The Song on Reaching the Mountain Peak

by Milarepa

English version by Garma C. C. Chang
Original Language Tibetan

Hearken, my sons! If you want
To climb the mountain peak
You should hold the Self-mind's light,
Tie it with a great "Knot,"
And catch it with a firm "Hook."
If you practice thus
You can climb the mountain peak
To enjoy the view.

Come, you gifted men and women,
Drink the brew of Experience!
Come "inside" to enjoy the scene --
See it and enjoy it to the full!
The Incapable remain outside;
Those who cannot drink pure
Beer may quaff small beer.
He who cannot strive for Bodhi,
Should strive for superior birth.

-- from The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism, Translated by Garma C. C. Chang

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

The comparison between “pure” beer and “lesser” beer can be read as a comparison between the Mahayana (“greater vehicle”) philosophy which gives personal Buddhahood as a goal, and the Hinayana (“lesser vehicle”) path which suggests self-refinement and personal enlightenment are possible, leading to “superior birth,” but not necessarily full Buddhahood.

But the beer works on a more immediate and esoteric level, too. Milarepa's “small beer” can refer to lesser, worldly experiences, such as mundane alcohol, which give only mundane intoxication, while “pure beer” is associated with the bliss of Bodhi, or awakened awareness.



Recommended Books: Milarepa

Songs of Spiritual Experience: Tibetan Buddhist Poems of Insight & Awakening The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa: The Life-Story and Teachings of the Greatest Poet-Saint Ever to Appear in the History of Buddhism Songs of Milarepa: (Dover Thrift Edition) Drinking the Mountain Stream: Songs of Tibet's Beloved Saint, Milarepa The Life of Milarepa: A New Translation from the Tibetan
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