The Cultivation Story of Buddha Milarepa (Part 10)
(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 9)
“Uncle had already passed away in my hometown by that time. After his death, Aunt was sincerely remorseful and came to Drin to see me with many offerings. She left the heavier items in the village and took what she could carry up the mountain. Peta saw her coming and said to me, 'Brother, Aunt is here. She brought us so much misery. I’d rather die than see her!' She ran out of the cave and pulled up the drawbridge at the edge of the cliff.
“Aunt stopped at the bridge and called out, 'Niece, please don't pull up the bridge. I am your aunt.'
“Peta replied, 'I know it's you. That's why I raised the bridge.'
“Aunt said, 'My niece. I understand that. I really regret how I mistreated both of you, so I came here specifically to apologize and hope to meet with both you and your brother. If you really don't want to see me, could you at least please tell your brother that I'm here?'
“I went to the edge of the cliff and sat down. Aunt saw me and kowtowed to me, begging me to see her. I thought to myself, 'If I refuse to see her, that isn't what a dharma practitioner would do. But it would be best to have her repent first.' So I said to her, 'I have severed relations with all my relatives, especially with my uncle and aunt. You caused us all of that suffering in the past. Later, when I was begging for alms as a dharma practitioner, you still didn't spare me and again gave me a lot of grief. That is why I have decided to sever my relationship with you.'
“When my aunt heard that, she started to sob. She kowtowed to me many times and said in tears, 'Nephew, you are absolutely right. Please forgive me. I came here today to sincerely repent. I feel very sad in my heart. I cannot give up my affection for my relatives, so I am here to see both you and your sister. Please receive me; otherwise, I will kill myself in front of you both.'
“I was sympathetic and wanted to lower the drawbridge. But Peta whispered to me, asking me to ignore her and listing many reasons why we should. I replied, 'Usually there would be a complication even if one drinks water with someone who broke the precepts. But now the situation is different, and it has nothing to do with breaking the precepts. I am a practitioner and should meet with her regardless.' I lowered the bridge and waited for Aunt to come over. I explained to her at length the dharma about cause and effect.
“Aunt's heart changed completely, and she started to follow the Buddhist dharma. From then on, she followed the teachings and became a very good yogi, obtaining liberation.
As the Venerable finished speaking, Zhiwa O said to him, “When Master sought dharma, you were so sincere, trusting, and obedient as you endured hardships. After obtaining the teachings, you diligently practiced meditation in the mountains. However we look at this, it is not something we can achieve, and we dare not cultivate this dharma. But that means we cannot escape the affliction of reincarnation. What should we do?” With those words, he began to wail.
The Venerable replied, “Do not lose hope. Let me tell you, if you often think about the painful suffering of reincarnation and in the Three Lower Realms, [animals, hungry ghosts, and beings in hell; they lack wisdom and judgment and are in constant distress without hope of liberation, so they are called the Three Lower Realms], your heart for diligently striving forward and seeking dharma would naturally arise. Anyone who believes the dharma of cause and effect and who is determined would be able to practice diligently and persevere like me. That is because practicing like this makes it more difficult for one to be moved by the Eight Worldly Winds. If a person does not have faith in dharma and just knows some theories, it would be useless because he cannot remain unmoved by the Eight Worldly Winds. Therefore, to learn dharma, one first needs to believe in the relationship between cause and effect. For those who do not believe in retribution from cause and effect, even if they speak of sacred teachings and make inferences, they are just talking about it, and there is no real value. This is because the issue of emptiness is very subtle and hard to explain and comprehend. If one has a clear understanding of emptiness, he will realize that emptiness is not separate from cause and effect. That is, emptiness comes from the relationship of cause and effect. We thus need to pay special attention to handling cause and effect, as well as letting go of evil and doing good. We have to be more cautious about this than ordinary people. All dharma are thus fundamentally about believing in cause and effect and working on doing good and letting go of bad. This is the most important thing when learning Buddhist dharma.”
