Milarepa: Tibet’s poster boy for bad behaviour

(Prologue: I’ve got first-hand experience that a real understanding of the laws of karma can substantially change our lives for the better. I created this weblog to share information and personal experience with others. May it be of benefit!)

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This weblog is dedicated to an in-depth study of karma and its many facets and factors. Today is Milarepa Day in the Buddhist calendar. Milarepa, a magician, murderer and saint is, for me, the best object lesson for karma!

When we hear the name Tibet, many people think of His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Gentle. Compassionate. Humourous. Loving. Wise.

Milarepa, one of the greatest figures of Tibetan Buddhism, couldn’t present a better contrast to the perception we have of the Dalai Lama.

Mila was one bad dude. Got into black magic in a big way. Murdered his enemies to avenge some wrong-doing done to his family after his father had died.

But he is favourite of mine. Why? It’s really quite simple. He was a very naughty boy who went from sinner to saint. From a murderer to a magician and mystic. And did it all in one lifetime.

Milarepa’s message to me is: “I transformed a great deal of negative karma into enlightenment. So can you.” Well, it’s taking me many, many lifetimes. But Mila is my inspiration.

Let’s start at the beginning of his story.

Once upon a time a baby son destined to be the most famous Tibetan poet was born in 1040 to wealthy parents who called him “Good News.” But in this story, there’s a lot of bad news too.

As the expression goes, what do you want to hear first: the good news or the bad news about Milarepa? In this case, we’ll have to start with the bad news because out of the bad news came the good news.

When Mila was still young, his father died. Unfortunately, his father did not draw up a very wise will, and his wealth, in the form of a beautiful house and much land, were put in the care of Mila’s aunt and uncle to be held until Mila got married.

The aunt and uncle were unkind people. They were greedy and thought only of themselves. Mila and his mother and sister were treated like slaves in their own home! They wore rags for clothes and did not eat well, while the aunt and uncle took everything good for themselves.

Aunt, you are a demoness.
You are a deadly demoness who almost killed me.
(source: The Rain of Wisdom – “The Songs of Jetsun Milarepa”)

Soon, Mila, his mother and sister — deprived of their land and house and all their goods, and given poor food to eat and rags to wear became unhealthy. Everybody in their village felt sorry for them but there was nothing anyone felt they could do. (Sound familiar?)

We usually think of turning 16 as a big deal.His mother couldn’t wait until he turned 16 to put her hidden agenda into action. So when he turned 15, she held a party for him. Her brother helped by giving Mila’s mother some food so that she would have something to serve to her guests. The aunt and uncle were invited.

After everyone had eaten, Mila’s mother made her grand announcement: “It is time now to have our possesions returned to us.” The aunt and uncle refused, saying that the will Mila’s father had left gave the family possessions to the aunt and uncle outright.

There weren’t any lawyers to go to in 11th century Tibet.

So Mila’s mother urged her adolescent son to seek out a Sorcerer-lama to learn black magic so he could destroy the family’s enemies.

He did. In fact, Mila was a such a good pupil that he got an A+ on his report card. When he returned to his village, he didn’t actually show his report card to his mother. He went one better. He demonstrated his A+ skills:

  • First, he killed 35 people at a wedding party by causing the horses to become extremely agitated; in their agitation, the horses kicked the main column that supported the house, and it fell on 35 of the 37 wedding guests; and then
  • He caused three powerful hail storms to appear; they destroyed the entire barley crop of that year.

After wreaking this havoc, he returned to his Sorcerer-lama for what we today would call graduate classes.

Now for the good news. At some point, Mila realized that his actions had accumulated a great deal of negative karma and wished now to get spiritual instruction. He met his teacher, Marpa the Translator, and asked Marpa to give him spiritual instructions.

Through a break in my evil karma, I discovered good karma
I met the father jetsun [revered teacher], the excellent true buddha [awakened one]
The skin of ignorant ego-fixation fell away from me,
And the great knot tied by passion and aggression [the poisons] was loosened.
(source: The Rain of Wisdom; “The Songs of Khakhyap Dorje”)

The great spiritual teacher Marpa realized that Mila had a great deal of evil karma to be worked through . So he “sentenced” Mila to a long period of hard labour: Marpa set him the task of building a stone structure… only to have Mila destroy it as soon as he built it. This occured eight times.

Only then was Mila purified enough to hear the spiritual instructions.

Alot of us feel we’ve been living a life of (psychological) hard labour in some ways.

What a great basis for waking up from the illusions that ego creates.

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