Logo of His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa Thaye DorjeThaye Dorje
His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa

The life of Milarepa

From the Gungthang province of Western Tibet, close to Nepal, Milarepa (1052-1135) had a hard childhood and a dark youth. He was only seven when his father died. Relatives had taken over his father’s property and mistreated the bereaved family. His mother, bitter, sent Milarepa to train in black magic, to wreak revenge on those who had blighted her life. She was given her wish – Milarepa proved adept at the practices he was taught, and unleashed a tide of destruction, killing many.

But he came to regret his actions, and looked for help in shedding the bad karma he had acquired during his vengeful adolescence. He first attached himself to the Nyingmapa Lama Rongton, who, observing that Milarepa had a karmic connection to Marpa, sent him to learn with him. Marpa, being aware that Milarepa had first of all to purify himself from the negative karma he had accumulated, exposed him to an extremely hard apprenticeship. Among other trials, he had to build towers out of rocks to Marpa’s specifications with his bare hands, only to be ordered to tear them down again. But finally, Marpa gave Milarepa full transmissions of all the Mahamudra teachings from Naropa, Maitripa and other Indian masters.

Practicing these teachings for many years in isolated mountain retreats, Milarepa attained enlightenment. He gained fame for his incredible perseverance in practice and for his spontaneous songs of realisation. Of his many students, Gampopa became his main lineage holder.


previous  next >