The Songs of Milarepa

Tibet’s Milarepa (1052-1135 CE) lived as a cave hermit for 12 years. Practicing extreme austerities and intensive meditation, ultimately he achieved enlightenment. Here is a small taste from the vast storehouse of Milarepa’s wisdom, which has loomed large in Tibetan Buddhism.

I renounced all affairs of this life;
And, no longer lazy,
_!_Cave_Big_Room_Closeup_smDevoted myself to Dharma.
Thus I have reached
The State of Eternal Bliss.
Such is the story of my life.

High above,
Dark clouds gather;
Deep blue and far below
Flows the River Tsang.
The brook chatters
Past pebbles and rocks
At my feet, wild flowers bloom,
Vibrant and profuse.

Comprehending beyond good and evil
Opens the way to perfect skill.
Experiencing the dissolution of duality,
You embrace the highest view.

How foolish to spend your lifetime without meaning,
When a precious human body is so rare a gift.

The affairs of the world will go on forever.
Do not delay the practice of meditation.

When you are young and vigorous
You never think of old age coming,
But it approaches slow and sure
Like a seed growing underground.

Strong and healthy,
Who thinks of sickness
Until it strikes like lightning?
Preoccupied with the world,
Who thinks of death
Until it arrives like thunder?

Who can tell when death will come?
Ever think of this,
And devote yourselves
To Dharma practice.

The time has come for you to help yourself.
Life flees fast. Soon death
Will knock upon your door.
It is foolish, therefore, one’s devotion to postpone.

Rest in a natural way like a small child.
Rest like an ocean without waves.
Rest within clarity like a candle flame.
Rest without self-concerns like a human corpse.
Rest unmoving like a mountain.

Long accustomed
To contemplating compassion,
I have forgotten all difference
Between myself and others.

In the monastery of your heart and body,
you have a temple where all buddhas unite.

When one comes to the essence of being,
The shining wisdom of reality Illumines all
Like the cloudless sky.

Life is short,
And the time of death is uncertain;
So apply yourself to meditation.

Hasten slowly
And ye shall soon arrive.

A yogi, I roam the mountains.
Like a great Mandala, my body is full of bliss.
Cleansed of desires and pride, I feel well and happy.
With longing for diversions extinguished, I feel joy in solitude.

Happy and joyous do I live … without plans or schemes.
I want neither fame nor glory.
Wherever I stay, whatever I wear or eat,
I fell truly content.

My religion is not Buddhism.
My religion is to live and die without regret.

Death is like an oil-dry lamp
(After its last flicker).
Nothing, I assure you,
In this world is permanent.

Veiled by ignorance,
The minds of man and Buddha
Appear to be different;
Yet in the realm of Mind Essence
They are both of one taste.
Sometime they will meet each other
In the great Dharmadhatu.


1. One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa,

2. Sixty Songs of Milarepa, tr. Garma C.C. Chang (Kandy, Sri Lanka, Buddhist Publication Society, 1980), available on line at:







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Being centered and present to oneself, the present moment, and existence itself… Here are glimpses of the vast storehouses of wisdom to be found within the ancient faith traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism.


Kathmandu, Nepal

The Bhagavad Gita – from Prabha Duneja’s translation, The Holy Geeta.

The Dhammapada – Sayings of Buddha, from two special translations.

Light from The Upanishads – quotes from the translation of scholar-mystic Swami Nikhilananda.

Selected Devotional Songs of Hinduism – as cited in the epic book, The Gospel of Ramakrishna, a spiritual page-turner.

Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara – a classic, from a translation by Richard Faulds and Danna Faulds. An English rendering of the title is “Entering the Path of Enlightenment.”

The Songs of Milarepa – I have long been fascinated by this extraordinary being who offered his teachings to the world through song – 100,000 songs, it is said! Can you imagine?

Swayambhunath. Photo by JT

Swayambhunath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal

Vast as the Universe – quotes by Swami Kripalu, a contemporary Yoga master.

Vedanta – The Oneness of All – shining a light on the ancient wisdom of India, drawing from several not-so-common sources.

