|Milarepa Part 2
||[Feb. 26th, 2004|01:18 am]
The two previous texts we have read in this course have both offered different aspects of Eastern religion, culture, not to mention history as well. “Chinese Monks” took a very factual approach to conveying history of the time (resulting in a long, tedious read of a compilation of various lists). This factual account in the text leaves us with names, dates, and places of specific occurrences in the past. In my mind this is what ‘history’ means, thinking back to all the names and dates that were to be memorized for a history test or exam throughout elementary and high school. I cannot remember one course where an interesting story (similar to Milarepa) was read to learn concrete history. |
“Milarepa”, on the other hand, is a narrative that told a detailed story of Milarepa’s life from birth until the end. It included many accounts of magic, sorcery and dreams, all of which are not deemed as truth or reality in our western world. Yet, these types of texts give us a glimpse into what the social makeup of society was like at the time of “Milarepa”. Through the reading of this story, we can see that such aspects, such as sorcery, magic, and dreams all played an integral role to the makeup of society. We can also see the social structure of society (ie, a patriarchal society). While the reading of a narrative may not offer much of a factual and list-like approach to history, these specific social elements of the time offer us a better understanding of the way society functioned at the time, quite valuable information as well.
However, in trying to answer the question, “Is the Life of Milarepa a history?” my simple answer to this question is, yes. However, was Lobsang Lhalungpa’s purpose of writing this text to preserve the history of Milarepa’s time in a tangible text? I strongly do not believe that this second question is true, and therefore, debating if it is correct to label “Milarepa” as a history is completely insignificant, as its main purpose was to capture a lay audience’s attention through the relation of Milarepa’s life transformation from one who turned to sorcery to retaliate against his aunt and uncle, to one who truly felt remorse for those actions and took upon an ascetic lifestyle to eliminate the negative karma produced through his previous actions.
This improper labeling can be equated to one who is in search of a comedic movie. While many romance-comedies offer quite humorous stories, one is in search of a true comedy will most likely head over to Blockbuster and pick up a copy of Steve Martin’s latest film. This is not to say that most romance movies are not comedic, they can usually offer the viewer comedy as well as romance. But if one is in search of comedy, they may turn to a film where comedy is the only genre, and eliminate the romance aspect. I find that this analogy relates to “reading for historical content” in the stories of “Milarepa” as well as “Chinese Monks”, comedy being an analogy to historical content. “Milarepa” would act as the “romance comedy” (offering one partial historical content as well as another aspect, teaching doctrines for example). And “Chinese Monks” would be equated with the true form of ‘comedy’ (true history apart from this analogy of mine) eliminating any other genre that may come into play. While both ‘romance comedies’ and simply ‘comedies’ offer the viewer a comedic film, if one was in search of strictly comedy, they would most likely choose a ‘comedy’. Quite similarly, if one was in search of a true “historical account” one would turn to “Chinese Monks” over “Milarepa”.
These two texts are quite opposite, one describing lists and lists of names, places, and dates, and the other text, narrating a colourful illustration of ones path to reach enlightenment. I still believe that Milarepa offers the reader a history, yet the fact that Milarepa also includes accounts of Black Magic, dreams, songs, ext. demerits its historical accuracy, as in our Western view of history, black magic and dreams are viewed as fantasy or fictitious, something which is a product of ones imagination and hold no real truth or value. Yet, more socio-historical data can be gleaned from such a narrative, unlike the concrete evidence presented in “Chinese Monks”.