Sadhguru on Milarepa, the great Tibetan Tantric

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Great Masters / Storytelling


In this captivating talk, Sadhguru tells us about Milarepa's life, a Tibetan siddha, who used occult to take revenge, and then turned to Buddhism to become an accomplished buddhist disciple despite his past. He is generally considered as one of Tibet's most famous yogis and poets, serving as an example for the Buddhist life. He was a student of Marpa Lotsawa, and a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.


Duration: 16 min


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Sadhguru on Milarepa, the great Tibetan Tantric

The following is an unedited transcript of Sadhguru's video. For better readability, breaks and highlights have been added by the editors.

Tibet has a culture, Tibet has a spiritual process. Some of the all time greats in this culture have been a combination of spiritual process and occult. I think in the Tibetan culture, Milerepa stands out.

So, when Milerepa was young, he lost his father. His father had good lands and property and house, but once his father died, his uncle took over and made his young mother and his younger sister and him like slaves in the house, and abused them and tortured them in many ways, and took over the whole property. So, he grew up with great sense of resentment and anger within himself. And when he became a youth, an adolescent, he left the family and went away. He left his younger sister and mother and went away, and he wanted to take revenge on his uncle and aunt, who had showered unspeakable amount of humiliation and torture upon this people.

So, he went to learn occult, and he mastered certain occult processes. And when he came back after many years, both his mother and younger sister were dead, so he became even more angry. And he waited for an opportune moment when the uncle’s son’s wedding is to happen, and his uncle invited all his friends. On that day he used his occult power and brought large hail falling on the house, and they say more than 80- 85 people were killed because of this hail, including his uncle and aunt. The whole place was heaped with hail. And he felt very happy and justified for what he had done. But after some time this started bothering him.

If any human being is sensitive, the moment he misuses something, it’ll bother him from within. You have to be in a certain level of grossness to continue that process, otherwise you cannot, because the very nature of how this life is made, if there is a misuse at a very fundamental level. It is not conscience, I’m not talking about social conscience, I’m not talking about morality – something much deeper, deeper will get disturbed. So, similarly for Milerepa having done this, something deep inside him got disturbed. So, he decided that he has to absolve himself of all this. He thought he has misused life in a very fundamental way. Whatever the justification, he has misused the fundamental process of life, so he wanted to seek the spiritual process. He wanted something with which in this life he will be freed.

So, he went in search of masters and he went to many people, and all of them were sincere enough to admit that they did not know how to attain realization in this life. They said, ‘We can teach you something which will evolve you. Practice compassion, practice kindness, practice love, slowly you will evolve from lifetime to lifetime.’ He was not satisfied with those things, and still a certain level of anger was still burning within him. A certain regret, certain resentment, certain mixture of anger, a whole cocktail was going within him. So, someone at last told him that ‘The only person who could help you this way would be Marpa.’ So, he went in search of him.

When he approached the town in which Marpa lived, he met a bunch of children and he asked them. Marpa was known as the translator, because he was titled as a translator because he was the one who translated all the great tantric Indian texts into Tibetan language. So, he was always known and revered as the translator, because he brought that knowledge here. His credentials were – three times he had traveled to India and met certain masters, and gotten teachings from them, methods from them and the texts from them, and he had translated that to local languages. So, when he asked, ‘Where is Marpa, the Translator?’ One child said, ‘I know where he is,’ and he took him to the field where Marpa was ploughing the field. So, when he took him there, Marpa looked at him and left the plough in the field and gave him a gourd of beer, locally brewed beer, said, ‘Drink this and then plough the land.’

So, Milerepa drank that and ploughed. Marpa left and the child stood there. After he completed the ploughing, he didn’t know what to do, he stood there. Then the child came and said, ‘It’s time for you to come.’ The child took him home and then he realized this child was Marpa’s own son. Then Marpa put him through all kinds of physical activity. Milerepa bowed down to him and asked him, ‘I want Dhamma from you, that kind of Dhamma’ – Dhamma means a method or a process ‘ – which will make me realize, and become liberated in this life. I don’t want to go to the next one, and also please be kind enough to give me food and shelter.’ So, Marpa said, ‘You choose – if you want I’ll give you food and shelter, choose Dhamma elsewhere, look for Dhamma elsewhere. Or I’ll give you Dhamma, you get your food and shelter somewhere else. This is the choice.’ So, Milerepa said, ‘Okay, I want your Dhamma. I’ll get my own food and shelter.’ So, he went out begging.

This is a very spirited man, whatever he does he little overdoes. So, he went out begging and he went far and he gathered sacks of wheat. He’s gathering enough for the whole year so that he can sit here and learn his Dhamma. So, he collected a lot, then he sold some of the wheat and bought a copper pot with four handles on the side – that’s a traditional kind of vessel – to cook his own food. Then this heavy load, very heavy load he carried and walked a long distance back, came into Marpa’s house and dropped it with one big Boom! Marpa was having his lunch. Half way through the lunch he left his lunch, came out and said, ‘It looks like you’re very angry. Just now, with your wheat and this vessel you shook the whole house. It looks you’re out to destroy this house also as you destroyed your uncle’s house. Just leave, enough!’

