An excerpt from the re-told story of one of Tibet's most beloved tales, The Life of Milarepa. A FREE publication from Canadian Outdoor Press.
A tale of deceit, betrayal, revenge and redemption.
The mother had gambled and lost everything. Now she seethed with hatred of her husband's family, and she urged Milarepa to study sorcery. “I will kill myself before your eyes,” she told him, “if you do not seek vengeance.”
So Milarepa found a man who had mastered the black arts and became his apprentice. For a time the sorcerer taught only ineffectual charms. But the sorcerer was a just man, and when he learned Thopaga's story -- and verified it was true -- he gave his apprentice powerful secret teachings and rituals.
Milarepa spent a fortnight in an underground cell, practicing the black spells and rituals. When he emerged, he learned that a house had collapsed on many townspeople while they were gathered at a wedding, crushing to death, all within, save two -- the greedy aunt and uncle. Milarepa thought it right that they survive the disaster so they would witness the suffering their greed had caused.
But the mother was not satisfied. She wrote to Milarepa and demanded the family's crops be destroyed, also. Milarepa hid in the mountains overlooking his home village and summoned monstrous hailstorms to destroy the barley crops.
Villagers suspected black magic and angrily stormed into the mountains to find the perpetrator. Hidden, Milarepa overheard them talking about the ruined crops. He realized then that he had harmed innocent people. He returned to his teacher in anguish, burning with guilt.
In time the sorcerer saw that his student needed a new kind of teaching, and he urged Milarepa to seek out a dharma teacher. Milarepa went to a Nyingma teacher of the Great Perfection (Dzogchen), but Milarepa's mind was too turbulent for Dzogchen teachings. Milarepa realized he should seek another teacher, and his intuition led him to Marpa.
Marpa Lotsawa (1012-1097), sometimes called Marpa the Translator, had spent many years in India studying with a great tantric master named Naropa. Marpa was now Naropa's dharma heir and a master of the practices of Mahamudra.
But Milarepa's trials were not over. The night before Milarepa arrived, Naropa appeared to Marpa in a dream and gave him a precious dorje of lapis lazuli. The dorje was tarnished, but when it was polished it shone with brilliant radiance. Marpa took this to mean he would meet a student with a great karmic debt but who would eventually become an enlightened master who would be a light to the world.
So when Milarepa arrived, Marpa did not offer him the teachings of empowerment. Instead, he put Milarepa to work doing manual labor. This Milarepa did willingly, without complaint. But every time he completed a task and asked Marpa for teaching, Marpa would fly into a rage and slap him.
Among the tasks Milarepa was given was the building of a tower. But when the tower was nearly finished, Marpa told Milarepa to tear it down and build it somewhere else. Milarepa built and destroyed many towers. Still, he did not complain.
This part of Milarepa's story – cruel as it is – illustrates Milarepa's willingness to stop clinging to himself and place his trust in his guru, Marpa. Marpa's harshness is understood to be a skillful means to allow Milarepa to overcome the negative karma he had created by his evil deeds.
To read more, download the FREE copy of Life of Milarepa from iBooks.