The Cultivation Story of Buddha Milarepa (Part 7)
(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 6)
Rechungpa asked the Venerable Milarepa, “Master, did you follow master Marpa's instruction and live there for a few years?”
The Venerable replied, “I did not stay that long. After living there for a while, I returned to my hometown. I will tell you the reason I went home.”
“While meditating in isolation, I diligently practiced in tranquility and made great progress. I had never slept, but one morning I became drowsy and fell asleep. I had a dream that I returned to my home in Kyangatsa. I saw that my home, the one with four pillars and eight beams, was dilapidated like an old donkey's ear. The family's most valuable heirloom treasure, the Maharatnakuta Sutra scripture, was soaked and had become unbearably tattered by leaked rainwater. The land of Orma Triangle was all covered in brambles and creeping weeds. My mother had died, and my sister had become a beggar who wandered around in a far region. Thinking about the tragedies I had suffered since childhood and unable to see mother for so many years, my heart was extremely pained. I cried and called out, 'Mother! My sister Peta!' I woke up from the crying, and my clothing was wet with tears. Thinking of Mother, I could not hold back my tears and decided to go back to visit her.
“At dawn, I broke the entrance of the cave without thinking and went to master's bedroom for his permission to return to my hometown. Master was sleeping, and I knelt in front of his bed to explain.
“Master woke up.
“At the time, the morning light was shining through the window and reached master Marpa's head on the pillow. Meanwhile, his wife came in with breakfast. Master Marpa asked, 'Son, why did you suddenly come out of meditation? Was it an interrupting demon?' Quickly return to practice in tranquility!'
“I told master about the dream and how much I thought about Mother.
“Master said, 'Son, when you first came here, you said you were no longer concerned about your family and the villagers. In addition, you have left your hometown for so many years. Even if you were to go back, you may not be able to see your mother. As for other people, I am not sure you could run into them. You lived for many years in Ü-Tsang and then quite a few years at my place. If you are determined to go back, I can let you go. You mentioned returning to your village then coming back here later on. You may think that way, but it probably will not work out. When you came in, I was sleeping. That is a hint that we will not be able to see each other again in this lifetime!'
“'However, the sunshine lights up my room, meaning your dharma will shine in ten directions like the morning sun. In fact, the top of my head was in the sun, meaning your dharma will spread and prosper. By coincidence, Dakmema came in with food, indicating you should be able to nourish yourself with Samaya [vows or precepts].
“'Ugh! It seems I have no choice but to let you go. Dakmema, please prepare a good offering.'
“After master's wife prepared the offering, master set up a mandala and performed abhisheka for me with the ripening path orally taught by dakinis. He also bestowed me with all the unheard-of verses about liberation.
“Master said, 'Oh, these verses were the prophecy of the Venerable Naropa, and he asked me to teach them to you. You should follow the prophecies of the dakinis and pass these verses to a disciple with the best inborn quality until the thirteenth generation.'
“'If someone teaches this dharma for money, fame, respect, or personal preference, that is in violation of the dakinis' instruction. You should especially cherish these oral teachings and practice according to these verses. If you encounter a disciple with very good inborn quality, even if he is poor without any material goods to serve as an offering, you should still provide him with abhisheka and verses and help him so that he can spread the dharma. As to all the kinds of torment master Tilopa gave to master Naropa, or all the sorts of suffering I gave to you, these methods are of no benefit to those people with poor inborn quality. So, please do not use them anymore. Now, even in India, the practice of dharma has slackened. So these very strict methods are no longer appropriate in Tibet.
“'There are nine sets of dakini dharma in total, and I have taught you four of them. As for the remaining five, one of my disciples will travel to India later and learn them from Naropa's disciples. They will benefit sentient beings tremendously, and you should strive to seek this dharma.
“'You may think: I am very poor and have no offering. Will master teach me all of the verses? Please do not have these doubts. You know, I do not pay attention to material offerings at all. If you work hard in practicing and use that as an offering, that is the offering I truly like. You must make diligent effort and achieve success!
“'I have taught you all of the unique dharma from master Naropa and the oral teachings from dakinis. Master Naropa taught these verses only to me and no other disciples. I passed them on to you, like transferring water completely from one bottle to another, without a single drop left. To show you that what I said is true and that I did not exaggerate, I now promise in front of masters, all Buddhas and deities.'
“With those words, he placed his hand on the top of my head and said, 'Son, seeing you leave this time, I feel very sad in my heart. But all conditioned dharma are transient anyway. There is nothing I can do. Please do not rush to leave. Stay here for a few more days to go over all the verses. If you have questions, ask me and I can help you with them.'
