Milarepa (Mi-la-ras-pa, 1040-1123), magician, yogi and poet, disciple of Mar-pa of Lho-brag (1012-97), is perhaps the most famous figure in the religious history of Tibet. His complete poetical works, Mila Gnubum, 'The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa,' have been recently translated into English by Garma C. C. Chang (New York: University Books, 1962). The following selection is from Mila Khabum, the 'Biography of Milarepa,' written by a mysterious yogi, 'The mad Yogi from gtsan' in the latter part of the twelfth or in the beginning of the thirteenth century.
One night, a person, believing that I possessed some wealth, came and, groping about, stealthily pried into every corner of my cave. Upon my observing this, I laughed outright, and said, 'Try if thou canst find anything by night where I have failed by daylight.' The person himself could not help laughing, too; and then he went away.
About a year after that, some hunters of Tsa, having failed to secure any game, happened to come
strolling by the cave. As I was sitting in Samadhi, wearing the above triple-knotted apology for
clothing, they prodded me with the ends of their bows, being curious to know whether I was a man
or a bhuta. Seeing the state of my body and clothes, they were more inclined to believe me a bhuta.
While they were discussing this amongst themselves, I opened my mouth and spoke, saying, 'Ye may
be quite sure that I am a man.' They recognized me from seeing my teeth, and asked me whether I
was Thopaga. On my answering in the affirmative, they asked me for a loan of some food,
promising to repay it handsomely. They said, 'We heard that thou hadst come once to thy home
many years ago. Hast thou been here all the while?' I replied, 'Yes; but I cannot offer you any food
which ye would be able to eat.' They said that whatever did for me would do for them. Then I told
them to make fire and boil nettles. They did so, but as they expected something to season the soup
with, such as meat, bone, marrow, or fat, I said, 'If I had that, I should then have food with palatable
qualities; but I have not had that for years. Apply the nettles in place of the seasoning.' Then they
asked for flour or grain to thicken the soup with. I told them if I had that, I should then have food
with sustaining properties; but that I had done without that for some years, and told them to apply
nettle tips instead. At last they asked for some salt, to which I again said that salt would have
imparted taste to my food; but I had done without that also for years, and recommended the addition
of more nettle tips in place of salt. They said, 'Living upon such food, and wearing such garments
as thou hast on now, it is no wonder that thy body hath been reduced to this miserable plight. Thine
appearance becometh not a man. Why, even if thou should serve as a servant, thou wouldst have
a bellyful of food and warm clothing. Thou art the most pitiable and miserable person in the whole
world.' I said, 'O my friends, do not say that. I am one of the most fortunate and best amongst all
who have obtained the human life. I have met with Marpa the Translator, of Lhobrak, and obtained
from him the Truth which conferreth Buddhahood in one lifetime; and now, having entirely given
up all worldly thoughts, I am passing my life in strict asceticism and devotion in these solitudes,
far away from human habitations. I am obtaining that which will avail me in Eternity. By denying myself the trivial pleasures to be derived from food, clothing, and fame, I am subduing the Enemy [Ignorance] in this very lifetime. Amongst the World's entire human population I am one of the most courageous, with the highest aspirations . . . .
I then sang to them a song about my Five Comforts:
'Lord! Gracious Marpa! I bow down at Thy Feet!
Enable me to give up worldly aims.
'Here is the Draghar-Taso's Middle Cave,
On this the topmost summit of the Middle Cave,
1, the Yogi Tibetan called Repa,
Relinquishing all thoughts of what to eat or wear, and this life's aims,
Have settled down to win the perfect Buddhahood.
'Comfortable is the hard mattress beneath me;
Comfortable is the Nepalese cotton-padded quilt above me.
Comfortable is the single meditation-band which holdeth up my knee,
Comfortable is the body, to a diet temperate inured,
Comfortable is the Lucid Mind which discerneth present clingings and
the Final Goal;
Nought is there uncomfortable; everything is comfortable.
'If all of ye can do so, try to imitate me;
But if inspired ye be not with the aim of the ascetic life,
And to the error of the Ego Doctrine will hold fast,
I pray that ye spare me your misplaced pity;
For I a Yogi am, upon the Path of the Acquirement of Eternal Bliss.
'The Sun's last rays are passing o'er the mountain tops;
Return ye to your own abodes.
And as for me, who soon must die, uncertain of the hour of death,
With self-set task of winning perfect Buddhahood,'
No time have I to waste on useless talk;
Therefore shall I into the State Quiescent of Samadhi enter now.'