is a dream, I hope to never wake up.' With my heart filled with immeasurable joy, I burst into tears of joy that came forth like a spring. I wept as I prostrated in front of master. Of his wife, Ngokton Lama and the many others in attendance, some thought that master's way to eliminate karma was really impressive. Some thought that master's strengthening and compassion were really immense. Some thought that master was no different from a Buddha. Master's wife and Ngokton Lama had both taken pity on me, and they were happy for me. In tears, they kowtowed to master and said, 'We really want to thank you!' We thus all finished the ritual with happy laughter and tears.
“That evening we gathered together to worship Buddhas with offerings. After we finished, master said, 'Today we will have the ordination ceremony of pratimoksha vows for you.' After my hair was shaved and my clothing was changed, master said to me, 'Your name was already determined when we first met. In my dream, I saw master Naropa giving you the name Mila Dorje Gyaltsen.' This became my dharma name, and I also received layman precepts and Bodhisattva precepts from master.
“Master then strengthened a skull cap of inner offering with his mental power [secret cultivation practices have preserved the use of this dharma implement in rituals]. The skull cap suddenly emitted colorful, bright light, which could be seen by everyone at the ceremony. After presenting the sweet dew of strengthening to ancestral masters and Buddhas as worship, master Marpa took a sip of it and then handed it to me. I finished all of it in one gulp. Master said, 'This is a great pratitya-samutpada [dependent arising]!'
“My inner offering is more unique and special than the four traditional types of abhisheka (vase abhisheka, secret abhisheka, prajnajnana abhisheka, and fourth abhisheka). Tomorrow morning, I will perform it for you,' master said.
“The next morning, a large mandala with 62 deities of Chakrasamvara upon it was established for the abhisheka. Revealing the mandala, master pointed at it and said, 'This is a superficial mandala made of colors in the human world. Now, take a look at the true mandala!' With those words, he pointed to an empty area. Instantly, dozens of beautiful places in Chakrasamvara were seen, with dakinis and other beings soaring around. Master and Buddhas said together, 'Your name will be Shepa Dorje.'
“Master then articulated to me the Secret Tantra, telling me verses for meditation and secret practices. He placed his hand on my head and said, 'Son, when you first came, I knew you were a disciple with inborn quality. The night before you came, I had a dream. This prophetic dream indicated that you would succeed in the Buddha dharma. Dakmema also had a similar dream with messages from dakinis. Because you are a disciple brought to me by dakinis, I welcomed you by pretending to plow the field.'
“'You finished the wine I gave you and plowed the entire field, which was an omen that you would receive verses and reach consummation. You later gave me a copper lamp with four handles as an offering, indicating you would become one of my four major disciples. The lamp had no damage or rust, implying that you would be free of worries and enjoy the warmth of Kundalini. The lamp was empty, meaning you would experience food shortages and suffer from hunger in the future. To help you and your disciples benefit from the dharma, and so that disciples with capacity for growth can appreciate the essentials of the verses, I filled it with oil and lit it. To help your reputation travel far and wide, I knocked on it for a loud sound. To remove your karma, I had you build houses for pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and subjugating.' I drove you out of the seat of abhisheka and did many unreasonable things to you, but you did not have any ill thoughts. This means that you and your disciples will have confidence, diligence, wisdom, compassion, and other qualifications a disciple should have. With these qualities and no greed, one can endure pain and remain determined until enlightenment and the attainment of Buddhahood. The dharma I teach you orally will prosper and grow without limit. Son, you should be happy!'
“This way, master gave me his prophecies, encouragement, consolation and praise. From then on, I began the joyful journey of cultivating the righteous dharma.”
Rechungpa asked, “Master, after you received the verses, did you go to cultivate in the mountains immediately or stay at master Marpa's place?”
Milarepa replied, “Master asked to me continue to practice at his place without worries. He also provided me with very good clothing and food and told me to meditate in tranquility in a cave above a cliff close to a nearby village.
“While meditating in the cave, I placed a lit yak butter lamp on my head. I would sit still, without moving or leaving the seat, until the lamp went out. In this way, I meditated all day and all night for 11 months.
“Master and his wife came with good food from a monthly worship ritual one day. Master said at the entrance of the cave, 'Son, you have now meditated for exactly 11 months. I am happy that you have kept the seat warm and remained diligent. Right now, how about breaking the door down and coming to talk to me? You can have a rest and share your understandings with me.'
“After hearing these words from master from inside my cave, I said, 'I do not need a rest, but I will come out since it is master's command.' When I was about to break the door, I became hesitant, thinking it was a pity to stop like this. With this hesitation, I further lost the courage to break down the door. Master's wife came and asked, 'Son, are you breaking the door down?'
