It is full moon today, often called the Hunter’s Moon, as it is the time of year people would go out to hunt for animals in preparation for the winter ahead. Thankfully, it also has historical significance in the traditional Hindu calendar, as marking the end of the month of Ashvin. For Buddhists, it marks the end of Vassa, the three-month fasting period for monks. However, I thought it a good time to post about Milarepa’s strong views on not eating animals, or supporting their slaughter by buying meat, as evidenced in Milarepa’s Songs to the Hunter and his Song to Rechungpa on the Suffering of Animals and the evil meat-eating ‘custom’.
Last year, it was an honour and pleasure to share the first published English-language quotes and photos from Dharma friend, and living lineage holder of the Khyira (often pronounced Chira) Kagyu lineage, the 37th Khyira Kagyu Choge Chiba (currently 38 years old), whose father is the 36th Khyira Kagyu Choge Chiba, a lineage that comes directly from one of the eight heart disciples of Milarepa, the hunter, Khyira. He asked me to compile Milarepa’s songs to the Hunter with the Tibetan and phonetics (for the first time) , so I also did a new translation of them, for which he provided a foreword, part of which is excerpted below.
In addition, HH 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje also recently taught about Milarepa’s song to Rechungpa on killing animals for meat when they both saw an animal butchered and dying in front of them. I include my translation of that song here too. For the full articles and downloadable texts of both songs, click on the website links below.
May we all realise the wisdom and love of Milarepa’s songs on animals and abandon our own unnecessary habits that support mass cruelty and murder of them.
Music? The Voice of Animals (Nepali Language) ; Meat is Murder by the Smiths or Animal Kingdom by Prince : “No member of the animal kingdom ever did a thing to me, It’s why I don’t eat red meat or white fish, Don’t give me no blue cheese, We’re all members of the animal kingdom, Leave your brothers and sisters in the sea.”
Written and translated by Adele Tomlin, 2021. Copyright.
Eight Chief Disciples of Milarepa
”According to sources, there were eight chief disciples of the famous 11th century wandering Yogi Milarepa:- 1. Je Gampopa (Dagpo Rinpoche) 2. Rechung Dorje Tagpa of Gungthang 3. Ngan Dzon Tonpa of Chim Lung 4. Shiwa Wod Repa of Gyal-tom-mad 5. Seban Repa of Dota 6. Khyirawa Gonpo of Nyesang 7. Bri-Gom Repa of Mus & 8. Sangye Kyap Repa of Ragma.
The sixth listed here is Khyira, which means ‘hunter’. According to the living 37th Khyira:
“Among these eight lineages, the Dagpo lineage (with all its branches and sub-branches) is the only one that we see in modern times. Of course, the survival of the Rechungpa lineage too is heard about and somehow its survival makes a case that other lineages too might have survived in one form or the other, but as none of them is public, we do not know anything about them. However, I know of the Khyira Kagyu lineage because I myself belong to this lineage. No matter how small scale it is being passed down from one to one, as an ear whispered lineage (in fact Kagyu actually means an ear whispered tradition), this Khyira Kagyu lineage does exist.”
The 37th Khyira then explained how the Khyira lineage developed after Milarepa’s direct disciple passed away:
”In the 11th century, Milarepa meditated for quite a time in Nyeshang (Manang, Nepal). We do not exactly know for how long he meditated there, but generally, it is said that he stayed there for six years. It was here that my 37th forefather Khyira met Milarepa in the cave where the bow on the cliff still seen there is believed to be the Bow of Khyirawa. The legends of Milarepa are still heard and told again and again. Regarding pre-Khyira history, we know that from Mustang, two Clans had moved to Manang, one in Nar and another in Nyesang. Those who went to Nar were the Lama clans and the one who went to Nyesang and settled there were Konme (Gonpo/Ghonde/Ghotane) clans. Chirawa Gonpo (Chira Ba Konme) is a descendent of Konme clans. He (Chira Ba Konme) was a chieftain and a master hunter of Nyeshang (Manang). Before he met Milarepa, his was a family of Bon followers which is also one of the reasons why he showed no respect to Milarepa when he first encountered him. After the meeting, his life was completely transferred and he became one of the chief disciples of Milarepa. Descendent of Khyira-Ba moved to Kohla-Sonthar (in between the Lamjung and Kaski). After the downfall of Kohla-Sonthar in 15th century, the descendent of Chiraba moved to Kapur village in Lamjung and then to Sikles in Kaski. They didn’t stay much in Sikles but migrated further down into Dhanubas. The 28th lineage holder of Khyira clan Choge (Lord of Dharma) Chiba (Head) Dhanu Gurung like Khyira-Ba became very famous as a master-archer and there are legends about him as a master archer who could split a thin thread by hitting the arrow back by only looking out in the mirror. As a request of the King of Kaski, Dhanu Gurung moved to Pumdi-Bhumdi (Kaski). From Pumdi-Bhumdi my father who was 36th Khyira-Kagyu Choge Chiba moved to the Pokhara city and it was there I was born and grew up. As it is a hereditary lineage, my eldest brother was actually a sole heir to the lineage but he died young and my other two elder brothers didn’t put interest in Dharma so my father transmitted the lineage to me, the youngest child. This is how I hold the lineage.”
