The Story of Nyama Paldarbum

From the songs of Milarepa

commentated on by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche

In the fourteenth chapter of The One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa contains the teachings that Milarepa gave in response to the questions of Nyama Paldarbum. She asked Milarepa many questions and the answers Milarepa gave her are profound and beneficial to our own practice.

One autumn Milarepa came to a place named Gepa Lesum, where the people were bringing the harvest season. He was asking the people for food and a young girl named Nyama Paldarbum said, “Go to that house over there and I will come to you soon, and give you food.”

Milarepa went to the door of the house and tapped on it with his staff. There was no response. He tapped again and an old woman came out who said, “You so-called yogins do a lot of begging and when there’s no one at home you go in and steal, which is exactly what you were planning to do!”

Milarepa then sang her a song describing the suffering of old age and how in the midst of those sufferings we must practice the Dharma and follow a dharma master. When he had finished, the old woman was filled with regret and faith in Milarepa. With her hands together she supplicated him with tears streamed from her eyes.

Paldarbum arrived at this point, and thought that the yogi must have hit her. “What do you think you’re doing, hitting an old lady?” she asked him.

The old lady said, “He didn’t hit or insult me; I insulted him. Then he gave me Dharma teachings which has aroused great faith in the Dharma in me. I’m crying because I feel great regret for what I said to him. I’m very old now, but you’re still young, so you should serve this lama, Milarepa, and request the Dharma from him.”

Paldarbum said, “You are both amazing. If you are Milarepa, then I am very fortunate to meet you. I have heard that when pupils listen to the account of your lineage they develop great faith and their perceptions are transformed. I have heard that you have very profound instructions. What are they?”

Milarepa could see that this girl had the karma to be an excellent pupil and so he sang her a spiritual song that described the profundity of his lineage. The usual description of his lineage is the succession of gurus (Tilopa, Naropa, and Marpa). However, here he describes his lineage as the Dharma which begins with the Buddha. Therefore the source of the vajrayana teachings is described to be the three kayas (the three bodies or aspects in which the Buddha manifests).

The dharmakaya is the all-pervading wisdom of the Buddha’s mind, the all-pervading Samantabhadra who is not an individual Buddha but represents the compassion and wisdom of Buddhahood.

The dharmakaya gives rise to the sambhogakaya which is beautified by the eighty major and minor signs physical signs. It is a manifestation of form for pupils. This is called Vajradhara which is not to be confused with the dharmakaya Vajradhara. This Vajradhara is not an individual Buddha but represents the changeless continuity of the sambhogakaya.

The nirmanakaya that benefits beings is the Shakyamuni Buddha who has manifested from the sambhogakaya to guide impure beings.

I am a yogin who possesses the lineage which is exceptionally superior because it originates from the three kayas.

Paldarbum said, “This is an excellent lineage, but one needs a root guru from whom one can directly receive the instructions. What kind of root guru did you have?” Milarepa could have answered quite simply that his guru was Marpa Lotsawa, but he sang her a song of the outer, inner, and ultimate gurus:

The outer guru is the one who communicates the continuity of knowledge through signs. He or she is the guru who teaches the instructions through symbols and other various methods.

The inner guru is the one who teaches the continuity of wisdom and causes the direct recognition of the true nature of the mind.

The ultimate guru is the one who teaches the ultimate truth by increasing the clarity of our wisdom until the final result is attained.

I am a yogin who possesses the lineage of these three gurus.

Paldarbum then asked, “One needs to receive an empowerment (abhisheka) from a good guru. What kind of abhisheka have you received?” Milarepa could have answered, “I have received the empowerments (abhishekas) of Hevajra and Cakrasamvara," two yidam meditational deities, but instead he sang a song in which he said:

I have received the outer, inner and ultimate abhisheka.

The outer abhisheka is the vase being placed upon the crown of the head and is the symbolic use of ritual objects.

The inner abhisheka is the demonstration that one’s own body is the body of the deity (such as the Buddha). It is the meditation that one’s body is the body of the deity, so that one receives the blessing and the subtle channels (Skt. nadi) and subtle drops (Skt. bindu) of the body are empowered.

The ultimate abhishheka is that which causes the direct recognition of the nature of the mind.

I am a yogin who has received these three abhishekas.

Paldarbum said, “Those are very good empowerments. But having received these empowerments, one needs instructions so that one can follow the path. What kind of instructions did you receive?” Milarepa replied with a song:

I have received the outer, inner and ultimate instructions.

The outer instructions are to listen, contemplate, and meditate in order to gradually understand the meaning.

The inner instructions are to be resolute, have intense diligence in meditation which will be the basis for the accomplishment of the final result.

