By Ty H. Phillips
“It could manifest and grow like seeds planted throughout your life, so that life itself becomes the guru. The idea is that life becomes the teacher all the time. This seems to be one of the very important messages of Milarepa’s life.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, Milarepa-Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi
Among teachers of Tibetan Buddhism in the United States, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche seems to stand out as unique.
Both in the past and still now, his life, teaching style, antics, sense of humor and pageantry all seemed to speak to the American mind in a way that has been unrivaled. His crazy wisdom and crazy life touched a generation and group of people who would otherwise have not found their way to the dharma, myself included.
As with all of his teaching and writing, his treatise on the life of Milarepa-Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi, touches yet again, a unique chord.
Like Trungpa after him, Milarepa led a very unique and controversial life. His story touches a group of people who would have felt they could never be redeemed so to speak. Yet it is to these very people who the dharma may be most important.
Milarepa was known in his youth as a rich person, a black magician, a murderer and yet through his own renunciation, became one of Tibet’s most revered teachers. Trungpa uses the story of Milarepa to point out the similarities in our own lives. Maybe our situations aren’t as severe, yet we can be trapped in a constant state of chasing ego and pleasure, possibly harming others unwittingly, yet still with a lack of concern. He impresses upon us how we can use Milarepa’s story as a way to heal ourselves.
As a former big city bouncer and carouser, I fell into a category of someone who most people would think does not fit the role of Buddhist or practitioner. Yet, because of my knowledge of Trungpa and the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism, it was at a time when I also found myself in shenlock—a state of nausea or dizziness from chasing a path that was leading me only to my own destruction (and that eventually led me to a hospital bed).
Like Trungpa, Milarepa’s life gives example and hope to all, not just those naturally led to dharma. It is a life of chaos and change, diligence and hard work, and eventually a life of understanding, one that we all seek to know and realize.
Milarepa-Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi is yet another seamless teaching from Trungpa that leaves us looking deeply at ourselves with a sense of understanding and hope, free of shame.
In a true sense of actualization, it is a vision of who we can strive to become.
Photo: Shambhala Publications
Editor: Dana Gornall