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Lions Roar : September 2012
75 SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 The next day he abruptly cancelled the ceremony and announced that he was going to India for a third time. He quickly gathered enough gold for the journey and prepared his baggage. His family was concerned because of his age and how difficult the journey would be for him, so they hid the gold and the luggage, hoping that he might stay behind if he couldn’t find his belongings. When Marpa discovered what they had done, he was very angry and said that he was going to India whether he had his gold or not. And he left with nothing. So his family and students had to chase after him. They invited him back, saying that they would like to give him a farewell party and present him with more gold for his trip. These little incidents played an ex- tremely important part in Marpa’s life. The messages that he received had nothing to do with scholarship or the refined understanding that can come through linguistic studies or the study of epistemology. The messages were simple and direct truth, and his moves were very abrupt and definite. After his third visit was completed, Marpa gave instructions to his seven children, and they all became great students, scholars, and yogis. His oldest son, Tarma Dode, was particularly brilliant, and it was Marpa’s wish that Tarma Dode become his successor. He was a very proud young man, a learned and accomplished person who was constantly competing with his father. If his father forgot the details of something during a talk, his son would whisper to him how to finish a quotation or would supply the philosophical details. Once, while Marpa was in retreat with many of his chief disciples and his children, a neighboring scholar came with an invitation to attend a garden party of scholars, teachers, and dignitaries from all over the region. Marpa didn’t want to attend but Tarma Dode wanted to go and show off. He wanted to exercise his authority and create a good image for the Marpa family and the Kagyü lineage. Marpa said, “Go if you must. But don’t engage in philosophical debate. Don’t stay too long. Come home early.” So Marpa let him go, with Milarepa (a great student of Marpa’s who would later become his dharma heir) as an escort. They went to the party, and Tarma Dode was unable to avoid the philosophical debate. He couldn’t play dumb. The discussions were wild and exciting, and Tarma Dode was extremely pleased by his abilities to expound fine points of philosophy and his knowledge of yogic teachings. Finally, Milarepa reminded him that they should return early and convinced him to leave. As they were riding home, Tarma Dode’s horse startled a bird nesting in rushes along the pathway. The bird suddenly flew up, defending its chicks. The horse was startled and ran wild. As it ran, Tarma Dode fell off, with his foot caught in the stirrup. His head was crushed by boulders. The horse ran back to the stable at Marpa’s house with its half-dead passenger, and Tarma Dode died soon after. This was of course tragic and disheartening for Marpa, in spite of all his understanding of impermanence. One of Marpa’s students mentioned that Marpa had told them that everything is illusion, that there is no substance in anything. “You used to tell us that there is no point in worrying about things. But now that this trouble has come, you seem really upset. How is this possible?” Marpa replied, “My son’s death is illusion, Marpa’s life example is applicable to us. Any one of us could work our way through situations very simply and directly, as he did.