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Milarepa - Rechungpa's Third Journey

by Sangharakshita

The “Rechungpa's Third Journey to India” seminar

Held at Padmaloka in November 1980
Those present: Sangharakshita, Brian Duff, Suvajra, Atula, Asvajit, Clive Pomfrett, Mangala,
Malcolm Webb, Peter Shann, Aloka, Vajradaka, Adrian Macro, Peter Hayes.
S: Would someone like to read the whole of that first paragraph right down to meditation on
the next page?
"Obeisance to all Gurus.
Through his miraculous powers the Jetsun, Milarepa, had conquered the scholar priests in
their ill intentioned debate and had won the argument. However, his heart son, Rechungpa,
was not satisfied with this victory. He thought that the Jetsun had not answered the monks'
questions in a scholarly manner. The only way Rechungpa thought to himself, to conquer
these scholars who cannot even be convinced by the evidence of miracles, is through logic
and argument, or by black magic and curses. I might ask the Jetsun to teach me black magic
but it is not likely that he would. Oh confound it, these damn scholars who belittle genuine
miracles as sorceries. They certainly deserve to be dealt with. But the Jetsun will never do it.
Well it is true that my Guru is well versed in the pith instructions for attaining Buddhahood in
one life but in order to beat these scholars I shall go to India to learn logic and science. He
then went to Milarepa and told him of his intention.
The Jetsun said,
Rechungpa if we had been defeated in the debate, how could the scholars have credited us
with pure thought? If you go to India merely for the purpose of learning the art of debate you
are then doing something wrong and worthless. That also means that you will forsake
meditation practice. In learning semantics you may acquire some knowledge about words but
still you will not be able to win all the debates. Nor can you master the whole study of letters.
Only Buddha can answer all questions and challenges. But to achieve Buddhahood one must
practice. Therefore the best way is to abjure the world, renounce all thoughts and wishes of
this life and devote oneself to meditation. One may slay people by black magic but if he
cannot deliver the victims from Samsara both he and the victims will be damned. Formerly I
used black magic to curse my enemies but because of this sinful deed I had to go through
many painful trials under Marpa. Life is very short. No one can tell when death will fall upon
him. Therefore, please forget everything else and concentrate on your meditation."
S: All right let's go into this. 'Through his miraculous powers the Jetsun Milarepa had
conquered the scholar priests in their ill intentioned debate and had won the argument.' This
refers to the happenings of the previous chapter which is entitled 'The challenge from the
logicians'. So Milarepa had won the argument. The scholar Priests had challenged him not
with a very good motive but nonetheless Milarepa had won. 'However his heart son,
Rechungpa, was not satisfied with the [2] victory for he thought that the Jetsun had not
answered the monks questions in a scholarly manner. The only way, Rechungpa thought to
himself to conquer these scholars who cannot even be convinced by the evidence of miracles
is through logic and argument or by black magic and curses.'
So what does this statement by Rechungpa tell you about his attitude? What sort of attitude is
he adopting here?
Brian: A very sort of competitive attitude.
S: It's more than that because you could say that the debate itself was competitive.
Atula: He wants revenge. He seems to want revenge in some way.
Adrian: He seems to want to answer the logicians on their own ground so to speak.
S: On their own grounds, yes, but why do you think he wants to do that? After all apparently
Milarepa has conquered them so why is it that Rechungpa is so concerned that they should be
conquered through logic and argument.
Mangala: Perhaps he himself needs convincing on those grounds, that he himself isn't
satisfied with Milarepa's approach.
S: That is a possibility too yes. But on the other hand he of course is blaming the scholar
monks for belittling genuine miracles of sorcery. It's as though he has got great faith in those
genuine miracles whereas they do not have. But what is the basic mistake that Rechungpa is
committing here? Going even further or going even deeper.
Atula: He actually doubts.
S: Well perhaps there is an element of doubt but there's more involved in it than that.
Suvajra: Thinking that logic and argument are the ultimate means, that there's something in
words themselves.
S: It's not even that. It seems to me that he has got a fixed idea about the way in which things
are to be done. In particular the way in which people are to be conquered to use that
expression since it is the expression of the text. They have been conquered. The text says that.
