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You’ll find the way


Thikse monastery. This statue of the Maitreya ...

Thikse monastery. This statue of the Maitreya Buddha is about 30 ft tall! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I pay homage to the guru, suffused with grace.

Please grant your blessings.

Please help me, a beggar, to practice.


Although you children, members of the current generation,

live in towns infested with negativity,

the dharmic connection remains.

Having heard the Buddha’s teaching

you sought me out-

this will keep you on the path.

By constantly accumulating merit you will get more devoted.

Blessings will enter your being

and the two kinds of realization will grow.


But even if you do all of this,

it’s not much help unless you reach full attainment.

I tell you this out of compassion.

Listen closely, my young friends.

When you’re alone,

do not think about the entertainment available back in twon,

or the maras will appear in your mind.

Then inward, and you’ll find the way.


When you meditate, apply patience, and hard work.

Contemplate the problematic nature of samsara, and the uncertainty of the time and place of death.

Avoid craving pleasurable things.

Then courage and patience will grow in you.

You’ll find the way.


When you request advanced teachings,

don’t long for learning, or to become a scholar.

If you do, desires and common behavior will dominate you.

You’ll throw your life in the trash.

Be humble and modest, and you’ll find your way.


When various meditation experiences arise

don’t be proud and excited about telling others,

or you’ll offend the dakinis and mothers.

Meditate evenly and you’ll be on your way.


When you’re with your guru

don’t overthink his positive and negative traits,

or you’ll find mountains of faults.

You’ll only find the way through faith and loyalty.


When you go to dharma gatherings with your brothers and sisters,

don’t try to be the first

or you’ll stir up anger and desire,

and cause problems for your vows.

Adjust, understand each other

and you’ll find the path.


When you beg for alms in town,

do not use the dharma

to deceive or manipulate others,

or you’ll force yourself down a lower path.

Be honest and genuine, and you’ll find the way.


Remember, especially, at all times and places:

don’t show off. Don’t be arrogant,

or your confidence will be overwhelming

and you’ll be bloated with hypocrisy.

If you abandon deception and be natural

you’ll be on track.


The person who has found the path

can pass on the blessed teachings to others.

Such a person not only benefits others, but himself as well.

Then, generosity is the only thought remaining in his heart.

– Jestun Milarepa

English: Three large statues of the Buddha at ...

English: Three large statues of the Buddha at Dharma Flower Temple in Huzhou, Zhejiang province. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Milarepa Friday 13th part 2



I bow  down at the feet of my guru.

Good patrons, if you want to realize the essence

of the mind,

practice these: faith, knowledge, discipline.


These three things are the central pillar of the mind.

This is the tree you should plant and cultivate.

Nonattachment, nonclinging, and seeing clearly

these are the shields of the mind.

They are light, but strong.

You should seek out these shields.


Meditation, effort, energy,

these are the three horses of the mind.


Self-luminosity, self-cognizance, and self-rapture

these are the three fruits of the mind.

Refine the fluid and essence emerges.

If you want results, these are the results

you should look for.

Coming from yogic intuition

I sing this song of the twelve meanings of mind.

Inspired by faith, keep practicing my good patrons.




I supplicate my guru.

I met you by having accomplished great merit.

Now I stay where you predicated I would.


This place of hills and forests is delightful.

In the mountain meadows flowers bloom.

The trees sway and dance in the forest.

Monkeys play here.

Birds sing. Bees buzz around.

All day rainbows come and go.

A sweet rain falls in both summer and winter.

Mist and fog roll in during fall and spring.

I’m happy to live in such a pleasant place, alone,

meditating on the emptiness-illuminating mind.


What a pleasant array of manifestations!

The more variations there are, the more joyful I feel.

What a pleasure to have a body free from negative karma.

These innumerable confusions are a joy!

The more fear I feel the happier I am.

What a wonder- the death of emotions.

The larger the upset, the larger the passions

the more ease and pleasure you can feel.


How good it is to know that joy and suffering are one.

How good it is to move and play

with a body empowered by yoga.

Isn’t it fun to jump, run, dance, and leap?


How good it is to sing a victory song.

How good it is to chant and hum.

Even better to speak and sing at the top of your voice!

The mind that is steeped in nonduality

is powerful and confident.

The highest ease is the self-existing emanation of energy.


These multifarious forms and insights arising are delightful.

I sing this yogic song of joy

as a gift to my faithful students.





Oh, my guru shows the unmistakable path to liberation.