“I lack the courage to do that,' I replied.
“She said, 'You will not be at fault in the least if you come out. This is how the Secret Mantrayana is so profound. Master is hot tempered, so please do not lose this predestination. I will help break down the door so you can come out.' With those words, she destroyed the door to the cave, and I returned with her and master to the temple.
“After entering the temple, master said, 'Now let us, father and son, do the ritual of Abhisamaya [understanding of the dharma]. Dakmema, please prepare the offerings.' During the ceremony, master asked, 'Son, what are your understandings of the verses now? Have you gained any righteous enlightenment that you can share with me? Take your time and tell me.'
“Kneeling down in front of master with palms pressed together in tears, I sang seven songs as offerings.
“After the seven offering songs, I proceeded to tell master, 'Master and master's wife, my parents, you are no different from Vajradhara. I am always grateful for your incomparable compassion and strengthening. Your disciple feels your incomparable benevolence. Now allow me to present some of my limited understandings before you. I pray that you, at your realm, take pity and extend your compassion to listen.'
“'Our mind and body came into existence because of twelve karmic reasons, including ignorance. On the one hand, our human body is composed of blood, flesh and the mind, which is led along by karmic relationships. On the other hand, for those with virtue and good inborn quality, the human body is a priceless treasure ship that travels on the river connecting life and death toward the side of liberation. For those who commit wrongdoings and crimes, it is a cesspool of temptation and unfortunate destinies. Depending on whether one does good or evil, the same human body can go up or down, or lead to the difference between happiness and pain. I came to understand that what choice is made at such crossroads—or how to utilize this human body—is in reality the most important thing in life.
“'All suffering is rooted in the sea of reincarnation. It is very difficult to pass through. Fortunately, today I am blessed that compassionate master guides me and shows me a direction in the overwhelming, boundless sea of life and death.
“'I also came to understand that for a beginner who studies Buddhism or Daoism, one should first take refuge in Buddha, dharma and sangha, and then study dharma. When learning dharma, it is most important to follow master because master is the source of all happiness. One should obey all instructions from master. In addition, one should follow the samaya precepts, which are also critical.
“Among the myriad sentient beings, human beings are very rare; among the innumerable population of human beings, it is even more rare to find someone who can hear the dharma, know the path to liberation, and walk the journey of Bodhi. That is, among all the countless sentient beings, the proportion with a predestined opportunity to learn Buddha dharma are even more rare; it is so difficult to obtain!
“'Although we are fortunate to have a human body, we cannot guarantee the safety of our lives. No one knows what day we may die, what day we may lose this precious human body. That is why we should treasure this human body and cherish this human body.
“Everything in this universe follows the laws of cause and effect. Doing good will result in a favorable outcomes, and doing evil will result in negative consequences. Knowing such laws of cause and effect, one would be clear on the root of happiness versus suffering, intelligence versus foolishness, and wealth versus poverty. All of these are also transient, and these good or bad effects could change too. That is, the virtue from good deeds, fortune from hard work, and family relations from sentimentality, as well as joy and excitement, are all short-lived. In other words, they will change, diminish, and are not reliable. Compared to suffering, one's joy is rare. The pain from the three lower realms of reincarnation are even more unimaginable. During endless reincarnations in the boundless ocean of life and death, all sentient beings have thoroughly suffered these pains and sorrows. Thinking about the boundless fatigue and suffering naturally makes me dedicate myself wholeheartedly to the dharma, the longing for liberation, and the determination to attain Buddhahood.
“'A clean mind and body is the basis for learning Buddha dharma, so the first step is the pratimoksha vows. Thereafter, we would gradually study righteous dharma. One should safeguard the precepts of training like one would protect one's eyes, causing them neither damage nor degeneration. However, seeking personal liberation is merely a limited Hinayana [Small Vehicle] practice. To take pity on all sentient beings and liberate them from the ocean of suffering one needs greater compassion and Bodhi. The favors and affection of all sentient beings are like parental bonds; how can I pay them back? That is why all kindness on the journey of Bodhi should be returned to all sentient beings. Thus, considering all sentient beings as my parents, I vow to attain Buddhahood, achieve great Bodhi kindness, and learn all the Bodhisattva precepts.
