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Lions Roar : March 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN MARCH 2012 31 MILAREPA, WHOSE LIFE is the stuff of legends, is Tibet’s most famous wandering yogi. About a thousand years ago, he was born into a prosperous family. But then his father died and Milarepa’s aunt and uncle took control of the estate, forcing Mil- arepa and his sister and mother into servitude. This twisted Mil- arepa’s mother into wanting revenge and she manipulated him into studying the black arts. Then one day, when his aunt and uncle were having a party to celebrate their son’s engagement, Milarepa brewed up a storm that destroyed their house, killing thirty-five people. The villagers were furious and they set off to hunt him down, but Milarepa got word of their approach and conjured up a hailstorm. Later, however, the full force of his ter- rible deeds hit him and he was desolate with remorse. It was at this point that Milarepa met Marpa, a powerful house- holder yogi, who recognized Milarepa as his future heart son, yet did not tell him. Instead, Marpa was hard on Milarepa. He yelled at him and hit him and refused to teach him until he’d built and demolished three stone towers, one after another. In this way, Marpa helped Milarepa to quickly burn away his negative karma, and then Milarepa was able to dedicate himself to practice. Later, after he attained enlightenment, Milarepa assumed there was no longer any need for him to stay in the mountains and decided to go to cities and villages to teach. Before he could depart, how- ever, he had a dream that Marpa told him to stay in retreat. If he did that, Marpa said, he would touch the lives of countless people through example. Milarepa is remembered today for his beautiful, inspired songs and poetry. For half a lifetime, he wandered the moun- tains of Tibet. At one point, he lived in a cave and subsisted on nothing but nettle soup, leaving him bone thin and his skin a strange green. Frequently, people would discover that Milarepa, a realized master, was living nearby and they’d gather around him. When the crowds grew too thick, he’d move on. Another well-known wandering yogi is Dza Patrul Rinpoche, a great Dzogchen master of the nineteenth century. Completely disinterested in fine clothes and titles, Patrul Rinpoche begged for his supper at nomad encampments. Once a great lama arrived whom the nomads greeted with incense and prostra- tions. Then the lama saw Patrul Rinpoche and hurled himself to the ground at his feet. Only in that way did the people under- stand the accomplishments of the threadbare wanderer. Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche was one of the few recent adepts to practice as a wandering yogi. A Dzogchen master, he narrowly escaped Tibet in 1959 and then wandered the streets of Calcutta, begging and living among the Hindu sadhus. Khen Rinpoche, now deceased, was one of Mingyur Rinpoche’s most influential teachers. PHOTOSCOURTESYOFTERGARINTERNATIONAL Mingyur Rinpoche’s mother Sonam Chodron, left, Chimey Yangzo, her husband Tsoknyi Rinpoche, and Mingyur Rinpoche visiting the site of Nalanda, a historic Buddhist university in Bihar, India.