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Buddhadharma : Winter 2010
77 winter 2 01 0 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly hood—and won the faith and love of most all the people of his land. A few dharma teachers were jealous, and though some of these also became Milarepa’s students, one, Geshe Tsakpuwa, conspired to poison him. Milarepa knew of the plot yet went along with it anyway because he felt that, at the age of eighty- four, the time had come for him to pass away. The account of his funeral is a wonderful description of miraculous signs, and disciples arguing amongst each other and then receiving pacifying instructions from gods, goddesses, and most of all, Milarepa himself. Although there is a lot of magic and miracles in Milare- pa’s story, its power is in its accounts of his struggle, anguish, resolve, and triumph—all of which make him very recognizably human. Quintman’s translation allows all this to come through clearly. His writing style can be sensitive and poignant, as in his rendering of Milarepa’s description of returning home: Then I walked across the doorstep and found a heap of rags caked with dirt over which many weeds had grown. When I gathered them up, a number of human bones, bleached white, slipped out. When I realized they were the bones of my mother, I was so overcome with grief that I could hardly stand it. I could not think, I could not speak, and an over- whelming sense of longing and sadness swept over me... But at that moment I remembered my lama’s oral instructions. I then blended my mother’s consciousness with my mind and the wisdom mind of the Kagyu lamas... I saw the true possibility of liberating both my mother and my father from life’s round. Quintman’s translation is definitely worth reading. His footnotes and glossary, however, could have been more exten- sive. For example, when one of Milarepa’s students praises him—“You have now brought to the surface the abiding nature of things and have brought phenomena to the point of extinction”—it would have been helpful to explain that this meant that Milarepa had realized the true nature of reality and dissolved his clinging to dualistic appearances. And though Quintman is clearer and easier to read, Lha- lungpa’s translation is still worth keeping. Quintman says that Lhalungpa is “overly free in [his] rendering of poetry,” but in places Quintman’s own English runs comparatively dry and cumbersome. Also, Lhalungpa’s introduction to his transla- tion is informative and filled with respectful and genuine affec- tion for his subject matter that makes it a joyful inspiration to read. My advice is to read Quintman, and occasionally glance at Lhalungpa’s version when you feel the need for a different perspective. As Milarepa himself told his students, “there is no greater misunderstanding” than to regard him as anything but an ordi- nary person who awakened to his own natural wisdom and compassion with the help of Buddhist meditation practice. In this way, Milarepa invites and encourages us, as if to say: “Yes, you too can do it.” Reading The Life of Milarepa is a supreme way to keep the example of this great yogi—this great human being—radiantly alive in our minds and hearts.