The great yogi Milarepa (1052-1135) was born in the province of Gungthang in western Tibet, as the son of the wealthy landlord, Mila Sherab Gyaltsen. But at age seven, Milarepa’s father contracted a deadly disease and passed away after entrusting all the family’s possessions to Milarepa’s aunt and uncle who were asked to take care of the widow and children, and to return these properties to Milarepa and his sister when Milarepa reached majority.
However, upon his father’s death, Milarepa’s vicious aunt and uncle took control of the property, and made his mother, sister and himself work as slaves on the farm, without any compensation. As Milarepa approached adulthood, not only did his aunt and uncle deny his rights to the property, they claimed that these properties were repayment of debts owed by Milarepa’s late father. Outraged and humiliated, Milarepa’s mother sent him to learn powerful black magic to punish the traitors.
Milarepa soon mastered the dark power of destruction and killed many innocent people in his vengeful acts. The regret and remorse he felt after all these misdeeds prompted him to seek a righteous master to help purify the negative karmic afflictions created. Milarepa met a Nyingmapa master, Lama Rongtön, who gave him teachings on Dzogchen. But as Lama Rongtön saw Milarepa’s past affinity with Marpa, he suggested Milarepa seek the guidance of Marpa who should be able to help him on his path to liberation.
In an effort to purify Milarepa’s negative karma, the great master Marpa put Milarepa through a series of difficult tasks before giving him any proper instruction on practice. Milarepa single-handedly built one round building in the east, one building in the shape of a half-moon in the west, a triangular building in the north, and a square building in the south. But before any one of them was totally completed, Marpa ordered it be demolished and another to be built in another direction. Finally, after Milarepa completed the construction of another nine-storey building according to Marpa’s instructions, Marpa officially began to impart all the teachings to Milarepa, whom he considered as his heart-son.
Milarepa practiced with deep-rooted devotion, great renunciation, and willingness to endure hardship. He became the foremost wandering yogi of his time and attained enlightenment in one lifetime. Gampopa and Rechungpa were two of his most renowned disciples, the former was likened to the sun, and the latter, to the moon. Gampopa was the chosen one to continue the lineage after Milarepa.