“'With a Great Vehicle foundation like this, one can enter into Mantra Vajrayana. With a clean mind, one follows a qualified master, receives teachings on the intrinsic nature of reincarnation and obtains four types of abhisheka for promulgation and wisdom. The deep insight from abhisheka is followed sequentially by clear observation, persevering diligently in cultivation and attaining selflessness. With teachings from Buddhas and rational thoughts, one would search for self but be unable to find self. This is the selflessness principle of an enlightened person. With this selflessness one can practice righteous tranquility in meditation, abstain from wrong thoughts and prevent them from coming again. With such a non-conceptual mind, one could continue meditation without moving. As months and years pass by, one would enter tranquility.
“'This way, one continues with an upright will that prevents drowsiness. Enlightenment would gradually increase, evident without intrinsic nature and clear without discrimination. It is plain and visible, and simply a manifestation of one's determination. Some thus regard it as a sacred phenomena, since an earthly person can hardly experience such special phenomena. Only after entering the first of ten preliminary stages could a person see such real, sacred scenes. That is, one could study dharma by following these scenes. Other scenes seen in meditation, such as seeing a Buddha image, are merely tiny tests during practice and have no significant value.
“Before entering meditation with or without visible scenes, one should first develop a compassionate heart; all of this is for the sake of sentient beings. One maintains a pure mind before entering contemplative practice. Finally, one dedicates all of the merit and virtue back to sentient beings. To do all of this without discrimination is the most sacred way. I now really understand these principles!
“'Starving people know that food can stop their hunger. But 'knowing' itself is meaningless and cannot solve the issue of hunger. To resolve it, one has to actually eat food. Similarly, one may know some theories of emptiness. But knowing it is itself useless, since one needs to experience it, followed by an increase of observation with wisdom. For yogis, emptiness means no explaining, no discriminating and equality with Tantra practitioners. This is my limited understanding. To fully practice it, one should endure fatigue and hunger, and like a dead body, abandon all sentimentality. Unafraid of death and with no disturbances in the mind, one would be able to follow dharma diligently. Before the incomparably benevolent master and master's wife, I, Milarepa have no offerings of material goods or money. I can only dedicate my entire life's practice and achievements to you. By following the dharma, I will devote myself to the solemn Pure Land as my offering to you.'
“I then sang another song.
“Master listened until the end and very happily said, 'Son, have you reached this level?' His wife was also extremely glad, 'My son, you have worked hard and gained much wisdom.' We had a long conversation about practicing, and I later returned to the cave for meditation.
“Master went to Ü once to spread the dharma. After finishing a worship ritual one evening, he remembered some parts from master Naropa's teaching that he was unclear about. Dakinis also gave him some hints, so master decided he wanted to go to India again to meet master Naropa.
“Several days after master Marpa returned to Lhodrak, I had a dream one night. A young lady in green came to me. She was wearing silk clothing with bone ornaments. Both her forehead between her eyebrows and her waist were decorated with yellow elixir. She said to me, 'Son, you have practiced for a long time. Right now, you have obtained Mahamudra, verses and the essentials of six dharma methods to attain Buddhahood. But you still do not have the verses of ejection and transference to achieve Buddhahood instantly, right?' I thought, 'This lady looks like a dakini, but is it real or is it a demon? No matter what, my master knows all the Buddha dharma. If this is an instruction from dakinis, I need to learn it from master.' So I broke the cave entrance, left the cave and went before master. Master said, 'Son, why did you stop meditating in seclusion? What did you come out to do? Please tell me why. Be alert to demons!'
“I replied, 'Last night a lady came into my dream, telling me to seek the dharma of ejection and transference. I do not know if it was a demon or a dakinis' prediction. If it was a dakini, I would like to learn the verses of ejection and transference.' Master thought quietly for a while and then said, 'This is from dakinis, it was not a demon. When I left India, master Naropa talked about the verses for ejection and transference. I wanted to learn, and he asked me to look for the scriptures. The two of us spent an entire day. There were many books on similar topics, but we did not find the one for ejection and transference. Several days ago, when I was in Ü, I also had a hint to seek this dharma. Plus there are some verses that I need clarification on from master. So I have decided to go to India again to meet master Naropa.' Hearing this, everyone asked him not to go, 'Master, please rethink this because of your old age.' Master did not listen; he was determined. He exchanged disciples' offerings for a bowl of gold, which he carried on him, and left for India.
“At that time, venerable Naropa was out for meditation. Master Marpa asked around, risking his life looking for him without success. But because he had seen a sign that he could meet master Naropa, he continued with dedication, and in the end they met in a forest. Master asked Naropa to go to Pullahari to teach the dharma of ejection and transference. Master Naropa asked, 'Since you asked about this, was it your own idea, or was it a prediction from Buddhas?'
