The Cultivation Story of Buddha Milarepa (Part 11)
(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 10)
The geshe Tsakpuwa had a mistress. He asked this woman to put poison in some cheese and take it to the Venerable to kill him. He promised to give her a large piece of jade after this was done. The woman believed him and took some poisoned cheese to the Venerable as an offering.
The Venerable was already fully aware of this. By visualizing the karmic relations, he knew that those with predestined affinity had been saved. Although the poison could not harm him, his nirvana was coming, so he decided to accept the poison as an offering. The Venerable also knew that if the woman did not get the jade before giving him the poisoned cheese, she would not get it later because Tsakpuwa would never give it to her afterward. So the Venerable said to the woman, “I won't accept it now. If you come back later, I will probably take it then.”
Hearing these words from the Venerable, the woman was puzzled and afraid. She suspected the Venerable might already know the cheese was poisoned. Nervous and unsettled, she left.
After seeing Tsakpuwa, the woman told him what had happened and said that the Venerable must have supernatural powers, which was why he did not accept the cheese.
Tsakpuwa replied, “Humph! If he has supernatural power, he would not ask you to take it to him later. Or he would tell you to eat it. Instead, he asked you to bring it to him later. It clearly shows that he does not have supernatural power. Now take this jade and take the cheese to him. This time, make sure he eats it!” He then gave her the jade.
The woman said, “Everyone believes he must have supernatural power. Because he does, he did not eat it yesterday. If I bring it to him today, he absolutely will not eat it. I am so scared and dare not go. I don't want the jade now. Please forgive me. I cannot do this for you.”
Tsakpuwa said, “Only fools would believe that he has supernatural power. They don't read sutras, lack rationality, and are deceived by his lies. In the sutras I read, people who have supernatural powers are not like him. I guarantee he does not have supernatural power. Now go take the poisoned cheese for him to eat. If we succeed, I will not let you down. We have been in love for such a long time, and I don't think we need to worry about the gossip any longer. If you can get this done, I will go ahead and marry you. Not only will this jade be yours, but you will also be in charge of my assets inside and outside the house. Whether we are rich or poor, we will stay together until we die. Do you agree?”
The woman believed him. Again she put the poison in some cheese and took it to the Venerable as an offering. The Venerable broke into a smile and accepted it. The woman thought, “The geshe is right. He truly has no supernatural power!”
The Venerable smiled to her and said, “The price for doing this—the jade, did you get it?”
Hearing these words, the woman was so frightened her jaw dropped open and she was speechless. Guilty and scared, her entire body shook, and her face turned pale. She kowtowed and said in a trembling voice, “I have the jade. But please do not eat the cheese. Give it to me.”
The Venerable asked, “Why do you want it?”
She cried, “Let me, the one who has committed sins, eat it.”
The Venerable replied, “First, I cannot bear to let you eat it, since you are only to be pitied. Second, if I refuse your offering, I would violate Bodhisattva rules with this fundamental infraction. Moreover, I have completed the undertakings for myself, others, and offering salvation, and it is time for me to go to another world. In fact, your offering cannot harm me, and there is no difference whether I eat it or not. Had I eaten the cheese from you last time, you probably would not have gotten the jade. So I did not do that. Now that you have the jade in hand, I can eat it without concern, and he would be satisfied. Another thing is that he offered you this or that after this is done. But his words are not reliable. As to his remarks about me, none of them are true. The two of you will later be full of regret. By then, the best way is for you to truly repent and seriously learn dharma. Or, at least remember that regarding issues related to life and death, do not commit such sins in the future! Now you can sincerely pray to me and my lineage heritage.”
“You two often abandon happiness and seek suffering. This time, I will vow to clear the sins committed by you on your behalf. Sooner or later, people will know what you did at this time. But for your safety, please don't tell anyone before my death. I am now an old man, and you folks didn't see if what I said in the past was true or not. So you may not believe my words. This time you see it with your own eyes. You will know that what I said is true.” With that, the Venerable ate the cheese.
The woman went back and told Tsakpuwa about this. Tsakpuwa said, “What you see in the wok may not be delicious dishes; what you hear from others may not be true. As long as he ate the poisoned cheese, I have achieved my goal. Just shut your mouth and stay quiet.”
The Venerable thus passed the word along in Drin and Nyanam, asking believers, almsgivers, and people from other places who had not met him previously to come. His disciples, who were preparing for a dharma assembly, heard this in disbelief. Everyone came, and the Venerable lectured dharma to them for several days straight. He explained in detail the cause and effect of conventional reality, as well as the essentials of ultimate reality. As he was lecturing, many disciples with superior faculties saw countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas listening to the dharma in the sky; some saw human and non-human audience members all over the sky and ground listening joyfully. People also saw a five-colored rainbow light, victory banners, and colorful clouds in the empty space. Five-colored flowers descended from the sky like rain, with bursts of fragrance. Pleasant music also came from the sky.
