From the Editors / Snow Lion Articles

The Great Kagyu Masters

Book coverOne year, as the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar was drawing to a close, he was staying in solitude at Chuwar at Drok Menlung when a plague befell the people, killing many humans and animals. On the eleventh day of the following month, as the sun set, a young woman wearing pearl and turquoise ornaments and silken robes appeared, radiating light. In her hands were a pair of white silken cloths decorated in scarlet with designs resembling flames, surrounded by the five jewels. Touching her head to Mila’s feet, she circumambulated him seven times and prostrated nine times, saying, “Oh great Jetsün, our leader is gravely ill. Please come to that snow mountain.” And she pointed in a far direction. Great Jetsün replied, “The day is now well advanced, so I can’t leave. I will come when the sun rises.” The woman said, “A miraculous path of light will appear that will allow Jetsün to proceed to the snow mountain without obstacles. Therefore, please come today.” Great Jetsün said, “Let me see that path. I am an old man, but I have never heard of such a thing. In what direction does it lie? Point it out to me.” The woman pulled a bolt of white wool from her body and threw it across the sky to make a bridge, saying, “Please use this path.” No sooner had Jetsün set foot on the cloth than he arrived, like a flash of lightning, on the right side of the peak of the High Floating Queen of Snow Mountains [Gawishankar]. On that spot stood a white silk tent in which hung a piece of gold cotton cloth held up by a sapphire-like jewel. A standing shell served as the tent post, and the pegs were made of coral. On a couch lay a lady fine in every respect, her hair falling to her feet. Lifting her head and looking at Great Jetsün from blood-shot eyes, she said, “I am gravely ill; please heal me.” Jetsün asked, “What has caused your sickness and when did it start? How serious is it?” In this way he learned what had happened. “My illness was caused by unhealthful smoke that rose up when humans burned impure objects during these last summer months,” she replied. “It became especially severe from the twenty-sixth day of the eighth month. Therefore, I requested that you come here. My infected breath has afflicted all the people of that country and they have now fallen prey to various plagues.” Great Jetsün thought: “This is how so many people and animals died in that country. I must make this being enter into a commitment.” Aloud he said, “Beautiful lady, I previously gave you the Bodhisattva vow and the recitation mantra of the yidam. I have also given you the teachings on cause and effect. But you have not remained true to your samaya vows, for you have no patience even with a small sickness. You have caused much harm to many lives—even to beings who are blameless. Now, it is hard for me to trust you when I see what you have done. If you promise to stop bringing disease on other beings, I will see if I can help you. But if you do not promise, I will immediately leave, and you will continue to experience suffering because of your broken vows.” The woman became fearful and clung to the feet of the Jetsün, saying, “It is the nature of us ignorant beings to commit errors, so please do not be angry with us. In general, the higher gods will not harm others if others do not harm them. In particular, I have not harmed anyone because of my vows to you, Jetsün. This sickness arose naturally because I became ill. Just as the swelling of the streams in summer causes the ground all around to become damp, so the attendants who surrounded me—meat eaters and rakshas—harmed others. If I should become well, all those around me will also keep their word to you. By this action, the diseases will disappear of themselves. This once, please show your compassion.” Mila said, “Perform the purification of the hundred-syllable mantra, invoke the Triple Gem repeatedly, and perform the Ushnishavijaya practice to extend life.” Next day the woman was able to arise from her bed and do prostrations; after eight days she returned to a fully normal state, and her complexion became more radiant than before. Great Jetsün said, “Beautiful lady, since you have recovered your health, I will return to the people below to benefit them. Tell me which are the right materials for beings to burn so you do not fall ill again. What kind of prayers should they say?” She replied, “According to the samaya of the Loka Dakinis, if one among us is ill, all will fall ill. In addition, the gods and demons in samsara will also be affected. This is because of interdependent origination. In the same way, when I am well so are the others. But that they might return to health more quickly, they should recite the mantra of the essence of Tathagata’s ushnisha, read the profound Mahayana sutras, and bathe in the vase water. They should also create a boundary around the city and make torma and tshok offerings mixed with butter, cheese and sugar, with adornments of other foods. This will stop the various sicknesses.”

Great Jetsün returned to the White Cliff of Drin and told the people, “I had a dream in which the leader of the Dakinis became displeased because of the smoke and steam from dirty cooking fires. For this reason, many gods and demons became angered. To pacify them, collect the materials to perform a tshok offering with many tormas. Invoke the Triple Gem, offer tormas to the Dharma protectors, share what you have assembled with the gods and demons of samsara, and pronounce the word of truth. In this way, the great plague will cease.”

On the twenty-ninth day of that month, Tashi Tseringma, along with five Dakinis of her retinue and other followers, approached Jetsün with many kinds of magnificent foods and drink placed in vessels made of four kinds of precious jewels. They also did prostrations, circumambulated him many times and sang songs to repay his kindness. They also requested the profound teachings which Great Jetsün offered in a song.

Once, while Mila was at Drin, Darmatak, one of his disciples, became lost, causing his relatives to mourn him. When the Lama asked about the cause of their lament, they replied, “Darmatak is surely dead.” The Lama replied, “He is not dead.” The relatives stopped crying and asked if the Lama could bring him back to them. Later, Darmatak reappeared, so proving that the Lama had perfect supernatural insight. In this way he possessed limitless qualities.

Milarepa was never separate from the samadhi state, experienced no duality between meditation and post meditation, and achieved the absolute truth of Dharmata, the manifestation of Dharmakaya.

On the eighth day of the fourth month in the Year of the Bird Mila entered Mahasamadhi at the age of eighty-two. His cremation took place both in Tise and Drin. At that time he appeared in three different places; in one form he became the object of offerings of Tashi Tseringma, and in another he went to India.

From The Great Kagyu Masters, translated by Khenpo Konchog Gyaltsen Rinpoche

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