“Master Marpa replied, 'I did not come up with this idea myself, nor did a dakini mention it to me. I have a disciple whose name is Topaga, and a dakini gave him the prediction. He asked me about it, and this is why I came to India this time.'
“Venerable Naropa was surprised, 'Ah, this is very rare. In a dark place like Tibet, I did not expect such a great sage to shed light on the snow mountains like the sun.' He then pressed his palms together, placed them over his head and began to sing,
'Among the darkness in the north,snowy mountains become bright like sunlight;Hearing the name Topaga,I salute with sincerity from my heart.'
“After singing, he pressed his palms together again, closed his eyes, and bowed to the ground three times toward the north. Trees in that region also bowed with him three times. Even today, the mountains and trees near Pullahari still maintain this posture, as if they are leaning and nodding to Tibet in the north.
“Venerable Naropa then taught dakinis' verses and the complete dharma on ejection and transference to master Marpa.
“To observe the karmic relationship, venerable master Naropa revealed a mandala. Master Marpa first bowed to the mandala deities instead of master Naropa. Based on this omen, master Naropa knew Marpa's offspring would not last long, while his dharma would be passed down unceasingly like a great river and would continue on in the world eternally.
“After obtaining the dharma, master Marpa came back to Tibet.
“As a result of the predestined affinity of master Marpa's kowtowing, his son died at a young age. One year after his son's death, the disciples all gathered together, and several principal disciples asked master Marpa, 'Master, you are no different from other Buddhas. Because we sentient beings lack virtue, you also appear to have aged. For our dharma of Oral Lineage, how should we spread it further in the future? Could master give us a prophecy?'
“Master said, 'I received the oral teachings from master Naropa. Whether based on dream omens or predestined affinity, it will prosper. Master Naropa also had good prophecies. Please go back to pray and tell me about your dream omens tomorrow.' The next day, all the disciples shared their dreams. They were very good but did not fully match the prediction.
“I went before master and described my dream of four pillars in detail.
“Master Marpa was extremely happy and said, 'This is a great dream omen. Dakmema, please prepare the best food and offerings for worship!' After his wife prepared the food and the principal disciplines gathered, master said, 'Mila Dorje Gyaltsen had such a dream last night. It is rare.' The principal disciples then asked master to explain the omen. He happily agreed and sang a song to interpret the dream.
“After master Marpa finished, all the disciples were extremely happy.
“Master then told the disciples many secret verses. He explained the dharma to disciples during the day and asked disciples to meditate during the night. Everyone's aspirations surged, and their sensations increased.
“One night, while performing mother tantra abhisheka for disciples, master thought of teaching each disciple based on their karmic situation. At dawn the next morning, master visualized the dependent arising and knew Ngokton Chodor would spread Hevajra dharma, Meton Tsonpo would practice clear light, and Tsurton Wange would follow transference of consciousness, while I would focus on Tummo (inner heat). In addition, every one of us had our own karmic situation and future.
“After this visualization, master taught Ngokton Lama the promulgation of six parameters and four modes, as well as additional verses. Master also gave him Naropa's six ornaments, ruby rosary, ritual utensils, and Sanskrit scripture explanation so that he could spread dharma in the future.
“For Tsurton Wange, master taught him the opening of the fontanel (the space where the bones have yet to fuse in the skull of a fetus or infant) for transference of consciousness, a method where one could fly like a bird in the sky. Master also gave him Naropa's hair, nails, Nectar Pills, and Five-Buddha Crown, for him to save people with transference of consciousness.
“For Meton Tsonpo, master taught him methods that give off radiant clear light at night. Master then gave him Naropa's Vajra pestle, drum, and skull cup, and reminded him to concentrate on bardo [the intermediate state between death and rebirth].
“Master gave me teachings on inner heat, similar to producing fire from firewood. After giving me the Venerable Maitripa's hat and Naropa's gown, he said, 'You should practice in the snowy mountains.'
“After completing the dharma prophecy, all the lamas came to attend the worship ritual. When everyone was seated in succession, master said, 'I have taught you verses based on your karmic situations. You should spread dharma based on them, and you are sure to have prosperous futures! My son has already passed away. I have treated you as my sons, giving you all the verses and strengthening. You should be diligent and are sure to succeed in your work to benefit sentient beings!'
“All the principal disciples later returned to where they came from. Master said to me, 'You stay here for a few more years. I will provide you with abhisheka and special verses. Your sensations and understandings can also be shared with me. Hurry and go meditate!' So I returned to the cave where master Naropa had made the prophecies.
“Master and his wife often gave me their food and items from offerings. They were extremely kind to me.”
(To be continued)