60 Songs of Milarepa – Song 41-50



Drashi Tse, a patron, once asked Milarepa: “Do you think I should concentrate my effort on meditation alone or not?” The Jetsun replied, “It is for the very sake of practice that the Dharma is preached and studied. If one does not practise or meditate, both studying and preaching will be meaningless.”

Hearken, my faithful patrons!
Even sinful persons,
Not knowing the great power of Karma,
Dream of achieving Liberation,
Life wears out as days and years go by,
Yet in pursuing pleasures
People spend their lives.
They ask, will this month or year be good?”
Blind to life’s speedy passing,
Fools cherish foolish questions.
He who truly wants to practise Dharma
Should make offerings to the Holy Ones,
Take Refuge in the Triple Gem,
Give service to the Jetsun Guru,
Pay respect to his parents,
Give alms without hoping for reward.
He should offer help to those in need,
He should live and act up to The Dharma’s principles.
Not much is needed for Buddhist practice;
Too many vows lead to self-cheating.
Dear patrons, try to practise what I say.

(pp. 650–651)

Milarepa said: “Many people think that they will have ample time to practise the Dharma, but without their notice or expectation, death suddenly descends upon them and they lose forever the chance to practise. What then can they do? One should turn all one’s Buddhist knowledge inside one’s mouth, and then meditate. If one does not further one’s studies and meditation at the same time, but thinks that one should first learn a great deal before starting the actual practice (one will be completely lost) because knowledge is infinite, and there is no possibility of mastering it all.”

(p. 650)


Some patrons had made copious offerings to the young and handsome Rechungpa before his departure for Weu but had offered his old Teacher, the Jetsun, only third-rate provisions. Milarepa came to know of this and shamed them to their faces, whereupon they felt guilt and deep regret. One day they came again and brought excessive offerings saying, “Please sing for us to awaken our insight into the transiency of beings.” Milarepa would not accept their offerings but he sang this for them:

Hearken you mean patrons!
For the sake of fame, to do
Meritorious deeds—
For this life’s sake to seek
The protection of Buddha—
To give alms for the sake
Of returns and dividends—
To serve and offer for the sake
Of vanity and pride—
These four ways will never requite one!

For the sake of gluttony
To hold a sacramental feast [45] —
For the sake of egotism
To strive for Sutra-learning—
For distraction and amusement
To indulge in foolish talk and song—
For vain glory’s sake
To give the Initiations [46] —
These four ways will never bring one blessings!

If for love of preaching one expounds
Without the backing of scripture,
If through self-conceit,
One accepts obeisance;
If like a bungling, fumbling fool one teaches,
Not knowing the disciple’s capacity,
If to gather money one behaves
Like a Dharma practiser—
These four ways can never help the welfare of sentient beings!

To prefer diversions to solitude,
To love pleasures and hate hardship,
To crave for talk when urged to meditate,
To wallow arrogantly in the world—
These four ways will never bring one to Liberation!

This is the song of Fourfold Warning
Dear patrons, bear it in your minds!

(pp. 601–602)


Rechungpa had just returned from India complete with new learning, instructions in various meditations, skill in logic, and a swollen head. In order to clear up Rechungpa’s pride and arrogance, Milarepa sang:

… Oh, my son, your pride in what you learned
Will lead you well astray!

To preach a lot, with empty words,
Ruins your good experience and meditation.
To be swollen with pride and arrogance
Proves you have betrayed the Guru’s precepts.

Nothing gives cause for more regret
Than disobedience to the Guru.
No one is more distracted and confused
Than he who ceases to meditate in solitude.
Nothing is more fruitless
Than a Buddhist [47] who renounces not his kin.
Nothing is more shameful
Than a learned Buddhist who neglects his meditation.
Nothing is more disgraceful
Than a monk who violates the rules.

(p. 425 extract)


More advice sung by Milarepa to try to cure Rechungpa’s pride:

It is fine that father and son are in harmony—
Maintaining harmony with people is a great merit;
But the best merit is to keep in harmony
with one’s father.

If one is discordant with all the people he knows
He must be a person ominous or obnoxious.
Yet even more ominous is discord between father and son.

Good it is to maintain harmony with one’s
father by right deeds,
Good it is to repay one’s mother’s kindness and bounties,
Good it is to act in concord with all.

One’s wish can be fulfilled
If one is on good terms with one’s brothers,
To please one’s Guru
Is to gain his blessings;
To be humble is to succeed
A good Buddhist is one who conquers all bad dispositions.

Kindness, is toleration of slanders;
To be modest is to gain fame and popularity;
To maintain pure discipline
Is to do away with pretence and concealment;
To live with a sage is to gain improvement;
To be indifferent is to stop all gossip;
To be good and compassionate is to advance
one’s Bodhi-mind.

These are things that a wise man should do,
But a fool can never distinguish friend from foe.

(pp. 426–427 extract)


Another exhortation to Rechungpa not to go as yet to Weu:

Listen, Rechung Dorjedrapa,
The well-learned Buddhist scholar.
Listen, and think with care on what I say.

