Two thousand five hundred years ago the Buddha gave a remarkable set of teachings in which he postulated that everyone experiences suffering. He further taught that to overcome this suffering this feelings that the world is not going the way that we want it to go, can be done only by explaining the mind. The Buddha then spent the next forty years of his life giving teachings on how to overcome this suffering and how to attain complete freedom that is complete liberation or awakening. The examination of mind involves first understanding why we suffer, then contemplating the causes of this suffering, and finally examining our mind through meditation. The meditation which is common to all Buddhist traditions which is known as sitting meditation or shamatha meditation in Sanskrit.
These teachings spread first throughout India and then gradually to most Asian countries. However, in the eleventh century the Moslems invaded India and destroyed most of these teachings in the country of their origin. However, a few centuries before brave pilgrims from China and Tibet had come to India risking life and limb and had collected these precious Buddhist teachings and taken them back to their own country and translated them into their language. One such person was Marpa who came from Tibet and brought back a large numbers of texts of not only what the Buddha taught, but of Buddhist teachings which were practiced by the accomplished master or siddhas of the eleventh century. The Buddhist practices of these siddhas was a living tradition passed down from guru to disciple with the disciple not receiving the teachings until the master had completely accomplished the practice and the pupil had shown that he or she had mastered the teachings. In many ways one could say that these were the most important transmissions of the Buddhist teachings because they weren't simply words on a page.
Marpa received the complete vajrayana practices of Hevajra, Chakramsamvara, and Vajrayogini. In addition, he received the six yogic practices of Naropa and the transmission for mahamudra practice. By completely mastering these practices Marpa was able to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime.
Marpa brought back these teachings and transmitted them to Milarepa who is one of the greatest Buddhist saints to have ever lived. His incredible story of achieving enlightenment is told in The Biography of Milarepa and is one of the truly inspirational books in Buddhism. This biography tells mainly the story of Milarepa's life. Milarepa's teachings on his practice of the Six Yogas and the mahamudra meditation is mostly told in a second book called The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa translated by Garma Chang. Marpa received the teachings on a particular type of meditation called mahamudra which is a special meditation of the vajrayana school of Buddhism. Mahamudra meditation does not involve the great accumulation of merit of the Hinayana, nor does it require the very scholarly analysis of emptiness of the it require the very scholarly analysis of emptiness of the Mahayana; rather it is the practice of looking directly into one's own mind and seeing it's true nature.
For example, one day Tilopa asked Naropa to stretch a piece of cotton cloth across the ground and when he had done so, Tilopa lit the cloth and asked Naropa what he saw. Naropa seeing the charred warp and woof of the cloth replied that he understood that the guru's instructions was like a fire which burned away the disciple's disturbing emotions which like the cloth. This causes the belief in subtle reality to be destroyed and so the student cannot enter into a worldly living.
Thrangu Rinpoche is one of the most respected scholars of the Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He is recognized for not only having a tremendous scholarly background, but also for having great meditative insight into the Buddhist teachings. Every year since 1986 he has shared his wisdom and teachings with Western students through his Namo Buddha Seminars given at his monastery in Nepal. At his Namo Buddha Seminar in 1988 he gave a series of ten teachings on Milarepa's 100,000 Songs. These Songs contain very detailed explanations of Buddhist dharma illustrating the yogi's spontaneous realizations. These songs of Milarepa can still be heard in the monasteries of Nepal and, one hopes, have not been forgotten by the people of Tibet.
Since these spiritual songs are often a distillation of a practitioner's lifetime of meditation, they often need a commentary to explain all the nuances of what they mean. Due to the large number of Songs and the limited time of the Namo Buddha Seminar, Thrangu Rinpoche selected ten of the important Songs to illustrate important Buddhist teachings and gave extensive commentaries on them.
The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa has been translated by Garma Chang and the reader will find that his translation does not always correspond to the way in which the song is translated here. This is why we have included a translation of the parts of the parts of the Songs which are relevant rather than simply referring the reader to Chang's book.
Finally, the reader may feel that these stories of ghosts and demons and supernatural powers are simply folk legends from twelfth century Tibet. This certainly would be the orthodox Western historian's view. However, even today in the Far East there are great Tibetan practitioner who perform miracles similar to those described in The 100,000 Songs. Many of the lamas and lay persons including Western practitioners have seen these "miracles" and so the Western reader is cautioned from simply dismissing the accounts of Milarepa as folk lore. The most important aspect of these stories is, of course, the dharma which shows us how to conduct our lives so that we may reach enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.
About the book:
The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa were compiled by Tsang Nyon Heruka an emenation of Milarepa, who also wrote The Life of Milarepa. Tsang Nyon was a siddha who had gained the appellation "Nyonpa". The Life Story and songs of Milarepa inspire people to practice his lineage of instructions. This lineage consists of the path of means using the Six Yogas of Naropa; and the path of liberation which is mahamudra meditation. The present book contains: An introduction to the text; Six Songs of Longing for the Guru; Songs of the Snow; The Rock Sinmo in the Lingpa Cave; Songs on Yolmo Snow-mountain; The Story of Nyama Paldarbum; The Encounter with Naro Bonchung; Invitation from the King of Kathmandu; Entering the Yak Horn; The Story of Gampopa; Victory over the Maras; Notes; the glossary; and the glossary of Tibetean terms.
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