Some disciples asked the Venerable, “We also saw heavenly beings listening to the dharma in the sky and in the empty space. We also saw many rare, wondrous signs. What exactly are they about?”
The Venerable replied, “Heavenly beings and benevolent deities were listening to my lecture and gave me offerings of the five sense pleasures. Because you are all yogi practitioners and believers with wholesome inborn quality, you are joyful in your hearts and saw these auspicious omens.”
Some asked, “Why can we not see these heavenly beings?”
The Venerable said, “Among the heavenly beings are some Bodhisattvas, and some have achieved non-retrogression. To see them, you need celestial eyes with sufficient amounts of merit and wisdom and without much afflictive and cognitive hindrances. If one can see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, you would naturally see other deities. In order to see Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, you must repent and accumulate merit. By working hard at practicing, you will certainly see the most spectacular Buddha—your own mind.”
After the Venerable finished, audience members with superior faculties had the realization of mind as a reality body; those with medium capacity had the great sensation of joy, clarity, and emptiness. Everyone had a strong will toward Bodhi.
The Venerable said, “Lamas, laymen, everyone, and heavenly beings are able to gather here for the dharma assembly because of goodwill in previous lifetimes. This is an assembly because of dharma and karmic relations. I am old and weak. It is hard to say if we will be able to meet again in this world. But what I have told you is all true. I hope you will be able to practice according to dharma. In my Buddha land, when I attain Buddhahood, you will all be disciples who heard me lecture in the first assembly. So, please be happy!”
Disciples in Nyanam asked why the Venerable gave this reminder. Was it because the salvation of beings was complete and it was time for nirvana? They begged the Venerable that if nirvana was approaching, they hoped it would occur in Nyanam, or if he could at least visit there once. They cried and insisted that the Venerable go to Nyanam. People in Drin, Chubar, and other regions also begged the Venerable to go to their places.
The Venerable said, “An old man like me will not go to Nyanam. I will wait for death at Drin and Chubar. Let us make a good vow, hoping that we can all meet in the pure lands of dakinis in the future.”
Disciples said, “If Master really cannot make it, we hope Master could make a vow to assist all the places visited previously for blessings. All people and beings who have seen Master or heard from Master previously are begging Master to make a vow for assistance and blessings.”
The Venerable, “I am very moved to see you have such faith. I have long taught you dharma with compassion. In the future, I will of course vow for the joy and happiness of myself, others, and all beings.” The Venerable then sang a song about vows.
The audience members who listened to the dharma were full of joy. They dared not believe it, thinking, "Master will probably not enter nirvana". People, including disciples from Nyanam, came to the Venerable asking for assistance and blessings. The audience then left, as the wondrous signs including rainbows in the sky gradually disappeared.
People in Drin sincerely asked the Venerable's major disciples, such as Zhiwa O, to beg him to live in Rekpa Dukchen. The Venerable stayed there for some time, teaching dharma to almsgivers. One day, the Venerable told all of his disciples, “If you have any questions about dharma, please ask me now. I will leave soon.” Disciples prepared a worship ritual, during which they asked the Venerable questions for clarification and about oral teachings. In the end, Seban and another disciple asked, “Master, from what you said, you are going to reach nirvana soon. We can hardly believe it. We hope you could live in the world longer to benefit beings more.”
The Venerable replied, “My life is coming to an end. Beings who should be saved have been saved. Anything that comes from birth will have death. In fact, birth is just a manifestation of death.”
After a few days, the Venerable had symptoms of illness as expected. His disciple Ngandzong Repa thus gathered all the almsgivers and disciples. They held a ritual for the master, deities, dakinis, and divine custodians. They said to the Venerable, “Master, you know means of longevity and medicine. Could you extend your kindness and use them?”
The Venerable said, “Fundamentally speaking, yogis do not need such means. All adverse and favorable conditions are ways which include illness and death. Especially I, Milarepa, who have completed practicing dharma from master Marpa. There is no need for these means or to seek help from deities. I can turn enemies into dear-hearted spouses. What is the purpose of rituals asking for help from Bodhisattvas? As to those demons and ghosts, I subdued them a long time ago and turned them into divine custodians. So, incantations of this kind are even more useless. I have changed the Five Poisons (ignorance, attachment, aversion, pride, and envy) to the Five Dhyani Buddhas (wisdom of five qualities: perfect practice, equanimity, observation, reflection, and dharma-realm meditation mudra; the five Buddhas are Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, Amoghasiddhi and Vairocana). Why do I still need medicine? Now the time has come for the sequential transformation into a Buddha body, with reality entering the stages of completion and illuminating dharma-nature. There is no need to change that.
