Songs of Milarepa | 21-30



Shiwa Aui then requested, "Now please tell us of the sufferings of animals."

Whereupon Milarepa sang:

Animals, alas, are ignorant and benighted;
Most stupid men will incarnate amongst them.
Blind and enslaved by evil Karma,
The ignorant know not Dharma's Truth.
Blind both to evil and to virtue,
They quickly waste their lives away.
Unable to reason and use symbols,
They act like blind automations;
Unable to distinguish wrong from right,
Like maniacs, they do much wrong.
Some people even say 'tis good (To be an animal);
Since it does neither regret nor repent,
Alas! How foolish is this thought!
Then, all stupid life-takers
Will incarnate as beasts;
The fools who know not right from wrong,
And those who harbour vicious thoughts,
Will incarnate as common brutes.
Hard it is for me to describe
 Their Karmas, but think on my words
And cultivate your minds.


Milarepa once took Rechungpa to the market of Nya Non in order to further his spirit of renunciation.

Many butchers had gathered there. The meat was piled up like walls, animals' heads were stacked in huge heaps, skins were scattered over the ground, and blood ran together like water in a pond.

In addition, rows of livestock were fastened to the stakes for slaughtering....

Whereupon with overwhelming compassion, Milarepa sang:

How pitiful are sentient beings in Samsāra!
Looking upward to the Path of Liberation,
How can one feel aught but sorrow for these sinful men.
How foolish and sad it is to indulge in killing,
When by good luck and Karma one has a human form.
How sad it is to do an act
That in the end will hurt oneself.
How sad it is to build a sinful wall
Of meat made of one's dying parents' flesh? 25
How sad it is to see
Meat eaten and blood flowing.
How sad it is to know confusions
And delusions fill the minds of men.
How sad it is to find but vice,
Not love, in peoples' hearts.
How sad it is to see
That Blindness veils all men
Who cherish sinful deeds.

Craving causes misery,
While worldly deeds bring pain.
With this in mind one feels sorrowful,
Thinking thus, one searches for a cure.
When I think of those who never
Take heed for their future lives,
But indulge in evil deeds,
I feel most disturbed and sad,
And deeply fearful for them.
Rechungpa, seeing all these things,
Don't you remember Holy Dharma?
Don't you in Samsāra lose all heart?
Rouse the spirit of renunciation,
Go, Rechungpa, to the cave to meditate!

Heed the bounty of your Guru
And avoid all sinful deeds,
Casting worldly things aside
Stay firm in your practice
Keep your good vows
And devote your life to meditation.


A very beautiful girl of about 15 years of age, whose name was Bardarbom said to Milarepa:

"By merely meeting you I shall have accumulated a great deal of merit"
and begged to be taken as his servant and disciple.

Milarepa replied, "if you seriously want to practise the Dhamma, you must learn that worldly affairs are your enemies and renounce them."

And he sang a song called...

The Four Renunciations

Listen, you fortunate girl,
You who have wealth and faith!

Future lives last longer than this life –
Do you know how to make provision?
Giving with niggardly heart
As if feeding a strange watch-dog,
Only brings more harm than good –
Bringing nothing in return but a vicious bite,
Renounce parsimony, now that you know its evil.

Listen, you fortunate girl!
We know less of this life than the next one.
Have you prepared and lit your lamp?
Should it not be ready,
Meditate on the "Great Light".
If you choose to help an ungrateful foe,
You will gain not a friend, but damage.
Beware of acting blindly:
Beware of this evil and discard it.

Listen, you fortunate girl.
Future lives are worse than this life –

Have you a guide or escort for your journey?
If you have not the right companion,
Rely on the holy Dharma.
Beware of relatives and kinsmen;
They hinder and oppose (the Dharma).
They never help but only harm one.

Did you know that your kinsmen are your foes?
If this be true, surely you should leave them.

Listen, you fortunate girl.
The journey in the future life is more hazardous than this one

-Have you prepared a fine horse of perseverance for it?
If not, you should strive hard and work with diligence.
The excitement of the start will soon diminish;
Beware the foe, "Inertness", which makes one go astray.
Of no avail are hurry and excitement, which only harm one.
Do you yet know that your enemies are laziness and caprice?
If you understand my words, you should cast them both away.


Going to Bardarbom's house for alms, Milarepa encountered "an ugly old woman with a handful of ashes". She rushed at him, shouting,

"You miserable yogi-beggars! I never see you in one place! In the summer you all show up begging for milk and butter! In the winter you all come for grain!

I'll wager you wanted to sneak in to steal my daughter's and daughter-in-law's jewellery!"

Grumbling and trembling with rage, she was about to throw the ashes at Milarepa, when he said,

"Wait a minute, grandmother! Please listen to me!" He then sang...

A Song with Nine Meanings

Above is the auspicious Heaven,
Below are the Three Paths of Misery,
In between, are those who are not free to choose their birth.

