Songs on Yolmo Snow-Mountain

From the songs of Milarepa

commentated on by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

I have chosen this chapter from the collected songs of Milarepa because Yolmo mountain is very near to Kathmandu, and there are persons here (in Kathmandu, where Thrangu Rinpoche was delivering this seminar) who feel a strong connection Yolmo.

Marpa had told Milarepa what places he should practice in. One of these was the Yolmo snow-mountain, and so Milarepa came to Yolmo and stayed in a cave called Tapuk Senge Dzong (Tiger Cave) in the forest of Singaling. While he was there local deities caused him no obstacles; they manifested themselves in peaceful forms, and took an oath to serve and honor him. Milarepa’s meditation progressed well.

One day five young men and women came to see him and asked him to teach them the Dharma. They said, “This is such a terrifying place, the quality of someone’s practice would be bound to be very unstable. Has this happened to you?” In answer to their question, he sang them a spiritual song in which he said:

Yolmo has pastures, flowers, trees, forests, monkeys, birds, bees, in summer and winter, autumn and spring.

Here I meditate on emptiness. Sometimes many thoughts arise, and these aid my meditation. This is very good.

I do not accumulate bad karma, and therefore I have good health. I will have thoughts which will disturb my body and make me uncomfortable. Nevertheless, that is beneficial for my meditation experience and so this is very good. I am therefore free from the defilements and free from birth and death, and this is good.

Though deities and spirits are malevolent and create illusions, it only increases my realization. This is very good.

I am free from sickness, but if suffering occurs, it appears as bliss, which is very good.

I have the pleasure of different kinds of meditation experiences, but sometimes when I jump, run or dance, I am even more blissful.

The five pupils felt great faith on hearing Milarepa’s song. He then gave them instructions, they meditated and attained good qualities which pleased Milarepa. He sang them a song about the kind of conduct they should have, in which he said:

There are many Dharma practitioners, but you are very fortunate to meditate upon this path. You are practicing to attain Buddhahood within one lifetime using one body. Therefore do not have attachment to this life. Many good and bad actions are done for the sake of this life, and this prevents you from properly following the path of the Dharma.

In serving the guru, if you should feel proud that you have done so well this prevents the accomplishment of the goal.

In keeping your commitments, you should not associate with ordinary people, which brings the danger of your breaking your commitments.

When you are studying you should not feel proud that you have understood the meaning of the words, as this will cause the disturbing emotions to blaze up like fire and ruin your good activities.

When you meditate with your companions in the Dharma, you should not have many tasks to perform, as they will cause distraction and be an obstacle to the Dharma.

After those general instructions, Milarepa gave specific instructions on how his students were to conduct themselves on the path of means by being involved practices such as the Six Yogas of Naropa. He then gave them the profound instructions of the oral transmission:

In doing these meditations, you should not use the powers developed from of the oral transmission for the subjugation of demons or for the giving of blessings. If you do, your own being will become demonic, many obstacles will occur, and you will fall into worldly activities.

When practicing the Dharma there will sometimes be meditation experiences and realizations of the true nature of your own mind. When these occur, do not brag that you are doing well and do not display clairvoyant powers. If you talk about signs of progress that you have attained, you will develop pride, envy, anger, and the signs will diminish. You need to understand and abandon all these faults.

Then Milarepa’s students asked him how they could practice self-sufficiency, and Milarepa sang some general instructions that they must practice well, have firm faith and devotion, and so on. They did practice well, and with great faith in Milarepa they offered him a mandala of gold and asked for instruction on the essence of view, meditation, and conduct. Milarepa said that their practice was better than an offering of gold, and returned the gold to them. Then he sang a song in which he said:

The view, meditation, conduct and result are the foundation of the mantrayana (also known as the Vajrayana or Tantrayana)

The view of the mantrayana is how we should understand the true nature of phenomena. Intellectual knowledge of the view, however, is not sufficient to reach enlightenment because we have to meditate on what we have to understand.

Just engaging in meditation is also not sufficient to gain enlightenment because we have to know if our meditation is correct or not. Finally, to reach enlightenment we have to engage in pure conduct when we are not meditating.

