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Milarepa's Kungfu

Mahamudra in His Songs of Realization

Published by Wisdom Publications
Distributed by Simon & Schuster
LIST PRICE $19.99
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Discover a meditation master’s “kungfu of the mind.”

The view is the wisdom of being empty
Meditation is luminosity without fixation
Conduct is a continual flow free of attachment
Fruition is nakedness bare of any stain


This is the first stanza of Milarepa’s Ultimate View, Meditation, Conduct, and Fruition: pith instructions originally sang to the great yogi Rechungpa, Milarepa’s disciple. These teachings are Milarepa’s direct offering to his disciple of his own profound realization, gained after many years of dedicated practice. Karl Brunnhölzl, acclaimed translator and senior teacher at the Nalandabodhi community of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, calls this hard-earned understanding “kungfu”: “Gong means ‘skillful work,’ ‘hard training,’ or ‘endeavor,’ and fu means ‘time spent...’ The term refers to Milarepa’s diligent and skillful training in the techniques to realize the nature of his mind and benefit countless sentient beings.” 

Ultimate View, Meditation, Conduct, and Fruition is a work of remarkable depth and clarity. In just five verses, Milarepa gives incisive instructions for progressing and for avoiding pitfalls in the stages of practice:

- View: the basis or ground from which the proper meditation, conduct, and fruition of mahamudra can arise

- Meditation: the training in or the familiarization with that view

- Conduct: the natural outflow of having familiarized with the view in meditation

- Fruition: the final outcome of having fully assimilated and realized the view, whose essence is not different from it

Karl Brunnhölzl, MD, PhD, was originally trained as a physician. He received his systematic training in Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy and practice at the Marpa Institute for Translators, founded by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, as well as the Nitartha Institute, founded by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Since 1989 he has been a translator and interpreter from Tibetan and English. Karlis is a senior teacher and translator in the Nalandabodhi community of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, as well as at the Nitartha Institute. He lives in Munich and is the author and translator of numerous texts, including A Lullaby to Awaken the Heart: The Aspiration Prayer of Samantabhadra and Its Tibetan Commentaries and Luminous Melodies: Essential Dohas of Indian Mahamudra.

“In this book, Dr. Karl Brunnhölzl, our Nalandabodhi Mitra, unveils the secret of view, meditation, and action as sung by the king of yogins, Milarepa. This book is certain to open a new dimension for your mind and bring the mind-bending experience of the yogi into your heart. These teachings of Milarepa are a timely and straight-to-the-heart wisdom that will surely benefit many in this century and beyond. With heartfelt gratitude, I close with the aspiration that all who even glance at this book may see reality and free their mind.”

 

– Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche

“Karl Brunnholzl provides a delightful overview of Milarepa and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso’s teachings on view, mediation, and action. The style is straightforward and profound, lighthearted, and even humorous. Karl adds his own images and observations while following Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso’s oral commentaries on Milarepa’s songs of realization. The book emphasizes how Milarepa is talking about ‘view’ as the direct experience of mahamudra, then provides a brief introduction to how Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso taught the progressive stages of approaching emptiness.”

– Lama Shenpen Hookham

“In Milarepa’s Kungfu, Karl Brunnhölzl directly and simply—but not simplistically—unpacks the wisdom instructions in a medley of Milarepa’s songs of realization. Brunnhölzl makes the inexpressible accessible, opening up the meaning, explaining key terms and points, and linking the songs with Khenpo Tsültrim Gyamtso Rinpoche’s teachings, including his five stages of meditation on emptiness. This is a masterful and delightful presentation of some of Milarepa’s key teachings on mahamudra—to be enjoyed by all!”
 

– Elizabeth Callahan, translator of Moonbeams of Mahamudra

“Milarepa, the eleventh-century Tibetan poet and meditation master, was acclaimed for his songs of inner realization and spiritual attainment. In Milarepa’s Kungfu, Karl Brunnhölzl explores the Mahamudra tradition through a detailed commentary on Milarepa’s song of the ultimate view, meditation, conduct, and fruition of Buddhist practice. Written with characteristic clarity and wit, and presented in a highly engaging style, Brunnhölzl’s masterful work elucidates the profound meaning of Milarepa’s words, which encompass the entire path to awakening. Milarepa’s Kungfu illuminates this thousand-year-old poem as part of a living tradition that will interest the newcomer to Buddhist literature and the longtime practitioner alike.”

– Andrew Quintman, associate professor, Department of Religion and College of East Asian Studies, Wesleyan University

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