These three all converge on you.
Grandmother, you are an angry woman,
And dislike the Dharma!
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine.
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
You need a qualified and dependable Guru,
Think carefully, dear lady;
When you were first sent here,
Did you dream that you would become an old nanny-goat?

In the morning you get up from bed,
In the evening you go to sleep,
In between, you do the endless housework;
You are engrossed in these three things.
Grandmother, you are an unpaid maid.
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine.
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
You need a qualified and dependable Guru,
And then things may be different for you.

The head of the family is the most important one,
Income and earnings are the next most longed-for things,
Then sons and nephews are wanted most.
By these three you are bound
Grandmother, for yourself you have no share.
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine.
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
You need a qualified and dependable Guru,
And then things may be different for you.

Attaining what you want even though you steal,
Getting what you desire even though you rob,
Fighting your foe without regard to death and wounds,
To these three things you are subjected.

Grandmother, you are burned up with fury
When you come upon your foe.
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine.
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
You need a qualified and dependable Guru,
And then things may be different for you.

Gossip about other women and their manners
Is what interests you;
To the affairs of your own son and nephew
You pay attention,
To talk of widows and relatives is your delight.
These three things enchant you.
Grandmother, are you so gentle when you gossip?
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine.
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
You need a qualified and dependable Guru,
And then things may be different for you.

To lift you from a chair is like pulling out a peg;
With feeble legs you waddle like a thieving goose;
Earth and stone seem to shatter when you drop into a seat;
Senile and clumsy is your body,
Grandmother, you have no choice but to obey.
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine.
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
What you require is a qualified and dependable Guru,
And from that you may find out how you have changed.
Your skin is creased with wrinkles;
Your bones stand out sharply from your shrunken flesh,
You are deaf, dumb, imbecile, eccentric and tottering;
You are thrice deformed.
Grandmother, your ugly face is wrapped in wrinkles.
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine.
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
You need a qualified and dependable Guru,
And then things may be different for you.

Your food and drink are cold and foul;
Your coat is heavy and in rags;
Your bed so rough it tears the skin;
These three are your constant companions.
Grandmother, you are now a wretch, half woman and half bitch!
Question your own thoughts and your mind examine!
You should practise the Buddha's Teaching,
What you need is a qualified and dependable Guru,
And then things may be different for you.

To attain higher birth and Liberation
Is harder than to see a star in daytime;
To fall into Samsāra's wretched path
Is easy and often happens.
Now, with fear and grief at heart,
You watch the time of death draw nigh.
Grandmother, can you face death with confidence?
Question your own mind and your thoughts examine!
What you need is to practise the Teaching of the Buddha,
What you need is a qualified and dependable Guru.


Milarepa said to his faithful patroness, Shindormo,

"My dear patroness, except for advanced Dharma practitioners, the pains of birth, decay, illness and death descend upon everyone. It is good to think about and fear them, because this enables one to practise the Dharma when death is approaching."

Whereupon he sang:

In the river of birth, decay, illness,
And death we worldly beings are submerged;
Who can escape these pains on earth?
We drift on with the tide.
Amidst waves of misery and darkness
We flow on and on.
Seldom in Samsāra can one find joy.

More miseries come by trying to avoid them;
Through pursuing pleasures one's sins increase.
To be free from pain,
Wrong deeds should be shunned.
When death draws near, the wise
Always practise Dharma.


"I do not know how to observe the suffering of birth," said Shindormo, "Please instruct me how to meditate upon it."

In answer, the Jetsun sang:

My faithful patroness, I will
Explain the suffering of birth.
The wanderer in the Bardo plane
Is the Alaya Consciousness  
Driven by lust and hatred
It enters a mother's womb.

Therein it feels like a fish
In a rock's crevice caught,
Sleeping in blood and yellow fluid,
It is pillowed in discharges,
Crammed in filth, it suffers pain.
A bad body from a bad Karma is born.

Though remembering past lives,
It cannot say a single word.
Now scorched by heat,
Now frozen by the cold,
In nine months it emerges
From the womb in pain excruciating,
As if pulled out gripped by pliers.
When from the womb its head is squeezed,
The pain is like being thrown into a bramble pit.
The tiny body on the mother's lap,
Feels like a sparrow grappled by a hawk.
When from the baby's tender body
The blood and filth are being cleansed,
The pain is like being flayed alive.
When the umbilical cord is cut,
It feels as though the spine was severed.
When wrapped in the cradle it feels bound
By chains, imprisoned in a dungeon.

He who realizes not the truth of No-arising
Never can escape from the dread pangs of birth.
There is no time to postpone devotion:
When one dies one's greatest need is the divine Dharma.
You should then exert yourself
To practise Buddha's Teaching.


Shindormo asked again, "Please preach for us the sufferings of old age."

In response, the Jetsun sang:

Listen, my good patrons, listen
To the sufferings of old age.

