A warrior is usually someone who fights others with strength and skill to show power. A reverse warrior is the opposite; instead of fighting others, they conquer their own minds within with an awakened heart, as a peaceful warrior to demonstrate compassion. Milarepa, the great poet, yogi, and saint of Tibet, is such a peaceful warrior.
Milarepa’s father died when he was only seven, and his family’s wealth was seized. Milarepa, his mother, and younger sister were living a miserable life. After years of suffering, Milarepa grew up and went to study black magic to take revenge. With his strong will and a powerful spell, he killed many people and caused disaster in his home village with hailstorms.
But the revenge didn’t bring happiness and peace to Milarepa. Filled with remorse, Milarepa was determined to seek salvation and later became a student of Marpa. After years of being humiliated and treated unjustly, Milarepa finally received initiation and instructions from Marpa. He then meditated in solitude for direct realization.
One day, when he was meditating, Milarepa fell asleep and had a dream of his village, in which he saw the bones of his mother lying in the ruins of his house. Missing his mother, he left Marpa and went back home. His vision in the dream was confirmed; his mother had died and his younger sister had become a beggar. Recognizing the impermanent nature of existence and the suffering caused by death, Milarepa vowed to reach ultimate enlightenment and to awaken for the benefit of self and all beings. For twelve continuous years, he meditated alone in a cave for twelve and at last achieved his goal.
As a fully realized yogi, Milarepa knew how hard it is to tame the mind. In his conversation with a wise demoness, he says:
“Your cling-to-Ego is greater than yourself;
Your emotions are stronger than yourself.
Your vicious will is far wickeder than yourself;
Your habitual-thought is more characteristic than yourself;
Your ceaseless mental activity is more frantic than yourself!”
Even though it’s difficult to deal with the mind, Milarepa also gives the gateway: cultivate compassion. He says: “I am the one who always adheres to kindness; With great compassion I have subdued all evil thoughts.” And according to Sogyal Rinpoche, compassion is the heart of an enlightened mind. The story of Milarepa teaches us that while mental power can be obtained through a strong will and a concentrated mind, taming the mind and attaining inner peace requires an awakened heart, a soft gentle heart filled with compassion.
To cultivate compassion, we can begin with loving kindness to ourselves. The following loving kindness meditation, which is presented by Thich Nhat Hanh, is a nice one to practice. We can recite the verses while sitting still.
May I be peaceful, happy, and light in body and spirit.
May I be safe and free from injury.
May I be free from anger, afflictions, fear, and anxiety.
May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.
May I be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in myself.
May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving, and delusion in myself.
May I know how to nourish the seeds of joy in myself every day.
May I be able to live fresh, solid, and free.
May I be free from attachment and aversion, but not be indifferent.
Compassion can be more powerful than we may realize. Be a peaceful warrior and let the direct experience reveal the capacity of a compassionate heart!
- The story and quotes of Milarepa are from Challenge from a Wise Demoness in Lotus Fragrance (Hong Kong: The Hong Kong Buddhist Association, 1992), 8.4 – 8.12, 8.48.
- Thich Nhat Hanh, Happiness – Essential Mindfulness Practices (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2009), 113-114.
- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying (New York: HarperOne, 2002), 205
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