Before faith and yearning arise for Dharma,
Beg not alms for mere enjoyment.
Before you have realized primordial Truth,
Boast not of your sublime philosophy.
Before you have fully mastered the Awareness within,
Engage not in blind and foolish acts.
Before you can feed on the Instructions,
Involve yourself not in wicked occultism. [48]
Before you can explain the profound Teaching,
Be not beguiled by partial knowledge.
Before you can increase your merits,
Dispute not over others’ goods.
Before you can destroy your inner cravings,
Treat not charity as if it were your right.
Before you can stop projecting habitual thoughts,
Guess not when you make predictions.
Before you have gained Supreme Enlightenment,
Assume not that you are a venerable Lama.
Before you can master all virtues and practices,
Consider not leaving your Guru.

Son Rechungpa, it is better not to go, but stay!

(pp. 588–589)


A yogi of Gu Tang, who had great faith in the Jetsun, requested meditation instructions. After these had been given he said: “To help ignorant men like us, pray now, instruct us in the practice of the Six Paramitas.” [49] Milarepa sang in reply:

Property and wealth are like dew on grass;
Knowing this, gladly should one give them away. (charity)

It is most precious to be born a leisured and
worthy human being,
Knowing this, one should with care observe the precepts
As if protecting one’s own eyes. (moral discipline)

Anger is the cause of falling to the Realms Below;
Knowing this, one should refrain from wrath,
Even at the risk of life. (patience)

Benefit to oneself and to others
Can never be achieved through sloth;
Strive, therefore, to do good deeds. (diligence)

A perturbed, wandering mind
Never sees the truth of Mahayana; [50]
Practise, therefore, concentration. (meditation)

The Buddha cannot be found through searching;
So contemplate your own mind. (wisdom)

Until the autumn mists dissolve into the sky,
Strive on with faith and determination.

(p. 100)


Two scholar-bhikkhus came to argue about the Dharma with Milarepa but the discussion (which was a demonstration of his mastery of meditation) turned against them. Upon which, one of them asked for his instruction in the Six Paramitas. In answer, Milarepa sang:

If from parsimony one cannot free oneself,
What is the use of discussing charity? (dana)
If one does not forswear hypocrisy and pretence,
What is the use of keeping discipline? (sila)
If one abjures not malicious revilings,
What is the use of exercising
pretentious “patience”? (khanti)
If one abandons not indifference and inertness,
What is the use of swearing to be Moral? (viriya)
If one conquers not the errant thoughts within,
What is the use of toiling in meditation? (samadhi)
If one does not see all forms as helpful,
What is the use of practising the Wisdom (pañña)
If one knows not the profound teaching
Of forbidding and allowing,
What is the use of learning?
If one knows not the art of taking and rejecting,
What is the use of speaking on Karma-causation?
If one’s mind does not accord with the Dharma,
What is the use of joining the Order?
If the poisonous snake of Klesa [51] is not killed,
The yearning for wisdom only leads to fallacy.
If venomous jealousy is not overcome,
One’s yearning for the Bodhi-mind will be an illusion.
If one refrains not from hurting people,
One’s longing for respect and honour
Is merely wishful thinking.
If one cannot conquer ego-clinging and prejudice,
One’s craving for the Equality of Dharma [52]
Only brings wrong views.
If one cannot subdue the demon, clinging-ego,
One’s Klesas will be great and his Yoga bound to fail.
If one’s actions conform not with the Dharma.
One will always hinder the good deeds of others.
If one has not yet absorbed one’s mind in Dharma,
One’s babbling and prattling will only disturb others’ minds.

Therefore, do not waste your life in words and chatter
But try to gain the assurance of no-regret
And the confidence of facing death!

(pp. 387–388)

Milarepa said: “Dear teachers, the proverb says: ’Judging from the complexion of his face, one knows whether a man has eaten or not’. In the same light, the fact that one knows or knows not the Dharma, can easily be detected by whether or not one can conquer one’s own ego-clinging desires. If he can, that proves that one knows and practises the Buddhist Teachings. One may be very eloquent talking about the Dharma and win all the debates, but if one cannot subdue even a fraction of one’s ego-clinging and desires, but merely indulges oneself in words and talk, one’s victories in debate will never bring one any profit but will only increase one’s egotism and pride.”

(p. 384)


One of the scholar-bhikkhus who had previously been Opposed to the Jetsun, gradually acquired faith in him and eventually came to him for the Dharma, requesting, “Now please be kind enough to instruct me in the essence of the Six Paramitas.” In response, the Jetsun sang:

I am not well-versed in words
Being no scholar-preacher,
Yet this petitioner is sincere and good.

The Six Paramitas [53] contain all Buddhist teachings.
To those who practise Dharma,
Wealth is but a cause of diversion.

He who gives his (wealth) all away,
Will be born a Prince of Heaven.
Noble is it to practise charity!

Moral discipline is a ladder to Liberation
Which neither monks nor laymen can discard
All Buddhist followers should practise it!

Buddhist patience, by the Patience-preacher [54]
Is the virtue which the Buddha cherished most.
It is a garment difficult to wear,
Yet all merits grow when it is worn.