Zen Gems: Return to the Origin – prized quotes from many sources. Zen philosophy has a unique knack for piercing delusion’s fog and cutting to the spiritual chase.


Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara

The Bodhicaryavatara, a sacred text of Mahayana Buddhism, was written in the 7th century CE by Shantideva, a Buddhist monk from India. These teachings address how to cultivate the mind of enlightenment.

I myself shall generate the spirit of awakening for the sake of the world.

Just as a blind man might find a jewel amongst heaps of rubbish, so this spirit of Awakening has somehow arisen in me.

It is the supreme medicine that alleviates the illness of the world. It is the tree of rest for beings exhausted from wandering on the pathways of mundane existence.

May I be a protector for those who are without protectors, a guide for travelers, and a boat, a bridge, and a ship for those who wish to cross over!

Those who have not cultivated the mind, which is the mystery and the very essence of Dharma, uselessly wander.

Upon recognizing what needs to be undertaken, with a mind focused on that, one should attend to nothing else until one accomplishes it.

A friendly disposition, which is honorable, is the very greatness of sentient beings.

The Buddhas … are oceans of good qualities with endless portions.

Today with my entire being, I place myself in the service of the world.

There is no doubt whatsoever that those Compassionate Beings regard all beings as themselves.  … Therefore, let this alone be my resolve.

Upon mounting the chariot of the Spirit of Awakening, which carries away all despondency and weariness, what sensible person would despair at progressing in this way from joy to joy?

May the Bodhisattvas’ wishes for the welfare of the world be fulfilled … for as long as space endures and for as long as the world lasts.


1.   (III, 23)
2.   (III, 27)
3.   (III, 29)
4.   (III, 17)
5.   (V, 17)
6.   (V, 43)
7.   (VI, 115)
8.   (VI, 116)
9.   (VI, 125)
10.  (VI, 126 and 127)
11.  (VII, 30)
12.  (X, from The Post-Dedication)



__Rev_Jan_ThomasIn this new era, our biosphere’s continued ability to sustain life and civilization is no longer assured. We have so much to learn and share as we reimagine ways of living that can make a path to a sustainable future.

Browse this website for nuggets of ancient and contemporary wisdom to draw upon for our future-in-the-making.

More about my background that informs my social change communications work, my interfaith spiritual direction practice, and this website.

RECENT BLOG POST:  The Eco-Wisdom of Rachel Carson 

Pt_Reyes_Interwoven_BranchesHere are quotes from Rachel Carson, whose eco-wisdom has long inspired me. A founding force of the global environmental movement, her vision and impact stretched far beyond her era.

Earth_Flag_Pic_2“We are all here to contribute our gifts toward something greater than ourselves, and will never be content unless we are.”

—Charles Eisenstein, The More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know Is Possible


Explore Wisdom Quotes & More:

Climate Support for Psyche & Spirit Gandhi
Peace Pilgrim • Grace Lee Boggs
  Charles Eisenstein • More Charles Eisenstein

  Sacred Song Delights • Comforting Hymns & Spirituals
Earth Songs and Chants  • Crooner Tunes and Musicals
Classical Music Favorites • Quotes on the Soul of Music

Upanishads  • Vedanta • Bhagavad Gita
Hindu Song-Poems • Swami Kripalu

Dhammapada: Sayings of Buddha
Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara
The Songs of Milarepa • Zen Quotes

Comforting Bible Verses • Mechthild of Magdeburg
Psalms for Tough Times • Quaker Quotes
Rabbi Nachman of Breslov

Hazrat Inayat Khan • Mystics of Islam
The Qur’an

Guru Granth Sahib

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Many Paths, One Source

The following quotes offer a thimbleful from the oceans of words that people have reached for to express the inexpressible, incomprehensible Source of All.

Truth is one;
the sages call it by many names.
(Hinduism, The Rig Veda)

There are
many paths
to the top of
the mountain,
but the view
is always the same.
(Chinese Proverb)

You may follow one stream.
Know that it leads to the Ocean,
but do not mistake the stream for the Ocean.

