Artists can learn a lot from the life story of the great Tibetan Saint Milarepa. Do you know his story?
I first became aware of Jetsun Milarepa when I read The Golden Dream, a fictionalized account of his life story by Heather Hughes Calero. It is a fantastic read although I believe the book is out of print. I thoroughly recommend it.
The start of Milarepa’s life story goes like this (borrowing from Wikipedia):
Milarepa was born in the village of Kya Ngatsa – also known as Tsa – in Gungthang province of western Tibet to a prosperous family. He was named Mila Thöpaga (Thos-pa-dga’), which means “A joy to hear.”
When his father died, Milarepa’s uncle and aunt took all of the family’s wealth. At his mother’s request, Milarepa left home and studied sorcery. While his aunt and uncle were having a party to celebrate the impending marriage of their son, he took his revenge by summoning a giant hail storm to demolish their house, killing 35 people, although the uncle and aunt are supposed to have survived. The villagers were angry and set off to look for Milarepa, but his mother got word to him and he sent a hailstorm to destroy their crops.
So, as you can see, Milarepa was off to something of a bad start in his life! But he was aware enough to know that he needed to take responsibility for his misdeeds and make amends. How did he do this? In the story as told by Hughes-Calero, Milarepa set out to find a spiritual teacher and eventually found himself under the tutelage of the lama Marpa.
Marpa was a tough teacher and focused Milarepa’s training on building houses made with large stones. This was heavy exhausting work, especially for one man and especially given the harsh tibetan weather. Marpa was relentless! – but he also didn’t give up on Milarepa.
All told, Milarepa had to build 13 houses with his bare hands, collecting all the materials himself. Marpa would look at each one and find something that wasn’t right and then Milarepa would have to start all over again. Many times he was so proud of his latest building achievement and the lessons he had learned. But Marpa would again tell him that it wasn’t right and to start again. How incredibly frustrating! Can you imagine how he felt?
Eventually Milarepa did learn the lesson that Marpa was determined to teach him and the last house was completed! There are a number of opinions on how this happened but a general consensus is that Milarepa had surrendered his ego and balanced the karma he had created in the earlier part of his life. He had now achieved an elevated state of enlightenment. Some say that he is the only Tibetan Lama to have achieved this in a single lifetime of training.
Milarepa went on to become one of Tibet’s most famous Yogis and poets and he is revered by thousands today.
So – what can an artist or an art marketeer learn from the life of Milarepa? Here are 5 things that come to mind:
- There is a good chance that your life is a lot easier than Milarepa’s – so feel happy and celebrate what you have!
- Realize that you have to take responsibility for your life and your art career success.
- Find yourself a good art marketing coach – a “Marpa of Art Marketing!” – someone who can demonstrate the kind of mastery you want to achieve. Do what they say.
- When you’re feeling tired and can’t go on, ask yourself: “Do I feel like I’ve completed 13 houses yet?” If not, keep going – Milarepa did and he achieved something truly great – and so can you!
- Surrender your ego. If something isn’t working don’t hang on to it. Let it go and start again. Start again 13 times if you need to. Just do it, learn what does work, and do more of that.
You will then have achieved Art Marketing Enlightenment!