Video Analysis

The films I have chosen to watch for my analysis are: The Lion’s Roar, Tulku, The Unmistaken Child, Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy, The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life, and The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation. Each of these films was very enjoyable to watch. I have only watched a few films pertaining to Buddhism in past classes, so this experience of finding documentaries and videos about Tibetan Buddhism was very exciting. I went into watching all of these films with a clear mind and not knowing what to expect. After a brief summary of each film, I will be discussing some of the things I learned that I felt I could not have learned through text, in turn expressing the power of film, and my evaluation of the structural aspects of the films and how they either helped or hindered the work overall.

The Lion’s Roar chronicles the life of the 16th Karmapa. The Karmapa is the oldest lineage of tulkus or reincarnated lamas. A Karmapa is the one who manifests enlightened activity and points out the great highway the Buddhas have followed to become enlightened. They have taken a vow to help others, which in turn means they have chosen to be reborn again and again. The 16th Karmapa visits the West, and later dies of cancer in Illinois, and his Western physician speaks of his unwavering kindness. His remains are sent back to the Rumtek monastery, where the funerary ceremonies are held. The former students of the 16th Karmapa then wait to read the letter left by him with instructions to aid them in finding and training the 17th Karmapa. Through watching this film, I had the chance to see how Westerners practice amongst a Tibetan Buddhist figure. I watched how the Western practitioners welcomed the Karmapa, and I was able to see two worlds collide. A specific line from the film stood out for me; “Once you have created something, it is something to decay.” I know this is a simple and general idea that we have discussed in class and is found in many Buddhist texts and readings, but through being able to watch how the life of the Karmapa was so valued by people in the east and the west, and then to witness the Western physician’s perspective on his death and then those at Rumtek, it helped clarify this statement even more. The Western view was expressed by the Karmapa’s physician in the United States. The Karmapa was a very special being that had worked to this moment of his passing. Through watching this film, I was able to see the west collide with the east, which is something that I cannot witness through a book. I think the structural aspects of the film such as the music and the narration helped the film. Without the narration, I felt I wouldn’t have understood the content and information of the film as well. The narrator helped describe the scene happening and explained the basic ideas and facts being portrayed.

Tulku is a documentary about five Western men, who in their childhoods were discovered and identified as tulkus. A tulku is a reincarnated Tibetan Buddhist master and high-ranking lama. Gesar Mukpo, an identified Western tulku himself, interviews each of the tulkus. Each tulku has different stories and outlooks on their experiences. The tulkus are from places such as Canada, San Francisco and Amsterdam. Tulku contains information that is most beneficially communicated through film rather than text. Through having Mukpo interview each of the Western tulkus and being able to watch it, was an experience that cannot occur through reading the interviews. There is a great deal of emotion in this film. Even though some chose to continue the path and study within the monastery, it does not mean they felt like it was the right decision. When each tulku is describing their situation and how they felt, the emotion, whether it was of happiness or discontent, was very apparent and added a different spectrum to their story that you cannot simply read. There is also a great deal of discussion between Mukpo and the other tulkus, which is much easier to express through film. The quality of this film was clear and professional. The music and audio again exuded professionalism and made the film flow. I found this film had me engaged as if I was watching a film in a theatre.

The Unmistaken Child is about Tenzin Gopa, the student of Lama Konchog, being given the responsibility to find the reincarnation of his master after his passing. This documentary shows Tenzin Gopa’s quest to find the definite reincarnation of the lama in the Tsum Valley. After a very long journey, Tenzin Gopa finds a young child from a small village, Phuntsok Rinpoche, who is deemed as the definite reincarnation of Lama Konchog. I find that each time I have learned or read about the reincarnation process, selection, and enthronement within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, it is a step-by-step list of the actions taken throughout the process. This allowed me to see inside the process and see the perspective of the person whose responsibility it is to find the reincarnated being. There were many scenes where Tenzin breaks down and expresses what he is feeling throughout his journey. Tenzin describes how he was scared about losing the lama, and then his new fear of “being the main person” and not trusting his feelings because he is “not a Buddha and the ordinary cannot judge and see the inner being.” Tenzin visits Lama Konchog’s old retreat where they had first met and he breaks down. The viewer also gets to see the relationship and attachment between Tenzin Gopa and the young child. This attachment is shown through body language, affection, and the physical emotion of the figures, and could not be shown through text. This film does not have a narrative voice-over. At first I found this shocking and I was nervous that I would not understand the premise of the documentary as well. There was text at the beginning giving key facts about who the lama was and his relationship with Tenzin. This was all you really needed to know, as the story simply unfolded easily without narration. In this film’s case, the text at the beginning acted as the narration. I was very surprised that narration was not needed at all, as through Tenzin telling his own stories, gave the exact information one needed to follow his quest. This film is my favorite documentary of them all. I felt I truly got an inside view of a very important process within Tibetan Buddhism. I felt as though I was on the journey with Tenzin, which allowed me to absorb more information than ever.

