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).
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:
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:
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:
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:
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):
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:
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:
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:
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:
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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