Song of the Snows
As a result of his fame in taming the ferocious Demon spirits when Jetsun Milarepa himself initially visited the Lachi range, he became an object of veneration and worship of all the people of Nyanang. In particular Jomo Wurmo requested teachings. At the time the holy Gyaphukwa being of a tender age, she declared that she would offer her son to serve Jetsun when he was older. With such tremendous faith the inhabitants of Nyanang Tsarma welcomed him and Shendormo served him. As soon as Jetsun stayed in the village, he noticed the worldly activities of samsara and developed an attitude of deep renunciation and said he would go to the Lachi mountains.
The people of Tsarma requested, “Since you work only for sentient beings, kindly stay here this winter for our sakes. Guide us with some teachings. Having finally tamed the Demon spirits you can go whenever you desire. Early next spring even we can accompany you as servants.”
Among them, in particular, the teacher Shakya Guna and Shendormo requested him to postpone his journey relating the problems the snow would create as soon as the winter season had set in. In spite of their petitions he replied, “In general, being of the lineage of the sons of the great pandit Naropa, I do not fear the rage of snows. Also, Marpa commanded me to avoid gatherings and distractions and to rely on places of solitude free of human beings. Moreover, more than death, I fear settling down permanently in villages,” and so he had decided to leave.
The people of Tsarma quickly offered provisions to Jetsun and some promised to come for winter teachings. Some six people, both monks and lay persons like the teacher Shakya Guna and Shendormo took farewell drinks and eatables and went to the top of the pass and then descended down till the ‘Vicious Pond’. Jetsun then proceeded alone to the great ‘Demon Taming Cave’ with his belongings which consisted of his provisions of two dre of flour, a dre of rice, a leg of meat and a container of butter.
The escorts turned homewards and when they reached the top of the pass the sky became overcast, a storm arose and they had a difficult time reaching half the way. Then continuing to struggle with the inclement weather they reached home just after all the people had retired for the night.
From that night onwards it snowed for eighteen days and nights. All communications to Drin and Nyanang remained cut off for six months. The disciples and followers were certain that Jetsun had perished in the storm so they held a sacramental feast for the deceased. Later as soon as the month of Sakadawa was over, his close disciples went in search of his mortal remains cutting through the snow with axes.
As they approached the site, while resting on an elevation they noticed a large snow leopard yawning and stretching on a boulder. After watching for a long time they said, “That leopard down there must have eaten Jetsun’s corpse. Except for some pieces of his clothes and hairs nothing will be left.” Conversing in this manner with a heavy heart they went forward in tears. At the site where the snow leopard had got down, there were some human footprints. Later the narrow path where they saw the disguise of the leopard and tiger became known as the ‘Leopard and Tiger path’.
They began to wonder it had been a Demon spirit they had noticed and they went along with doubt and hesitation. As they neared the great ‘Demon Taming Cave’ they heard Jetsun’s singing and thought, “Maybe a hunter has offered him provisions. It is possible that he has lived off remnants left by the killings of animals.”
They went on further and heard a voice saying, “All of you foolish people, now you are coming so late. Why have you taken so long? The meal and vegetables are getting cold. Now come quickly into the cave.” They were so overjoyed that they shed tears. All of them crowded around Jetsun and held onto his hands and feet and cried.
Jetsun said, “Now stop the discussion and eat the food.”
They initially prostrated, then enquired after his health and looked around examining the place and saw that of his earlier provisions only a dre of meal had been exhausted. There was some rice that had been cooked with meat and vegetables.
The teacher Shakya Guna exclaimed and enquired, “It is time for us to eat. Did you know from your wisdom mind that we were coming?”
Jetsun replied, “I looked from the top of the boulder and saw all of you resting.”
Again the teacher Shakya Guna enquired, “We only saw a snow leopard on the boulder. We did not see you Jetsun. Where were you sitting then?”
Jetsun remarked, “I was the snow leopard of course. A yogi with power over mind and energy winds can control the objects of the four elements and transfer one’s body miraculously into whatever one desires. This time, seeing that all of you are fortunate beings I have demonstrated the miracle of this form body’s arrangement. Now don’t talk of this to other people.”
