Initiations and Instructions

The next morning Milarepa wished to travel to Chuwar in Manlung. Eager to remain in Milarepa’s presence, Gampopa asked if he might accompany him on his journey, and the guru gladly assented. After a hearty breakfast of hot tsampa and yak butter tea, they were on their way.

When they arrived in Chuwar, they went to a large cave where Milarepa had often meditated. There Gampopa asked the Jetsun to bless him, and for the purpose of establishing a spiritual relationship, to give him some instruction.

“What empowerments and teachings have you received before?” Milarepa asked.

Gampopa replied that he had received the four empowerments of Guhyasamaja, the Hevajra empowerment, the magnificent blessings of Dakmema, the teachings of Luipa, the magnificent blessings of the Six-Ornament Vajravarahi from Lama Lodru of Maryul, and many empowerments from other lamas. He also told Milarepa that he had been able to remain seated in meditation for seven days.

Milarepa just laughed and said, “So what? You sit for seven days and don’t experience the clear light. You can’t get oil from pressing sand, you get it by pressing mustard seeds. Practice my Short AH Tummo Yoga, if you really want to see the true nature of mind. The Tibetans did not allow Atisha to teach the tantras.”

Gampopa said, “But there are many tantric teachings in Kadampa.”

Milarepa replied, “Yes, there are tantric teachings, but no quintessential instructions there. Although there is a complete generation and completion process in a single meditation practice, this is merely the samadhi of analysis. Meditating on the selflessness of the stages of the path has only a relative value. Practice meditation on the Method Path.

“I do not mean that your previous initiations are not good, those are excellent and profound teachings that you received. I just want to stress the importance of a correct karmic relationship with the guru, and the absolute necessity for you to receive the blessing of my lineage.”

Milarepa then blessed Gampopa and initiated him into the Sindura Vajrayogini practice of the Whispered Lineage, and in the mandala of the deity painted in cinnabar, Gampopa received the pith-instructions. He also received the full transmission of the tummo practice. Then Gampopa went off to his cave to meditate.

After a short time of practicing in accordance with Milarepa’s instructions, Gampopa began to have some profound and positive meditative experiences. Then he started to compare Milarepa’s teachings with those that he had received from his other gurus. There were places where they seemed to be contradictory, and as a result, much confusion and doubt arose in his mind and he found it difficult to continue meditating.

“I am getting nowhere,” Gampopa said to himself. “I must go to see the guru and cut the roots of this confusion.”

That very afternoon he left his cave and sought out Milarepa. He found him by the stream, washing his bowl and sipping the fresh cold mountain water.

“How is your practice going?”

“At first it was going very well, but then many questions arose. In the Guhyasamaja Tantra, the Chatuhpitha, and other works, it says, ‘There is greater merit in making offering to one hair of the guru than in making offerings of a mountain heap of jewels to all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future.’ Is there a way of accumulating merit that is superior to this?”

“There is,” Milarepa replied.

“Please teach me about this.”

“If you practice the oral teachings that the guru has given, without wasting them, that is it,” said Milarepa.

Gampopa was silent for a while, drinking in the meaning of the guru’s answer. Then he spoke again.

“I asked Geshe Nyugrumpa if it is possible to attain Buddhahood in one life, in one body. His reply was, ‘Yes, but to do that, one must not have a hair’s consideration for this life.’ I then asked the same question to Geshe Yarlungpa, and he said, ‘That is not the true meaning. That is just the figurative meaning. You can attain Buddhahood: by taking a medicine pill, which will make you immortal like the sun and moon; or, in the seventh lifetime of practice; or, by actually seeing the divine yidam; or, if you are able to travel to the celestial realms.’ Which of these answers is true?”

Milarepa replied, “The words of Geshe Nyugrumpa are not only the figurative meaning, they are also the true meaning. You must have no consideration for this life.

“If an authentic guru has disciples who are worthy vessels, who receive the complete empowerment in the Mantrayana mandala, and who practice both generation stage and completion stage meditation continually, in accord with the oral instructions, then those students of the highest potential will attain Buddhahood in this lifetime; those of medium potential will attain it just before they die, or in the bardo. Even if the students are extremely lazy, they will attain it in seven or sixteen lifetimes. If they cannot attain this, they must have corrupted their vows, and for a while they might be reborn in the lower realms.

“In general, physician monk, you should not trust those who philosophize. Do not listen to them. Do not follow them. Trust instead those who practice meditation. Listen to them, follow them.

“The best recommendation is to hold to holy ones who have let go of the concerns of this life. Anyone who is led along by this life will only teach you the eight worldly dharmas.

“You should also know that there are four ways of misunderstanding emptiness: losing emptiness in labelling; losing emptiness in the basic nature of all knowables; losing emptiness in the antidote; and losing emptiness by attachment to emptiness.

“Losing emptiness in labeling means merely saying, ‘All objects of the ordinary rational mind of dualistic grasping are non-existent.’ If you say that, this is losing emptiness in labelling.

“Losing emptiness in the basic nature of all knowables is merely conceptually saying, ‘All phenomena, or samsara and nirvana, are empty.’ If you say that, this is losing emptiness in the basic nature of all knowables.

“Losing emptiness in the antidote is saying, ‘Afflictive emotions and discursive thoughts—whatever arises—if you look right at it, that is emptiness.’ This is holding the dualistic notion that negative thoughts and conflicting emotions are something to be abandoned and that emptiness is the antidote.

“Losing emptiness by attachment to emptiness is saying, ‘There is nothing to meditate on whatsoever, so all meditation is emptiness.’ It is also thinking that emptiness is a goal to be realized, that the ground, the path, and the fruit are separate, and that by following the path one will obtain the goal of realizing emptiness.

“These are not the perfect path. However, for a beginner there is a small benefit in initially using these kinds of thoughts to reverse clinging to intrinsic reality.

“In general, if you do not fully realize the true nature of your mind in the deepest sense, even if you temporarily experience bliss, luminosity and non-thought, you will not transcend the three worlds. These are known as temporary experiences because they do not resolve the mind to its depths. If you ask, ‘What is the true path?’ It is when an authentic guru gives the student who is a worthy vessel initiation and instruction.

“Primordial awareness exists pervasively in all sentient beings. All the Buddhas are luminosity in the dharmakaya. Yogis practice meditation using an infinite variety of skillful methods, and thus they can naturally realize the view. Conflicting emotions naturally cease. Dualistic thoughts are effortlessly self-liberated, and wisdom spontaneously dawns. At this time, one’s realization and experience cannot be expressed in words. It is like the ecstasy of a young woman, or the dream of a deaf mute. Although this ground is in all sentient beings, they fail to recognize it. Therefore, it is very important to follow a guru who holds a lineage.

“Primordial awareness has no origins. Its gateway cannot be blocked in any way. It cannot be shown by any analogy. It cannot be described by any words. It cannot be demonstrated by any sophistry. Therefore, we should not try to fabricate it. Just let go and relax in the realm of the natural state of mind.”

The Life of Gampopa by Jampa Mackenzie Stewart