Tibet: A Buddhist Trilogy contains three parts and acts as three separate films. “Part I: The Dalai Lama, The Monasteries and the People”, was filmed in the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala. The first part of the trilogy observes the Dalai Lama in his role as Head of State and spiritual teacher. The film portrays the ways in which the inner knowledge of Tibetan Buddhist culture is developed in monasteries through intense debate and solitary meditation, and how it is communicated in the lay community. “Part II: Radiating the Fruit of Truth,” looks deep into the mystical world of monastic life. The film shows the lamas of a monastery in the village of Boudha, Nepal and the isolated mountain caves of the yogis, on retreat, building a cosmogram, and performing an ancient ritual called “Beautiful Ornament.” Through this ritual, it summons the wicked forces that might bring harm to the society and they are magically changed. “Part III: The Fields of the Senses” is set in Ladakh. Meditation on impermanence and the relationship between the mind, body and environment is highlighted. The monastery’s ritual for a death in the community is shown. I have always read about texts such as the Vinaya outlining the rules of monastic life. I have never gotten to view or learn about how the monastery works as a community, and how this community can help develop both culture and practice. In this case, film allows one to see how the monks interact together, rather than the rules they are supposed to follow. In Part III, there is a subtitled commentary based on the teachings of master Dudjom Rinpoche. I felt that this along with the footage allowed for the intent of their actions to be revealed to the viewer, making it clearer and also somewhat easier to understand.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: A Way of Life shows us three different figures dealing with death. One has already passed and we are shown how the Book of the Dead is used with funerary purpose, the second is learning about the book of the dead and the ideas within as he himself copes with death, and the third, a Buddhist who’s name is Stangin, is of very old age and has accepted death, feels he has fulfilled everything in his life and is simply waiting for it to come. The process of the use of the Book of the Dead is seen used in the home of the deceased by a Buddhist monk picked by the family, and read every 49 days. This film allowed me to see how this ancient text is used both in the East and in the West. I have always enjoyed learning about the “Bardo Thodol” and was fascinated with its use in a Western hospice. I felt that I could relate to the ritual more, as the Tibetan funerary process is completely foreign to me. This is something that cannot be portrayed through text. Leaonard Cohen is the narrator within this documentary, and I felt he spoke clearly and slowly. This was helpful during the scenes in which the monk is in the home of a deceased in a small village, as I needed a clear explanation. I found that he was a bit frustrating during the scenes of the Western hospice, as I wished to hear the figures speak more about their emotions to see the affects of the use of the “Bardo Thodol” in the West. The quality of the filming was very good and clear. The shifting between locations was very easy to follow, allowing the information to be easily communicated.

The Tibetan Book of the Dead: The Great Liberation is the companion film of the previous documentary mentioned. In this film, a monk reads the scripture of the “Bardo Thodol,” also known as the “Tibetan Book of the Dead,” to a dying man in a nearby village. He describes the intermediate state, or the bardo experience, and helps guide him into his next rebirth. This documentary showed the step-by-step process found in many texts and books of the use of the “Bardo Thodol” and the funerary process. This film took the information found in texts and brought it to life. As the monk is performing the process, added visuals act out the spirit along the journey to rebirth. This was helpful in portraying what actually happens to the spirit. The use of visuals aids the viewer in truly understanding what is happening to the deceased. Although this is helpful, I found that it made the film look a bit unprofessional. This is just an opinion. It was a bit confusing as the subject matter, information and footage felt very professional, and yet the added visuals felt as though they were cartoons. The narrative voice-over was very helpful in this film, as it helped outline the step-by-step process of the funerary process.

Overall, I feel as though through watching each of these films, I have noticed that film allows the emotional aspect of Tibetan Buddhist practices to be conveyed. Film changes the entire learning process. It allows the use of visuals mixed with narration to help give a text basis as well as a visual example of the information being learned. This was a great experience, as I am more of a visual learner.