Then Shendormo enquired, “Jetsun appears to have a much healthier radiance than last year. The two entrances were blocked by snow and you had no human services. So did the deities and spirits serve you? Did you come across some remains of carcasses leftover by wild animals? How did you get on?”
Jetsun replied, “Most of the time I was in the state of one-pointed concentration and did not require food. Sometimes on auspicious days of the calendar I was provided a share of the feast offerings by the Dakinis. Occasionally I ate a spoon of dry meal. In the latter part of the Horse month I had an unusual experience where I felt I was surrounded by all of you disciples and being offered much food and drinks. After that I did not want to eat at all for many days. What did you do at that time?” They calculated and found it accorded with the time when they had the sacramental offerings for the deceased. They related it in detail.
Jetsun said, “Although the virtuous practices of worldly beings are very beneficial in the bardo, at the moment it is more powerful to be able to cut off the bardo.”
Then they fervently requested Jetsun to visit Nyanang. At this Jetsun replied, “I am happy with my experiences here and my cultivation of concentration has been enhancing so I will not go. You all can go.”
They said, “Jetsun, if you do not go this time all the Nyanang people will say that we caused the death of Jetsun. There will be evil stories and much rumour. Moreover Jomo Wurmo repeatedly sent messages saying, ‘Bring my Jetsun,’ so if the Lama does not come, we too will remain here till we die waiting.”
Unable to refuse their insistent appeals, Jetsun consented to go.
The next morning they came back using the snow shoes in the way the Dakinis had instructed Jetsun in winter, “Milarepa, you do not need these but future lineage disciples will require them. Use these snow shoes in this manner.” At the top of the pass, Shendormo went on ahead and spread the good news to all the followers like the Tsarma people that Jetsun was physically alive and unharmed and coming.
When the guru, Jetsun and the disciples reached the ‘Flat White Boulder’ used for threshing wheat all the followers who had heard the glad tidings – male and female, the old and the young alike were there to welcome him personally and see for themselves. All of them touched Jetsun’s body, and enquired after his health amidst much sobbing and crying. They prostrated and circumambulated him.
At the time Jetsun possessed a walking stick that consisted of a piece of Ba wood. Resting his weight on the stick and with the snow shoes on his feet, from the top of the ‘Flat White Boulder’ he replied to the enquiries regarding his health raised by his followers with this song:
On this glorious day, under an auspicious heavenly parasol
You patrons – male and female, that welcome;
And me, the yogi Milarepa;
To meet alive and trouble-free is a joyous occasion.
I, an old man, am a treasury of songs;
With a song, will answer your queries of my health;
Do listen closely with a focussed mind.
In the year of the Tiger, at its latter part;
In the year of the Hare, at its beginning;
On the sixth day of the victorious month of the Fox;
With renunciation towards worldly dharmas in my mind;
To the nomadic groves of the Lachi ranges
I journeyed again in search of solitude.
The two, earth and sky having conferred,
The cold wind as messenger dispatched;
The elements – water and rivers churned and churned
And dark southern clouds were collected.
The sun and moon together were imprisoned;
The Twenty-eight constellations were strung into a line;
The Eight planets were legally enclosed in iron;
The Milky Way was reined in with a peg;
The entire firmament in mist was wrapped;
To serve as a final covering for the mist’s glow
Nine days and nine nights, snow fell;
Altogether, for eighteen days and nights, snow fell.
Great snow fell, large as carded wool;
Fell like birds, flying in the sky.
Small ones fell, small as spindle wheels;
Fell like bees, descending in a swirl.
Tiny ones fell, like peas and mustard seeds;
Fell like snowflakes that came rolling down.
At the pass, the snow was beyond measure;
Upper white peaks of mountains touched the sky;
Lower plants and forests were brought down under pressure;
Black hills were turned into white deities;
Lakes with waves were frozen with ice;
Blue waters of rivers concealed within;
Earth everywhere was equalised into a flat plain.
As a natural result of the great snowfall
In general, all humans were under house arrest;
Four-legged animals experienced a famine;
Domestic beasts had their provisions cut;
Above, winged birds went without meals;
Below, rats and mice were hidden and buried
And wild beasts all over experienced starvation.