The perfect guide, the great compassionate one,

please never leave me.

Always remain above my head, as a jewel on my crest.


Listen, followers of the dharma,

meditators sitting here,

although the teachings of the buddha are numerous,

the gifted can practice vajrayana, profound path.


If you want to become a buddha in this life

do not crave things

and do not intensify your ego-clinging

or you’ll be entangled in good and bad, this and that,

and fall into the realm of misery.


When you serve your teacher,

refrain from thinking,

“I work while he enjoys the benefits.”

If you feel this way, unhappiness will surely follow,

and so your aspirations will flounder.


When observing samaya, avoid associating with troubled people,

or you’ll be contaminated by their influence,

and you could violate the precepts as a result.


When you study and practice,

do not arrogantly cling to words

or the dormant fire of the five passions will flare up

and virtuous thoughts and deeds will be consumed.


When you meditate with friends on retreat,

do not do too much, or your virtue and devotion

will run out.


When you practice creation and completion

based on the ear-whispered instructions

do not perform magic or bother with spirits.

If you do, demons might arise in your own mind,

and worldly longing will burn.


When you have acquired experience and realization

do not show off your power,

or predict the future.

If you do, the secret instructions could lose potency,

and merit and insight could, then, diminish.


Be careful! Avoid these pitfalls,

and avoid nonvirtue.

Don’t eat poisonous food.

Don’t eat dangerous offerings.

Don’t speak sweetly just to please others.

Be humbly and modest, and you’ll be on the right track.


Milarepa friday the 13th

The blessings of the guru enter my heart.

My I realize emptiness.


In answer to my faithful patrons

I sing a song that is pleasant to even deities and buddhas.


Arising, emptiness, and nonduality,

these three things are the essence of the view.


Luminosity, nonthought, undistractedness,

these three things are the essence of meditation.


Freedom from clinging, nonattachment, being unbiased,

are the essence of action.


No hope, no fear, no confusion,

these are the essence of accomplishment.


Not trying, not hiding, or discriminating,

these three are the essence of the vows.





I bow down at the feet of the guru.

Deep in the unspoiled forest

I happily practice meditation.

With no attachment or clinging

moving or being still is equally pleasant.

Healthy in body and mind,

I willingly sustain my illusory form.

I never sleep,

just sitting comfortably in the quiet.

Abiding in the samadhi of impermanence

I taste enjoyment.

I’m glad that my chandali practice is continuous.

I joyfully do my tantric practice

with no fear or confusion.

I perfect my cultivation of energy with no distraction.

I’m really happy to be alone.

These are the pleasures of my  body.


The path of wisdom and skillful means is enjoyable.

The yoga of creation and completion,

and nondual meditation are enjoyable.

Prajna, awareness of not coming or going, is enjoyable.

No friends, no chatting, the absence is enjoyable.

These are the pleasures of speech.


The understanding of nongrasping is enjoyable.

Meditation without interruption is enjoyable.

Accomplishment free from hope or fear is enjoyable.

Actions done without defilement are enjoyable.

These are the pleasures of mind.


Luminosity free of thought and change- this is enjoyable.

The great bliss of dharmadatu- this is enjoyable.

The unceasing realm of form- this is enjoyable.


This little song of enjoyment flowing freely from my heart

has been inspired by meditation, the merging of action and prajna.

Those who want the fruit of bodhi

may follow this this path of yogic practice.


July 4th Milarepa

I supplicate you, Marpa the translator.

I pray that you grant me more bodhicitta.

No matter how beautiful the words of a song might be

it’s just a song

to those who know the truth.

If a parable doesn’t agree with the buddha’s teachings

however eloquent it might be

it’s nothing but noise.

If one does not practice the dharma,

but claims to be learned

one is only self-deceived.

Living alone is being imprisoned

if you don’t practice the instructions of the oral transmission.

Work is only punishment

if you neglect the buddhadharma.

For those who are unethical

prayers are just wishful thinking.

For those who don’t practice what they preach

making speeches is hypocrisy and lies.

When you shun non-virtue, obscurations naturally diminish.

When you do good deeds, merit is gained.

A lot of talk is useless.

Follow my song and practice dharma.


I bow down at Marpa’s feet.

Are you demons still in a bad mood?

You can fly through the sky easily

but your minds are full of obscuring habitual thoughts.

You bare your deadly fangs to frighten others

but without a doubt when you harm them

you’re only harming yourself.

The law of karma never fails.

No one escapes its movement.