The essence of the mantrayana is engaging in the correct view, proper meditation, and pure conduct. Each of these has three objects.

The Buddha’s view has two aspects: the sutra and mantra views. In the sutra path we engage in understanding the true nature of phenomena by primarily engaging in logical arguments. In the mantra path, however, we engage in the understanding of the nature of phenomena through direct perception of mind.

There are three aspects to this mantrayana view, of the true nature of the mind:

(1) All appearances and existences are subsumed within the mind. All external forms, sounds, tastes, smells, and tactile sensation arise within the mind. The mind’s sensations of happiness, suffering, defilements, thoughts, and anything else are also derived from the mind itself. (2) What is mind? It is clarity and knowledge. It is not a material thing. It can think and change, it can engage with lucidity in all kinds of thoughts. (3) However, the mind itself cannot be identified, as its nature is emptiness. While some teachers first introduce their pupils to emptiness and then to clarity, Milarepa introduces the clarity of the mind first and then introduces emptiness by pointing out that this clarity cannot be identified.

The three aspects of meditation are:

(1) Many thoughts appear in meditation. If the nature of mind is not identified, the thoughts become a problem; they become solid and an obstacle. However, when the true nature of the mind is realized, although thoughts arise, they are liberated as the dharmakaya. (2) When thoughts are naturally realized to be the dharmakaya, the clear knowledge of the mind is a state of bliss which is free from suffering. Meditation is then accompanied by the experience of bliss. (3) This meditation is not the creation of something new. Delusion has been dispelled by the mind resting in its own natural state, without alteration or artifice. The mind must rest, be relaxed in the nature of the mind itself.

The three aspects of conduct are:

(1) In the mantrayana one does not need to deliberately accomplish the ten good actions. The practice of good actions will occur spontaneously from the realization that comes from meditation. (2) Similarly, the ten unvirtuous actions will be spontaneously avoided without any need to deliberately control one’s actions. With the realization of the nature of mind one does not need to have contrived conduct. (3) There will also be no need to deliberately contrive remedial actions, to engender realization through effort. If one rests relaxed in the natural state of the mind, the realization of clarity and emptiness will naturally arise.

Finally, the three aspects of result are:

(1) According to the Buddha’s exceptional view of the mantrayana, the state of nirvana and Buddhahood are not located in some other place. So we do not have to go someplace to get them. They are also not newly created or achieved. (2) Samsara is not like garbage that has to be thrown away. There isn’t anything that can be thrown away. The very nature of samsara is nirvana, whether we realize it or not. (3) Nirvana is not something to be created and samsara is not something to be eliminated because our mind is Buddhahood. There is no Buddhahood that is other than us; it is the nature of our own mind.

When we have gained the elimination of all the negative qualities and gained all the positive qualities of realization, it is the unchanged nature of our own mind, exactly as it is, which is Buddhahood. While we do not realize this, we are under the power of the defilements and wander in samsara. When we realize the true nature of the mind, there is the conviction that the mind is Buddhahood.

In this way view, meditation, conduct, and result have three aspects each, making twelve aspects in all, or as Milarepa says, the twelve nails hammered into them. There is an additional nail that is hammered in, a thirteenth nail, which applies equally to view, meditation, conduct, and result ---that is the nature of phenomena which is ungraspable. It is an emptiness which transcends all extremes, all conceptualization. Who is it that hammers in these thirteen nails? It is the guru who introduces the pupil to a recognition of the ungraspable nature. If we analyze too much, the mind becomes confused and the nails will not go in. However, when we understand the innate nature exactly, the nails will be hammered in. These thirteen nails are the wealth that belongs to all Dharma practitioners. Milarepa says, “They have arisen in my mind. Take pleasure in them and practice them.” Then Milarepa sang them another song:

You must have diligence and faith when you practice. You must practice in solitude. Yolmo mountain is an excellent place to practice.

Having followed my own advice in my own practice of meditation, I enjoy the most perfect happiness.

Ten Teachings from the 100,000 Songs of Milarepa. translated by Peter Roberts.

Namo Buddha Publications