The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa: RechungpaÂ’s Repentance
with Harald Dienes
Milarepa Day will be observed on Sunday 17 March this year. On Tuesdays 5 and 12 March we will continue our annual class on the life and teachings of Milarepa with a commentary of Trungpa Rinpoche on Song 39 "Rechungpa’s Repentance” from the book The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa. We will be listening to the Vidyadhara’s commentary for half an hour and then have a discussion afterwards.
This song describes how Rechungpa’s pride in his intellectual understanding gained from books makes him an unsuitable vessel to hear the direct oral instructions from Milarepa. When Milarepa sends him to fetch some water, he gets fascinated by the seductive quality of the dakinis (feminine principle) appearing as the frolicking of wild asses. When he returns he finds that Milarepa has burnt all his beloved books.
In the commentary the Vidyadhara points out that the wild ass (sometimes referred to as donkey or mule) represents the female protector principle. (Vetali who commands the mamos is often depicted as riding on a donkey) The protectors wake us up in the form of a sudden glimpse of awareness when we get distracted or we want to withdraw into our comfort zone. That glimpse needs no deliberate effort if we are open and it comes to us as a sudden reminder.
He also discusses the significance of Kalachakra, which is one of the five lineages the Sakyong had asked us to uphold in Shambhala. Kalachakra means the ”wheel of time“ and symbolizes the transcending of time in meditation. Being present means being in the now but our dualistic perception of now turns that into dwelling on a concept. When we go beyond clinging to nowness then we reach into the fourth moment where the concept of time is not operating. This approach is emphasized in the mahamudra tradition.
The Vidyadhara cautions that students can become too fascinated by the stillness of perfect shamatha as it does not bring wisdom and freedom but neither do wandering mind and mental dullness. The objective of meditation is not primarily to calm the mind or enter into a state of trance but to continuously open and embrace the arising and ceasing of each thought, including moments of distraction and dullness.
He also warns about the danger of mistaking concepts that we use (emptiness, protectors, or Basic Goodness) with actual experience, which is beyond words. Labels can be misleading when we have an intellectual understanding and then cut off any deeper experience where words do not go.
Finally there is an intriguing discussion on the literal and symbolic meaning of Milarepa’s songs and terms like dakinis, deities and chakras.
Course materials: The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa (Shambhala Dragon Edition); a scanned copy of chapter/song 39 “Rechungpa’s Repentance” will be provided; an edited transcript of Trungpa Rinpoche’s commentary on this song
We will be singing the song “Ultimate View, Meditation, Conduct and Fruition” the last of Milarepa’s song in chapter 39 of the book using the translation of Jim Scott under the direction of Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso; an MP3 recording of the song
If you would like to receive the course materials before the first class please register and pay the course fee online and then e-mail Harald Dienes.
Note: If you cannot afford to pay the full program fee, see our generosity policy.
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