Painful is it to see one's body
Becoming frail and quite worn out.
Who can help but feel dismayed
At the threat of growing old?
When old age descends upon one,
One's straight body becomes bent;
When one tries to step firmly,
One staggers against one's will;
One's black hairs turn white.
One's clear eyes grow dim;
One's head shakes with dizziness,
And one's keen ears turn deaf,
One's ruddy cheeks grow pale,
And one's blood dries up.

One's nose - the pillar of one's face - sinks in;
One's teeth - the essence of one's bones - protrude.
Losing control of tongue, one stammers.
On the approach of death, one's anguish and debts grow.
One gathers food and friends,
But one cannot keep them,
Trying not to suffer,
One only suffers more,
When one tells the truth to people,
Seldom is one believed;
The sons and nephews one has raised
And cherished, often become one's foes.
One gives away one's savings,
But wins no gratitude.
Unless you realize the truth of Non-decay,
You will suffer misery in old age.
He who when old neglects the Dharma,
Should know that he is bound by Karma.
It is good to practise
The divine Dharma while you can still breathe.


Shindormo then said, "What you have just told us is very true; I have experienced these things myself. Now please preach for us the sufferings of sickness."

In reply, Milarepa sang:

Dear patrons, you who know grief and sorrow,
Listen to the miseries of sickness.

This frail body is subject ever to sickness,
So that one suffers excruciating pain.
The illnesses of Prana (mind), gall and phlegm
Constantly invade this frail human body,
Causing its blood and matter to be heated;
The organs are thus gripped by pain.
In a safe and easy bed
The sick man feels no comfort,
But turns and tosses, groaning in lament.
Through the Karma of (past) meanness,
Though with best of food you feed him,
He vomits all that he can take.
When you lay him in the cool,
He still feels hot and burning;
When you wrap him in warm cloth,
He feels cold as though soaked in sleet.
Though friends and kinsmen gather round,
None can relieve or share his pains
Though warlocks and physicians are proficient,
They cannot help cases caused by Ripening Karma.

He who has not realized the truth of No-illness
Much suffering must undergo.

Since we know not when sickness will strike,
It is wise to practise Holy Dharma –
The sure conqueror of illness!


"I hope to practise (more) Dharma when death draws near," said Shindormo. "Now please preach for me the suffering of death.

In answer, Milarepa sang:

Listen, my disheartened patroness:
Like the pain of repaying compound debts,
One must undergo the suffering of death,
Yama's guards catch and carry one
When the time of death arrives.
The rich man cannot buy it off with money,
With his sword the hero cannot conquer it,
Nor can the clever woman outwit it by a trick.
Even the learned scholar cannot
Postpone it with his eloquence.
Here, the unlucky cannot make appeal,
Nor can a brave man here display his valour.

When all the Nāḍis converge in the body,
One is crushed as if between two mountains -

All vision and sensation become dim.
When Bon priests and diviners become useless,
The trusted physician yields to his despair.
None can communicate with the dying man,
Protecting guards and devas vanish into nought.
Though the breath has not completely stopped,
One can all but smell the stale odour of dead flesh.
Like a lump of coal in chilly ashes
One approaches to the brink of death.

When dying, some still count the dates and stars;
Others cry and shout and groan;
Some think of worldly goods;
Some, that their hard-earned wealth
Will be enjoyed by others.

However deep one's love, or great one's sympathy,
He can but depart and journey on alone.
His good friend and consort
Can only leave him there;
In a bundle his beloved body
Will be folded and carried off,
Then thrown in water, burned in fire,
Or simply cast off in a desolate land.
Faithful patrons, what in the end can we retain?
Must we sit idly by and let all things go?
When your breath stops tomorrow
No wealth on earth can help you.
Why, then, should one be mean?
Kind kinsmen circle round
The bed of the dying,
But none can help him for a moment.
Knowing that all must be left behind,
One realizes that all great love
And attachment must be futile
When that final moment comes,
Only Holy Dharma helps.

You should strive, dear patroness,
For a readiness to die!
Be certain and ready and when the time comes,
You will have no fear and no regret.


A married couple of the village Mang Yul, had no children and invited Milarepa to their house when he came that way for alms. They sought to adopt him into their family and said:

"We have a good strip of land which we can give you; you can then marry an attractive woman, and soon you will have relatives."

Milarepa replied, "I have no need of these things and I will tell you why:"

Home and land at first seem pleasant;
But they are like a rasp filing away one's body, word and mind!
How toilsome ploughing and digging can become!
And when the seeds you planted never sprout,
You have worked for nought!
In the end it becomes a land of misery –
Desolate and unprotected -
A place for hungry spirits, and of haunting ghosts!
When I think of the warehouse
For storing sinful deeds,
It gnaws at my heart,
In such a prison of transiency I will not stay,
I have no wish to join your family!