Milarepa’s Female Disciples: Rechungma’s Song of “Fifteen Realisations”

Jetsun Milarepa

For Dakini Day today, I offer a new translation of a song by Rechungma, one of Milarepa’s female heart disciples.  Many people will probably have heard of Milarepa’s male disciple, Rechungpa[i], from whom an important Kagyu lineage developed. However, not so many may know of Milarepa’s female heart-disciple, Rechungma (ras chung ma) and several songs that were recorded as sang for and by her. The final song in the section of ‘Milarepa’s Songs’ about Rechungma, is her song of ‘Fifteen Realisations’, an extraordinary finale aria ode of commitments to devotion, non-conceptuality and not clinging to duality.

The song happens after Rechungma, after first scorning Milarepa and Rechungpa and laughing at them, was then won over by his realisations and song, and accepted as one of Milarepa’s disciples. The text states that:

At that time, Milarepa and his male disciple, Rechungpa, were staying at the Five Small Lakes where he gave empowerments and instructions to the women and set them to meditating. Within three days, Rechungma developed qualities [in meditation], such as the bliss and warmth of Tummo. Later, she became ill. In order to test her ability to remain in remote hermitages and to assess the stability of her faith, Milarepa dismissed her, telling her to go wherever she pleased. Although she was ill, she continued to roam in mountain retreats and attained the confidence to withstand difficult conditions.

Then, one day, Rechungma went to see Milarepa where he was staying in another part of the country and met him among a crowd of people. In order to check whether her faith was still  unwavering, Milarepa sang a song with a hidden meaning to the people present. Rechungma was the only one who understood it and sang a song to Milarepa.  The song is a poetic rendering of fifteen realisations or resolutions that she (and others) should adopt; they are commitments not to engage in ways of thinking about reality, the lama and practice.

The Tibetan text used for this translation is an edition of the Collected Songs of Milarepa[ii].  I have included the Tibetan for those who like to read it the original script. In previous translations of the songs, the Tibetan is not included. Here is my translation of it below:

Fifteen Realisations of Rechungma

Among the audience [only], only Rechungma understood and she arose and said to Milarepa: “Guru mahasiddha, I have never had a single moment of wrong view towards you’ and thus offered the meaning of fifteen resolutions:

I prostrate to the Gurus!

Do not cut unceasing faith and devotion

To the only ‘father’, Jetsun Guru!

Do not take or give up as a crutch

The deity that is one with the supreme three!

Do not sow patches of superficial words

Onto whispered-lineage instructions of the gurus!

Do not break the four-session yoga

To the yidam, noble Vajrayogini!

Do not reinforce habitual clinging as real

To appearances that are illusory by nature!

Do not corrupt with conceptuality

The nature of mind itself, clear luminosity!

Do not cover with garbs of duality

The abiding nature of objects of knowledge!

Do not make a home for habitual tendencies

In the fundamental essence of mind!

Do not sully with stains of characteristics

The empty nature of mind, Dharmakāya!

Do not blame other companions

For being struck with a sick four-element body!

Do not perform divinations with wrong views

Towards demons and obstructors, friends of virtuous practice!

Do not grasp, with concepts of true existence,

To deluded appearances of habitual dreams!

Do not harbour thoughts of revenge

Towards angry enemies, teachers of patience!

Do not glorify or denigrate

The lama’s siddha conduct!

Do not seek any other result than

The self-arisen, spontaneously present Buddha!

Do not cease the stream of compassion

To your followers, worthy disciples!

I pray, please lead your mentally inferior student

and hold me with the hook of compassion.

Milarepa was extremely delighted. He decided she was a qualified yogini, worthy of being a companion in [Tantric] conduct, so he gave her the complete oral instructions, without exception.”

After becoming the spiritual companion of Rechungpa, at Milarepa’s suggestion, she then went to Semodo near the Precious Sky Lake in the North (known in Tibet as Lake Namtsho Chugmo) and meditated for eight years, keeping complete silence. During this time, she actualized the purifications and realizations of the paths and bhumis, such as the ten signs of practice and the eight qualities. In this life, she went to the pure dakini realms. This is the story of Milarepa meeting Rechungma, one of his eight foremost female disciples, at the Five Small Lakes of Choro Driktsam.”

Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin (June 2020). May it be of benefit!