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Dr. C. Pierce Salguero, “Chinese Buddhist Medicine, Global and Local Perspectives on a Tradition of Religious Healing”

The Buddhist Studies lecture that I attended outside of class was given by Dr. C. Pierce Salguero. The lecture was based on the topic of “Chinese Buddhist Medicine, Global and Local Perspectives on a Tradition of Religious Healing”. As Dr. Salguero is interested in Buddhism around the world as a vehicle of medical knowledge coming out of India and text coming out of Asia, this lecture was focused on explaining Dr. Salguero’s research of Buddhism’s role in medical exchange. Dr. Salguero looks at different strategies of reading the texts to determine how outside communities and countries are receiving and working with the Buddhist medical doctrines and perspectives.

Indo-European humoral medicine contains a similarity to Persian, Greek and Indian texts. I found it fascinating how ancient Greek text has a relationship with ancient Indian and Persian text. There was cross-cultural transmission through trade routes. There is still a difference between the discussed medicinal texts and classical Chinese medicine. There is a distinction between the two in the East and the West philosophically and through practice. Buddhism for the first time connects these two practices in a sort of dialogue.  The Silk Road and the Maritime Route (2nd century BCE-2nd century CE) allowed a movement of ideas to become more direct and fast. We see records of the movement of Buddhist medicine.

Pharmaceuticals, which consist of material objects being traded as well as ideas such as deities involved with medicine, are being traded along the routes by traveling practitioners. Medical texts also move along the trade routes. This is what Dr. Salguero is interested in. He is studying medical texts moving into China and how they are being translated by the Chinese.

The sources on Indian medicine preserved in Chinese consist of canonical sources such as the Vinaya texts, ritual manuals, travel logs, and treatises of curing diseases, and extra-canonical texts such as lists of lost texts in imperial biographies, texts on pharmaceuticals, narratives, historical accounts and miscellaneous writings.

The usage of specific Indian medical doctrines such as anatomy and physiology, humors, medicinal flavors, and disease causing demons, are seen in China. The ideas that disease is an inescapable suffering and nursing as merit making, are different than that of ancient Chinese thought. These texts are being translated into Chinese over 800 years. The Chinese texts differ in how the medical application is done, yet they still use Sanskrit terms. This could be a regional variation of tradition coming to China.

Pertaining to Dr. Salguero’s main interest in how we can read this Chinese material and reconstruct what is happening in India, as well as how the Chinese are receiving this material and working with it, he explains that we must ask a specific series of questions. What are the normative medical languages/models prior to Buddhism’s arrival? How does the religious medical marketplace work in China, and what are the social roles in the medical market place? As claiming titles and the environment of competition over words is important, who are the players in the market place, and what are the terms of debate? The most important “patient” in China is the state and the body of the emperor, as the primary importance of the emperor is to protect his own health and keep epidemics out. Groups that can achieve this receive the highest patronage.

Dr. Salguero shows us that the Buddhist translation strategy works as a sort of web. Any foreign medical term, idea, or practice, can be presented through Foreignizing Translation, or through Domesticating Translation. Foreignizing Translation presents the text in a unique and exotic way, marking it as a foreign language. It is unfamiliar to the reader. Domesticating Translation uses terminology that is normal and familiar to the reader, therefore making it less ‘foreign’. Between these two types of presentations, there is a structural component showing how cultural linguistic structures mutually interact and change. As Dr. Salguero states, through the medical knowledge spreading, it is not the text or idea that is staggering, but the intended audience.

This lecture opened my eyes to a new field in Buddhist studies. Dr. Salguero poses many interesting questions, questions I could never imagine trying to answer. His approach to the research in order to answer these questions is fascinating. As I had always known about the trade routes and that not only objects but also ideas traveled amongst them, I had still never thought about how big the role of translation mixed with social structure was within medicine. I cannot wait to read about his findings.

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blog #8 – Reading for March 23, 2012

As I was readings this week’s text “Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist teachings on Abstaining from Meat,” I found Shabkar’s arguments in favour of abstaining from meat to be very clear, as he continuously restates his points with examples from scriptures and teachings. The root message within the text is that “It is evil to take life” (20).

