Life Story of Milarepa

Tibet's Poet Saint

Ken Albertsen

Adapted from a translation of the Tibetan by Lobsang P. Lhalungpa

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Paperback - ISBN: 978-1-57733-239-8, 132 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, $14.95

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Milarepa was a Buddhist saint and a singer of spiritual poems who lived in Tibet some nine hundred years ago.

Milarepa’s story takes place along the high ridges of the Himalayas and is based in large part on true events in his life. Tibetans in particular, and others who are familiar with Tibetan Buddhism, place Milarepa in an exalted status, as both a folk hero, and a living Buddha. Milarepa’s teachings are the inspiration for the Diamond Way Karma Kagyü lineage, which is an unbroken succession of lamas (lama, meaning: spiritual teacher) dating from ancient times.

Milarepa’s life also offers insights into the spiritual richness of ancient Tibet, which included the so-called “white Bon” teachings. Some episodes may seem outlandish, but the reader/listener can decide whether those parts are true-to-life depictions, or whether they are embellishments that one might expect from centuries of re-telling a story of such epic proportions.

This text does not attempt to cover the myriad details of Milarepa’s life, nor does it try to explain the intricacies of Buddhist philosophy, but rather tells the unusual story of a uniquely spiritual man, and the many challenges in his life.


"Among the great realized yogis of Tibet nobody touched people through the centuries like 'Laughing Diamond,' Milarepa Shepa Dorje. Enjoy his words and find inner freedom!" Lama Ole Nydahl, author, Entering the Diamond Way and The Great Seal

"As a Russian who travels arount Tibet, researching Milarepa and Marpa, and such places where they roamed, I was very happy to read this version of Milarepa's life and found it very inspiring, concise, and touching --unlike more academic editions." Boris Erokhin /

"I really enjoyed the audio book. The story is so grounded in simple human reflection. It had a sobering effect on me to perceive of such a larger-than-life character such as Milarepa having such simple problems like me, and be perplexed like me. It made me laugh and let go in some ways." Gabriel Lopez, Seattle


Here Begins the Story of Milarepa

In the middle of autumn in the year of the water dragon (1052) under the star victorious of the eighth constellation in the 25th day of the moon, I was born. My father, Mila Banner of Wisdom was away in another province at the time harvesting barley. My mother, White Garland, sent him a letter which said, “I have given birth to a son. Come quickly to name him and let us celebrate his name day.”

When my father received the letter, he was filled with joy and said, “Marvelous, my son has his name already. Since his birth brings me such joy, I will name him Topa-ga” (with a long o, meaning, “glad to hear” in Tibetan).

I was raised with love and heard only gentle voices of support. I was a happy child. When I was four, my mother gave birth to a girl. Peta and I were cherished children, her with long silken tresses like spun gold and me with my long shiny hair of turquoise black.

When I was about seven, my father became ill and was nearing death. Relatives and friends converged on our homestead, some traveling for days from remote valleys nestled in the northern slopes of the Himalayan range overlooking the long Tsangpo valley. All came to honor my father’s passing, though some also harbored hopes of inheriting a portion of his wealth.

Father prepared a will and read to all who were assembled: “Since my son is still small, I entrust him and my property to his aunt and uncle until such time as he is old enough to take care of such affairs himself.” He went on to say:

Since I arrived in this region, I have done well for myself and my family. In the mountains we have horses, yaks and sheep. In the valley there is my field called “Fertile Triangle.” There is also my large house, under which we keep cows, goats and asses. In the attic loft we have our granary plus stores of copper, iron, silver and gold—as well as turquoise gems, plus precious fabrics and silk.

When my son is of age, let him marry his childhood sweetheart Zessay—at which time he can take possession of all that is his inheritance. During the interim period I have arranged for his aunt and uncle to take good care of him, and watch out for his sister’s and his mother’s well being. After I die, I will be watching all of you from the realm of the dead.

After making that proclamation, my father passed away.

A short while later, my aunt and uncle took firm control of all that was bequeathed. Very soon after that, they turned their back on promises they had made to my father. My sister, my mother and I became virtual slaves within a short time. During summers, we were required to work full-time for my uncle in the fields. During the winter when the freezing snows blew, we became full-time servants of my aunt, working long hours with wool. Our fingers became stiff with cold. When the brief days turned to night, we had to keep working by the dim light of yak butter candles.

Our food was meager and the work was strenuous. Our clothing deteriorated to tattered strips of cloth held together by bits of grass string. As we become increasingly malnourished, our once lovely tresses became matted and lice-ridden. Thus did we struggle to exist for many long years....

Blue Dolphin Publishing, 2010

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