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Milarepa and the Novices - Song of a Yogi-s Joy - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

DISCLAIMER - This transcript has not been checked, and may contain mistakes and mishearings.

Milarepa and the Novices Seminar (The Yogi's joy)

Held at; 'Padmaloka'
In; July 1978 Those present:Ven Sangharakshita, Lokamitra, Sagaramati, Kulananda, Dhammarati,
Mahamati, Andy Skelton, Dhammananda, Graham Steven, Vairocana,
Sangharakshita; Let's start reading round then.
(Text taken from 'Buddhist texts through the ages' edited by Conze.)
"In order to fulfill the command of his master, that chief lord of Yogis, the
Holy Milarepa moved from Kyang-pen to Yolmo-Kang and settled in the tiger's cave of
Singa- dzong in the forest of Singa-ling. From the very first the local deity of Yolmo was
tranquil and displayed a beauteous form. She surrendered herself to his service and paid him
the highest honours, so that his meditation prospered greatly."
S ; This might seem to be only introductory but actually quite a few important points do
emerge. I take it that everybody has heard the name of Milarepa and that everybody in fact
knows the story of Milarepa roughly. Who has read 'Tibet's great Yogi Milarepa'? Nearly
everybody - good. So at least one knows from that that Milarepa as it were specialised in
solitude and meditation and this was by the command of his master that is Marpa, the great
teacher, the great translator Marpa who spent much of his time in India collecting Tantric
texts and gaining initiations into them and with all this spiritual treasure or literary treasure,
bibliographical treasure he returned to Tibet and those who've read 'Tibet's great yogi
Milarepa' know that he was a rather tough character who gave his disciples or at least some of
them a rather hard time, Especially he gave Milarepa a hard time because Milarepa had
committed quite a number - we might even say sins - they weren t just faults because they'd
involved killing quite a number of people by black magic, so in order to purify him of these
sins Marpa had treated him in quite a tough sort of way and eventually told him to spend the
rest of his life in solitary meditation in remote mountain caves. So this is why it is said, 'In
order to fulfull the command of his master, that chief lord of yogins,' i.e.Marpa, 'the holy
Milarepa moved from Kyang-pen to Yolmo-Kang and settled in the tiger's cave of
Singa-dzong in the forest of Singa-ling.' So he's somewhere up on the Tibet/Nepal border in
a very mountainous region inhabited by very few people and I suppose there were tigers there
even because it mentions the tiger's cave, presumably a cave in which a tiger has lived at
some time or other, therefore quite a fearsome and dangerous sort of spot. But what about
this phrase, 'the command of his master'? The command of his master, that is to say his
Guru, Marpa. What does one mean by command in this context? Can there be a command in
this context? Didn't we say something about there being no power in ths spiritual community.
Presumably the guru wouldn't exercise any power. What does one mean then by command?
Was it really a command?
: Is it a precept? [2]
S: Yes but if it was a precept why do you think the text says command. Can there be a
command or can this word really be used in the spiritual context. If so what does it mean?
Dharmarati; Milarepa's taking his guru seriously and the guru is making certain recommend-
ations. A guru s recommendation I suppose has some force.
S: It has the force of a command you could say, yes. Otherwise the guru can go on
commanding till he's black in the face. It won't do much good. And you could say the guru's
command is really the disciples obedience. If the guru only suggests or hints or indicates
some- times that's taken as a command by the disciples. Marpa might even have simply said
it might be a good idea for you to go and spend the rest of your life in mountain solitude. He
probably didn't because we know he was rather apparently a peppery sort of character. He
probably just said 'Off you go!' That was probably the way he spoke and Milarepa being
Milarepa obeyed instantly. So it is in fact the receptivity as we may call it of the disciple that
gives the force of a command to the guru's suggestions. The disciple doesn't feel them as a
command. Do you see what I mean? In the group sense. Doesn't feel that the guru is
exercising power over him but that he is simply pointing out what is best for the disciple.
So 'From the very first the local deity of Yolmo was tranquil and displayed a
beauteous form.' So 'who or what is this local deity? Who are local deities? That is meant by
that do you think?
Dharmarati; In Padmasambhava's story in Tibet he subdued the local demons. The forces of