You are only harming yourselves

you hungry ghosts, you confused and poisonous spirits.

I can only feel sadness and pity for you.

Since you are always doing wrong,

being cruel is natural to you.

Since the karma of killing binds you

you love to eat meat and drink blood.

Taking the lives of others

leads to rebirth as a hungry ghost.

Your negative actions lead you

to the depths.

Turn back, my friends, from this trap

and try to find real happiness

beyond all hope and fear.

Milarepa speaks to spirits

At this point, I’m just working on the songs of Milarepa. These songs are couched in stories, the events in the life of Milarepa. The basic story is that he had a rough childhood, had to work very hard for some cruel relatives, did some bad stuff to get revenge, and then sought redemption for his bad deeds (black magic, in his case). Soon enough, he’d found a teacher who put him through various trials. Milarepa did not give up. He persisted just to get dharma instruction. That’s worth keeping in mind- these days it’s impossibly easy to pick up a book on meditation, or read it for almost free online. So, two thing- there have been times when people sweated blood just to get basic instructions. There may be something of value to that (the ease of superficially absorbing the teachings versus what is really earned through hard work).

Once Milarepa finally convinced his teacher to instruct him, after many trials (and I’m not totally clear on this part, it may actually have been the teacher’s wife, Dagmema, who convinced the teacher, Marpa, to relent and teach the student). Then Milarepa basically spent the rest of his life in retreat, practicing, often in caves.

Looking briefly at the life of Milarepa, he has a few types of songs that come up again and again. Obviously, this work should just be taken literally. Milarepa speaks to his patrons and common people who admire him, and want to make offerings to him. Maybe this is something like how people revere some politicians, or political activists. So clearly the culture gap is at play here: reading about Milarepa you’re in medeival Tibet. Obviously there’s something to be learned, but the antiquity of it can be an obstacle.

But speaking to patrons and ordinary people is one kind of song. Speaking to his close students is another kind of song, similar to the former. Finally, we have interactions with spirits, ghosts, demons, and so forth. There’s a lot of that as well. Without knowing much about the life of Milarepa, it’s safe to say that interacts a lot with ordinary villagers, some rich patrons, students, and nonhuman beings. Usually the nonhuman beings threaten him, bother him, try to disrupt his meditation or cause problems for him. Often once he sings to them, or once they’ve sung back and forth to each other, he will convert the spirits, who will renounce their evil ways and become dharma practitioners in their own right.

Now there’s a lot going on right there, to be looked at. When  Milarepa sings to someone or something, he’s singing to us, as we read it. That means you are the rich patron, or the ordinary farmer, being admonished to give up attachment to worldly life, or being given instruction. It means you’re the demon or ghost, a turbulent and neurotic being dead set on causing chaos for others (but also capable of turning it around). On the other hand, as you read the songs, you’re also Milarepa, which is something of a miracle. In spite of the fact that most Western yogis and/or dharma practitioners don’t do a lot of retreat time (even the months some people rack up in a lifetime, which is considerable and very beneficial and worthwhile are nothing compared to the decades or austere practice Milarepa accomplished). But, somehow, through language, you’re able to become in some sense this vastly accomplished ascetic yogi.

That’s an interesting point too- you hear often when Western teachers talk about the Buddhist path how it is NOT ascetic, how the Buddha turned away from asceticism and discovered a way to live a basic lifestyle and become awakened without torturing himself or putting his body through the mill. But somehow ascetics and yogis are part the Buddhist pantheon or path. The first thing I get from that is that Buddhism is really vast. There’s room for the beings who can meditate for fifty years in a cave, and there’s room for people who want to just bow to a shrine as they walk past on the way to work. Buddhism constantly implodes oversimplification.

In the following song, Milarepa is speaking to some spirits. I don’t see myself including the prose parts of the story for most of these. Just doing some of the songs will be enough of a challenge.

I take refuge in all the gurus

and pay homage.


By using mirages and illusions,

you demons create fantastic terrors.

You sorry beings, hungry ghosts,

you’ll never harm me.

Because your bad karma has fully ripened,

you’ve become demons in this life.

You’ll wander in space the entire time

with hideous minds and bodies.

Driven by fiery kleshas

your minds are filled with aggressive and vicious thoughts.

Both your deeds and your words are poisonous and destructive.

Take, for example,

when you screamed that you would kill me,

chop me up into pieces, cut me up!


I am a yogi free from thoughts,

knowing that there is no such thing as mind.