“I did not understand emptiness at first, but I had strong faith in cause and effect. Knowing that I had committed great sins and would end up with an unfortunate destiny, I was frightened. So my sincere faith in master and assiduous, diligent practice came naturally. You should do as I did, by meditating Mantrayana alone in the mountains. If you are able to do so, I guarantee you can definitely succeed in attaining liberation.”
Another disciple asked, “Master, you must be a transformed body of Vajradhara. To offer salvation to sentient beings, you manifested in this human world and established such a remarkable legacy. Or, at the very least, you are a great being who has been through innumerable eons of practicing dharma, and you have achieved great Bodhisattvahood at the stage of non-retrogression. Without hesitation, you risked your life and body for dharma and practiced accordingly. Everything you have done has demonstrated that you are an extraordinary Bodhisattva. The ascetic practice and endurance that Revered Master has displayed is not something we common disciples could do or even dare to think about. Even if we wanted to learn, our physical bodies would be unable to withstand it. So, Master, you must be a transformation body of a Buddha or Bodhisattva. Although we are unable to practice like you, we know that any sentient being who meets you or hears dharma will certainly escape reincarnation and reach liberation. This is for certain, without a doubt. Could you please tell us, exactly which Buddha or Bodhisattva are you a transformed body of?”
The Venerable replied, “I do not know if I am a transformed body. I most likely could be a transformed body from the Three Lower Realms! Considering me Vajradhara, of course you will be supported. If you regard me as a transformed body, that shows your pure faith in me, but it is an extremely wrong view of dharma! This is because you have not understood the profoundness of the Buddha dharma.
"For example, I was just a plain, ordinary person, and I committed huge wrongdoings during the first half of my life. With belief in karmic retribution from cause and effect, I decided to forsake everything of the worldly life to dedicate myself to cultivation. Right now, I am not far from attaining Buddhahood. Suppose one could meet a well-qualified master, receive his teachings, and obtain mantra essentials and verses without contamination from explanations. If he receives genuine abhisheka and practices according to dharma, attaining Buddhahood in one lifetime is absolutely achievable. If one commits only wrongdoings and the five great sins during his lifetime, when his life is over, he will immediately fall into the interminable hell. This is the result of not believing in cause and effect and a lack of diligent practice. If deep in one’s mind he has a strong faith in the relationship between cause and effect, fears suffering unfortunate destinies, and seeks supreme Buddhahood, then everyone can be absolutely sincere to their master like I am. That is, anyone can put forth their greatest effort and achieve the best understandings.
"When you asked about which transformed body from which Buddha or Bodhisattva, that means you did not completely understand the Secret Mantra. You should read more biographies of those virtuous ancients, think about reincarnation, remember the preciousness of the human body, and practice hard because of life's impermanence. I relinquished fame, reputation, food, and clothing to work hard, endure pain, and practice alone in the remote, uninhabited mountains. As a result, I achieved the merit and virtue of sensations and understandings. I hope you all will also do well in practice like me.”
Rechungpa asked, “Master, what you have done is truly rare and admirable. But what you have described are all sad stories. Could you tell us some things that would delight people?”
The Venerable said, “Things that would delight? That could be accomplishments from hard work, offering salvation to people and non-humans [non-humans in Tibetan are called Mis ma yin, meaning all non-human spirits of the mundane world. Asura and other spirits are collectively called non-humans],as well as achievements in spreading Buddhist dharma.”
Rechungpa asked, “Did you first save people or non-humans?”
The Venerable replied, “In the beginning, many non-humans came to challenge me. I subdued them and later saved them. After that, I saved many human disciples. In the end, Tseringma [one of the Sisters of Long Life] came to challenge me with her supernatural powers, and I saved her. Among the non-humans, Tseringma will spread my teachings. Among the humans, Upa Tonpa (also known as Gampopa) will spread my teachings.”
Seban Repa asked, “Master, you mainly meditated in Lapchi Snow Mountain and Chubar. Did you also meditate in other places?”