“Because of retribution from the previous karma of bad deeds, people in this world suffer pain, including birth, aging, illness, death. Even with medicine or rituals, they cannot escape the suffering. No matter how powerful a king, how strong a warrior, how wealthy a person, how beautiful a woman, how smart an intellectual, how eloquent a speaker, they will all end up vanishing with death. These cannot be salvaged by means of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and subjugating. If you are afraid of pain and like joy, I have a way for you to enjoy living comfortably without pain.”
Disciples asked, “Could master tell us?”
The Venerable said, “According to all dharma regarding reincarnation, existence will eventually degenerate, those convened will eventually disperse, birth will eventually become death, and lovers will eventually separate. If one has a decisive understanding of this, he should completely forsake deeds that bring bad consequences. That is, stop pursuing fortune or seeking gains; follow a well-qualified master and practice the essentials of non-arising based on the teachings. You should know that the practice of non-arising and emptiness is the most sacred among all practices. I also have other important things to say and will tell you later.”
Zhiwa O and Ngandzong Repa said, “Master, if you are healthy and live in this world longer, couldn't you save more beings? You may not agree with our request to live for one hundred years. But no matter what, please consider the extraordinary rituals of Secret Mantra and take some medicine for a faster recovery.” They begged again and again.
The Venerable replied, “Were time and conditions not ready, I could have done as you suggest. But if one invites Buddhas and Bodhisattvas to come for his own longevity instead of benefiting others, that is similar to asking the king to leave the throne and work for you as a servant. This is sinful. So you should not practice Mantrayana just for you or for this lifetime. It would be very good to practice Mantrayana on behalf of other beings. To help all beings, I spent my entire life in the remote mountains practicing the most thorough rituals, so I no longer need other rituals. My mind has reached the same as the fundamental nature of dharma, and they are inseparable. Therefore, I do not need ways to stay in this world. With verses and medicine from master Marpa, I have completely eradicated the Five Poisons in me, meaning no more medicine is needed for me. If you cannot consider adverse conditions as favorable ones, you are not true disciples. When the time has not yet come, medicine and rituals are appropriate when encountering adverse conditions as obstacles toward Bodhi. There are some precedents where adverse conditions were removed and changed to favorable ones. To offer salvation to those beings with lesser capacity, Buddha Shakyamuni once accepted diagnosis and medicine from Jivaka Kumara. But when time and conditions were ready, Buddha himself also displayed entering nirvana. Right now, my time and conditions are ready, so there is no need for medicine or such rituals.”
Two major disciples then asked, “Master, are you going to another world to benefit beings? Could you tell us how we should handle this, such as worshiping during nirvana, taking care of the body, and producing statues and building a stupa? Also, please tell us disciples how to meditate and practice with hearing, thinking, and cultivating.”
The Venerable replied, “With kindness and virtues from master Marpa, all my activities related to reincarnation and nirvana are complete. A yogi whose mind, speech, and body have been liberated in dharma does not have to leave behind the body. There is no need for you to produce statues or build a stupa. I have no attachment to temples. Without a temple, there is no need to find someone as an abbot. You can treat the remote areas in high mountains or snowy mountains as your temples. When you meditate with compassion for beings in the six realms, this would be the most extraordinary statue across four seasons. Attaining a complete understanding of dharma's original pure nature is the same as building a stupa and banners. Keeping your speech and mind the same and praying from deep in your heart is the best offering.
“Staying with those who are deeply afflicted and attached to self, and doing things that afflict beings, is against the basic conduct of a dharma practitioner. To subdue the Five Poisons and benefit beings, one may appear to be doing bad deeds on the surface while following the Buddha way in reality; that would be fine.
“If one only knows about dharma without actual practice, one's broad knowledge would in turn become a hindrance, making one fall into the abyss of Three Lower Realms in the end. Therefore, please think about the impermanence of one's life, diligently uphold good deeds, and warn against bad deeds. One absolutely should not do bad deeds, even if one's life is ended. To put it simply, a dharma practitioner needs to know what shame is before following the path. By doing it this way, your practice could contradict some sutras or scriptures with a perverse purpose, but it would align with the intention of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. All the essentials on hearing and thinking can be summarized as this, and I think it is enough. If you could act according to my words, I would be happy. You may reach a complete understanding of all activities of reincarnation and nirvana. Otherwise, it is meaningless to fulfill my wish with a secular vision in worldly ways.”
Deeply moved, the disciples all learned such teachings by heart.
