Buddhadharma: The Practitioner's Quarterly

Visualizing a Pure and Perfect World

WHEN RECHUNGPA, a student of the eminent Tibetan yogi Milarepa, was returning home from his studies in India, his master went out to meet him. Along the way it started to rain, and Rechungpa lost sight of his guru in the wind and fog. He could hear the master singing through the storm but couldn’t see him. When Rechungpa finally caught sight of Milarepa, he was sheltering from the rain inside a yak horn, singing and laughing. As mystifying as that feat was, the part that really blew Rechungpa’s mind was that Milarepa fit within the yak horn without making his body smaller or the yak horn bigger. To us, as well, the baffling thing about this story is not the possibility of magic—which is a given in so many stories—but the logical dissonance of it. We can’t picture this in our mind’s eye. We may try again and again to envision it, but it breaks the boundaries of our conceptual framework.

Gendun Chopel, an early twentieth-century monk and scholar, maintained that Milarepa wasn’t the one toying with reality. Rather, he said, we ordinary, confused people are the real magicians. Thewe make it real by continually transforming the spurious phenomena of our world into a concrete reality. By defying the laws of our perceived “real world,” Milarepa was revealing the true nature of reality.

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