When such an age of dire straits arose
For me, Milarepa, as my share did receive
The blizzards that descended from above;
The New Year’s winter winds from the ridges;
And the three cotton garments of mine
Did quarrel and fight on the surface of the white snows.
The fallen snow’s majestic presence into water melting;
Though the winds roared noisily, at my site calming;
Cotton cloth like fire was blazing;
A powerful example of the struggle of life and death;
The best of weapons – the conqueror’s blade was worn;
In the battle of heroes, came out victorious.
In general, for all practitioners, set a standard;
In particular, for all great yogis, set a record;
Demonstrated the greatness of Tummo’s piece of cloth.
The nature of the Four ills of meditation examined well;
Kept to the internal practice; made certain no future quarrels;
Both hot and cold winds to the essence cast;
Later having tamed, whatever was said was listened to
And the demons of the snowstorm had been overpowered;
Afterwards without movement wall erected;
Though the armies of the gods rally against me, they are no match.
The battle this time, the yogi has won.
My ancestors possessing the tiger’s coat,
Have never run away wearing the cowardly fox’s pelt;
My father of the race bearing champion sons
From the hated enemy have never wavered;
I, with the lineage of the lion, king of beasts,
In sites not snow bound, have never resided in;
Natural disasters are to me, but a joke.
If there be any truth in this old man’s words;
In future, the Practice lineage’s teachings will flourish;
Many accomplished beings will come along;
I, this yogi, Milarepa,
Acclaimed throughout the country will become;
You disciples having contemplated, faithful will become;
Pleasant stories from abroad will abound;
I, the yogi in good health have been;
You, patrons all, how well have you fared?
While he was speaking in this way, the followers were overjoyed, sang in a chorus and danced the dro in glee. Jetsun too, caught up in this merry mood joined in the dancing. The boulder gave way like mud plaster and its surface became filled with impressions of his foot and stick. The middle part collapsed and the steps were altered. This stone which was earlier called the ‘Flat, White Boulder’ came to be known as ‘Snow shoe imprints’.
Then the followers escorted him into the village of Nyanang Tsarma and among those who made offerings and served him was Lesebum who asked, “Jetsun, your safe arrival this time has been the most joyous occasion. Your countenance radiates more well-being than earlier. Excellent meditation from its very roots must have arisen. Did the Dakinis serve you with offerings?” In answer he sang this song:
At the Lord Lama’s feet, I bow with my crown.
The blessings of accomplishment are by the Dakinis granted;
The nectars of samaya, are most beneficial;
Offerings of faith, nourishes the sense organs;
Merit amassed by disciples, from excellence arisen.
In the awareness of the view, emptiness appears;
As objective essence to view, not an atom is there;
Act and actor have vanished and gone beyond;
Realisation of the view, from excellence arisen.
The Clear light of meditation is the ‘River’s Flow’;
No stages of meditation to hold onto;
Meditation and meditator have vanished and gone beyond;
Diligence in meditation, from excellence arisen.
The activities of conduct, the Clear Light
And Interdependence are empty – that’s for certain;
Observation and observer have vanished and gone beyond;
The manner of conduct, from excellence arisen.
Biased conceptual thoughts into the expanse disappear;
Hopes and doubts – hidden face of the Eight worldly dharmas are no more;
Precepts and precept-keepers have vanished and gone beyond;
The manner of observing samaya, from excellence arisen.
One’s own mind, the Dharmakaya certainly is
And to fulfil the welfare of self and others
Practice and practitioner have vanished and gone beyond;
Accomplishment of fruit, from excellence arisen.
This old man’s song of happiness
Is a reply for my faithful followers;
The retreat of the practitioner, was bound by snow;
Provision of services, the Dakinis provided.
The snow waters of the mountains, is the draught supreme;
Without any person practicing, gloriously accomplished;
Without need for labour, harvested crops;
Without temporary accumulations, the treasury filled.
Looked at the mind and saw everything;
Sat on the low seat and held the throne;
The highest aspiration are realised thru’ the Lama’s kindness.
