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Dan Martin - The Early Education of Milarepa

Dan Martin - The Early Education of Milarepa

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11/10/2012

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THE
EARLY
EDUCATION
OFMILAREPA*
Dan Martin
In
Tibetan historical literature, conflicting accounts are often placed side
by
side with
no
attempt to harmonize them. At best, the
author
will cast a
vote
for the one he believes
to
have greater authority. This has advantages
and
disadvantages for the modern interpreter,
who
often can
do
littlebetter. The problem
is
how
to
make a
way
through the differing traditions
to
come to a probable conclusion.
The
particular problem I set out
to
tackleis the historical identity of the pre-Marpa teachers
of
Milarepa. Most
of
them will remain
unknown
outside the Milarepa corpus and, as it turns
out,
only in two cases has it been possible to reach
any
kind of solution.
The
pursuit leads through the
border
areas of Ancient (Rnying-ma)
and
Reintroduced (Gsar-ma) Buddhism; of Buddhism (Chos)
and
Bon. While
we
are tracking
our phantom
snail-trail through some
of
the darkerswamps of Tibetan history, it
maybe
possible to stop from time
to
time toexamine some interesting sidelights, points of departure for
other
unexplored countries.
If
quicksands
and
snakepits abound, the more intrepidinvestigators will
be
all the more eager
to
get
on
with it.
THE
READING TEACHER
Milarepa was aged thirty-eight when he met his guru
Marpa.'
According
to
his
own
words, he
had
"about ten Lamas" before then.
2
The first wasundoubtedly his reading teacher K1u-brgyad-pa.
3
He appears to have been
an
ordinary village priest. His name signifies that he specialized in thepropitiation of the Eight Great Naga.-Milarepa's
own
grandfather was
an
exorcist versed in the rites of the Eight Great Naga,
and
it was an exorcisticexploit
of
his great-grandfather that explains the family name Mila.
5
Padma
Dkar-po
is
the only source which gives us a more informative account ofK1u-brgyad-pa under the name Lo-tsa-ba Glan-chung
or
Glan-lo.6 He tells
us
that Milarepa received from him, in addition
to
reading
and
writing,instruction in
Vajrap~i
according
to
the usage of Karmavajra.
7
Many
years later, Milarepa would
hand on
these same teachings to his
own
disciple Rechungpa.
8
About
Glan-chung, I can only say that Glan
is
a well
known
clan
(gdung-rus)
and
Rechungpa
is
said to have
had
a teacher called
*1
bear a heavy burden of debts to Dr. Michael
L.
Walter, Tibetan Language Cataloguer
at
Indiana University Library, who helped with sources
and
offered severalcomments resulting in substantial revisions in my final draft; and especially to Prof.
T.
J.
Norbu, who
had
immeasurable patience with
my
arguments
and
with me. Both
of
them will disagree with much that is said in this paper.
 
