Tibet’s Milarepa (1052-1135 CE) lived as a cave hermit for 12 years. Practicing extreme austerities and intensive meditation, he ultimately achieved enlightenment. Here is a taste of the vast storehouse of Milarepa’s wisdom, which has loomed so large in Tibetan Buddhism.
I renounced all affairs of this life;
And, no longer lazy,
Devoted myself to Dharma.
Thus I have reached
The State of Eternal Bliss.
Such is the story of my life.
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.
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.
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, www.bps.lk/wheels_library/wh_095_097.html
2. Sixty Songs of Milarepa, tr. Garma C.C. Chang (Kandy, Sri Lanka, Buddhist Publication Society, 1980), available on line at: http://www.bps.lk/olib/wh/wh095-u.html