Songs of Milarepa – Milarepa

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I return thanks to my teacher for his favours
and may he if his mercy grant that my soul be ripened into
deliverance.

To you, blest followers if the faith who are seated here,
I give counsel of profound import in songs;
lend me your ears attentively.


The white lion of the snowfields on high
yawns amongst the snow-white peaks
yet fears no other beast,
for the lion’s proud habit is to stretch amongst the snows.


The regal vulture of Drakmar
spreads his wings in heaven’s expanse
yet fears not lest he fall into the abyss,
for the vulture’s proud habit is to cleave the vault of the sky.


In the river and seas beneath
the shimmering fish darts about
yet fears not lest he drown,
for the fish’s proud habit is to swim coruscating.

In the branches of the trees that clothe the slopes of Mon

monkeys, long-tailed and short, display their skill
yet fear not lest they fall,
for the monkey’s proud habit is to play many a merry game.


Under the leafy bounds of the woodland trees

the striped Indian tiger proves his prowess
yet knows not fear,
for the tiger’s nature is to glory in his cunning.

In the forests of Singghala
Milarepa meditates upon the Void
yet fears not lest his meditation fail,
for his proud habit is to concentrate prolongedly.


In the pure cycle of the sphere of truth
he enjoys undistracted experience
yet fears not error in its significance,
for his proud habit is to establish himself in reality.


In the experience of the life-force travelling its inward course
he is troubled by delusive visions sent to hinder him
yet deviates not from the true interpretation thereof,
for his is the boast that these signs of progress arise.

From the inherent energy of his successful concentration
crowd in upon him a multitude of lofty and mean thoughts
yet he holds his mind in abeyance from them,
for his is the stage at which myriad ideas are bound to appear.


By the ripened power of the law of cause and fruit
he beholds the very shape of virtue and of vice
yet is not disturbed in his rapture,
for his is the word of infallible truth that divides them asunder.

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O almsgiver puffed up with pride,
Ngendzong the rich, hearken to me.
Throughout the three months of springtime
when every Tibetan ploughs his own field
I too, the sage, plough a field.
Upon the hard ground of primordial suffering
I have put the manure of faith, the harbinger,
and have watered it copiously with the fivefold nectar .
A husbandman full of confidence,
I have sowed the seed of freedom from the error of reflective thought.
Having yoked the oxen of transcendence of duality
I attached the ploughshare of wisdom,
and guided by the sacred scriptures
drove the plough of imperturbability,
using the whip of instant zeal.
The seed is hardy and strong;
the shoot of holiness will spring up;
the ear will ripen in due time.
Thou dost the husbandry of this world;
I do the husbandry of eternal growth.
At the time of harvest we shall surely see increase;
and when it is past we shall surely vie in merriment.
This is sung as a parable;
this is my song of husbandry.
Make thy heart virtuous who art puffed up with pride;
act to thine own benefit and accumulate meritorious deeds.

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Milarepa here in allegory exposes the dangers that the disciple is likely to meet in his subtle contem­plation and describes the way for him to preserve himself unharmed from such ghostly assaults. He must persevere and stand firm, using the power of the magical spells that he has been taught, to bind his demon adversaries to servitude and then to reabsorb them so that his mind is stilled and made fit for the beatific vision.

In the east in the glorious empire of China
A Chinese woman weaves a silken web.
if the shuttle of her inner thread go not awry
she will not be dismayed by the swift wind of outer time,

but performing her task with inward care
will complete her silken cloth.

In the north in the kingdom of lower Hor
a mighty champion goes forth to battle.
if he raise not to rebellion the ghostly world within
he will not fear the host of Gesar without,
but protecting himself by exorcism
will be victorious.


In the west in the precipitous country of Persia
is the brazen gate of the citadel of the warrior horde.
If its sea of molten brass within be not stirred amiss
it will not yield to the slings and arrows without,
but being free from inner flaw
will resist their blows.


In the south in the thunder-bolt- land of Nepal
stands the healing sandalwood tree.
If the ghostly axe is not laid to it within
it will not be cleft by the axe of the dweller in Mon without,
but, withstanding all inner destruction,
will grow on in the forest.