After some time, the Venerable appeared to be severely ill. Geshe Tsakpuwa came with fine wine and meat, pretending to give an offering. He went up to the Venerable and ridiculed, “Ugh! With the ability to achieve such great things like Master has, such a severe illness should not have happened. How did you get sick? If the illness could be shared with others, you could split it among major disciples. Or if the illness could be transferred, please give it to me. Now there is nothing you can do. How can we end this?”
The Venerable smiled peacefully and said to him, “I could have avoided this illness. As to why it came anyway, you should be clear on it. The illness of an ordinary person is different from that of a yogi, in both its nature and karmic relationships. The illness I have now is essentially a solemn manifestation of Buddha dharma.”
Tsakpuwa thought the Venerable might be suspecting him, but he was not sure. The Venerable said illness could be transferred, which is totally groundless. How could illness be transferred to others in this world? So he said, “I am not clear on the cause of master's illness. If the illness is caused by ghosts, a ritual that drives off demons is needed; if it is because the four Great Elements are out of coordination, one should tone the body and take medicine. If the illness could actually be transferred to others, master, please transfer it to me.”
The Venerable said, “There is a person with great sins. The demon in his mind came out to harm me, putting my four Great Elements out of coordination and causing my illness. You do not have the power to eradicate this illness. Although I could transfer it to you, I am afraid you could not bear it for even a moment. So it’s better not to do it.”
Tsakpuwa thought, “This person cannot transfer illness to others at all. So he said these sarcastic words. I have to embarrass him.” He then begged the Venerable again and again to transfer the illness to him.
The Venerable replied, “Since you insist on doing so, I will temporarily transfer the illness to the door I am facing. If I transfer it to you, you could not bear it. Now, look closely.” With his divine power, the Venerable moved the pain to the door he was facing. The door gave a creaking sound at first, as if it would be torn apart. After a while, it really broke into small pieces. The Venerable, on the other hand, appeared as if he had no illness.
Tsakpuwa thought, “This is magic to cover it up. You cannot fool me.” So he said, “Ah! This is really astonishing! But, Master, please just transfer the illness to me.”
The Venerable said, “Since you are begging so badly, I will give half of the illness to you. If I transfer all of it to you, you absolutely could not bear it.” He then transferred half of the pain. Tsakpuwa was immediately in great pain. He could hardly shiver or breathe. When he nearly died, the Venerable took back the majority of the illness he transferred and asked, “I just gave you a small portion of the illness. How was it? Could you withstand it?”
After experiencing the severe pain himself, a strong repentance arose in Tsakpuwa's mind. He knelt down, prostrated in front of The Venerable, and said with tears running down his face, “Master! Master! I sincerely repent now. Please forgive me. I will give all my assets to Master as offerings. Please help with the consequences of my sins.” He cried very sadly.
Seeing him truly repenting, the Venerable was very happy and took back the remaining small amount of illness. He said, “I did not want land and assets during my lifetime. Now I am dying, and they are even more useless to me. You can keep them. Please do not commit bad deeds later, even if you die. I agree to help you resolve the consequences of your sins this time.”
Tsakpuwa said to the Venerable, “I did bad deeds in the past mostly for money. I don't need it now. Although Master does not want to accept it, the disciples always need aid for practice. Please accept it on their behalf.” Although he begged like this, the Venerable did not take it. The disciples accepted it later and used the assets to hold assemblies. Even in the present day, these assemblies still take place in Chubar.
From then on, Tsakpuwa surprisingly forsook the greediness he had nursed throughout his lifetime and became a very good practitioner.
The Venerable said to his disciples, “The reason I stayed here was to help this person with great sins to truly repent and be liberated from suffering. This is over now, and it is time for me to leave. In fact, if a great dharma practitioner enters nirvana in the village, it is like a king dying in an ordinary person's home. So I will go to Chubar and die there.”
Seban Repa asked, “Master, you are seriously ill, and it hurts too much to walk. How about we find a palanquin and carry you there?”
The Venerable said, “I am not really ill, and my death is not a real death. It is just the manifestations of illness and death. There is no need for something like a palanquin. Young disciples, you can leave for Chubar now.”
As the young disciples arrived at Chubar, the Venerable was already waiting for them there. Some of the elderly disciples said, “We were the ones who accompanied Master here.” Another one said, “Master was ill and resting in Rekpa Dukchen.” Some almsgivers who came later said, “We saw Master teaching dharma in a dzong.” Some other almsgivers said, “We came with Master.” Many people said, “Each of us was worshiping Master at home.” Those who arrived in Chubar the earliest said, “Master came to Chubar first, and we escorted him here.” In this way, some said that Master came later, some said he was teaching dharma, and some said they were worshiping him at home. They argued with each other and did not believe each other. The Venerable heard all of this and said with a smile, “You are all correct. I did this because I wanted to play a joke on you.”
(To be continued)