The One Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa
Translated and Annotated by Garma C. C. Chang
2 Vols. illus. $20.00. University Books, New Hyde Park, N.Y.
Thus sang the Jetsun Milarepa, Tibet's most famous yogi, who persevered through great austerities and trials until he gained the priceless "Pearl of Realization," as Baba calls it, in the snowy fastnesses of his native Tibet. Indeed, almost 900 years later, his fame has spread to the West as one of the genuine illumined souls whose lives we can study at close hand through his own "Hundred Thousand Songs" or Mila Grubum, perhaps the most revered and famous masterpiece of Tibetan literature. It is now available for the first time in a complete English translation by the Chinese scholar, Garma Chang.
Translating the colloquial Tibetan of 900 years ago with all its esoteric Tantric terms, was not easy; to bring through some of the joy and mystic exuberance, wit and wisdom of Milarepa's sermon-songs is a real accomplishment. Milarepa was in the habit of treating his disciples and devotees, neighbors and enemies, demons and fairies, to a spontaneous lesson song in which he goes right to the spiritual point, abjuring dogma, doggerel or debate. Each "song" is a response to a particular audience and a particular incident in his life. For this reason, the biography ‘Tibet’s Great Yogi, Milarepa,’ edited by W. Y. Evans-Wentz, is the perfect reading accompaniment to the songs.
Mr. Chang has divided the story-songs into those showing Milarepa's conversion of demons, his dealing with human beings, and a miscellaneous group.
Milarepa reminds us of Sri Chaitanya or St. Francis in his joy in nature, his stress on humility, poverty and obedience to the Guru. Almost every song begins with a salutation to the Guru, "Father Guru, who conquered the Four Demons, I bow to you, Marpa the Translator," or "I bow down to all Gurus." He was of the "Whispered Lineage'—that is, one who has been enlightened directly by his Guru, as his Guru was before him.
Realization through experience is stressed above book learning or intellectual debate, a familiar theme to followers of Meher Baba. Milarepa gives us, in poetic language, the essence of his own spiritual realizations, couched in the rich and varied language and metaphor of Tantric Buddhism. To help the reader, Mr. Chang has provided invaluable footnotes and a good introduction. The Hundred Thousand Songs are destined for a place in the world's library of great mystical literature. This edition is handsomely illustrated, bound, and boxed, and suffers only from poor proofreading.