In his lengthy and detailed foreword to the new translation text, the 37th Khyira says:
“Because it was a very secret ear-whispered, one to one tradition, I was until now very reluctant even to speak of the existence of this lineage to anybody. Yet, these songs and incidents of Milaraja could inspire, lead and transform many people onto the path of Dharma, Brahmavihārās and Nirvāṇa. So even though there were two translations already, one by Chang and another, more recent one, by Stagg, I strongly felt there was a need for a third one with the original Tibetan and phonetics.
I did not know who could do it, until a very capable and courageous Adele said she would, and that too without taking any charge/money but just as a dharma act of generosity. With my family Kuladevata Chakrasamvara and Kulaguru Milaraja, I do pray and wish for the benefit of her and to all those who will read her.”
Milarepa’s Song to the Hunter
Milarepa was clearly an animal-lover who spoke about the importance of not killing them for food. It is said that Milarepa was once disturbed in his meditation by a deer that was being chased by a dog, which in turn was being followed by a hunter named Khyira Gonpo Dorje. When Milarepa did not allow the hunter to kill the deer, the hunter shot his arrows at Milarepa. The arrows could not harm Milarepa, and instead of being angry with the hunter, he started teaching all three the way to attain salvation in the form of three songs: the song of the deer, the song of the dog, and the song of the hunter. Milarepa had a great influence upon the people of Nye Shang, and many, including the hunter, became his disciples.
Milarepa’s songs to the Hunter have previously been translated into English in The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teaching of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism (1999) edited by Garma C. C. Chang. Although that translation was done quite a while ago, and is inaccurate in places (or not close to the original Tibetan), as I was able to get an online copy, it proved an extremely valuable guide in producing this translation and I am grateful for it. There is also a more recent translation of the songs by Christopher Stagg (Shambala Publications, 2017), which is closer to the original Tibetan, but also does not include the Tibetan or phonetics. For more information on the Tibetan text and translation, see here.
A preserved 14-15th Century manuscript of the songs in Tibetan can be seen here at the British Library. The manuscript on display is an illustrated version created about a century before the well-known printed edition published in the 16th century by a master known as the ‘Madman from Tsang’.
Subjugating ‘outer’ appearances, will not conquer them.
Conquer your own mind, at this very moment!
Your killing this deer will not satiate you,
Killing the five poisons within, all wishes are fulfilled!
Subjugating ‘outer’ enemies, they increase even more.
Conquering one’s ‘inner’ mindstream, there are no ‘enemies’. 
—Excerpt from ‘Milarepa’s Song to Animals and the Hunter’ tr. Adele Tomlin (2020).
The full translation of the Songs to Animals and the Hunter can be downloaded here.
Milarepa’s Song to Rechungpa on the suffering of animals and the evil custom of ‘meat-eating’
Rechungpa. was one of the main disciples of Jetsun Milarepa. In later biographies, he is mentioned as the second most important of Milarepa’s students, the ‘moon-like’ disciple, with Gampopa being the foremost, and compared to the sun. Rechungpa, as his name suggests, was a cotton-clad yogin, unlike Gampopa who was a monk.
The 17th Karmapa, Orgyen Trinley Dorje, recently gave a teaching on Milarepa’s attitude to animals and eating them, using the song he taught to Rechungpa:
“If we think about Kagyu forefathers among such masters, there are innumerable ones who have given up meat. For example, among the three Kagyu forefathers, Marpa, Milarepa and Gampopa, there is an example in Milarepa’s Collected Works about when he was in Nyanang Belly Cave.
At that time, he was staying with Rechungpa who often didn’t listen to him that much. It’s often said that he was criticized three times by his guru for that. Milarepa told him out must give up the eight worldly dharmas. So Rechungpa thought ‘well I have given up my homeland so how can I have any issues with the eight worldly Dharmas?’ Rechungpa told Milarepa that in the Dharma texts it says giving up the homeland is having done half the Dharma practice. Milarepa said these are just words, which is not actually that much benefit. This did not really benefit Rechungpa that much though.