“Following master's instruction, I stayed there for several days and cleared up all my confusion. Master said, 'Dakmema, please prepare the best offering for Mila's farewell.' Master's wife prepared offerings for masters, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, dakinis and divine custodians, as well as a feast for vajra brothers. Master fully displayed his abilities. He sometimes appeared as deities of Hevajra, sometimes as deities of Chakrasamvara and sometimes as deities of Guhyasamaja. His magnificent ornaments included a vajra bell, vajra pestle, wheel, jewels, lotus flower and a sword. Red, white and blue, Om, Ah and Hum sounds. (The words Om, Ah, Hum are fundamental to all the secret verses, with Om in red, Ah in white, and Hum in blue.) These three words gave off intense light, with all kinds of unprecedented manifestations. Master said, 'These are all merely supernatural powers of the body. Even if they could be displayed on a large scale, they are still fabricated mirages of little use. I displayed them now, Milarepa, because we are having a farewell for you today.'
“Seeing master with virtue similar to that of Buddhas, I was extremely joyful, thinking, 'I will definitely work hard in cultivation and also achieve supernormal powers like master.'
“Master asked, 'Did you see? Do you have determination now?'
“I replied, 'I saw, Master! I can't help but become determined. I want to work hard in cultivation practice and also obtain supernormal powers like master in the future.'
“Master said, 'Yes, you need to do well in practice. Please remember the teachings from me that are like illusions and practice until you reach that realm. As for locations for cultivation practice, you should use caves in snowy mountains, steep valleys and deep forests. Among the caves, you may go to places where Indian masters practiced or to Lapchi Gangra, one of the twenty-four sacred lands. There are also Yolmo Gangra as a prediction by Avatamsaka Sutra, and Chubar of Drin, where dakinis often gather. All these are good places for meditation. In addition, other remote places with no people could also be suitable if there is an agreeable predestined affinity. You should achieve success while practicing in these places.'
“'There are also sacred places in the east, but the predestined relationship has not yet arrived. As you spread dharma in the future, some people will grow and prosper in these places.
“'You should go and practice in the above-mentioned sacred places as prophesied. Once you have accomplishments, they are also an offering to master, a reward to parents, and a benefit for sentient beings. Other than attaining Buddhahood, nothing else could be considered the best offering, the ultimate return of gratitude and true beneficence to others. If one cannot succeed, even if one lives for one hundred years, he would just live longer while committing more sins in his lifetime. Therefore, you must abandon any greed in life and any longing toward this earthly world. Do not interact with people who indulge in mundane affairs or engage in idle chatter about meaningless things. Rather, you should wholeheartedly strive forward in your cultivation!'
“As master said that, he shed tears. Looking at me compassionately, he continued, 'Son, as your father I will not be able to see you again in this world. I will never forget about you. Do not forget about me, either. If you are able to follow my words, we will for sure meet in Dhagpa Khadro (one of the pure lands) in the future. Son, you should be happy!
“'When you practice in the future, you will encounter a severe obstruction of energy flow. At that time, you can open this and read it. Please do not open it before then.' Master gave me a letter sealed with wax. I memorized master's words by heart and felt their benefit beyond description. Whenever I remembered teachings from master, my compassion would grow, and I would make progress in cultivation. Master's deep grace is indeed beyond words!
“Master then said to his wife, 'Dakmema, please prepare for Mila Powerful Man's trip tomorrow. Even though I feel extremely sad, I will still attend the sendoff. Son, let us stay together tonight so that we, father and son, can have a good chat.'
“I stayed in master's room that night, accompanying him and his wife. His wife was extremely sad and kept weeping. Master said, 'Dakmema, why are you crying? He has already learned the most profound dakinis’ verses from master and is about to meditate in a cave. What is there to cry about? Sentient beings have an intrinsic Buddha-nature. Because of ignorance, they are unable to realize it and instead die in pain. In fact, it is those who live in this human world but who do not follow dharma that are the most pitiful. They are the ones we should feel bad for. But if you cry over them, you would have to cry the entire day.'
“Master's wife said, 'Your words are correct. But who can have such compassion? My own son was exceptionally intelligent regarding both mundane or supramundane dharma. He would have had great achievements that benefited himself and others. But he died, and I was extremely pained. Now, with this disciple who always listens so obediently, has made no mistakes, and lives with faith, wisdom, and kindness, he is about to leave. I have never had such a good disciple before. So I cannot hold back my sadness...' Before she finished, even more tears fell, and she began to sob again.
“I also could not help crying, and Master kept using his hand to wipe away his own tears. We did not want to separate, so we were all pained and had few words to say. So that night, in reality, we hardly spoke.
