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The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa

Video still from The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa seminar, 1970.

The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa

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“The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa” was the second seminar Chogyam Trungpa ever taught in North America, only a few months after his arrival in 1970. To a strikingly young and inquisitive audience at Tail of the Tiger in Vermont, he offered contemporary commentary on the text by the legendary Tibetan yogi-poet and Kagyu lineage holder, Milarepa. This seminar would become the basis for half of Trungpa Rinpoche’s book, Milarepa: Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi.

In the opening lecture, he describes the significance of the student-guru relationship central to the Kagyu lineage. Each of the subsequent twelve talks is about a particular song and the greater story of the students or manifesting deities encountering Milarepa. But Chogyam Trungpa isn’t purely retelling colorful tales from medieval Tibet; he masterfully translates the core teachings from Milarepa’s poetry for the modern-day practitioner facing their own obstacles.

Trungpa Rinpoche presents Milarepa as evergreen inspiration. After hitting karmic rock bottom by committing mass-murder using black magic, Milarepa’s remorse led him to set out on the dharmic path. He became incredibly disciplined in his meditation practice and devotion, spending most of his life in cave retreats wearing only a thin cotton robe and sometimes eating nothing but nettles. Beyond eventually achieving realization himself, he trained many renowned yogis, the foremost being his successor, Gampopa. In this seminar, Chogyam Trungpa emphasizes that Milarepa’s life is a reminder that anyone is worthy to pursue the spiritual path and has the potential of enlightenment through meditative discipline and devotion in this lifetime.

“And Milarepa was able to move, and his wisdom was able to move [into] more than Tibetan caves. He’s managed to arrive in the United States now. He is really here. And this kind of preciseness, and this kind of positive warrior attitude must be taken. … And I’m sure we could really practice Milarepa-like actions *anywhere*. Pull up your socks!”

Listen to the full talk: Lineage and Devotion

The 100,000 Songs of Milarepa Playlist

(Karme Choling, Vermont, 1970)


Lief, Judy. 2017. Editor’s Introduction to Milarepa: Lessons from the Life and Songs of Tibet’s Great Yogi by Chogyam Trungpa. Boulder: Shambhala Publications