The Yogin and the Madman

The Yogin and the Madman: Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet's Great Saint Milarepa

ANDREW QUINTMAN
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 336
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/quin16414
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  • Book Info
    The Yogin and the Madman
    Book Description:

    Tibetan biographers began writing Jetsun Milarepa's (1052--1135) life story shortly after his death, initiating a literary tradition that turned the poet and saint into a model of virtuosic Buddhist practice throughout the Himalayan world. Andrew Quintman traces this history and its innovations in narrative and aesthetic representation across four centuries, culminating in a detailed analysis of the genre's most famous example, composed in 1488 by Tsangnyön Heruka, or the "Madman of Western Tibet." Quintman imagines these works as a kind of physical body supplanting the yogin's corporeal relics.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53553-3
    Subjects: Religion, History, Philosophy, Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Andrew Quintman
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-31)

    This book traces the literary transformations of a seminal Tibetan life story—that of Milarepa (1028/1040–1111/1123), Tibet’s eleventh-century Lord of Yogins—from its fragmentary origins to the standard version published nearly four centuries later. It is a life that has long served as a model for yogic virtuosi on the Himalayan plateau, a record for the birth of a religious tradition and the founding of its spiritual lineage, a tale of an individual’s life of solitude and realization. It is a story that has been told in numerous forms: inscribed by authors, adapted by dramatists, illuminated by artisans, and...

  5. 1 EARLIEST SOURCES: A BIOGRAPHICAL BIRTH
    (pp. 32-55)

    Dawn breaks on the morning after Milarepa’s cremation, and his longtime follower Rechungpa wakes from a wondrous but disheartening dream:ḍākinīmaidens were carrying off his master’s mortal remains in the form of a radiant sphere of light. Anxious, he rouses his fellow disciples, and together they peer into the funerary cell, only to find the chamber empty. Neither ashes nor bones remain; gone too are the sacred pearl-like relics, causing even greater dismay. Celestial goddesses had swept clean the yogin’s every physical trace, leaving nothing behind. Heartbroken, the assembly instead inherits his few worldly possessions: a cap, a walking...

  6. 2 PROTO-LIVES: FORMATIONS OF A SKELETAL BIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 56-81)

    Milarepa’s earliest biography, established by the yogin’s own disciples, had achieved a life of its own within a single generation as students of his direct pupils began to adapt, expand, and promulgate accounts of his religious career. By the mid-twelfth century, within decades of the yogin’s death, the biography was already being taught publicly in lecture halls by luminaries such as pakmodrupa Dorjé Gyalpo (1110–70), who had himself studied with Gampopa. TheBlue Annalsrecords an account of one Kunden (1148–1217, also known as Kunden Repa), younger brother of Pakmodrupa’s disciple Gyaltsa Rinchengön (1118–95), who visited the...

  7. 3 BIOGRAPHICAL COMPENDIA: LIVES MADE FLESH
    (pp. 82-120)

    After the proto-works addressed in the previous chapter began to assemble the underlying framework for Milarepa’s representation, the yogin’s portrait came into sharper focus with the advent of a new, more comprehensive form of life writing: the biographical compendium. This chapter will introduce and analyze two related forms of compendia in Milarepa’s biographical tradition, each of which predates the standard version by Tsangnyön Heruka. The first, informally known asThe Twelve Great Disciples, is perhaps the earliest extensive record of the yogin’s life, composed by his close followers. The second, a series of related works collectively known asThe Black...

  8. 4 A NEW STANDARD: TSANGNYÖN HERUKA’S LIFE AND SONGS OF MILAREPA
    (pp. 121-154)

    The late fifteenth century was a defining moment for Milarepa’s life, even though he had been dead for almost four centuries. It was a period of both civil unrest and religious expansion in central Tibet. As the Yuan imperial court declined and eventually fell in 1368, political influence likewise began to wane within the Tibetan Sakya institution that had effectively ruled Tibet since the Mongol installation of Sakya Paṇḍita (1182–1251) in 1249. This coincided with the ascent to power of Changchup Gyaltsen (1302–64) between 1350 and 1354, beginning a century of political rule under the influential Phakmodru hegemony.¹...

  9. 5 THE YOGIN AND THE MADMAN: A LIFE BROUGHT TO LIFE
    (pp. 155-174)

    By the middle of 1507 Tsangnyön Heruka was dead, his passing marked by weeks of rituals and miraculous appearances.¹ In his absence, close disciples began the process of recording his life anew. As with Milarepa’s life story, it was only after the master’s death that the tradition of his life (and his Life) could take birth. As we have seen, Tsangnyön’s activities in crafting Milarepa’sLifeandSongsform a significant part of his own life story, and his biographers devoted extensive sections to their description. There is evidence that Tsangnyön Heruka’s disciples planned to print Milarepa’s biography and collected...

  10. 6 CONCLUSIONS
    (pp. 175-183)

    This book has explored the life of Tibet’s most extensive and best-known biographical tradition, set against a shifting religious, political, and social terrain. The central challenge has been to broaden the way Milarepa’s story, and Tibetan life writing more generally, have been studied. To that end, it has questioned how lives are recorded and transmitted, how their structures and functions transform over time, and how their changing forms affect the reading of their content. It described the literary practices that gradually shaped Milarepa’s portrait as authors reimagined and rewrote the story. By examining an extended collection of literature that coalesced...

  11. EPILOGUE: MILA COMES ALIVE!
    (pp. 184-188)

    “Writing the life of the historical Gautama,” Étienne Lamotte noted in hisHistoire du Bouddhisme Indien, “is ‘a hopeless enterprise.’”¹ Like Antoine Roquentin, pursuing his own biographical subject in Sartre’sNausia, we can empathize with Lamotte’s lament. Despite the fact that he is commonly referred to as “the historical Buddha,” there is little we can claim to know directly about the Śākya prince, be it the details of his life or the content of his teaching. In a similar way, Milarepa left no record of his life, and slicing open the flesh of Tsangnyön’s lifelike image, we uncover a corpus...

  12. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. 189-190)
  13. APPENDIX 1: THE LIFE OF JETSÜN MILA BY GAMPOPA
    (pp. 191-198)
  14. APPENDIX 2: TEXT COLOPHONS ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS AND TIBETAN TRANSCRIPTIONS
    (pp. 199-206)
  15. APPENDIX 3: TEXT OUTLINES AND CONCORDANCES
    (pp. 207-225)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 226-276)
  17. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 277-298)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 299-314)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 315-316)