The great yogi Milarepa had incandescent inner experience in the white snow of Himalayas. He grew to manhood surrounded by implacable hate and excessive love. He knew poverty and riches, black magic and revenge. He found a Master in Marpa, the translator of Sanskrit texts, temperamental, with the spirit of lightning and the violence of a storm. At initiation, Marpa gave his pupil the maxim, "be ardent, fly the banner of perfection." Milarepa, the naked hermit owned no books, ever singing and moved from cave to cave.
The life-story of Milarepa is written by his disciple Raschun. According to which Milarepa was born in a prosperous family, unfortunately his father his father died young. He, his mother and young sister thereafter came under the care of a greedy uncle and aunt who cheated them and captured their money and land and shamefully neglected the threesome. Eventually Milarepa's mother sent him to learn black magic in order to take revenge. Milarepa was successful in his sorcery. After his revenge came repentance and remorse. Thereafter he fined the great guru Marpa, a scholar with many students. Marpa tried him out and put him to the test many times, until finally, true instruction followed. Marpa ordered him to find a cave and to withdraw from the world. After a long time Milarepa reported to his Master the knowledge he had gained.
After reporting to his Guru about the knowledge he perceived through contemplation, Milarepa returned to his cave for further sadhana and practices. At a certain point homesickness made him leave his cave. He took the permission of Marpa and he granted permission to Mila. When they parted, Marpa realized that when Milarepa would returned to the hermit's life, he (Marpa) would no longer be alive, so Marpa told him his last secret knowledge, and revealed to Milarepa the mantra that is handed down only from guru to student, the very mantra was given by Tilopa to Naropa, who had, whispered into Marpa's Ear. Girded with knowledge and knowing that all that is physical will eventually come to an end, they consumed a festive farewell meal. During the meal, Marpa manifested himself in various divine guises with intention of showing the relative and illusory nature of everything. As final advice, Marpa told not to stray from his knowledge and faith, lest he receive an influx of negative karma, and to withdraw into the wilds of nature, instead of disseminating his knowledge to the bulk of the people because they were too materially-oriented. Finally, Marpa gave him a hand written scroll that Milarepa was to open only if he found himself in life-threatening danger.
After reaching his home Milarepa found his parental house in ruins. His mother had died and that his family's house and religious books were in dismal neglect. Thereafter he took up his life as a hermit again and kept on learning. In his wandering he came to his uncle's house who tries to shoot him with bow and arrow. Following this, Milarepa back to cave and spent time in meditation and learning. Years passed, his only companion was the scroll, which, out of respect for Marpa, he sometimes placed on his head. Passers-by and visitors were cheered by his instructive songs. He had numerous students around him. However, his success also made him enemies. One attempted to poison him. The first time it did not work, but the second time Milarepa consciously ate the poisoned food. He felt he had reached the end of his earthly existence. Students and others gather gathered around him to hear his last words. He sang once more and fell into a comatose trance from which he never awoke.
In the present painting green complexioned Milarepa is shown seated on an antelope skin on a rock in mountainous field. There is a water pitcher besides him. His body became green after consuming the diet of nettle soup, which was the only food he took during a period of his early meditation. His uncle is trying is to shoot him, depicted left side of Milarepa's seat. Three more figures of Milarepa are depicted in the foreground. His robes are decorated with roses. The upper left corner shows seated Milarepa in front of cave. His both the hands are in contemplative gesture.
Alice Getty, Gods of Northern Buddhism, Tokyo, 1962
Ben Meulenbeld, Buddhist Symbolism in Tibetan Thangka, Holland, 2001
Lokesh Chandra, Transcendental Art of Tibet, Delhi, 1996
L.A. Waddell, Buddhism and Lamaism of Tibet,
Delhi, 1978 (reprint)
This description is by Dr. Shailendra K. Verma, whose Doctorate thesis is on "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (From its inception to 8th century A.D.)".
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