Guru Marpha and Milarepa : A Guru Disciple Relationship

The life story of Guru Marpha and Milarepa is one great example of the Guru Disciple Relation in Buddhism.

Life Story of Marpha:

Marpa Chokyi Lodro (Mar pa Chos kyi blo gros, 1012-1097) is widely known as 'Marpa, The Translator.' He is a Buddhist master, translator of Sanskrit texts, and the first founder of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. He is frequently identified in traditional biographies as the reincarnation of the Indian adept 'Omb Heruka.'Guru Marpa Gold Plated Statue

Buddhist Master Statue Collection

The political fragmentation in Tibet led to the abolition of most of the Buddhist Institutions. Marpa was born during such a period. Even in his childhood, he is believed to have an extraordinary ability to learn Indian vernaculars and Sanskrit.

Marpa wanted to learn more about Sanskrit and Buddhism, but there was nothing related to the Dharma instructions he desired in Tibet. He made his journey to India. Before settling in the monastic centers of Northern India to study Vajrayana, he stayed in Nepal to adapt to the heat of lower elevation. Staying in Nepal was fruitful as he met the disciples of the guru Naropa and immediately realized that Naropa was the one he must learn from. He received instruction from the masters Chitherpa and Paiapa, who advised him to seek out the renowned Indian adept Naropa.

He also studied with the mahasiddha Maitripa and received Mahamudra lineage. Afterwards, he traveled to India three times during his lifetime and spent a total of 21 years. Out of which 16 years were in the service of Naropa.

So, What is Mahamudra?

The term "Mahamudra" refers to a broad range of related activities that all result in a direct, intuitive perception of the true nature of the mind. It is possible to encounter "suchness, the actual way things exist, free of biases and elaboration, beyond the reach of words and mind" by diligently adhering to certain practices.

In one of the songs Marpa sang to describe his realizations, one verse gives us a hint of the liberation attained via Mahamudra meditation, which is as follows,

"The essence of realization is now-ness,
Occurring all at once, with nothing to add or subtract.
 Self-liberation, innate great bliss,
Free from hope or fear is the fruition."

 

When Guru Marpha Met Naropa

Naropa decided to examine Marpha's capacity to carry his teachings during Marpa's final visit to India. Hevajra is Marpa's primary meditational deity. Thus he created the entirety of the Hevajra mandala before him and remarked,
"Your personal Yidam Hevajra with the nine emanation goddesses has emerged in the sky before you.
Will you make a prostration to the Yidam or me?"

As this was the first time Marpa had ever seen his meditational god, in reality, he assumed that seeing his guru was a commonplace. He bowed to the colorful and vibrant mandala that had appeared in front of him.
The entire mandala was then dissolved back into Naropa's heart. However, Naropa warned Marpa that without the guru, even the names of the enlightened creatures would not exist. He then said that, despite Marpa's eight sons, his dharma lineage would not be carried on by any of his sons.

Naropa also predicted:

"Although in this life your family lineage will be interrupted, your dharma lineage will flow on like a wide river as long as the teachings of the Buddha remain... All the future disciples of the lineage will be like the children of lions and garudas, and each generation will be better than the last."

Naropa prophesied that Milarepa, a disciple of Marpa would achieve exceptional fame. 

"In the pitch-black land of the North
It is one like the sun rising over the snow.
To this being known as Thopaga, (Milarepa)
I prostrate." 

Marpa and Milarepa: Guru-Disciple Relationship

Milarepa had a complete turn of events in his life. Although Milarepa's father was a prosperous landowner, his death changed everything. After his passing, all the inheritance was stolen by a wicked uncle and aunt. He along with his mother, and his sister were reduced to bitter poverty. His mother urged him to master the skill of black magic, which he did, to take vengeance on these individuals. In the process of doing so, he killed several people and animals.

After realizing the horror, he had committed and the consequences of his wrongdoings, Milarepa sought the shelter of a dharma master who could protect him from such a harsh fate. He first became close with the Nyingmapa Lama Rongton, who, upon realizing Milarepa's karmic ties to Marpa, sent him to study under him.

How Milarepa met Marpha?

When Milarepa initially appeared near Marpa, he did not have the appearance of a tenacious lion, a garuda, or a blazing sun of the dharma. On the contrary, he was overtaken by utter horror.Guru Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa

View our Collection of Stautes

Marpa was harsh with this possible disciple. He mockingly referred to him as "Sorcerer", a moniker that lasted with him for a very long time and refused to offer him any dharma teaching. 
Marpa would descend from his chair in wrath, bat Milarepa harshly, and send him out if he dared enter the room where empowerment or lecture was to be given.

The most well-known incident of such wrath was when Milarepa was asked to built and rebuilt a rock tower repeatedly for three-times single-handedly. He persisted in continuing to serve his Guru Marpha, despite facing severe hardships devotedly. After years of subjecting Milarepa harshly, Marpa realized his techniques had finally achieved the desired result.
These duties had done as cleaning rituals, purifying Milarepa, and putting him in a position to accept Marpa's most profound inheritance.

Then Marpa sent Milarepa up to the mountains to practice severe retreat and gave him the essence of the teachings that he had learned from Naropa himself, particularly those connected to the practices of Chakrasamvara.

Milarepa completed the most challenging goal of total self-transformation and attained full enlightenment of Buddhahood in a few years. It was all possible via his continuous effort and the strong guru-devotion.
After that, he spent the rest of his life traveling, sharing the dharma via spontaneous songs that inspired both the simple and the educated. The Tibetan people continue to sing these songs, and regardless of their allegiance, they hold Milarepa in deep fondness as one of their own.

Jetsun Milarepa-Mila, the Revered Cloth-Clad One, transmitted the profound teachings passed down through Vajradhara, Tilopa, Naropa, and Marpa to particularly ripe disciples. He gave certain secret teachings to Gampopa (1079–1153), a master of the Kadam lineage, which Tilopa had instructed to be kept very secret and to be handed down from guru to just one pupil for thirteen subsequent generations. However, one of the most potent lessons Milarepa ever imparted to Gampopa was entirely nonverbal. 

Hence, the relationship between Marpa and Milarepa is highly regarded and held up as the epitome of the 'guru-disciple' relationship.
They were completely different individuals with only one thing in common: their passionate devotion to the dharma.

Guru Marpha and Milarepa in Thangka:Milarepa And Guru Marpha Thangka

Source: Enlightenment Thangka

Milarepa is frequently depicted as a skeletal ascetic living alone in caves high up in the Himalayas. His skin having become the green from the nettles soup that made up his meager food. 
Marpa is depicted as a powerfully built, gruff householder with a large family. However, as the biographer, Marpa's translators noted: Each of them carved out his route depending on who he was and what resources he had. Their biographies show how anyone's life might be wholly committed to studying, practicing, and realizing the buddha-dharma. 

 

Leave a comment