As Shabkar comments on excerpts from scriptures and teachings, repetition seemed to be constant within the reading. The main faults that were discussed exhibited meat as a source of many evils. Eating meat is contrary to the teachings. Shabkar highlights that for a bodhisattva, when one eats meat, the lust for it grows and compassion diminishes. When one eats meat, they are eating like a beast. In fact, there is discussion of one’s rebirth as a carnivorous beast. One can even go to hell and have hot molten metal poured in heir mouths. Every being is seen as one’s child or parent. So in turn, how can one eat their family member? Cannibalism is discussed a great deal. Shabkar discusses the small difference, which he argues there is not even a difference, between the animal killer and the meat eater. The meat eater is supporting the killing of animals. With no meat eater, there is no animal killer. The Buddha has defined eating meat as an evil action “that directly or indirectly brings harm to beings” (101).

Some schools of Buddhism say that the Buddha allowed his monastic students to eat meat if the animal was not killed for the purpose of providing food specifically for them. This rule was seen to be only directed toward the monastics and the lay people could eat whatever they desired. The act of eating meat was deemed karmically neutral. The act of killing or having something killed for you to eat was karmically negative. Shabkar attacks this idea with passion. Shabkar claims that the doctrine is being twisted to what a meat eater wants it to say. The Buddha only ate meat under certain circumstances to benefit another. Shabkar expresses that if one can live amongst animals, and both humans and animals are happy, the teachings are present (110).

Reading this text gave me new insight to a religious view if vegetarianism. I am familiar with modern views and reasoning to make this lifestyle choice, but never truly learned how it was present in Buddhism. I had a vague idea, but Shabkar outlined the very specific reasoning behind the stance of abstaining from meat, as he used scripture and interpretation to heed vegetarianism within Buddhism. As I am neither a practicing Buddhist nor vegetarian, my view that I am about to express could be completely off the wagon. But, after reading Shabkar’s views and arguments, I had a thought. Since Buddhists have taken vows not to kill, they should not support a livelihood that makes others kill.  Even if one does not have compassion for animals, this would help prevent others from performing bad actions and help keep all beings, as Shabkar stresses that animals are included in this bracket, at peace. So, I think that the power of each human being becoming vegetarian releases the most intense suffering of animals, and they could possibly finally reach the same state as that of a human. As Shabkar touches upon, animals are beings that have the same Buddha nature as all humans.

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blog #7 – Reading for March 9, 2012

We have focused a lot on the role of songs and dreams while discussing the texts of Milarepa and Shabkar. They are used as tools to transmit knowledge, and express emotion. Within Shabkar’s story, his visions play a big role and can be interpreted to have great meaning, as I touched upon in my previous blog entry. His songs teach those he meets, which is very common in the last portion of the book, as pilgrimage is heavily emphasized.

In chapter twelve, the amount of visions and dreams is not as prominent as was previously throughout Shabkar’s journey. Shabkar states, “Mystical visions are like the allure of a beautiful woman: don’t be attached to them.” This highlights a new role of dreams and visions within the story that we haven’t really seen yet. I found that this was a bit of a turning point. We have discussed the important role of dreams and visions within the story in class and within the blogs. Now, Shabkar is suggesting that like all things within this life, visions and dreams have a limit in their ability to help an individual to abandon attachment and come to terms with impermanence. I know that the idea of attachment and impermanence are foundational concepts within Buddhism and nothing is immune to the role of impermanence, but I found this to be very interesting as dreams and visions played such a big part within Shabkar’s journey.

In the last two chapters of the book, Shabkar embraces his role of the teacher and his visions and dreams continue to dwindle. Shabkar dreams he obtains great and magnificent powers, which he uses to benefit the Tibetan people. This symbolizes his new adoption of the role of teacher throughout his journey. I found that his dreams earlier throughout the story always had meaning pertaining to his own journey to enlightenment. Now it seems that his dream is focused on benefitting others and spreading the knowledge he received from his previous dreams and his own journey. He is spreading and teaching the word of the Buddha to sentient beings within the villages, placing on them great knowledge and a pure way of life.

Shabkar has his very last dream in the last chapter of the book. He dreams of his mother as she tells him she is in the Western Buddhafield. Within this chapter, Shabkar states that dreams are simply illusions. Which, links to the point made in the twelfth chapter. Although Shabkar states that dreams are illusions, it does not mean that he could not apply the wisdom and messages he received from them to his journey to enlightenment, which is exactly what he did. The visions and dreams that Shabkar experiences, aid his spiritual practice. Although they are “illusions,” Shabkar applies his new knowledge from the visions to his practices in reality.