Diligence is the short path to Freedom
And a necessity for Dharma-practice.
Without it nothing can be done.
Ride then upon the horse of diligence!

These four Dharmas bring merit to men,
Being indispensable for all.
Now I will speak of Wisdom.

Meditation is a teaching between these two,
As it applies both to Wisdom and Merit practice,
By it all distractions are overcome,
For all Buddhist practice, it is most important.

Wisdom-Paramita is the teaching of Final Truth,
The dearest treasure of all Buddhas.
Enjoy it then without exhaustion,
It is the Wish-fulfilling Gem of Heaven,
Fulfilling the hopes of all sentient beings.

To those who can renounce activities,
Wisdom-Paramita will bring final rest.
This provision of Wisdom is most precious;
Whereby one will reach perfection step by step.

This is my reply, Venerable Monk,
Remember and practise it with joy!

(pp. 501–502)


Upon Mount Bonbo, Milarepa instructed many Repas who were preparing to depart for meditation in distant hermitages. Those junior Repas who wanted to stay with the Jetsun then said to him, “We are now in an age of defilement. For the sake of inferior and slow-witted persons like us, please preach something appropriate to our needs.” In response, Milarepa sang:

Hearken further, my Son-disciples!

At this time of defilement
That shadows the Dharma of Sakyamuni,
One should strive with perseverance,
And carve upon one’s mind-stone
The word, “Diligence.”

When you feel sleepy during Meditation, try
To pray [55] hard with your awakened body, mouth and mind.
When the fire-spark of Wisdom dims, try
To inflame it with the wind of Mindfulness.
If you want to be freed from samsara’s prison,
Practise hard without diversion.
If to Nirvana you aspire,
Abandon then this world.
If from the depths of your heart
You want to practise Dharma,
Listen to my words and follow in my footsteps.
If you want to consummate the (Supreme)
Never forget that death will come.
If hard and long you meditate, all Buddhas
In the past, the present and the future
Will be well-pleased.
If you are ever straight-forward and upright in the Dharma,
You will receive the grace of your Guru.

If without error you understand these words,
You can be sure that more happiness
And joy will come your way,
For such is my experience.

(pp. 547–548)


Some devas invited Milarepa to preach the Dharma in Heaven but he cautioned them saying, “You must know that Heaven is far from dependable; it is not eternal, and one should not rely on it. To be born in heaven is not necessarily a wonderful thing.” The Devas of Heaven said, “In ignorant beings like us, the Kilesas always follow the mind. Pray give us a teaching with which we can correct this fault, so that we may depend upon it and practise it frequently.” In response to their request, Milarepa sang:

Should you, oh faithful lady Devas,
intend to practise the Dharma often,
Inwardly you should practise concentration
and contemplation.

The renunciation of external affairs is your adornment.
Oh, bear in mind this remedy for external involvement!
With self-composure and mindfulness,
you should remain serene.

Glory is the equanimity of your mind and speech!
Glory is the resignation from many actions!

Should you meet disagreeable conditions,
Disturbing to your mind,
Keep watch upon yourself and be alert;
Keep warning yourself:
”The danger of anger is on its way.”

When you meet with enticing wealth,
Keep watch upon yourself and be alert,
Keep a check upon yourself
”The danger of craving is on its way.”

Should hurtful, insulting words come to your ears,
Keep watch upon yourself and be alert,
And so remind yourself:
”Hurtful sounds are but delusions of the ear.”

When you associate with your friends,
Watch carefully and warn yourself
”Let not jealousy in my heart arise!”

When you are plied with services and offerings.
Be alert and warn yourself:
”Let me beware lest pride should spring up in my heart!”

At all times, in every way, keep watch upon yourself.
At all times try to conquer evil thoughts within you!
Whatever you may meet in your daily doings,
You should contemplate its void and illusory nature.

Were even one hundred saints and scholars gathered here,
More than this they could not say.
May you all be happy and prosperous!
May you all, with joyful hearts,
Devote yourselves to the practice of the Dharma!

(pp. 92–93)


45. Offerings made to the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and deities.

46. Instructions for the practice of meditation.

47. A Buddhist bhikkhu or yogi is meant here.

48. As with the other couplets, when one can “feed on the Instructions”, has “mastered the Awareness within” etc., one will naturally not be involved in evil and unskilful acts.

49. See notes 42 and 53.

50. Mahayana here need not be understood in any sectarian sense but means rather the Buddha’s Great Way of Wisdom-Compassion, transcending narrow sectarian dogmatism. In contrast to the latter, the Jetsun taught essentially a Way of Practice and Realization.

51. Klesa, kilesa = Defilement; poison of mind, such as lust, hatred and delusion.

52. Freedom from “all thoughts and conceptualizations, be they simple or complex, good or evil, monistic or dualistic… then one is said to have acquired the wisdom of Equality or Non-discrimination.”

53. Sometimes translated ’perfections’ but in Chinese and Tibetan as “Reaching-the-other-shore,” meaning reaching “Nirvana beyond samsara”.

54. See Khantivadi Jataka—No. 313.

55. Using body, mouth and mind in some devotional exercise, such as the ’Long Prostrations’ so often and vigorously practised by Tibetans.

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