Then she said, “Dear teacher, I have done nothing at all to prepare for the next life. Now I’m going to do so. Please, out of your great compassion, take care of me and give me meditation instruction.”
Milarepa was delighted and replied, “If you practice the Dharma sincerely, in my tradition, you don’t need to change your name. One awakens with a full head of hair. You don’t have to cut your hair or make other changes.”
He sang this song with four examples and five points about meditation and mind practice:
Ah, Lady Paldarboom
Fortunate and devoted student,
Take the sky as an example,
Practice without any sense of limit or position.
Take the sun and moon as examples,
Practice without any sense of clarity or distortion.
Take this mountain as an example,
Practice without any sense of movement or change.
Take the great ocean as an example,
Practice without any sense of depth or surface.
To bring out mind,
Practice without any doubt or hesitation.
Showing her how to sit and direct her mind, he set her to practice.
She had good experiences in her meditation and presented this song
to clear away doubts and impediments.
Ah, Treasured Lord,
Perfect expression of awakened form,
I was happy practicing with the sky,
But a little uneasy about bringing clouds into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with clouds.
I was happy practicing with the sun and moon,
But a little uneasy about bringing stars and planets into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with stars and planets.
I was happy to practice with the mountain,
But a little uneasy about bringing in grass and trees.
Please give me instruction on practicing with grass and trees.
I was happy practicing with the ocean,
But a little uneasy about bringing waves into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with waves.
I was happy to practice with mind,
But a little uneasy about bringing thoughts into the practice.
Please give me instruction on practicing with thoughts.
Milarepa thought that her practice was productive and was delighted.
In response to her request, he sang this song about removing
impediments and enhancing practice:
Ah, Lady Paldarboom,
Listen, fortunate and devoted student,
If you are happy practicing with the sky,
Clouds are the sky’s magical creations.
Be the sky itself.
If you are happy practicing with the sun and moon,
Planets and stars are their magical creations.
Be the sun and moon.
If you are happy practicing with the mountain,
Grass and trees are the mountain’s magical creations.
Be the mountain itself.
If you are happy practicing with the ocean,
Waves are the ocean’s magical creations.
Be the ocean itself.
If you are happy practicing with mind,
Thoughts are the mind’s magical creations.
Be mind itself.
When she practiced with these instructions, she came to a
clear understanding of the nature of pure being. Later, she
went to the dakini realms in her own body, accompanied by
the sounds of cymbals.
From the chapter of Milarepa’s Hundred Thousand Songs that
describes his meeting with the Lady Paldarboom.
Milarepa lived in the 11th and 12th centuries and was totally steeped in a mythic culture. His path of practice was emulating past perfection: following his guru who followed his guru. But even if you’re raised in a mythic culture and accustomed to emulating past perfection, at some point you have to make the practice your own, to internalize it: what does it actually mean to me? That’s what Milarepa did: when he’d had his formal training, he went off and practiced in the mountains. People would come to him to ask about something, and he would say, “here’s what it means to me”.
A lot of Milarepa’s songs are very personal, non-standard interpretations of traditional Buddhist material. And that’s why his songs have been so valued in the Tibetan tradition: they are not particularly scholastic, but they are very alive because Milarepa was just saying, “OK, you asked me about this, here is what I have experienced.” In this song, a woman came along and asked Milarepa how to meditate. Milarepa’s “Song to Lady Paldarboom” is the result. It’s all really alive — spontaneous and natural.