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blog #6 – Reading for March 2, 2012

This week I decided to tackle the topic of landscape and setting within The Life of Shabkar. The landscape seems to have an effect on Shabkar’s practice and is a major theme within the story. With the presentation of the photos and description of where Shabkar was from and traveled seen in lecture, it helped me understand the story and Shabkar’s experience a little more. While reading, I took note of the question discussed in class about how the setting shaped the form of religion described in The Life of Milarepa, and applied to Shabkar’s story.

The landscape itself offers opportunity for, and shapes, this practice, holding many solitary and propitious sites which cultivate both Dharmic development and the process of important dreams, which is a major factor in Shabkar’s experience.

The landscape affects Shabkar’s travels and activities. For example, the black magic cave he enters in chapter five, allows him to show resilience and overcome obstacle. Not only does the mountainous landscape allow meditation in caves, but also the story of Shabkar emphasizes the idea that certain locations hold special significance. Shabkar makes multiple remarks throughout the story linking practice to site. He stresses the importance of the “golden mountain” with great experience in chapter three. Within The Life of Shabkar, it seems like his practice requires less effort at favorable sites for meditation or practice.

As certain locations are stressed to have specific significance, pilgrimage is very important within the story. Shabkar performs it himself, as well as creates sites for future pilgrimage on his extraordinary journey.

Mountains are very important within the story. Shabkar talks about the golden mountain as stated above, but in chapter ten he also “heaven and earth interpenetrate on the mountain.” This seems to unify a spiritual aspect of practice, and the actual location of where it is being done.

I found that in many of Shabkar’s dreams, landscape played a role in the significance and meaning behind them. Shabkar dreamt of the crystal mountain, with steps of blue sapphire, the sun’s rays hit the mountain and shone light down into the valley. This dream highlights both the mountain but also explains the sunlight hitting the landscape. The crystal mountain symbolizes the teaching of Vajrayana, the sun represents his spiritual father, the steps symbolize his gradual ascent to the path and stages, and the light represents his compassion.

Shabkar’s story seemed to have multiple rainbows, as he had many visions in the sky. He would describe how the rainbows looked amongst the landscape. It seemed the rainbows linked the physical setting where the practice and visions were taking place with a more spiritual realm.

Another way in which landscape and setting is described or shown within the story is each interaction Shabkar has with nature. Shabkar talks to flowers and shares songs with a bee throughout his travels and practices. Shabkar is literally interacting with his surroundings and the nature around him.

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blog #5 – Reading for February 17, 2012

Shabkar and Milarepa have many things in common. Shabkar has even been titled as a sort of  “second Milarepa”. He is seen as the greatest yogi (after Milarepa) to obtain enlightenment in one lifetime. While reading The Life of Shabkar, I found many similar factors within the story. This blog will point out these factors, and express the similarities as well as differences between The Life of Shabkar and The Life of Milarepa.

The first similarity that struck me while reading Shabkar’s autobiography was the importance of hearing life stories. In both The Life of Shabkar and The Life of Milarepa, many people beg them to speak of their experiences and practices throughout their lives. It is used as a learning tool and seen as important in both stories.

Just as dreams and songs were important in Milarepa’s story, they continue to play an important role in Shabkar’s life. Shabkar also uses song just as Milarepa did to teach those he meets as well as express his emotion of sadness, longing, or happiness. In both stories, song can also act as a meditation experience for both yogis. Dreams act as a form of prophecy and a mode of transmitting knowledge within both stories. Both Milarepa and Shabkar have their dreams interpreted and learn about the path in which they are on.

The Dharma King is just as enamored with Shabkar as Marpa is with Milarepa. Both Marpa and the Dharma King look at the figures, and even refer to them, as their sons.  Both Milarepa and Shabkar have a wise female figure caring for them. Each of these women happen to be the wives of their lama teachers.

Just like Milarepa, Shabkar expresses the importance of attaining the transmission of knowledge and teaching through teachers. Meditation as a hermit and through retreats to caves holds great importance within both Milarepa’s and Shabkar’s experiences and paths to enlightenment and buddhahood in one lifetime. Once they have done this for a long time, they must feel ready to teach and practice to benefit all others.

