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Milarepa - Red Rock Jewel Valley - Unchecked

by Sangharakshita

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

THOSE PRESENT: Ven Sangharakshita, Sagaramati, Ananda, Padmaraja, Dharmarati,
Vessantara, Padmapani .
Peter Cowen, Alan Angel, Mike Chivers, Pat Dunlop, Graham Steven. Kim Catala.
Sangharakshita; Today we come to the last of our study texts, the tale of 'Red Rook Jewel
Valley'. Let's start reading.
"Once the great Yogi Milarepa was staying at the Eagle Castle of Red Rock
Jewel Valley, absorbing himself in the practice of the Mahamudra meditation. Feeling
hungry, he decided to prepare some food, but after looking about he found there was nothing
left in the cave, neither water nor fuel, let alone salt, oil or flour. 'It seems that I have
neglected things too much!', he said, 'I must go out and collect some wood.'
He went out. But when he had gathered a handful of twigs, a sudden storm arose, and
the wind was strong enough to blow away the wood and tear his ragged robe. When he tried
to hold the robe together, the wood blew away. When he tried to clutch the wood, the robe
blew apart. Frustrated, Milarepa thought, 'Although I have been practicing the Dharma and
living in solitude for such a long time , I am still not rid or ego-clinging! What is the use of
practicing Dharma if one cannot subdue egoclinging? Let the wind blow my robe off if it
wishes!' Thinking thus he ceased resisting. But due to weakness from lack of food, with the
next gust of wind he could no longer withstand the storm, and fell down in a faint.
When he came to, the storm was over. High up on the branch of a tree he saw a shred
of his clothing swaying in the gentle breeze. The utter futility of this world and all its affairs
struck Milarepa, and a strong feeling of renunciation overwhelmed him, Sitting down upon a
rock he meditated once more."
S: So here we seem to encounter Milarepa at a comparatively early stage in his career. Just
staying in a cave, he is meditating according to his Guru's instructions, and he is still wearing
at least some clothing. But he has become so absorbed in meditation, he has forgotten all
about food and drink and fuel and so on. So he starts collecting some wood. So when he
tries to hold the robe together the wood blew away, when he tried to clutch the wood the robe
blew apart. ' Frustrated Milarepa thought, 'Although I have been practicing the Dharma in
solitude for such a long time, I am still not rid of egoclinging!' Why do you think he thought
that. What made him think that?
__________; He still wanted these things perhaps, the wood and clothing. It's a simile
perhaps of (
S: Yes he almost instinctively clung on to his robe, that was his robe. So that meant
there-was a feeling of mine. If there is a feeling of mine there is a feeling of I, there is a
feeling of ego and he realised that. So what does this suggest, the fact that Milarepa
realised that so quickly. What sort of stage does it seem that he has reached?
Padmapani; Objective thinking.
S: Well first of all it shows he is very mindful. He is keeping a very close watch over
himself. There is a very trivial thing. The wind tries to blow away his robe, he clutches his
robe, and clutching his robe he loses the wood. Most people would not think anything at all
about it but in Milarepa's mind there is a very definite feeling of frustration. He can't catch
hold of the wood because he has to clutch onto his robe, he can't hold his robe because he has
to hold onto the wood. Then it dawns on him, 'Why am I doing this? What is making me
cling onto my robe in this way? It is because I feel that it is mine, it is my robe, it has to
cover my body.' So because this feeling of mine is there, the feeling of I is there. I have been
meditating all this time but that subtle I feeling that subtle I experience is still there. So this
shows us two things. First of all, how close a watch Milaerpa was keeping over himself, and
secondly it shows that we can detect in our true state of mind our true attitude. Some very
very small things, not just in our own state of mind but that of other people too. The very
small things that give us and other people away.
So what sort of stage does Milarepa seem to have reached? He has been meditating,
he has been infact practicing the Mahamudra meditation. He has been living in solitude for a
long time. So he has no doubt made a great deal of progress, but a subtle feeling of mine, a
subtle feeling of I is still there. He is able to recognise it as soon as it manifests, and is able to
take the necessary action. And that in fact, is all that can be asked of anybody. We arenot