54
THE JOURNAL OF THE TIBET SOCIETYGlan-chung Dar-ma-tshul-khrims.
9
Whoever this person
may
have been,Milarepa was soon to leave him for much more dangerous studies.
THE
MAGIC
TEACHER
The story of Milarepa's involvement with black magic
is
well known. Inshort, Milarepa's immediate family was deprived of its inheritance and mistreated
by
his aunt and uncle. His mother persuaded him to seek vengeancethrough the black arts. So, Milarepa left his home in Lower Gung-thang(near the northern border of central Nepal) for the faraway valley ofYarlung and a hamlet called Skyor-po, where he met a teacher
of
theGnyags clan named G.yung-ston Khro-rgyal.
'O
Khro-rgyal wasn't at alleager to teach real coercive magic
(mthu
or
drag-sngags)
but
he was impressed
by
Milarepa's devotion. Milarepa finally said to him, ''I'm not justa cute kid
(gces-phrug)
learning magic for a pastime.
If
I go
back
homewithout learning magic, my aging mother will kill herself!" After verifyingMilarepa's story, Khro-rgyal said, "I have a magical method and coercivespell called the
Red and Black Faced Za (Gza'-gdong-dmar-nag).
However,I gave it to Doctor (Lha-rje) Snubs-chung
of
Phu-Iung in Snubs. In return,
he
gave me a recipe for hailmaking. We have an agreement that if anyonecomes to me for coercive magic, I am to refer them to
him.""
Later,Milarepa was to return to Khro-rgyal;
but
it
is
the second magic teacher
who
shows the greatest potential for historical investigation.
To
beginwith, I will restrict myself to what can be learned about him in the Milarepacorpus, the
Blue Annals
and the
Chos-'byung
of Padma Dkar-po.Available biographies
of
Milarepa give different forms for the name
ofthe
magic teacher. In the
Blue Annals,
he
is
called Doctor Hilt;n-chung.
12
By
Padma Dkar-po he is called Doctor Ye-shes-gzungs
of
Gtsang-rong.
'3
Mostoften, he
is
called Doctor Gnubs-chung,14
but
frequently he
is
said to beGnubs Khu-Iung-pa
or
even Gnubs Khu-Iung-pa Yon-tan-rgya-mtsho.
'5
Heis a well known figure in Nyingma history. In order to reach a more positive identification of this teacher, however,
it
will be necessary to resort toa study of lineages. Gnubs Khu-Iung-pa belonged to an important lineagefor the oral tradition
(bka'-ma)
of
the Nyingma which transmitted the
Guhyagarbha
l
and other teachings. The following reconstruction ofinformation supplied
by
Padma Dkar-po (p.
387)
and the
Blue Annals
(pp.
108-109)
will be important for this discussion, since it supplies a roughchronology and many of the persons involved will reappear later on.
[Se~
Figure
1.1
While Padma Dkar-po and the
Blue Annals
differ
on
the lineages passingthrough the two sons of Gnubs Khu-Iung-pa,
both
agree that the magicteacher was a spiritual (and, in other sources, physical) descendent of
Gnubs
Khu-Iung-pa. [See Figure
2.1
How can these conflicting reports
on
the identity of the magic teacher bereconciled7
Only
by
forming the hypothesis that the Doctor Gnubs-chung
of
the biographies was someone other
than
Gnubs Khu-Iung-pa. First of all,most members
of
the
Guhyagarbha
transmission are occasionally given the
 
D.
MARTIN
55
+r----VIMALAMITRA----,.
Snyafs Inanakumara
rSOg-PO
Dpal-gyi-ye-shesGnubs-cren Sangs-rgyas-ye-shes (d.
9627).
Gnubs Khu-Iung-pa (four 'sons')Yon-tan-rgya-mtsho •
(t
).
1)
Pa-gor Blong-chen-'phags
I
two
sons
--,
(S
BI·
, h )
t t
=
pa-gro on-rJe-p ags
2)
Ngan Yon-tan-mchog
Gnubs
Ye-shes-Gnubs Padma-
3)
G ( S )
Le
,.
db
1
ru
=
ru gs-pa J-sgron-margya-mtsho ang-rgya
4)
So Ye-shes-dbang-phyug
j
Ngab-mi (
=
NgabByang-chub-rgyalmtshanMyang Shes-rab-mchog
r--
(=
Bre-ston Khro-chung)
l
Myang Ye-;heS-'byung-gnasZur-po-che Shakya-'byung-gnas
(@
984-10457)17
t
Zur-chung Shes-rab-grags-pa
(=
Lha-rje Zur-chung)
(1014-1074)
Figure
I-Guhyagarbha
LineageBlue Annals
(p.
109)
Chos-'byung
(p.
389.5)
Gnubs
Khu-Iung-pa
~
Yon-tan-rgya-mtsho \Gnubs Ye-shes-rgya-mtsho Gnubs Padma-dbang-rgyal
~~
Doctor
HilJp.-chung 'lam-dpal
~
~
Milarepa Doctor Ye-shes-gzungs
.
~
Milarepa
Figure
2

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