Marpa, Milarepa’s guru, is often exemplified as an enlightened master who integrated his Buddhist practice as a lay person. He was a family man and owned property, was a translator and lineage holder, and had disciples. What is sometimes overlooked in presenting a clear and descriptive picture of the life of Marpa is that he endured great hardship in order to study, realize, and stabilize his enlightenment. Indeed, we are not insinuating that today’s practitioners must follow the example of Marpa’s hardships and journeys. But we must look closely at the commitment and effort that is required in all Mastery.
Marpa sold all his possessions except one parcel of property in order to make his first journey from Tibet to India and seek his Masters, receive teachings, and practice. This first arduous journey took 12 years. His second journey to India, leaving behind family, business and friends, took 6 years, while his third and final journey to India took 3 years. Moreover, while living with his wife and family he went regularly into solitary retreat for years at a time, leaving the concerns of family and business to others.
Marpa invested a great amount of personal time and resources in order to seek and practice the profound Buddhist teachings. Of course, he lived within an environment and culture that supported his efforts. Or perhaps a better picture is that he created one. Marpa, as Gandhi might say, became the solution.
The point of bringing this aspect of Marpa’s life to light is to emphasize that there is a great commitment and effort involved in the process of cultivating the path of enlightenment in relation to self, culture, and nature. The spiritual masters of all traditions agree that renunciation, meditation, and realization in solitude are three of the essential keys in unlocking the door of conscious enlightenment – freedom from fear, anger, and confusion. Cultivating and stabilizing an altruistic transformative spirituality is possible. (written by Venerable Ani Drubgyudma)