Rechungpa himself recognizes that. The scholar priests, the logicians, have been conquered,
they've been defeated in debate. But apparently that is not enough for Rechungpa. He is
wanting that they should be defeated in a particular way. In other words the mistake in his
attitude is that he is over attached to doing things in a particular way. Surely all that matters is
that the scholar priests have been conquered, that they've been defeated. That's been done, but
he's not satisfied. He is insistent that it should be done in a particular way. In other words he's
attaching too much importance to a particular means and not giving enough recognition to the
end. After all the end of the logic and argument is that the scholar monks should be defeated,
but they have been defeated so why all this insistence on Rechungpa's part on logic and
argument. Milarepa has already defeated the scholar monks - that is admitted all round. So it
seems the mistake in Rechungpa's attitude is not only [3] wanting to do something. It is quite
all right, it is quite acceptable that the scholar monks should be defeated as in fact they have
been defeated but what is not all right is that Rechungpa is insisting that it should be done in a
particular way. So that even though they have been defeated it's not enough that they've been
defeated, they've got to be defeated all over again in that particular way to which Rechungpa
himself attaches such great importance, namely through logic and science. Perhaps as
Mangala suggested, there is this insistence on his part on this particular means because he
himself needs convincing in this way, as though he himself perhaps isn't convinced by what
Milarepa has said. He wants himself logic and argument. But the basic flaw is that he wants
things done in a particular way. It's not enough for him that they should be done but that they
should be done in a particular way. So don't you think this is in fact quite a common attitude.
Very often you find people aren't happy if something is done if it hasn't been done their way.
It's as though they ignore the fact that something has in fact been done, something has been
achieved, it hasn't been done in their way, the way that they thought it ought to be done, and
even if it doesn't make any difference to the end result they're still not happy, they're still not
satisfied as Rechungpa apparently wasn't.
Mangala: I'm wondering how the priests could actually have been conquered. If they weren't
open or had any appreciation of let's say sorcery, how in fact they could be defeated on those
grounds rather than on their own grounds, debate say.
S: But of course Milarepa goes into this a little bit later on because he says, 'Rechungpa, if we
had been defeated in the debate how could the scholars have credited us with pure thoughts',
which is what has happened in the previous chapters, because the chief logician says at the
end of the previous chapter, 'I am convinced that what Milarepa has said is true and that we
logicians have little sincerity, faith or devotion, nor do we have the pure thoughts and spirit of
renunciation.' The logicians have admitted this so they have as it were admitted defeat.
Mangala: So presumably Milarepa has actually defeated them on their own grounds of logical
argument and debate and...
S: Well no. I think Milarepa is saying something different. He said, 'Rechungpa, if we had
been defeated in the debate, how could the scholars have credited us with pure thoughts?' In
other words what is important Milarepa is saying is that the scholars should have recognized
the genuineness of our motivation, the purity of our thoughts, the correctness of our attitude.
The fact that they recognized that and incidentally of course recognized the wrongness of
their own attitude, means that they have been defeated. Milarepa is saying that the defeat is
not so much a matter of logical argument or science; that their defeat really consisted in the
fact that they had to recognize their own wrong motivation and recognize Milarepa's correct
motivation. It wasn't a question of scoring this particular point or not scoring that particular
point. Rechungpa is thinking of defeat in exclusively sort of logical terms. If they hadn't been
defeated by means of logic and science they've not been defeated at all. But Milarepa says no,
that is not the real defeat. Maybe Milarepa could have won an argument on their own grounds
but according to Milarepa that is not the true victory. They would not have been really
defeated They are really defeated when they acknowledge their [4] own fault as they have
done, their own wrong attitude, and recognize the purity of Milarepa's attitude. In other words
when they adopt a genuinely open attitude towards him - that is the real defeat, not when
they're ...

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