Then Milerepa begged, ‘Please, you asked me to get my food, I got it. It was too heavy, I dropped it.’ So, Marpa said, ‘Nothing doing, you’re out because you didn’t keep the sack right. You threw it down. You’re not fit. So, you stay out. Do chores. Plough my field. Clean my house. Do whatever.’ For years he did this. So, periodically other students came and they were initiated into many things, but Milerepa got not a single initiation, not a single teaching. He did all the hard work. More than eight years he worked, without a single teaching or initiation. Everybody else were coming for a day, they were getting initiated and going, but he waited and waited and waited doing all kinds of hard work.

Then one day he came and sneaked in and sat in a sathsang like this where he is not supposed to. Marpa was sitting with his eyes closed, so he sneaked in and sat with the other students hoping to be initiated. So, Marpa was sitting with eyes closed, he picked up his staff, walked with eyes closed and thrashed Milerepa. He was sitting among the crowd. He came and really thrashed him, and physically took him out and threw him out of the place. This happened again and again. He gave certain space, and again when another initiation is happening, he sneaked in, hoping this time he will get it. More than 13 years passed, he didn’t get anything.

Then one day he pleaded with Marpa’s wife, who was taking sympathy with him, who was like his mother and he begged her, ‘Please tell him to give me something. Just one teaching, one little meditation. I know nothing, I’m sitting here for so many years.’ So, she used her good offices with her husband. Then ‘Okay,’ Marpa said, ‘First let him build a house for my son. Single handedly he must build a house. I want a three cornered house.’ So, he built a three cornered house. It took two years. Then he looked at him and said, ‘Three cornered house is not suitable for my son, build a four cornered house.’ He built a four cornered house. Then he said ‘That’s not good, build a five cornered house.’ Like this, years passed. He worked single handedly building these buildings all over the place. Then he said, ‘That is okay, but I need a 60 foot high tower for my son’s house.’ So, he built 60 foot high towers, four towers at four corners of the house. By then he was ageing.

Then one day he went and crawled at the mother’s feet, ‘Please do something, my life is passing away. I have not even been giving a single teaching. What is this? I know I have done horrible things in the past, I have misused occult and things, but haven’t I done enough?’ So, taking little compassion out of place, she took Marpa’s letterhead and wrote a letter to another monk who was also empowered to initiate, as if it is Marpa’s letter, with the necessary seal and everything. So, she gave to Milerepa and Milerepa went to that monk and got initiated, but then nothing happened. Then that monk was shocked, ‘When I initiate, something should happen. Nothing is happening, what to do?’

Then Marpa came to know and he called him, and got the monk also decertified. Then in utmost remorse, Milerepa was about to commit suicide. Then Marpa called him and then he said ‘Okay, sit down,’ and he gave him teaching. He said ‘For what you have committed in the past, I was just giving you methods to work it out, but you’re taking your time unnecessarily. If you just go by my word, this would have been over long ago, but you do everything and you take one sneaky way out. Because of that one sneaky way, you’re postponing everything for many years. Now, your remorse is truly touching the very core of your being. You’re willing to die for it. Now, you’re ready,’ and he initiated him, and on the very third day Milerepa had a vision of Dakini. You heard of Dakini?

In the tantric technology of doing things, for every chakra they created one goddess – a female form which has been consecrated and made alive, which can be called forth to do things. Nobody does anything significant without the help of these forces. So Dakini came in his vision and she said, ‘Marpa has given you teaching but without one fundamental aspect, which he himself does not know. You seek it from him, ask him if he knows.’ Then Milerepa went to where Marpa was. Marpa looked at him and said, ‘Why are you here?’ Then he said, ‘Dakini came and said this, I don’t know whether this is for real or this is my imagination, but this is what happened so I had to come and ask you.’

Marpa bowed down to Milerepa and said, ‘Even I don’t have that teaching, so let’s go back to India.’ Both of them traveled back to India to Marpa’s guru, who was somewhere in the border of Nepal and Bihar. So, they walked all the way, they went there and when Marpa said this to the guru, that like this Dakini came and said that this particular teaching has not happened. The guru looked at him and said, ‘This is not yours. This could not have happened to you. How did you get this?’ Then Marpa said, ‘This is not me, this is one of my disciples.’ Then the guru turned towards Tibet and bowed down.

He said, ‘At last in the dark north, one little light has happened.’ So, he called Milerepa and Marpa, and gave the whole teaching as to how to attain to one’s fullest enlightenment in this life, and they came back and Marpa, who started as a guru, became like a disciple to Milerepa. Milerepa became a shining light in the Tibetan culture. Lot of things that have been done in the last 300, 400 years in the Tibetan culture essentially is from the basis that Milerepa set up.

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