God is one, but his names are many.
Religion is one, but its ways are many.
Spirituality is one, but religions are many.
Humanity is one, but human beings are many.
(poem, author unknown)

O Mother of all things,
who dost pervade the universe:
You appear with form,
to him who loves You as a Person;
You are the Absolute,
to him who worships formless Truth.
Each one, according to his measure,
makes his image of the Truth,
calling to it the highest Brahman.
Beyond this shines the Indescribable.
O Mother of all things,
who dost pervade the universe,
Every one of these is You!
(Hindu Devotional Song)

He to whom you pray
is nearer to you
than the neck of your camel.
(Muhammad, Islam)

There is a spirit in the soul,
untouched by time and flesh,
flowing from the Spirit,
remaining in the Spirit…
In this principle is God,
ever verdant, ever flowering
in all the joy and glory
of His actual Self.
(Meister Eckhart, Christianity)

The souls of all that live
are the splendor of the Divine.

Meditating on the lotus of your heart,
in the center is the untainted;
the exquisitely pure, clear, and sorrowless;
the inconceivable;
the unmanifest, of infinite form;
blissful, tranquil, immortal;
the womb of Brahma.
(Kaivalyopanishad, Hinduism)

The kingdom of God is within you.

The deity is immanent in man
and man is inherent in the deity.
(Shinto Tradition)

Cherish that of God within you.
(Christianity, Quaker, author unknown)

Seated in my higher mind,
I live in communion with God
and within me rings ever
the unstruck Music (of Bliss).
(Sikhism, The Holy Guru Granth Sahib)

There is not a single place
in all the corners of the world
where God is absent.
(Omoto Kyo)

It is said that when you take
only one step toward Him,
He advances ten steps toward you.
But the complete truth is that
God is always with you.
(Muhammad, Islam)

In the beginning was God,
Today is God
Tomorrow will be God.
 (African Traditional Religions)

When one comes to the Essence of Being,
the shining Wisdom of Reality
illumines all like the cloudless sky.
(Milarepa, Tibetan Buddhism)

The destination of all is to God.

God hugs you.
You are encircled by the arms
of the mystery of God.
(Hildegarde of Bingen, Christianity)

My mind is hushed in a wide and endless light.
(Sri Aurobindo, Hinduism)


1.   From the ancient Hindu scripture, The Rig Veda, Book No. 1, Hymn No. 164, verse 46.


3.  Poem read at the Sarva-Dharma-Sammelana at Bengalore — “Visions of an Interfaith Future”

4.   Quoted in Essential Sufism, ed. James Fadiman, Robert Frager (1999).

5.   Devotional song from The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, by M., tr. Swami Nikhilanda.

6.   From the Hadith (Sayings of Muhammad),

7.  Quoted in Aldous Huxley, The Perennial Philosophy (Harper & Row, 1945).

8.   From a reading at a Yom Kippur morning service.

9.   From Kerry Brown, ed., The Essential Teachings of Hinduism: Daily Readings from the Sacred Texts (London, Arrow Books Ltd., 1990; originally published by Rider, 1988).

10.  From Christianity’s Bible, Luke 17:21 (NIV).

11.   Quoted in World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts, ed. Dr. Andrew Wilson, International Religious Foundation, 1991.

12.   From Questions and Counsel, 1988, the Society of Friends (Quaker).

13.   Sri Rag Var, Shloka M. 3, the Holy Guru Granth Sahib (the sacred scripture of Sikhism).

14.   Omoto Kyo, Michi-no-Shiori, quoted in World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts (see citation above).

15.   Quoted in Essential Sufism, ed. James Fadiman and Robert Frager (1999).

16.  Pygmy Hymn, Zaire, quoted in World Scripture: A Comparative Anthology of Sacred Texts (see citation above).

17.  The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa, tr. Garma C.C. Chang (abridged edition, New York: Harper, 1962).

18.  The Qur’an, Surah 35:18.

19.  Quoted at

20.  Quoted in 1,001 Pearls of Buddhist Wisdom, ed. Desmond Biddulph (San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 2007).