Tibetan text

རྗེ་བླ་མ་རྣམས་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ། །

ཕ་ཅིག་བླ་མ་རྗེ་བཙུན་ལ། །                          དད་གུས་རྒྱུན་ཆད་མི་བགྱིད་འཚལ། །

ལྷ་ཅིག་སྐད་མཆོག་གསུམ་པོ་ལ། །                   རྒྱབ་རྟེན་སྤོང་ལེན་མི་བགྱིད་འཚལ། །

བླ་མའི་སྙན་བརྒྱུད་གདམས་ངག་ལ། །              ཐ་སྙད་ལྷན་པ་མི་གདབ་འཚལ། །

ཡི་དམ་རྗེ་བཙུན་རྣལ་འགྱོར་ལ། །                  ཐུན་བཞིའི་རྣལ་འགྱོར་མི་བཅག་འཚལ། །

སྣང་བ་སྒྱུ་མའི་རང་བཞིན་ལ། །                     དངོས་ཞེན་བག་ཆགས་མི་བཞག་འཚལ། །

སེམས་ཉིད་རང་བཞིན་འོད་གསལ་ལ། །།           རྣམ་རྟོག་ལྷད་ཀྱིས་མི་བསླད་འཚལ། །

ཁེས་བྱ་དངོས་པོའི་གནས་ལུགས་ལ། །              གཟུང་འཛིན་དྲི་མས་མི་གཡོག་འཚལ། །

གཉུག་མ་སེམས་ཀྱི་ངོ་བོ་ལ། །                        བག་ཆགས་བརྟེན་ས་མི་བགྱིད་འཚལ། །

སེམས་ཆོས་སྐུ་སྟོང་པའི་རང་བཞིན་ལ། །          མཚན་མའི་དྲི་མས་མི་གོས་འཚལ། །

ལུས་འབྱུང་བཞིའི་ནད་ཀྱིས་ཐེབས་པ་ལ། །      གྲོགས་གཞན་ལ་སྐྲུ་དི་ཀ་མི་བགྱིད་འཚལ། །

གདོན་བགེགས་དགེ་སྦྱོར་གྱི་གྲོགས་པོ་ལ། །        ལོག་རྟོག་གི་མོ་པྲ་མི་བགྱིད་འཚལ། །

རྨི་ལམ་བག་ཆགས་ཀྱི་འཁྲུལ་སྣང་ལ། །             བདེན་ཞེན་གྱི་རྟོག་པས་མི་བཟུང་འཚལ། །

སྡང་དགྲ་བཟོད་པའི་བླ་མ་ལ། །                     གནོད་ལན་བསམ་སྦྱོར་མི་བགྱིད་འཚལ། །

བླ་མ་གྲུབ་ཐོབ་ཀྱི་མཛད་སྤྱོད་ལ། །                  རྟོག་དསད་ཀྱི་སྒྲོ་སྐུར་མི་གདབ་འཚལ། །

རང་ཤར་ལྷུན་གྲུབ་ཀྱི་སངས་རྒྱས་ལ། །             འབྲས་བུ་གཞན་ནས་མི་བཙལ་འཚལ། །

རྗེས་འཇུག་སྣོདེ་ལྡན་སློབ་མ་ལ། །                   ཐུགས་རྗེའི་ཆུ་རྒྱུན་མི་འཆད་འཚལ། །

རྗེ་བླ་མ་དམ་པ་སྐུ་དྲིན་ཅན། །                       བདག་བློ་དམན་སློབོ་མ་དྲང་དུ་གསོལ། །

ཐུགས་རྗེའི་ལྕགས་ཀྱུས་གཟུང་དུ་གསོལ། །         ཞེས་ཞུས་པས།


[i] Rechung Dorje Drakpa (ras chung rdo rje grags pa, 1083/4-1161), known as Rechungpa was one of the most important students of Milarepa and founder of the Shangpa Kagyu lineage or Rechung lineage of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. (The other student was Gampopa (founder of the Dagpo Kagyu).  Rechungpa was particularly important in the transmission of the cycle of  teachings of the Cakrasaṃvara Tantra known as the Demchok Nyéngyü (bde mchog snyan brgyud), Réchung Nyéngyü (ras chung snyan brgyud).

[ii] rje btsun mi la ras pa’i rnam thar dang mgur ‘bum Biography and Collected Songs of Realization by the poet yogin Milarepa (1052-1135) and later Kagyu masters, published by Khenpo shedup tenzin and lama thinley Namgyal (2006), TBRC W1KG4276.

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