Walking valiantly as a lion,

being fearless and brave

my body merges with the body of the buddha.

My words are true like the words of the tathagata.

My mind is absorbed in the realm of the primordial buddhahood.

I clearly see that the six consciousnesses and the six sense objects

are empty by nature.

A yogi such as myself simply ignores

the abuse of spirits.


If the law of cause and effect is valid,

and you do things deserving of it,

the force of ripened karma will drive you

down the path of suffering, misery, and grief.

It is really distressing that you spirits don’t understand!

Now let me, Milarepa,

tell you- let me preach the dharma to you.


All sentient beings are my mothers and fathers.

To hurt those we should be grateful to

is truly senseless.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful

if you were to renounce your negative thoughts?

Wouldn’t it be wonderful

if you were to practice the ten virtues?

Remember this, ponder the meaning.

Exert yourselves and carefully consider it.


Note that Milarepa uses his own name a lot, and the name is mentioned quite a bit by others. It just shows up a lot. This might not be an accident. Note also that he is always telling students and spirits alike to remember and think about what he is saying. The latter could be expanded a lot, I think. Meditation is sometimes translated as “remembering.” Mindfulness as remembering.


Father guru…

Father guru, who has conquered the four hindrances,

I bow down, to you Marpa.


I, the son of Darsen Gharmo,

the man you see before you,

was nurtured in my mother’s womb

and accomplished the three nadis.

As a baby, I slept in my cradle.

As a boy, I watched the door.

As a man, I lived on a mountain.

Although mountain storms are terrible,

I am without fear.

Although cliffs are steep and dangerous,

I am without fear.


I, the man you see before you,

am the son of the garuda, king of birds.

I grew wings and feathers in the egg.

As a baby I slept in the cradle.

As a boy I watched the door.

As a man I flew in the sky.

Although the sky is vast I am without fear.

Although the way is steep and narrow,

I am not afraid.


I, the man you see before you,

am son of Nyuchen Yormo, king of the fishes.

In my mother’s womb, I rolled my golden eyes.

As a child I slept in the cradle.

As a boy I watched the door.

As a man, I swam in the great ocean.

Although the waves are terrible,

I am without fear.

Though fishhooks are everywhere, I am not afraid.


I, the man you see before you

am the son of the Kagyu.

Faith grew in me as I was in the womb.

As a baby I entered the door of the dharma.

As a child I studied the buddha’s teachings.

As a man I lived alone in caves.

Although demons, ghosts, and spirits are everywhere

I am fearless.


New Milarepa

Milarepa statue, Pango Chorten, Gyantse, Tibet.

Milarepa statue, Pango Chorten, Gyantse, Tibet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What’s new?

Since last time, a new class (the poetry one) has started. There’s a workshop coming up in July. I’ve been thinking about the possibility of longer retreats, if that could work somehow (at the Newbury location).

I’ve been working a little on reworking Milarepa’s songs. Here is some.

This lonely spot where my hut stands

is pleasing to the buddhas, a place where realized  beings live,

a refuge where I live alone.

Above Red Rock Jewel Valley

white clouds glide by.

Below the Tsang river gently flows.

Vultures soar between the two.

Bees are humming among flowers,

intoxicated by their fragrance.

In the trees,  birds play,

filling the air with their song.

In Red Rock Jewel Valley

young sparrows learn to fly,

monkeys enjoy leaping and swinging,

and other animals running and racing.

I practice relative and ultimate bodhicitta and love to meditate.

All you local demons, ghosts, and gods,

my friends,

drink the nectar of kindness and compassion,

and then go home.

Milarepa May 3

I’m going to try write more later about this. For now, a short one.


On the “Chronicles” website, there’s a series of talks on Milarepa. In the commentary on one talk, the idea is presented that Milarepa’s life involves family troubles, conflicts just like our own. Milarepa was an ascetic yogi for most of his life, I believe, but in contrast to that, his story also includes ordinary stuff, stuff that is “relatable.”

A few years back I found a free download of a Trungpa Rinpoche talk somewhere online. It was entitled the “Origin of Suffering,” but was mistitled, and was actually a track from a teaching on the 100,000 songs of Milarepa, this particular talk focusing on the principle of the dakini. Milarepa, while meditating, encounters a dakini, a feminine spirit embodying certain energies. Dakinis, whether you think of them as spirits, or as energetic events, are associated with both “inspiration” as Rinpoche put it, and chaos- plague, war, famine.