On one occasion, they went to a town in Nynanang, where there were lots of butchers who sold meat there and they went there to beg for food. There were stacks of flesh, animal heads and blood all around in the market. There were many animals line up waiting to be slaughtered. In the centre of it all was a butcher.
There are many different ways to slaughter sheep, one is suffocating them with a muzzle. Another way is to cut their stomach and reach inside and rip out their heart and arteries. The butcher made the cut and wound to do that, but before he could rip their heart out, the sheep suddenly escaped and was not tied down, so the sheep’s intestines were all hanging out, dragging behind it while it was bleeding to death. The sheep was shaking and came to Milarepa and Rechungpa for help and protection and died right in front of them. Then, Milarepa sobbed uncontrollably with great compassion and did prayers and transference of consciousness for the sheep onto the Bodhisattva path. Then he sang a song about it. For me personally, this song was really helpful”.
“Ema! Samsaric sentient beings
Look up to the path of liberation!
-Excerpt from Milarepa’s Song to Rechungpa on the ‘Suffering of Animals and the Evil ‘Meat-Eating Custom’. Tr. Adele Tomlin (2021).
The full article about the Khyira Kagyu and its living lineage holder, see here:
Milarepa’s ‘Song to the Hunter’ and the living ‘ear-whispered’ lineage of Khyira Kagyu in Nepal
The newly translated text of Songs to the Hunter, with foreword by the 37th Chira Kagyu can be downloaded here:
NEW PUBLICATION: ‘Milarepa’s Songs to the Hunter and Animals’, the Khyira Kagyu lineage
For Milarepa’s song to Rechungpa on animals, see: JE MILAREPA’S SONG ON THE SUFFERING OF ANIMALS FOR THE EVIL ‘CUSTOM’ OF MEAT-EATING
For the 17th Karmapa’s recent teachings on the Buddhist, Karma Kagyu and Karmapas’ strong tradition and views on vegetarianism, see here:
 Tibetan script reads:
 Tibetan script reads:
ཨེ་མ་འཁོར་བའི་སེམས་ཅན་རྣམས། །ཐར་པའི་ལམ་ལ་ཡར་ལྟོས་དང་། །
ཨ་ཙ་མ་སྡིག་ཅན་སྙིང་རེ་རྗེ། ། ལས་རེ་རྨོངས ་མི་ལུས་ཀྱི་ཡོང་བ་ལ།།
ཞེ་རེ་ཕངས་སེམས་ཅན་གྱི་གསོད་ལུགས་ལ། །གྱོད་རེ་ཆེ་རང་མགོའི་སྐོར་ལུགས་ལ། །
ཅུག་རེ་དྲག་ཕ་མའི་འཆི་ལུགས་ལ། །ཇི་ལྟར་བྱེད་སྡིག་ཤའི་བརྩིགས་ལུགས་ལ། །
ཅི་རེ་བྱེད་ཁྲག་གིས་མང་ལུགས་ལ། །ཇི་ཙམ་སྟོསྣགས་ཤ་ཡི་ཟ་ལུགས་ལ། །
གང་ནས་བསམས་སྣང་བའི་འཁྲུལ་ལུགས་ལ། །སྡིག་རེ་ཆེ་སྙིང་རྗེ་མེད་ལུགས་ལ། །
ཇི་ཙམ་སྒྲིབས་རྨོངས་པའི་གཏི་མུག་ལ། །ཅི་རེ་བྱེད་སྡིག་པའི་སོ་ནམ་ལ། །
སུ་ཡིས་སྤྱོད་འདོད་པས་གདུང་ལུགས་ལ། །གང་གིས་བྱས་ཡུལ་ལུགས་ཀྱི་ངན་པ་ལ། །
ཅུག་རེ་དྲག་སྐྱོ་བའི་སྐྱེ་ལུགས་ལ། །ཅི་རང་བྱེད་སྡིག་ཅན་གྱི་བྲེལ་ལུགས་ལ། །
ཕྱི་མ་སྐད་ཅིག་མི་དྲན་པའི། །མི་འདི་འདྲ་མཐོང་ན་ང་རེ་འཇིགས། །
སྡིག་སྤྱོདི་རྣམས་དྲན་ཞིང་སྣང་བ་འཁྲུགས། །རས་ཆུང་པ་ལྷ་ཆོས་ཤིག་ཨེ་དྲན་ཨང་། །