Disciples, patrons and followers all,
For the services that you have with faith offered,
With practice and teaching I have repaid;
All you, who have come, be of good cheer.
After he had spoken these words, the teacher Shakya Guna offered prostrations and said, “It is an extremely joyous occasion, for Jetsun to arrive safely following such a great snow storm like the past one; for us disciples and followers to be free of death and mishaps and for the vajra guru and disciples to assemble in person. At this time today, we are very grateful to you for remarking that you have returned our help with an interest – a gift of teaching. Jetsun, kindly grant us a teaching that has arisen specifically out of your experiences of the last winter.”
In answer to the teacher Shakya Guna’s request Jetsun sang this song of the ‘Six Essences’ of meditative experiences as an arrival gift:
Lord Lama possessing the three, at your feet I bow.
The meditation experiences of my relying on solitude;
This evening, at this full assembly of auspiciousness
Lead by you, the teacher Shakya Guna –
A complete carpet covered by a congregation of disciples;
Patched at the seams by pure prayers;
Patroness Shendormo and family and others
With Dharmic connections and samayas;
For this request that you disciples have presented,
The father will grant a teaching as an arrival gift;
For this reason, I relate these words.
With the worldly ways of samsara, I was disgusted;
Saddened, to the Lachi ranges I journeyed;
In the lonely site – Demon Taming Cave,
I, the yogi, Milarepa
Six months meditated and of the experiences that arose
Sing as song the Six sutras of Essentials.
Taking as examples, the six external objects;
The six inner faults, manifestly realising;
For the six fetters that bind, preventing liberation,
Saw the method of six paths that release;
Transformed the six spheres into certainties;
Bliss of six natures in my experience arose.
If the imprints of this song are not recited again,
The point will not be retained in one’s mind;
If word-symbols liberate, thus I relate.
Again, if there be obstructions, space it cannot be;
If it can be counted, stars it cannot be;
If there be movement, mountains it cannot be;
If shrinking or enlarging, vast ocean it cannot be;
If crossed by a bridge, great river it cannot be;
If one can hold it, rainbow it cannot be;
These are the six external examples.
Again, if objects there are, it’s not the view;
If dullness and excitement there are, it’s not meditation;
If avoidance and taking up there are, it’s not conduct true;
If conceptual thoughts there are, it’s not a yoga;
If sides east and west there are, it’s not wisdom;
If birth and death there be, it’s not a Buddha;
These are the six inner faults.
Again, great hatred is the fetter of hell;
Severe miserliness is the bindings of hungry ghosts;
Much ignorance is the rope of beasts;
Intense attachment is the strap of humans;
Excessive jealousy is the tie of demigods;
Bloated ego is the bond of the gods.
These are the six fetters that prevent liberation.
Again, great faith is the path of liberation;
Reliance on the wise and pure is the path of freedom;
Pure samaya is the path that releases;
Wandering hermitages is the path that liberates;
Residing in solitude is the path that frees;
Being an accomplished practitioner is the path of freedom;
These are the six paths of the method that liberates.
Again, the innately born is the sphere of Simplicity;
Without outer and inner is the sphere of Rigpa Awareness;
Without brightness or darkness is the sphere of Primal wisdom;
The all-encompassing is the sphere of Dharma;
Without transference and change is the sphere of Drops;
Without continuum or break is the sphere of Experiences;
These are the six spheres possessing certainties.
Again, for body to blaze with Tumo is bliss;
Energy winds to flow through the channels, is bliss;
From above, Bodhicitta descending uninterrupted, is bliss;
From below, clear Drops spreading, is bliss;
In between, Red and White meeting playfully, is bliss;
Body without delusions, satiated with joy, is bliss;
These are the six blisses of the yogi’s experience.
Now for the meaning of the song of the Six sutras of essentials;
This experiential song of six months of meditation,
Regard as delightful drama for you assembled disciples;
For some, to gather in glee, is only for today;
Drink the draught of nectar and all be of good cheer;
This silly old song, sung by an old man,
You, disciples can treat as real and in it train;
For now, be content, with this gift of teaching;
With a happy mind, in this auspicious teaching endeavour;
And may your prayers for pure deeds be fulfilled.
