THE LIFE OF MILAREPA

1052–1135

Milarepa

From the Gungthang province of Western Tibet, close to Nepal, Milarepa had a hard childhood and a dark youth. He was only seven when his father died. Relatives had taken over his father’s property and maltreated the bereaved family. His mother, bitter, sent Milarepa to train in black magic, to wreak revenge on those who had blighted her life. She was given her wish – Milarepa proved adept at the practices he was taught, and unleashed a tide of destruction, killing many.But he came to regret his actions, and looked for help in shedding the bad karma he had acquired during his vengeful adolescence. He first attached himself to a Nyingmapa Lama Rongton, who, observing that Milarepa had an affinity for Marpa, sent him to await Marpa’s return from his travels.Milarepa’s reward was to suffer years of testing at his master’s hands. Among other trials, he built towers out of rocks to Marpa’s specifications with his bare hands, only to be ordered to tear them down. But finally, Marpa gave Milarepa full transmission of all he had learnt from Naropa and other Indian masters.Practicing these teachings for many years, Milarepa attained enlightenment. He gained fame for his spontaneous songs of realisation. Of his own students, Gampopa became his lineage-holder.