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Buddhadharma : Spring 2010
buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly spring 2 0 10 48 How is Milarepa able to achieve freedom from the fixations that produce hope and fear? First, he sees that on the outside, “creations are shining in ruins.” This means that Milarepa knows that whatever appears on the outside is impermanent, because all things are creations or composites of causes and conditions. When a particular thing’s causes and conditions change, that thing will fall apart. Sentient beings make prob- lems for themselves when they think that appearances will last, that the situations they find themselves in are permanent and unchanging. In fact, whatever we do or create, whatever situation we are in, and even we ourselves have no power to remain. Everything is subject to decay. Realizing that, on the inside Milarepa is free from hope and fear. He is not attached to outer appearances as being permanent, so he has no hope that things will remain nor fear that they will not, no hope that things will come out one way nor fear that they will not. Then in between, Milarepa sings of how it is a sickness when, while meditating on the genuine nature of reality, one tries to make something happen or tries to change or improve things. The true nature of reality transcends all concepts of what it might be; it is inexpressible and inconceivable. There- fore, the true nature transcends improvement and degrada- tion. So the way to meditate on it is to simply relax within it, free from striving and straining. That is how Milarepa is—he is able to rest in the basic nature of reality in a spacious, uncontrived, natural way. These first three lines reveal how Milarepa practiced dharma at the end of his life. When it was time for Milarepa to pass away he did not suffer, because he knew that his body and life were subject to decay. Therefore, he had no hope to live forever and no fear of dying. He did not strive or strain to avoid death. He meditated on death’s true nature, which transcends even the concept of death, and so he experienced his death as simply another manifestation of the true nature of mind’s energy and play. Unlike ordinary beings, for Milarepa death was not frightening. It was blissful. At the end of the verse, Milarepa sings, “I am not thinking right and wrong are two different things—that’s all I am!” Milarepa does not deny that there is any difference between right and wrong, between positive actions and negative ones. Rather, he is free of thinking that right and wrong truly exist. He is free of attachment to right and wrong as having any inherent nature—he knows they are dependently arisen mere appearances. The way that ordinary people relate to right and wrong, good and bad, and virtue and nonvirtue is to believe that they are real. This is just how someone would relate to a dream of good and bad actions when they did not know that they were dreaming. However, when one realizes the nature of empti- ness, one relates to virtue and nonvirtue in a different way, understanding them to be mere appearances that do not truly exist, just as one would during a dream when one knew that one was dreaming. That is Milarepa’s perspective. That is why karma, right, wrong, virtue, and nonvirtue only exist for ordinary sentient beings who have not directly realized the true nature of reality. In contrast, the noble ones, who directly realize the true nature of reality, transcend all concepts of right and wrong. As the Buddha taught in the sutras: “For those belonging to the family of the noble ones, karmic actions do not exist, and results of karmic actions do not exist, either.” Since the noble ones have purified them- selves of clinging to true existence, they transcend the concepts of virtue and nonvirtue. The Indian master Aryadeva explained that there are three levels of teachings about virtue and nonvirtue: First, the lack of virtue is counteracted, Second, the self is counteracted and, Finally, all views are counteracted. The first level’s purpose is to reverse the tendency begin- ning students have to do things that are negative. In order to accomplish this, students are taught the benefits of performing good actions that are helpful to others, and the suffering that comes from doing bad things that are harmful to others. Appearances of the three realms do not require an outside liberator to set them free, because freedom and purity are their very nature. This is because the appearances of the three realms are not real. (Facing page) Milarepa Eastern Tibet 1800 – 1899