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Tibet's Great Yogi, MILAREPA, a Biography from the Tibetan, edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz. $6.50, Oxford University Press.
Between the pages of this Life, and the mood in which it is written, lies great wisdom and insight, reflecting the deep devotion experienced by Evans-Wentz for Milarepa. It is as though Wentz had caught the spirit of Milarepa's life, lived some 900 years ago. The book is intersticed with magnificent psalms, hymns and Buddhic poetic gems.
A Mongolian like Confucius, Yetsün Milarepa (born approx. 1052 A.D.), was fifth in the great apostolic succession of Kargyupta teachers of Buddhism, and is venerated throughout Asia and the Occident by modern Truth seekers. Amid the climatic rigours of the snowy Himalayas, clad in thin cotton, subsisting on a handful of parched barley, roots and herbs, with occasional yak's milk supplied by some pious layman, endowed with yogic powers, including bodily flight through the air, Milarepa had little need of modern mechanical civilization. The worldly possessions left behind by Mahatma Gandhi are quite comparable to those left by Milarepa, whose chief worldly goods consisted of a bamboo staff, a robe and mantle (also of homespun cotton), a wooden bowl, a cup made of a human skull, a flint, and steel for providing fire, and a bone spoon.
His discovery that God-Realization in one lifetime is no miracle but attainable is of paramount importance to the least of mankind. Herein is found necessary courage for first steps upon the Path, no matter how long and arduous it may be, nor how many lives are required for the attainment. Milarepa's path, a short-cut to transcendence, will be trodden only by the very exceptional devotee with evolutionary growth adequate to reach the goal far in advance of more slowly evolving humanity as a whole.
In intensity his conversion and reversal parallels that of the Apostle Paul, and was just as drastic in its about-face from willful destruction of his enemies, to a life of archetype discipleship, discipline and blind devotion. His love for his Master, Marpa the Translator, equals that of Saint Francis of Assisi for Jesus, the Christ. No other disciple has put to the test of practical application more effectively the precepts of the great Teacher, Gautama the Buddha.
This gospel of the Kargyupta sect is a pure example of Buddhistic concepts and practices, and presents a vivid record of religious and philosophical culture in Tibet in the 11th and 12th centuries, at a time when in Europe the Dark Ages had extinguished the glory of Athens and Alexandria, and awaited awakening in the Renaissance.
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