In the solitary place of Chubar of Drin
art thou, Milarepa, the goodly meditator.
If thou make not thine inward discernment a demon adversary
thou wilt not fear the devilish assaults without,
but, purifying thy native mind within,
will become a sage.


Thou hast trained thyself to control thy sensual imaginings
and upon the craggy mountain of the void of truth
hast sought out the castle of immovable contemplation;
hast girded on the armour of mental enlightenment
and sharpened the weapons of wisdom and mercy.
Though the devilish legions compass thee round about
thou wilt not flee to the city of inclination.
Though the world of death’ s king rise up as thine enemy
thou wilt not be vanquished by his army but will surely win the victory.
Yet the appearance of outward things desirable is wondrous to behold
and the concentration of inward quiet induces lassitude;
the desire for sense-delights is a long-lived companion,
and when thou art immersed in the stream of vision that passes understanding
the demon of discernment is clever at finding means of enmity.


Lying ever in wait upon the strait way between the abyss of hope and fear
he may catch thee in the noose of selfishness.
But thou dost watch over thy memory and consciousness
and, being one who dost guard well thy castle, art a sage.


This song has four similitudes which with the explanation thereof make five.
Its words of good tiding are pearls strung on a necklace
and its explanation is a mirror beauteous to the soul.

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To cleave to a wise teacher
is called the guide to this world and beyond.

To give charity unstintingly
is to lay up provender for the journey.

To behold the moon rise in the darkness of percipience
is to lay up a guide.

To devote to the faith all things acquired
is to lay up a ferry-boat.

If your contemplation is free from partiality
your meditation will be free from distraction;
and if your consummation accords with the faith
your holy vow will be pleasing to your teacher,
and your fruit will be to have no regret in the hour of death.


Counsellor, almsgiver and disciple are three
and I the sage have little need of them
but ye of the world have need of them.

Obeisance, politeness and flattery are three
and I the sage have little need of them
but the worldling has need of them.

Goods, chattels and entertainment are three
and I the sage have little need of them
but the seeker after celebrity has need of them.
Learn to understand it, O disciple fortunate.

Bathing, purification and scrupulousness are three
and I the sage have little need of them
but young men have need of them.

These are twelve needless things
and I have time for none of them:
such is my cotton-clad sage’s boast
and do ye who are assembled mark it well within your hearts.
If ye wish for happiness practise the holy faith;
if ye weary of bustle cleave to the lonely place;
if ye have great zeal abide in solitude;
if ye desire enlightenment be hardy in meditation
and ye shall surely conquer your devilish foes.

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Obeisance to the lords the teachers.


Buddha, doctrine and congregation are three.
These three are the external refuge.
I, the mortal, delight in taking refuge in them:
It is good that ye too should take refuge in them.

Teacher, tutelary god and sky-travelling goddess are three.

These three are the eternal refuge.
I delight in taking refuge in them:
It is good that ye too should take refuge in them.

Breath, nervous energy and life-force are three
these three are the secret refuge.
I delight in taking refuge in them:
It is good that ye too should take refuge in them.

Appearance, Void and distinction less are three.

These three are the refuge of truth.
I delight in taking refuge in them:
It is good that ye too should take refuge in them.


From the weariness of incessant suffering,
upon the rotting habitation of the illusory body
the shower of the days and hours falls
and the rain-drops of the years and months beat down.
Verily the rotting habitation of the illusory body perishes.

It is meet to prepare for the rain by a willingness to die.
Thus like the lengthening shadows of the dying day
though a man flee farther and farther
yet they follow him closer and closer.
Verily he who flees sees not liberation.

The sight of a believer dying
preaches encouragement towards virtue:
he beholds joy in everything.
The sight of a sinner dying
preaches the difference between virtue and vice:
he beholds repentance in everything.
The sight of a rich man dying
preaches that wealth is an enemy:
he beholds the power to give in everything.
The sight of an old man dying
preaches the impermanence of life :
he beholds sorrow in everything.
The sight of a young man dying
preaches that life admits not of leisure:
he beholds earnest endeavour in everything.

