In horror of death I took to the mountains,
and meditated on the uncertainty and the hour of death.
Now capturing the fortress of deathless, unending nature of mind,
all fear of death is done and over with.
Some of the most profound words attributed to Milarepa, Tibet’s great yogi-saint whose story of redemption continues to inspire Buddhists in the modern world. He is said to have been the first to achieve a state of complete enlightenment in one lifetime, learning and practicing at the feet of Marpa Lotsawa, or Marpa the Translator.
The beauty of these words lies in the fact that an individual, under the guidance of a spiritual teacher or mentor (Tibetan: lama; Sanskrit: guru) and with an unwavering commitment to his or her practice, can “capture the fortress” of the deathless and unending nature of mind. Here’s how my own teacher describes the “nature of mind” (Tibetan: sem-nyi, where sem is ordinary mind — the opposite of our inherent pure awareness, or rigpa — and nyi is the limitless sense of possibility where anything can arise or happen):
“Imagine a sky, empty, spacious, and pure from the beginning; [the nature of mind's] essence is like this. Imagine a sun, luminous, clear, unobstructed, and spontaneously present; its nature is like this. Imagine that sun shining out impartially on us and all things, penetrating all directions; its energy, which is the manifestation of compassion, is like this: Nothing can obstruct it and it pervades everywhere.” — Sogyal Rinpoche
How amazing that we all are born with semnyi, with unalterable beauty and purity that defies description. For the sake of all sentient beings, may we all purify the adventitious stains that obscure our view so that we may experience our ultimate nature!