The dakini seems esoteric and Tibetan and superstitious even, but it’s very real and ordinary. One way of looking at it- it’s like the Al Bundy aspect of life, the sitcom aspect. You just can’t win. Things keep falling apart and falling apart. You’re part of a “cosmic joke.” Another way of looking at it is in terms of your own subconscious and its influence on you/itself. You keep hearing voices, and they influence you, sometimes to be mean, or crazy, or habitual. Those subconscious pulls are the dakini, or dakinis.

paraphrased from talk:

“It’s not enough to … try to be good, try to do right.. under the surface, other energy aspects are creeping…”

Milarepa … new moon eve

In the last one, Milarepa was supplicating, that is to say, he was calling to his teacher, his guru. His longing and devotion were clear.

(I apologize for the sometimes glib tone. If it’s out of a lack of respect for Milarepa in any sense, or the material, then that’s my mistake, and most definitely my arrogance. Also, note the role of the teacher here. This is typical of Tibetan traditions. It’s not the only way, although it’s the main way in Tibetan Buddhism. But my point there is: if you’re getting intrigued at all by the Buddhist path, please don’t freak out because there’s the whole guru/devotion thing. That’s something I believe in, or am working on, personally. BUT it’s not the only way. So if the emotionality or the hierarchical nature of the guru/student thing freak you out, don’t jump ship. They freak me out too sometimes.)

Okay, so Mila was supplicating his teacher. He felt lonely, and missed his sangha. Then, his teacher appeared in a cloud of rainbow light. I’m going to skip, for now, over most of the story/prose sections. Here, the main lesson that leaps to mind is: the teacher and disciple are not separate, or they’re not THAT separate. The separation can be bridged, or the already-bridgedness can be revealed. Anyway. On to the next.


Inspired by the vision of his teacher, Mila sang:

“When I see my teacher’s face

and hear him speak,

the energy of my heart is stirred,

the heart prana of this humble hermit.

When remembering my teacher’s dharma,

respect and reverence appear in my heart.

His blessings enter my being

and my kleshas are exorcised.

My heartfelt song, the one before,

you must surely have heard, teacher.

Somehow, though, I’m still stranded in darkness!

Please grant me your protection.”

(So, in spite of his teacher’s appearing right in front of him, Milarepa is not satisfied. He stills feels confused. He still suffers. What’s basically a miracle has arisen, and Mila still is not happy. So, one way to read this- even at a high level of “realization,” people still want more. They still suffer, crave, and fail to appreciate actual miracles happening right in front of them. Other ways to read this- Mila wants to continue the interaction. He longs for his teacher, and just saying “thanks, ok” at the appearance of the vision would mean the end of the interaction. He keeps it going, realizing the value of talking to and learning from his teacher. Another reading- he’s a little crazy about receiving blessings from his teacher. He longs, he fantasizes, he pines. This kind of spiritual emotionality is encouraged, odd as it seems to a lot of people.)

“Indomitable effort

is the best thing I can offer to my guru.

The best way to make him happy

is to bear the difficulties inherent in meditation.”

Milarepa 4/19

So, in the previous part, Milarepa was talking about his teacher, how he wishes to see him.


“The more I meditate, the more I long for my guru.

Is Dagmema still living with you?

I’m more grateful to her than my own mother.

If she is there I’ll be happy.

Though the journey is long, I’d be happy to see her.

Though the road is perilous, I’d like to join  her.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.”


(Dagmema was Marpa‘s wife, Milarepa’s teacher’s wife.)


“I would be so happy to join in the gathering there.

Maybe you’re practicing Hevajra.

Although I’m simpledminded, I do wish to learn.

Although I’m ignorant long to recite.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.


Maybe now you’re giving the four intiations.

If I could join you all, I’d be so happy.

Though I have hardly any merit, I want to be initiated.

Although I’m too poor to offer much to you,

I desire to be initiated.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.


Maybe now you’re teaching the six yogas of Naropa.

If I could be there, I’d be so happy.

Though I’m not hardworking, I want to learn.

Though I am not persevering, I want to practice.

The more I contemplate, the more I think of you.

The more I meditate, the more I think of my guru.


The brothers from Weu and Tsang might be there.

If that’s the case, I’d be glad.

Even though I’m not as realized as they are,

I’d like to compare notes.

Though in my faith and longing, I’ve never really been apart from you,

I’m tortured now by my need to see you.

This painful longing tortures me.

This is agony. I’m suffocating.

Please, guru, relieve my suffering!”


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