Yesterday, February 20th, was Milarepa’s Anniversary. No, not his anniversary to his wife, because he didn’t have one, though he probably had some consorts along the way. I don’t know whether it the anniversary of his birth of his death, but I am assuming it’s his death, as Tibetans don’t tend to be into birthdays (many Tibetans living today don’t know what their birthdays are, especially ones originally from Tibet — including my own teacher, Khentrul Lodro Thaye Rinpoche). I was wondering to myself: what is the best way to celebrate Jetsun Milarepa’s birthday? I came up with some ideas:
- read and recite Milarepa’s lifestory.
- read, recite, and sing Milarepa’s songs.
- OK, I might catch some flack for spontaneously devising my own Milarepa Guru Yoga, but here goes: visualize Milarepa above your head, in your heart, or in your palms. He is inseparable from your own teachers and all the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions and three times. He radiates healing light rays, which fill your whole body, infusing you with the blessings of Milarepa’s enlightened body, speech, and mind; bestowing empowerments upon you; and purifying you of your negative karma and obscurations.
- chant praises of homage to Milarepa, such as: Homage to Jetsun Milarepa, Namo Jetsun Milarepaya (makeshift Sanskrit), Jetsun Milarepa la Chag Tsal Lo (Tibetan)
- watch one of the two movies made about the life of Milarepa. The newer one by Neten Chokling Rinpoche is better, but the older, rarer Chinese production, while poorly produced, has its charms and good aspects too.
- meditate a whole lot, like Milarepa
- find and cave and sit in it, like Milarepa
- make up and sing your own songs about spiritual matters, like Milarepa
- drink and eat lots of nettles. Nettle tea is SO good, if you haven’t tried it yet. I highly recommend it. However, unlike Milarepa, do not consume so much that you turn green. Unless you really want to.
Since Milarepa Day is already passed, I suppose that this list is more useful for NEXT year’s Milarepa Day — keep posted, it should be sometime in late February (though not neccessarily February 20th, like this year — the Tibetan calendar is lunar based and changes a lot depending on the moon cycles, and on top of that it has it’s own way of readjusting and correcting itself, including literally skipping days!)
However, if you have devotion to Milarepa, then go ahead and try some of the things suggested above.
Here’s a suggestion for a Milarepa Dedication Prayer:
By this merit may we soon
attain the enlightened state of Milarepa
so that we may be able to liberate
all sentient beings from their sufferings
For those of you not familiar with Milarepa’s lifestory, here’s a little rundown from http://www.gyurmeling.com. Gyurme Ling is the monastery of Neten Chokling Rinpoche, who directed the recent Milarepa movie. I also happens to be the monastery where I will likely be teaching English to its young monks very soon:
Life story of Jetsun Milarepa:
Milarepa was born to a wealthy family in the western Tibetan region of Kya Ngatsa. His father passed away when he was seven years old. As stated in the will, the aunt and uncle were to inherit all the property and riches until Milarepa came of age to marry. Mila, his sister and his mother were soon reduced to servants and laborers by their greedy relatives.
At fifteen years old, his mother requested that the land be returned because Milarepa was to marry. However, this was refused. So, his mother sent Milarepa to learn black magic and take revenge on the family.
After the completion of Milarepa’s studies as a sorcerer, he caused the house of his evil relatives to collapse during a celebration, killing over thirty-five of them.
Although Mila’s mother was joyous, Mila grew disappointed and depressed. He commented how the result of black magic will only be a negative rebirth. Furthermore, Mila’s own teacher of black magic said that at the time of death only the dharma, not magic, would help. The teacher of black magic soon realized that such evil practices were not proper. Mila was overjoyed that his teacher thought the same, and his teacher told him to go to the Dzogchen teacher Rongton Lhaga.
The Dzogchen Lama was unable to bring Mila to realization because Milarepa possessed a lot of negative karma and obstacles. So, he suggested that Mila go to Marpa Lotsawa. Great devotion arose in Milarepa, and he went to study under Marpa.
Marpa made Milarepa undergo numerous trials and hardships before teaching him the dharma. First, Mila was ordered to construct all sorts of oddly shaped houses, each then he had to tear down after completion. His hands often would be sore and his body worn, and after doing this many times Marpa only gave him the teachings of the common dharma.
Then, Mila was ordered to build a nine-story tower. After its completion, Marpa still refused to give him the Vajrayana teachings. Mila became more and more depressed, and then began to think that only by dying would he be free of suffering.
Marpa, only after purifying Milarepa of his obscurations, would begin to bestow the Vajrayana transmissions to him. Now was the proper time.
For most of his life, Milarepa meditated alone in the mountains and caves through the region of Tibet and Nepal, often unyielding to threats by demons and without food or water. For a long time, he merely sustained himself upon pine-like nettles and his body became green in color.
Milarepa became renowned for his spontaneous poetic songs of realization, which could tame the mind of even the most non-virtuous people. The Jetsun Milarepa’s main disciples were Rechungpa and Gampopa. Milarepa’s teachings cut through all bias and expectation; he showed the world as it was and destroyed all dualistic views.
Rechungpa would always desire to wander off and even travel to holy sites throughout India and Tibet, but Milarepa reminded him that with a realized guru the need for such places aren’t necessary.
Milarepa was a yogi who practiced in solitude. His life of pure devotion to his teacher and his transformation from a sorcerer to a living Buddha remains as an unrivaled example for the world.
Upon his passing, Mila left the earth with an assembly of dakinis, for the pure realms, in the sky for all to see.