The ultimate instructions are to have the continuous presence of realization and experience, which comes from diligence in meditation.

I am the yogin who has these three instructions.

Paldarbum said, “You have received good instructions. But when one has received instructions, one needs to go into the mountains to practice the Dharma. What kind of Dharma practice have you done?”

In reply Milarepa sang of the outer, inner and ultimate gocara practices, which are forms of chöd practice (pronounced chö; it’s a practice aimed to stop ego clinging and attachment to the self) in which one cuts through one’s attachment to the self:

The external chöd is to wander in fearful places where there are deities and demons. The internal chöd is to offer one’s own body as food to the deities and demons. The ultimate chöd is to realize the true nature of the mind and cut through the fine strand of hair of subtle ignorance. I am the yogin who has these three kinds of chöd practice.

Paldarbum said, “That is a very good chöd practice. When yogins do this practice, they recite the syllable Phat in order to transform bad circumstances into the path. What is the meaning of this phat?” To this Milarepa replied with a song about the outer, inner and ultimate phat (pronounced as "phay" in Tibetan):

The outer phat is the dispelling of the thoughts that prevent a stable meditation and it is also the gathering in of these thoughts. The inner phat is clearing away the dullness or agitation that affects the mind’s awareness in meditation. The ultimate phat is resting in the true nature of the mind. I am the yogin who has these three kinds of phat.

Paldarbum said, “This phat is very good. When you practice in this way, what kind of mental states occur?” Milarepa sang of the mental states of the uncontrived ground, path, and result:

The uncontrived ground is resting in the all-pervading true nature, the true nature which pervades all phenomena. The uncontrived path is not a gradual progress, but a direct arrival. The uncontrived result is the true nature as mahamudra.

I am a yogin who has those three mental states.

Paldarbum said, “This is marvelous, it’s like the sun shining upon me. What kind of confidence have you gained from your practice?” Milarepa sang of the confidences of view, meditation, and result:

The confidence in the view is the realization of emptiness. This is the view that there are no deities nor any demons so that one cannot obtain benefit from deities or receive any harm from demons.

The confidence in meditation is the absence of an object of meditation. This means that there can be no distraction.

The confidence in the result is the absence of hope to achieve it. This means there is the absence of fear of failure.

I am a yogin who has these three confidences.

Paldarbum felt great faith in Milarepa. She prostrated to him, invited him in, served and honored him, and said, “I am definitely going to practice the Dharma, so please keep me in your compassion.” Then she sang a song to Milarepa describing her many faults with the basic meaning of the song being, “I will sincerely practice the Dharma. Please give me a practice that is simple to understand and easy to do.” Milarepa, pleased with her, replied with a song:

Although you truly wish to practice the Dharma, it is not enough to give up worldly activities. You must follow my example and practice without distraction.

Paldarbum then described in a song what her normal life is like:"In the day there is never-ending work. In the night I am fast asleep. Morning and evening I am a slave to food and clothes. I have never had the chance to practice the Dharma."

Milarepa then sang to her a song on the four aspects of renunciation necessary for true Dharma practice:

The next life is far away from this life. Have you prepared for this journey with food and clothes? The way to prepare for that journey is to practice generosity.

In order to receive food, clothes, and wealth in future lives, you should give to them in this lifetime. There is, however, an obstacle that prevents this generosity to future lives: miserliness. Miserliness or hoarding may seem beneficial in this lifetime in that one accrues food and clothes and other possessions, but in the long run it harms you because miserliness causes poverty in the next lifetime. Therefore you must recognize that miserliness is an enemy and cast it away behind you.

The next lifetime is darker than this lifetime. Therefore you must prepare a torch to illuminate that darkness. This is done by meditation on the fundamental clarity of the mind. Ignorance is the obstacle and the enemy of clarity. Ignorance may seem pleasant and beneficial superficially, but it is actually harmful and you must recognize it as an enemy and cast it away behind you.

The next lifetime is more frightening than this lifetime, so you must find a guard will protect you. This guard is the practice of the Dharma. People and relatives dissuading you from Dharma practice are the enemy. They may be helping and loving towards you, but ultimately they are harming you. Therefore you must recognize these relatives to be an obstacle and cast them away behind you.

The next lifetime is a longer, more desolate road than this lifetime. You will need a horse so that you can travel along it easily. That horse is diligence. The enemy of diligence is laziness which will deceive you into thinking it is beneficial, although ultimately it is harmful. Recognize laziness to be an enemy and cast it away behind you.

When Milarepa had sung this song, Paldarbum felt great faith in Milarepa. He told her, “You don’t have to change your name or cut off your hair. A person can have hair and also achieve Buddhahood.” Then, Milarepa taught her how to practice.

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

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