Songs of Milarepa | 2-10



One day, after leaving his cave to collect firewood, Milarepa returned "to find five Indian demons with eyes as large as saucers" whom he thought to be apparitions of the deities who disliked him.

As he had never given them any offering, he then began to sing a...

Complimentary Song to the Deities of Red Rock Jewel Valley

This lonely spot where stands my hut
Is a place pleasing to the Buddhas,
A place where accomplished beings dwell,
A refuge where I dwell alone.

Above Red Rock Jewel Valley
White clouds are gliding;
Below, the Tsang River gently flows;
Wild vultures wheel between.

Bees are humming among the flowers,
Intoxicated by their fragrance;
In the trees, birds swoop and dart,
Filling the air with their song.

In Red Rock Jewel Valley
Young sparrows learn to fly,
Monkeys love to leap and swing,
And beasts to run and race,
While I practise
the Two Bodhi-minds and love to meditate.

Ye local demons, ghosts and gods,
All friends of Milarepa,
Drink the nectar of kindness and compassion,
Then return to your abodes.


One day, Milarepa's patrons from Dro Tang came to visit him. They asked him what benefits Junpan Nanka Tsang had to offer.

In reply, Milarepa sang:

I pray to my Guru, the Holy One.
Listen, my patrons, and I will tell you the merits of this place.

In the goodly quiet of this Sky Castle of Junpan
High above, dark clouds gather;
Deep blue and far below flows the River Tsang.

At my back the Red Rock of Heaven rises;
At my feet, wild flowers bloom, vibrant and profuse;
At my cave's edge (wild) beasts roam, roar and grunt;
In the sky vultures and eagles circle freely,
While from heaven drifts the drizzling rain.
Bees hum and buzz with their chanting;
Mares and foals gambol and gallop wildly;
The brook chatters past pebbles and rocks;
Through the trees monkeys leap and swing;
And larks carol in sweet song.

The timely sounds I hear are all my fellows.
The merits of this place are inconceivable –
I now relate them to you in this song.

Oh good patrons,
Pray follow my Path and my example;
Abandon evil, and practise good deeds.
Spontaneously from my heart I give you this instruction.


One day, some villagers from Ragma came to see the Jetsun. They asked him,

"Why do you like this place so much?
Why is it that you are so happy here?
Pray, tell us what you think of all these things!"

In answer, Milarepa sang:

Here is the Bodhi-Place, quiet and peaceful.
The snow-mountain, the dwelling-place of deities, stands high above;
Below, far from here in the village, my faithful patrons live;
Surrounding it are mountains nestling in white snow.

In the foreground stand the wish-granting trees;
In the valley lie vast meadows, blooming wild.
Around the pleasant, sweet-scented lotus, insects hum;
Along the banks of the stream
And in the middle of the lake,
Cranes bend their necks, enjoying the scene, and are content.

On the branches of the trees, the wild birds sing;
When the wind blows gently, slowly dances the weeping willow;
In the treetops monkeys bound and leap for joy;
In the wild green pastures graze the scattered herds,
And merry shepherds, gay and free from worry,
Sing cheerful songs and play upon their reeds.
The people of the world, with burning desires and craving,
Distracted by affairs, become the slaves of earth.

From the top of the Resplendent Gem Rock,
I, the yogi, see these things.
Observing them, I know that they are fleeting and transient;
Contemplating them, I realize that comforts and pleasure
Are merely mirages and water-reflections.

I see this life as a conjuration and a dream.
Great compassion rises in my heart
For those without a knowledge of this truth.
The food I eat is the Space-Void;
My meditation is Dhyāna - beyond distraction.

Myriad visions and various feelings all appear before me -
Strange indeed are Samsāric phenomena!
Truly amazing are the dharmas in the Three Worlds,
Oh, what a wonder, what a marvel!
Void is their nature, yet everything is manifested.


This song was sung to a young, well-dressed girl who after asking Milarepa about his father and mother, brothers and sisters, further enquired:

"But do you also have any Samsāric companions, sons and belongings?"