Having listed all of these similarities in both of the stories, I also found some differences between the two as well. Although the role of the mother is found in both stories, they differ completely. Milarepa’s mother forces her son to practice black magic and pursue the rivalry between his aunt and uncle, as well as scare, and even kill the villagers. She also tends to be plunged in self-pity throughout the entire story and does not practice at all. Shabkar’s mother is the direct opposite of Milarepa’s mother. She has practiced her entire life and encourages Shabkar to practice as well. There is a particular event in the story when his mother and a relative disagree. Rather than lashing out with violence or magic, Shabkar tries to work out the disagreement and his mother shows no signs of hostility. Although there is a strong difference between the two mother figures, both do not want their sons to leave. Although Shabkar’s mother has always wished for him to practice, she still wants him to marry, and when le leaves, wishes for him to return to her. Both stories also have distraught sister characters, as both feel they need their brothers to stay in order for their mothers to rely on them less throughout old age.

Both Shabkar and Milarepa work through hardships, obstacles, and choose to lead an aesthetic form of meditative practice as hermits in caves. Although Shabkar references the life of Milarepa multiple times as a guide along his own path (he is also advised to do so by teachers along his journey), within the story it seems he practices very differently. It seems that Shabkar does not struggle as much as Milarepa. Although he has to build a mud hut for his lama, it does not seem to compare to the physical strife Milarepa had to go through while building the towers for Marpa. I also noticed that Shabkar has a lot of contact with people while on retreat and never goes hungry, unlike the starving hermit, Milarepa. Milarepa was born into hardship as his family is betrayed while Shabkar was born into moderate wealth and good karma from his past lives.

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blog #4 – Reading for February 10, 2012

As I read the first half of The Life of Milarepa, I made a list of the ways in which Milarepa himself seems to be transferred knowledge. I noticed that through the instruction of a teacher, dreams, and practicing meditation, Milarepa learned and was set on the path to buddhahood in a single lifetime. I found the representation of learning through instruction and the practice of meditation to be understandable and obvious as they hold great importance in the practice of Buddhism, but I found knowledge through dreams to be quite interesting. Milarepa seems to have dreams and interprets them to try and find the true meaning. He is transmitted the knowledge to help guide him along the path, as they act as a form of prophecy. On pg. 74 the lady gives Milarepa a single die and he holds it up to his head to receive blessings. I found this to be a form of knowledge being transmitted as it prompted him to reading the message to go on to Marpa. This initiated the idea of physical transmittance of knowledge.  Another way this is shown is when Milarepa drinks from the skull cup which Marpa has given him with the blessings of his mental powers. Milarepa is literally drinking the knowledge of his teacher.

As I read the second half of the book, Milarepa is still learning but is seen to be teaching others around him. He feels the need to still perform ascetic meditation practices and live as a hermit, but also practice bodhicitta and benefit others. I found that songs are a permanent part of the text. Milarepa continuously sings to those he meets to explain the dharma and his feelings. Each time the listener is gaining knowledge of the dharma. The idea of gaining from our enemies, like in The Words of My Perfect Teacher, is highlighted within the second half of the book. Milarepa explains the practice of patience through our enemies. The role of the enemy, I find, also acts as a sort of template of what not to do as well.

The most important sources of knowledge within the story are the instructions of the teacher, in Milarepa’s case lama Marpa, and meditational practices. Without the guidance of Marpa, Milarepa would have continuously been on the wrong path. Marpa helped guide him in the practice of meditation. Meditation is very important to Milarepa. He starves himself and does not clothe himself in order to not disrupt his practice. Whenever he isn’t meditating, he continuously feels he should be.

“Religion” can be defined as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman action.  It usually involves devotional and ritual observances, and often contains a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. I find the representation of religion within this text fits this general definition of “religion”. This story portrays religion as an all-encompassing factor within a practitioner’s life. Milarepa continuously explains the importance of his actions to Peta, as she finds them to be extreme. There is no halfway point in Milarepa’s view of Buddhism. You cannot give a feeble attempt, but you must fully commit to the practices of Buddhism and dharma.

Knowledge is gained through pure devotion and strict practice, which is exactly how Milarepa depicts the idea of “religion”. Through truly devoting one’s self to the practice of Buddhism mentally, spiritually and physically, knowledge seems to come hand in hand with true devotion. Milarepa shows that the moral code and the practices of Buddhism truly become a part of him as they govern each thought he has and his entire lifestyle. As he completely embodies this notion of what true Tibetan Buddhism is, it seems to almost literally become a part of him as he gains knowledge through dreams and the experiences while meditating.

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