The Venerable said, “The places I meditated in included Yolmo Gangra in Nepal, where there were six big famous dzongs [fortress-like structures], six small unfamous dzongs, and six secret dzongs. Together with two other dzongs, there are twenty in total. In addition, there are four famous caves, four non-famous caves, and other small caves in the mountains with predestined affinity. After practicing in these places, I reached the realm of 'No further dharma to learn, no longer able to meditate further.'”
Rechungpa asked, “The infinite compassion of Master's complete dharma nature gave us disciples righteous enlightenment and firm faith. We are very happy and grateful to you. To benefit future sentient beings, could you tell us the names of all these famous, non-famous, and secret locations?”
After the Venerable told them the names, he said, “By practicing in these places, you will be strengthened by predestined affinity and lineage blessings. You should meditate in these locations.”
When the Venerable finished his narrative, those who attended the dharma gathering all had faith in dharma, were willing to leave the earthly world, and had gained hearts of compassion. They detested the Eight Worldly Concerns and sincerely admired righteous dharma.
The disciples of the Venerable all vowed to the Venerable to leave behind earthly desires, practice dharma diligently for their entire lifetimes, and benefit sentient beings. Non-human disciples also vowed to protect the Buddhist dharma. Among the worldly attendees, many with superior foundations converted to become the Venerable’s disciples, practiced in accordance with dharma, and in the end became yogis who understood the reality realms. Those with average foundations all vowed to practice dharma for several months or years. Those with lesser capacity decided not to commit sins in their lifetimes and to do good deeds often. Everyone who listened to dharma benefited from it in the end.
* * *
The above is the Venerable's autobiography, which he recounted in his own words and was then recorded by his disciples. The Venerable's achievements throughout his lifetime can be divided into three main categories: first, the challenges from non-humans, in which the Venerable subdued them and then saved them; second, the conversion and salvation of his major disciples with wholesome inborn quality and their successes; and third, ordinary disciples and common worldly people who listened to dharma and changed in response.
The first category on the conversion and salvation of non-humans can be summarized as follows:
The Venerable subdued a demon king at Drakmar Chonglung and taught dharma on the six ways to remember one’s master. Following the instruction of Master Marpa, the Venerable later meditated in Lapchi Snow Mountain, where he subdued many mountain spirits and taught dharma. The following year, he went to a dzong in Lapchi and sang some great songs. Following his master's instruction, the Venerable later visited Riwo Pelbar between Mangyul and Nepal. He then returned to Gungthang, where he taught a demoness. He then subdued a goddess at Ragma Changchup Dzong in Riwo Pelbar. At Kyangpen Namkha Dzong and Takpuhk Senge Dzong (Cave of the Lion and Tiger) in the forest, the Venerable saved a large number of humans and non-humans. After that, the Venerable returned to Tibet and stayed in the remote mountains, saving beings by meditation and manifestation. In a dzong in Gungthang, he sang the Song of the Pigeons.
For the second category on the salvation of the major disciples, here are some examples. The Venerable stayed at Drakar Taso and saved a large number of beings. Vajrayogini (a goddess) analyzed the dependent arising of the Venerable's disciples, and Rechungpa received a special prophecy of oral teachings from dakinis. The Venerable had met his spiritual son Rechungpa on the way to Gungthang. Rechungpa later went to India to treat his illness and stayed with the Venerable upon his return. The Venerable also met Repa Sangye Kyap at Changchup Dzong. Later, the Venerable was well known everywhere. As prophesied by dakinis, the Venerable offered salvation to the King of Khokhom, who provided offerings frequently afterward. While the Venerable stayed in Nyanam, Dharmabodhi from India came to visit him and kowtowed to him. Due to predestined affinity, including this predestined affinity, the Venerable became even more well-known. One knowledgeable and eloquent lama asked for a debate, and the Venerable subdued him with supernatural power. At Drin, the Venerable also met Dakpo Lharje, his best spiritual son and a great being according to Buddha Sakyamuni's White Lotus of Compassion Sutra. Also known as Prince Moonlight, Dakpo Lharje was reborn to benefit sentient beings. He appeared as a physician and was also known as Gampopa. At Chubar, the Venerable saved Loton Gendun, who was hostile in the beginning.