Milarepa then sang in reply:

At first, my experiences in Samsāra
Seemed most pleasant and delightful;
Later, I learned about its lessons;
In the end, I found a Devil's Prison.
These are my thoughts and feelings on Samsāra.
So I made up my mind to renounce it.

At first, one's friend is like a smiling angel;
Later, she turns into a fierce exasperated woman;
But in the end a demoness is she.
These are my thoughts and feelings on companions.
So I made up my mind to renounce a friend.

At first, the sweet boy smiles, a Babe of Heaven;
Later, he makes trouble with the neighbours;
In the end, he is my creditor and foe.
These are my thoughts and feelings about children.
So I renounced both sons and nephews.

At first, money is like the Wish-fulfilling Gem;
Later, one cannot do without it;
In the end, one feels a penniless beggar.
These are my thoughts and feelings about money.
So I renounced both wealth and goods.

When I think of these experiences,
I cannot help but practise Dharma;
When I think of Dharma,
I cannot help but offer it to others.
When death approaches,
I shall then have no regret.


On his way to Shri Ri to meditate, Milarepa lodged at an inn where a merchant, Dhawa Norbu (the Moon jewel), was also staying with a great retinue.

Milarepa begged alms from him upon which the merchant remarked that it would be better for him to work to support himself.

Milarepa pointed out that enjoying pleasures now is the source for more suffering in the future.

Then he said: "Now listen to my song."

The Eight Reminders

Castles and crowded cities are the places
Where now you love to stay;
But remember that they will fall to ruins
After you have departed from this earth!

Pride and vain glory are the lure
Which now you love to follow;
But remember, when you are about to die
They offer you no shelter and no refuge!

Kinsmen and relatives are the people now
With whom you love to live;
But remember that you must leave them all behind
When from this world you pass away!

Servants, wealth and children
Are things you love to hold;
But remember, at the time of your death
Your empty hands can take nothing with you!

Vigour and health
Are dearest to you now;
But remember, at the moment of your death
Your corpse will be bundled up and borne away!

Now your organs are clear,
Your flesh and blood are strong and vigorous;
But remember, at the moment of your death
They will no longer be at your disposal!

Sweet and delicious foods are things
That now you love to eat;
But remember, at the moment of your death
Your mouth will let the spittle flow!

When of all this I think,
I cannot help but seek the Buddha's Teachings!
The enjoyments and the pleasures of this world
For me have no attraction.

I, Milarepa, sing of the Eight Reminders,
At the Guest House in Garakhache of Tsang.
With these clear words I give this helpful warning;
I urge you to observe and practise them!


Milarepa once said to Shindormo, his patroness:

"But if you have a precious human body and have been born at a time and place in which the Buddhist religion prevails, it is very foolish indeed not to practise the Dharma."

Milarepa thus sang:

At the feet of the Translator Marpa, I prostrate myself,
And sing to you, my faithful patrons.

How stupid it is to sin with recklessness
While the pure Dharma spreads all about you.
How foolish to spend your lifetime without meaning,
When a precious human body is so rare a gift.

How ridiculous to cling to prison-like cities and remain there.
How laughable to fight and quarrel with your wives and relatives,
Who do but visit you.
How senseless to cherish sweet and tender words
Which are but empty echoes in a dream.
How silly to disregard one's life by fighting foes
Who are but frail flowers.

How foolish it is when dying
to torment oneself with thoughts of family,
Which bind one to Maya's mansion.
How stupid to stint on property and money,
Which are a debt on loan from others.
How ridiculous it is to beautify and deck the body,
Which is a vessel full of filth.
How silly to strain each nerve for wealth and goods,
And neglect the nectar of the inner teachings!

In a crowd of fools, the clear and sensible
Should practise the Dharma, as do I.


A yogi who had great faith in Milarepa came with other patrons, bringing copious offerings,

and they asked Milarepa "how he had managed to undergo the trials of his probation-ship and had exerted himself...”