expected to be perfect all at once, or even for a very long time. All you are asked to do is you
keep wide awake, you keep watch, as it were over yourself, especially you pay attention to
very small, seemingly trivial, insignificant things, understand their significance and take
action immediately. This is why perhaps the Buddha as we know concluded his farewell
words to his disciples at least acording to one tradition with the words (uppama denasa )
which were used in connection with the ordination ceremony. (Upama desa) with
mindfulness strive, with mindfulness make an effort. As thought just these two things are
expected. Remain mindful, keep a watch over yourself, know what you are doing, see what
you arc doing, even pay attention to very trivial seemingly insignificant thoughts and words
and actions. And if you see any vestige of anything unskilful, any ego-clinging, any
attachment, any experience of 'mineliness' take immediate action to put the situation right,
that is all that can be asked of anybody. But of course that is everything. So Milarepa as it
were takes immediate action. At once there is a sort of realisation, and he says, 'What is the
use of practicing Dharma if one cannot subdue ego clinging Let the wind blow away my
robe if it wishes.' Now he is ready to give up both of them. At first there was a conflict,
whether to lose the wood and keep the robe, or lose the robe and keep the wood. But now he
says never mind let them both go. Let the wind blow the wood away, let it blow the robe
away also of it wishes. 'Thinking this he ceased resisting but due to weakness due to lack of
food, with the next gust of wind, he could no longer withstand the storm and fell down in a
faint.' Not only did the storm apparently blow away the wood, it nearly blew away Milarepa
as well.
'When he came to the storm was over.1 He must have remained in a faintfor a long
time. 'High up in the branch of a tree he saw a shred of his clothing
swayir~ gently in the gentle breeze.' You can just imag ine him, he is lying on the ground,
has not even got his robe on any more, he has been in a faint. The first thing that he sees as he
opens his eyes is the branch of the tree and fluttering from one of the branches is a small
shred of his clothing. Just that l~ttle shred fluttering in the breeze. 'Then the utter futility of
this world and all its affairs struck Milarepa and a strong feeling of renunciation
overwhelmed him.' Why do you think that sight of that shred of clothing, on the branch of
the tree, swaying gently in the breeze, or fluttering gently in the breeze affected him in this
______ The absurdity of it.
S: The absurdity of it. (Pause) It is as Lhough that shred of clothing represented all worldly
attachments, all worldly things, arter all it was the last thing he had left, the robe he was
wearing, and even that was blown away and the last shred of it is just hanging from the tree
and just fluttering there. So it is as though that thread stands for all worldly possessions,
everything that you could cling onto. It is just a shred, just a shred of clothing but in that
Milarepa can see houses and property ai~land, wives and children, friends and relations, gold
and silver, he can see all these things. But they are liable to be taken away, they can all be
torn away from us at any instant. So all things are like that. They can be blown away at any
instant just like a shred of clothing. 'Therefore, the utter futility of this world and all its affairs
struck Milarepa, and a strong feeling of renunciation overwhelmed him. Sitting down upon a
rock he meditated once more.' We find incidents like that in the lives of some of the Zen
masters. Just some very simple, seemingly insignificant incident really sparks off something.
We find it in the Pali texts. There is someone sitting in the forest meditating and they see one
single yellow leaf fall. Just one yellow leaf, and this gives them an actual insight into the
transitory nature of everything, one yellow leaf falling. We are told there is a Jataka story of a
king who once summoned this barber totrim his beard, and cut his hair. In India you do' not
usually do these things for yourself. There were barbers in every village and certainly a king
would have a barber in his own palace. So the barber came and he was attempting to cut the
king's hair and he said to the barber, 'What is that that you are doing' when he felt the barber
plucking out a hair; and the barber said, 'It is your first grey hair, ldok.' So he just held it in
front of theking. 'Your first grey hair.' So the king at once thought,1I am getting old, no time
is to be ...

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