“The next morning, thirteen of us, master and disciples, walked several miles with food offerings to send me off. Everyone was in a melancholy mood because of the farewell. Upon arriving at Dharma Spreading Slope, where one could see far away in all directions, we sat down and set up for a worship ritual.
“Master held my hands and said, 'Son, you are heading to Ü-Tsang now. There are many robbers in Tsang, and I thought about sending someone to go with you. But because of karmic reasons, you need to travel on your own. Although you are alone, I will pray for protection from master, deities, dakinis and custodians. You do not need to worry and will be fine on the road. Nonetheless, you should be careful.'
“'You can go to Ngokton Lama's place first and compare verses with him to see if there are any differences. From there, you can go home. You can stay for only seven days in your hometown. After that, you should go meditate in the mountains to benefit yourself and others.'
“Master's wife prepared clothing, a hat, shoes and food for my travel. She gave them to me and said with tears in her eyes, 'Son, these are just material possessions. This is the last time I will see you as your mother. I wish you a safe trip and happiness. Please promise that we will meet each other in Oddiyana (land of dakinis)!'
“After she finished speaking, master's wife sobbed again in sorrow. Many people who came to send me off were also in tears. I sincerely kowtowed to master and his wife, touching their feet with my head for blessings, and then we parted.
''I looked back every now and then. Everyone at the farewell was still weeping, and I could not bear to look back. The mountain roads slowly curved, and gradually I could no longer see master and his wife anymore.
“After walking for a while and crossing a creek, I looked back. It was too far to see clearly, but I could discern master and others still looking in this direction. Feeling dejected, I almost wanted to run back. On the other hand, I knew I had learned the verses for consummation. As long as I did not commit acts of bad karma, always thought of master and worshipped master, it would be the same as if I stayed with him. I would definitely meet master and his wife at Dhagpa Khadro. This time, I can first go home to visit Mother. I will then come back to visit master, right? So, I suppressed the sorrow in my heart and walked to Ngokton Lama's place.
“After meeting Ngokton Lama, I compared my verses with his. He was better at explaining Tantra and expounding on dharma than me, but I was no weaker than him on the verses for cultivation practice. Especially the oral teachings from dakinis, I actually knew more than he did. In the end, I prostrated myself to him, made a wish and headed home.
“It was fifteen days’ walking distance, but I arrived in three days. I thought, 'The effect of meditation is really amazing!'”
Rechungpa asked, “Master, after you went back to your hometown, was it similar to that in the dream? Did you see your mother?”
The Venerable replied, “The situation in my home was the same as in the dream. I did not see my mother.”
Rechungpa said, “What was it like when you went back home? Did you meet anyone in the village?”
“When I was close to my hometown, I stopped at a river upstream from the village, from where my house could be seen. Quite a few children were there with sheep. I asked them, 'Friends, may I ask who lives in that large mansion?'
“An older child replied, 'It was called the house of four pillars and eight beams. Other than ghosts, no one lives there.'
“'Did the owners of the house die, or did they move away?'
“'This family used to be the wealthiest in the village, and they only had one son. Because the father died early and his will was not handled well, the relatives took all the families' wealth when he died. After the son grew up and asked for the property back, the relatives were unwilling to return it. So the son vowed to learn incantations. Through incantations and a hailstorm, he killed many people and brought serious harm to the village. Everyone in our village was afraid of his divine custodians. We dare not glance at his house, let alone visit it! I think that house only has his mother's corpse and ghosts now. The son had a younger sister, who was very poor and abandoned her mother's body. She went begging somewhere. As for the son, we have not heard of him for many years. We don’t know if he is still alive. Someone said there are many scriptures in the house. If you are brave, you can go in and take a look.'
“I asked the shepherd boy, 'Over how many years did these things happen?'
“He replied, 'His mother died about eight years ago. I remember the incantations and hailstorm clearly. I heard about the other things from adults when I was really small. I cannot remember them well now.'
“I thought, 'The villagers were scared of my divine custodians and did not dare harm me.' I also knew that Mother had died and my sister had gone wandering around begging. I had deep sadness in my heart.
“At dusk, when no one was around, I went to the river and cried for a long time. After dark, I walked into the village, and everything was the same as it was in the dream. The field outside was filled with weeds and brambles. The once magnificent house and family hall for worshiping Buddhas had already decayed. Walking inside, I found the Maharatnakuta Sutra scripture damaged by rainwater with debris from the wall and bird droppings on it. The scripture had almost become a nest for mice and birds.