According to the prophecies of dakinis, among the disciples of the Venerable, twenty-five would achieve great accomplishments. This included eight heart disciples, thirteen son disciples, and four daughter disciples. Their salvation was described in Mila Grubum (also known as The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa).
For the third category on the salvation of others, there are songs and various accounts. For example, disciples invited the Venerable to live in Nyanam, where Rechungpa had asked for the lecture on the Venerable's biography.
With various manifestations, the Venerable turned the wheel of dharma. Through unimaginable means, he helped countless beings with predestined affinity to reach maturity and liberation. Those with superior capacities had great accomplishments; those with medium capacities established their paths; those with lesser capacities developed their minds toward enlightenment and did good deeds. The rest also spread kindness and good habits. This made heaven and the human world joyful, with great compassion and emptiness. The dharma shone brightly like daylight, helping countless beings evade suffering in the lower realms and the restriction of reincarnation. While countless beings suffer from immeasurable pain in the sea of birth and death, the dharma offered great salvation and protection, with unimaginable merit, virtue, and accomplishment.
After the achievements of benefiting countless beings, the Venerable met geshe Tsakpuwa at Drin [geshe is a Tibetan Buddhist academic degree]. Tsakpuwa was very greedy for money, but residents in Drin respected him because he was a scholar. He was always invited to feasts as the guest of honor. After meeting the Venerable, Tsakpuwa was courteous and faithful on the surface but jealous at heart. He asked difficult questions in public numerous times, attempting to embarrass the Venerable, but he never succeeded.
On the first day of autumn one year, Drin villagers had a big feast and invited the Venerable as the guest of honor, with Tsakpuwa in second place.
When kowtowing to the Venerable in public, Tsakpuwa thought the Venerable would kowtow back. But, as usual, the Venerable never kowtowed to anyone except for his master, so he did not prostrate in return. Tsakpuwa was very upset, thinking, “I, a knowledgeable scholar, kowtowed to him, who knows nothing. He did not reciprocate and instead sat there, still, in the best seat. This is absurd, and I must have revenge.” He thus took a classic book on Hetu-vidya [the science of causes], placed it in front of the Venerable, and said, “Could you explain this book word-by-word, answer questions, and express what you see, adding commentary?”
The Venerable replied, “You may be able to explain the semantics of classical discourses sentence-by-sentence. But what's truly meaningful is to overcome the Eight Worldly Concerns and to subdue your sense of self-importance, as well as understand that rebirth and nirvana are of a single taste, and thus clear away the attachment to dharma. Other than that, the logical, epistemological teachings that instruct one on how to debate have no real value. So I did not learn them, nor do I know them. Or I could have learned them or known them earlier, but I have long forgotten them.”
Tsakpuwa said, “Practitioners like you certainly can respond with such sayings, but we scholars speculate based on logic. What you said is not consistent with the main points of dharma. I kowtowed to you because you are a good person...” He kept talking nonstop.
Hearing these words, the almsgivers were unhappy and said, “Geshe! No matter how much dharma or logic you know, people like you are everywhere, all over the world, and yet cannot fill one of the Venerable's pores. You'd better sit there quietly as our guest and just think about how to increase your fortune. Stop making a fool of yourself at this dharma assembly!”
Tsakpuwa was furious, but seeing the outraged crowd, he knew there was no way he could succeed. He had no choice but to suppress his raging anger. Although silent, he was very frustrated and started to quietly scheme: “Such an ignorant Milarepa has crazy behavior and speaks nonsense, like he's talking in his sleep. He deceives the public for offerings and brings disgrace to dharma. I am a knowledgeable, prestigious geshe with wealth, but it seems that, in terms of dharma, everyone here thinks I am worse than a dog. This is ridiculous, and I have to do something about it.”
(To be continued)