nature or something.
S: So what is a local deity or local demons? What does it suggest?
First of all what is it quite literally?
Sagaramati; The power in that area.
S: The power in that area. What sort of power. Natural forces? What sort of natural forces
because it does say deity referring to a person, a being. It's a little bit like what we were
talking about yesterday about the naughty chair. The 'impersonal' - inverted commas- is
perceived as 'personal' - inverted commas. You live in a certain spot, you live in a certain
area. You feel there a certain atmosphere which seems to convey the essence of the area, the
essence of that particular spot and you feel that, you experience that as in some way personal.
That's your deity, that's your local god. You may get sort -of deities associated with particular
natural objects. You might get not just a naughty chair but a naughty or a good tree. You may
remember in the Pali texts you're always coming across tree devatas, tree divinities and
sometimes they speak to the monks. Sometimes they tick the monks off. Sometimes they
encourage them in their meditations. So it's as though primitive peoples have got a greater
sensitivity to this sort of thing, not only a greater sensitivity to what we might call a particular
psychic atmosphere of a spot but a greater [3] tendency to experience that in personal terms as
a spirit, a god or a goddess, divinity and so on. So if one is speaking in terms of say the
whole region you speak of the god of that region or you speak of the god of a particular tract
of land, the god of a forest, even the god of a cave or shrine or the goddess. It's a sort of
particular nvminous atmosphere concentrated in to what you experience as a particular form
or figure. You feel a sort of personal presence there without actually seeing anything or
hearing anything. Has anyone ever had that sort of experience? You think there's some one
here. you don't see any form. You don't hear any voice but it's some one not some thing but
some one here. The primitive man seems to have been quite succeptible to that experience.
He found himself in the midst say of a desert, there's some one here or when he found himself
on the edge of a stream, there's some one here or in the m2idst of a forest, there's some one
here and that's the local deity. So do you think there's anything in it objectively. What is it
objectively do you think? One might say in more modern terminology the particular
vibration as it were which is not just physical - it has a certain psychical quality. One can
speak in terms of atmosphere. The primitive man, and I'm not using the word primitive in
any dis- paraging sense at all, but primitive man experienced it in the form of deities it seems
and therefore one has sort of primitive polytheism as it were which to us is now a sort of
poetic convention merely. Nymphs and satyrs and pans and things of that sort but which
primitive man actually experienced in that particular way. Some people do it even now. If
you can get into a forest or find yourself by the side of a stream. There seem to have been also
deities associated with towns. There's a story about the Buddha, I think it's in the
Mahaparinibbana Sutta,on his last tour before the Parinibbana, he came to the spot where
subsequently (Apataliputra) was to arise, the modern (-Patna), the new capital of the
Magadhan empire when Rajgriha had been deserted, and it is said that he prophesised that
here a great city would arise because here there were powerful deities and where that
particular kind of powerful deity congregated it seemed they incited mens' minds to build. So
it's as though there was a psychic atmosphere or there were psychic presences which the
Buddha spoke of in these terms. Influencing human minds in that sort of way. Presumably
other deities, other forces, other atmospheres, other vibrations might influence your mind
more in the direction of meditation rather than in the direction of building towns and cities
and palaces-and so on. But it's as though every particular place has its own psychic
atmosphere and in that sense its own deities and therefore its own particular kind of influence
on you. We all know that even in Britain there are spots with all sort of strange influences.
Places like Glastonbury for instance. Explain them how one will but certainly there is
something unusual there that can be felt or experienced by people but primitive tradition
speaks in terms of local deities which is perhaps the simplest and most straightforward way of
putting it. So that's point one but point two is that it that it seems to have been the Buddhist
attitude to adopt a sort of friendly attitude towards the local deities. ...

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