“Seeing all of this and recalling what had happened in the past, a strong feeling of sadness came over my mind. I walked near the door and saw a large mound of dirt covered with weeds and wrapped together with ragged clothes. I moved some of the mound of dirt with my hands and noticed a pile of human bones beneath. I was initially confused and then realized they were Mother's bones. My throat was suffocated by grief, and my heart was in extreme pain. I fainted. I woke up a short time later and immediately remembered verses from master. Through visualization, I merged Mother's soul with my heart, and together with the wisdom of oral lineage masters. Placing my head on Mother's bones, I fully concentrated my body, speech, and mind on the Mahamudra Samadhi, daring not to break concentration even ever so slightly. This lasted seven days and nights, and I then saw both Father and Mother breaking away from the lower realms of suffering and transcending into pure lands.
“After seven days, I came out of Samadhi. Thinking it over, I realized all the dharma on reincarnation was meaningless, as everything of this world is meaningless. I thought of building a Buddha statue with Mother's bones and placing the Maharatnakuta Sutra in front of it as an offering. I would then go to Drakar Taso cave (White Rock Horse Tooth cave) to work hard at cultivating day and night. If I was not determined and became distracted by the Eight Worldly Winds (sorrow and joy, loss and gain, blame and praise, success and failure), I would rather die than be tempted. If my heart had a little pursuit of comfort or happiness, I hoped the dakinis and divine custodians would take my life. I vowed to myself resolutely like this many times.
“In the end, I collected mother's remains, and after cleaning the bird droppings from the Maharatnakuta Sutra scripture, I found that the rainwater damage was not too severe and the text was still legible. Carrying Mother's bones and the Maharatnakuta Sutra on my back, my heart felt extremely desolate, and I felt a strong determination to leave this world of reincarnation. I decided to abandon this world and diligently practice righteous dharma. Walking out the door, my heart was filled with sadness. As I walked, I sang a song of being clear about this earthly world.
“I kept singing and walking until I reached the home of the teacher who had taught me to read. But the teacher had already passed away. I gave the entire Maharatnakuta Sutra scripture to his son as an offering and said, 'This scripture is my offering to you. Could you please create a Buddha statue with my mother's remains?'
“The teacher's son replied, 'No! I can't accept your scripture because it has divine custodians behind it. But I can sculpt the Buddha statue for you.'
“I said, 'Please do not worry. I personally gave you this as an offering. The divine custodians will not bother you.'
“He said, 'I’m reassured then.' He then created a Buddha statue from my mother's bones and clay. After a consecration ritual, he placed it inside a tower. After all this was finished, he said, 'Please stay here for a few days, and we can have a good talk.'
“I replied, 'I do not have time to talk with you for too long. I urgently want to go to cultivate.'
“He said, 'How about I just invite you to stay here with me for one night? I still need to provide you with food for your cultivation practice tomorrow.' So, I agreed to stay there for one night. He asked, 'When you were young, you learned incantations and spells. Now you are studying righteous dharma. This is very good, and you will definitely have great achievements in the future. Could you tell me what kind of masters you have met and what you have learned?'
“I told him in detail how I first followed a Red Sect Lama and obtained Dzogchen (great perfection) dharma and later learned from master Marpa.
“He heard this and said, 'This is amazing. If so, you could follow master Marpa's example of finding a home and take your fiancée Dzese as your wife. Isn't it a good thing to follow the tradition of your master?'
“I replied, 'Master Marpa got married because he wanted to benefit sentient beings in that way. I do not have that ability.' 'In a place where a lion leaps, if a rabbit overestimates its abilities and tries to leap, it would certainly fall to its death.' Plus, I extremely loathe this world of reincarnation. Other than verses and dharma from master, I want nothing from this world. Going to meditate in a cave is the best offering to master. This way, I am inheriting the tradition, and it is also the best way to make master happy. If one wants to benefit others and spread Buddha dharma, it can be achieved only through cultivation practice—it is the same for offering salvation to parents or helping oneself. Other than practicing dharma, I have no knowledge, don't wish to care, and have no interest in anything else.'
“'Coming back home this time, I saw my deserted home and a broken family. This makes me understand deeply that life is transient and unpredictable. People work very hard to make money or accumulate wealth. But in the end, it is just like a dream. I am therefore willing to leave this world more than ever.'
“'A home is like a burning house. Those who have yet to suffer, or those who forget we will die later and face hardship in the lower realms during reincarnation, will seek pleasure in this earthly world. But I have seen through these. Regardless of poverty, hunger, or ridicule from others, I will exhaust my life to cultivate, for myself and for sentient beings.'
“The decline of my home, my mother's death, and my sister's departure gave me an unforgettable lesson and a deep understanding of impermanence. I could not refrain from repeatedly crying, 'Go meditate in the deep mountains.' In the deepest depths of my heart, again and again, I am determined to forsake any enjoyment, exhaust my life, and spend all of my time practicing dharma.”
(To be continued)