After he had sung these words, Shendormo remarked, “Jetsun Rinpoche, the privilege to have met you, made offerings to you, followed you as servants and practiced Dharma with you who are like the buddhas of the three times, is without doubt an exceptional and pure. Yet we are more foolish than animals not to have faith and admiration for you.”
Jetsun remarked, “It is alright not to have pure faith in me. But after obtaining a precious human form, during the time when the Buddha’s teaching still flourishes and yet not to practice the Dharma is indeed foolish,” and he sang these words in song:
At the feet of Marpa, the Translator, I bow.
O listen, you faithful patrons.
While the pure teaching spreads about evenly,
To recklessly commit negativities, is truly foolish.
This body of leisure and endowments obtained with difficulty;
To squander away a lifetime in meaningless pursuits, is indeed foolish.
In the graveyard of the city whose walls are in ruins;
To permanently reside there, is extremely foolish.
For life partners who are like guests meeting at a market fair,
To resort to abusive quarrels and fights, is utterly foolish.
For words of acclaim that are but echoes of illusions;
To give undue importance to evil intents and cruelty is truly foolish.
For the hated enemy that will vanish like flowers;
To sacrifice your own life fighting is indeed foolish.
For relations that are the deceptive residence of guile and lies;
To sorrow and mourn when they pass away is extremely foolish.
For wealth and goods on loan that are like dewdrops;
To bind them with the knot of miserliness, is utterly foolish.
For the sack of soiled matter that are the body’s aggregates;
To clean and polish them wishing excellence, is truly foolish.
This supreme food, nectar of essential instructions;
To sell it for provisions and wealth is indeed foolish.
For the numerous foolish that have assembled;
If one trains, one can become self sufficient in the Dharma of deities.
If you an intelligent being be, practice like me, the yogi.
After he had sung these words, the followers who had gathered there requested, “Hold us with your compassion. Although we will never be able to be as clever or intelligent as Jetsun, let’s see if we can at least escape being left in the company of the foolish. Jetsun, having decided in your mind to come here, we request you to remain here permanently so that you can grants us teachings, conduct guru pujas and guide the deceased ones upwards.”
Jetsun said, “On occasions I will stay, for it was prophesied by my Lama that I should meditate in the Lachi mountains. As for staying here permanently, fundamentally I lack familiarity with the dharma of humans that you patrons recognise. It will only result in you people too, finding me visually troublesome,” and then he sang this song:
At the feet of Marpa of Lhodrak I bow.
You patrons, male and female assembled here;
Towards me, the yogi Milarepa
Develop faith that is irreversible;
Practice devotion that is free of pretence.
If one resides too long, in a single place,
Temporarily associating together disturbs one’s perceptions.
Greater the visual familiarity, more critical one’s attitude;
Excessive length of association produces more belligerent words.
Fighting with nasty characters, one’s samaya is disturbed;
Bad companions chase away excellent virtuous activities.
Honest aspirations spoken in a crowd, accumulates evil deeds;
Is and is not verbally realised, gathers enemies.
The deception of biased views is a great negativity;
Misappropriating offerings and returning rebukes, stirs evil thoughts.
Misuse of the deceased’s offerings, cannot carry the corpse’s debts;
The guru pujas of you black people is evil indeed.
Troubled by companions, one is overwhelmed by sorrow;
The chief of many dens, suffers at death’s door.
Thus for the yogi residing in hermitages,
What a great loss to be stuck in towns!
I go to wander unmapped, directionless hermitages;
You faithful amassing merit; how wonderful!
Patrons and patronesses, assembled here, your declaring
To perform guru puja will create excellent imprints;
Connected by prayers, may we meet again and again.
After hearing these words, the followers said, “We have not been tired listening to you but it appears Jetsun, your thoughts have been disturbed by us. Now even if we make insistent requests you will not agree, so kindly look after us and we hope you will soon come to Lachi frequently,” and then they presented numerous gift offerings which he did not accept.
The disciples gathered there were struck with great wonderment and with minds that were filled with ecstatic joy they developed irreversible faith in Jetsun. This is the account of the ‘Song of the snows’.
to continue …