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Milarepa of Tibet

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Jetsun Milarepa

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Jetsun Milarepa

Jetsun Milarepa was a famous saint who is still revered among all four lineages in Tibet. However, this was not always the case. Jetsun's life was full of intrigue, disaster, and amazing feats. Adam Yauch saw similarities in his own life when he heard Milarepa's tale of how Jetsun transformed from an avenging black magician into a supremely powerful yogi, thus pointing the way to self-knowledge and liberation. Hanging out with Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons on the Licensed to Ill tour was not exactly the same as practicing black magic, but both of those paths were seen as potentially self-destructive.

As the story goes, in approximately the year 1060 Milarepa sought vengeance on unscrupulous relatives for mistreating his mother and sister. Having been trained in sorcery, he commanded a rain of scorpions, snakes, and lizards to attack the villains. But when his teacher rebuked him for his evil deeds, Milarepa turned his back on black magic in order to seek mystic truth. He retreated to a cave where, after years of intense meditation, he acquired the power to change his body into any shape and fly across the sky like a bird. But most important, he achieved the greatest victory of all: mastery over his own self.

For the sake of not oversimplifying the man's biography, Milarepa's spiritual story is divided into fifteen sections. The first tells of how he was born and of his family history. It turns out that his father was a trader in wool and had become wealthy by the standards of the time when his wife bore a son. It is interesting to note that at the time when Licensed to Ill was on top of the pop charts, it was often brought up by the media that Adam Yauch was the son of a "well-to-do" family.

The second section deals with Milarepa's study of black magic, how he destroyed the house of his aunt and uncle and sent hail into the valley. The third treats how Jetsun met the genuine Dharma. The fourth covers how Jetsun practiced strictly according to his master's word. The fifth concerns the initiations Milarepa received and his yidam practice, including how the deities directly appeared to him. The sixth chapter deals with his first retreat, where he stayed for eleven months. The seventh shows how Jetsun came out of retreat, met Marpa for the last time, and returned to his home country. The eighth tells how Jetsun came home, experienced the suffering of having lost his parents and his family, and then traveled White Horse Tooth Rock Cave to practice. The ninth chapter covers the various things in which he engaged. One of the things Milarepa is best known for was the enlightening music he shared with people after his transformation.

Inspired by Jetsun's story, Erin Potts and Adam Yauch selected to call their organization the "Milarepa Fund." Following the release of Ill Communication (1994), the two set out to bring public awareness to the human rights violations going on in China . With the success of four Tibetan Freedom Concerts under their belts, the Milarepa Fund continues to use a combination of song and sincerity to carry the message of nonviolence around the world today.

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