Milarepa answered with...

The Six Resolutions

When one has lost interest in this world,
His faith and longing for the Dharma is confirmed.

To relinquish one's home ties is very hard;
Only by leaving one's native land
Can one be immune from anger.

It is hard to conquer burning passions
Towards relatives and close friends;
The best way to quench them
Is to break all associations.

One never feels that one is rich enough;
Contented, he should wear humble cotton clothes.
He may thus conquer much desire and craving.

It is hard to avoid worldly attractions;
By adhering to humbleness,
Longing for vain glory is subdued.

It is hard to conquer pride and egotism;
So, like the animals,
Live in the mountains.

My dear and faithful patrons!
Such is the real understanding
That stems from perseverance.

I wish you all to practise deeds that are meaningful,
And amass all merits!


Milarepa went out one day for alms and coming to a meeting of Dharma-followers, was ridiculed. One of them, however, recognized him and said:

"To inspire those attending this meeting, therefore, please now sing for us."

In response, Milarepa sang a song,

The Ocean of Samsāra

Alas, is not Samsāra like the sea?
Drawing as much water as one pleases,
It remains the same without abating.
Are not the Three Precious Ones like Mount Śumeru,
That never can be shaken by anyone?


Are there Mongol bandits invading yogis' cells?
Why, then, do great yogis stay in towns and villages?
Are not people craving for rebirth and Bardo?
Why, then, do they cling so much to their disciples?
Are woollen clothes in the next life more expensive?
Why, then, do women make so much of them here?
Do people fear that Samsāra may be emptied?
Why, then, do priests and laymen hanker after children?
Are you reserving food and drink for your next life?
Why, then, do men and women not give to charity?
Is there any misery in Heaven above?
Why, then, do so few plan to go there?
Is there any joy below in Hell?

Why, then, do so many prepare to visit there?
Do you not know that all sufferings
And Lower Realms are the result of sins?
Surely you know that if you now practise virtue,
When death comes you will have peace of mind and no regrets.


Upon the arrival of autumn, Milarepa decided to leave Upper Lowo where he had been preaching the Dharma during the summer, and go to Di Se Snow Mountain.

His patrons gave him a farewell party, circling round him, and made him offerings and obeisance.

They said: "Be kind enough to give us, your disciples, some instructions and advice."

The Jetsun then emphasized the transiency of all beings, admonishing them to practise Dharma earnestly. And he sang...

The Song of Transience with Eight Similes

Faithful disciples here assembled (ask yourselves):
"Have I practised Dharma with great earnestness?
Has the deepest faith arisen in my heart?"
He who wants to practise Dharma and gain non-regressive faith,
Should listen to this exposition of the Mundane Truths
And ponder well their meaning.
Listen to these parables and metaphors:

A painting in gold,
Flowers of turquoise blue,
Floods in the vale above,
Rice in the vale below,
Abundance of silk,
A jewel of value,
The crescent moon,
And a precious son –
These are the eight similes.

No one has sung before
Such casual words (on this),
No one can understand their meaning
If he heeds not the whole song.

The gold painting fades when it is completed –
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

The lovely flowers of turquoise blue
Are destroyed in time by frost –
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

The flood sweeps strongly down the vale above,
Soon becoming weak and tame in the plain below –
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

Rice grows in the vale below;
Soon with a sickle it is reaped
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

Elegant silken cloth
Soon with a knife is cut -
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

The precious jewel that you cherish
Soon will belong to others -
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

The pale moonbeams soon will fade and vanish –
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

A precious son is born;
Soon he is lost and gone -
This shows the illusory nature of all beings,
This proves the transient nature of all things.
Think, then you will practise Dharma.

These are the eight similes I sing.
I hope you will remember and practise them.

Affairs and business will drag on forever,
So lay them down and practise now the Dharma.
If you think tomorrow is the time to practise,
Suddenly you find that life has slipped away.
Who can tell when death will come?

Ever think of this,
And devote yourselves to Dharma practice.