Saturday, March 21, 2020


I hope that confinement has been a positive experience for you all. We get a little glimpse of what the debilitated or prisoners live with on a daily basis. Probably good for our spiritual development to have our choices limited by fate from time to time, even in this relatively limited way.

Milarepa thangka
In the tradition of Tibetan buddhism (I underwent a minor initiation with Kalu Rinpoche (1905-1989) in the 1970's), long periods of confinement in caves were a normal teaching tool.

Milarepa was a murderer who turned to buddhism and became a student of the great sage Marpa the translator. Milarepa's father died when Milarepa was seven and he was placed under the care of his aunt and uncle.

His uncle and aunt stole his parents' fortune so, on the advice of his mother,  Milarepa started practicing bon sorcery and killed them. Remorse for his actions caused Milarepa to seek out a teacher.

Marpa had him build a stone tower. It was an enormous task and when it was finished Marpa had it destroyed. This happened again and again, three times. Milarepa almost went mad in the endeavor. Finally he built a tower at Lhodrag, which was allowed to stand, it still exists today.

Marpa explained that Milarepa was burning off negative karma. This process was intended “to purify the negativity of his past actions, so that Milarepa could begin his studies with fewer obstacles.”

He was sent to mountain caves to meditate for years at a time and learned many tantric yoga techniques. Milarepa became a bona fide buddha, transitioning from murder to enlightenment in a single lifetime. Milarepa was a famous singer and poet and was said to have written over a hundred thousand songs.

Many other tantric yogis were also confined in their training to cells and caves including the wonderful teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987) who talks about it in his excellent book, The Myth of Freedom.

So maybe this strange time will give us all an opportunity to work on our stuff. Peace. Towards enlightenment.


Sandra Kinsler said...

I studied with Chogyam Trungpa for about a decade before his death and spent much of my time in the Los Angeles sangha.

My name is Dagme Lhakthong, bestowed on my by Osel Tendzin. It means "Egoless Insight" and is my bane and boon. I am grateful for his insight, but he was also the reason I left the sangha.

I also have the privilege of studying with Ana Pema Chodron. I was able to do a 30-day silent retreat at the Rocky Mountain Dharma Center. Meditation is a blessing. There is also value in understanding character defects and turning them over to our personal quiet time. Daily meditation makes it possible for me to move through my life with grace, less distraction and unfettered attention.

Blue Heron said...

I also was given a name but feel weird talking about it. I was sort of a fly in buddhist, grabbed what I could and integrated what I could. All respect to you.

Ken Seals said...

Just one more example of these myth religions destroying peoples spirit and freedom.

Blue Heron said...

Fair enough. But buddhism is pretty lax on the ritual and deity thing, more about uncovering self.

Sandra Kinsler said...

I'm grateful for the name I was given. It provided insight into the challenges I would face. It turned out to be among the most beneficial things anyone has ever told me. Thankfully I didn't get a name like Turquoise Moon Lake as a sangha-mate received. Don't know what I would have done with that one.

Robert, research your name. It could be more meaningful than you might know.

BTW just saw the Blue Heron fly by again. Majestic fish thief.

Blue Heron said...

Oh I got a great name from Kalu, in fact other people at the initiation were somewhat jealous. I just think about what Trungpa wrote in Cutting through Spiritual Materialism, about being wary of thinking that you have credentials of any kind. I will discuss my name with you privately.