Happiness is the due of father and mother
but how can this be if their children afflict them?
There is warmth beneath a soft fur
but how can this be for him who has not worn one?
The fruit of husbandry does away with poverty
but how can this be for him who cannot work?
A horse has the swiftness of the wind
but how can this be for him who cannot ride?
Practice of the faith brings happiness to life
but how can this be for him who cannot practise it?


Wherefore deprive thyself of food and give alms

and deprive thyself of sleep and practise virtue.
Be mindful of the suffering of hell;
think thereon and practise the holy faith.

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O fortunate and holy mortals,
Know ye not that this life is deceit?
Know ye not that enjoyment is illusion?
Know ye not that the world is a passing show?
Know ye not that happiness is a dream?
Know ye not that praise and blame are insubstantial?
Know ye not that appearance is the mind itself?
Know ye not that the mind itself is Buddhahood?
Know ye not that Buddhahood is the body of truth?
Know ye not that the body of truth is truth itself?
When ye reflect, all appearances are compacted out of mind.

Contemplate the mind by day and night.
From contemplation of the mind comes beatific vision;
abide in that beatitude.
Naught is more apt than the great symbol of the void
for consideration of reality ;
abide in the state that passes understanding.
When ye attain profitable equanimity untroubled by the affections
the course of your meditations will be free from self;

whatever happens will be in essence vacuous;
your consciousness will be free from thought and thoughtlessness;

ye will enjoy the taste of the uncreate.
if ye would have knowledge of such meditation
ye must meditate upon this effective symbol
and upon life’s concentrated force.

Ye must meditate upon the deity, repeating the words of power,
and upon the source of purity and such exalted things.
These are the means of entering the path of the Great Vehicle.
When ye meditate upon these things assiduously,
though ye do not succeed in rooting out desire and hatred,
know that whatever appears is your own mind-stuff
and that the mind itself is void.
If ye dweIl in wisdom inseparably
all the observances of the law, oblations and the like,
are thus perfectly fulfilled.

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Now, almsgiver who payest goodly heed,
to explain the suffering of old age:
when the constituents of the body grow frail
the suffering of old age is a desolation.
The frame which was born erect is bowed;
the step which was firmly set is staggering;
The locks which were born black are white;
the eye, the most limpid of the senses, grows dim;
the head, the chief’ of the limbs, shakes;
the ear, which hears sounds, is deqf;
the sea of blood in the cheeks dries up;
the nose, the foundation of good looks, is bent;
the shell-like teeth, the most excellent of the bones, fallout;
the tongue, the king of speech, stammers;
lice multiply like hidden debts.
Though the aged man invite friends to a banquet, they run away from him;
though he avoids despondency over suffering it returns again;
though he speaks truth there is no listener.
His children whom he brought up lovingly grow angry at him;
no one shows gratitude at the splendour of his possessions.
He is slow to die, they say and heap curses on him.
Moreover unless a man comprehend a truth that transcends old age
the suffering of old age surpasses his imagining.

Not to remember the holy faith in old age
is the retribution of former deeds.
Now while a man still has breath
it is good to practise the holy faith.

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Alas, ye sentient beings of the world!
Though ye guard and guard your body like green turquoises

circumstance will make them fall like aged trees.
Give undistracted heed upon occasion due.


Though ye accumulate and accumulate wealth like honey
circumstance will dissipate it like hoar-frost.
Give undistracted heed upon occasion due.

Though ye associate and associate with friends like wild deer
circumstance will come upon them like a hunter.
Give undistracted heed upon occasion due.


Though ye cherish and cherish your children like eggs
circumstance will strike them like a stone upon a path.
Give undistracted heed upon occasion due.

Though your beauty be fair as a flower in the wilderness
circumstance will beset it like hail.
Awaken instant revulsion from the world upon occasion due.

Though ye be good, good friends like mother and son
circumstance will make you quarrel like hostile relations.
Waken compassion for sentient beings upon occasion due.

Though ye bask in happiness like the sun
misfortune will overwhelm you like a whirlwind.
Give charity to the needy upon occasion due.

Moreover, ye almsgiving men and women assembled here,
if ye cannot practise a single part of the sacred and divine faith
your long span of life will be a long sinning
and your exertion in manifold works
will be a work of affliction.

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