“100,000 Songs”



In 1967 I met up with my friend Tania Leontov in a Sloane Square pub in London; she had been studying with Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, an exiled Tibetan lama, in Scotland, and she told me how to meditate: sit still with your spine straight and count your breaths. The next year I moved to San Francisco and lived for six months with Diane di Prima, going regularly all that time to the Zen Center to sit in meditation (zazen) with Suzuki Roshi. These men were two of the outstanding (and mutually respecting) teachers who brought Buddhism to America in the last decades of the twentieth century, both of them wonderful writers. They had a strong effect on me, although I barely met either one of them and did not join their communities or publicly commit myself to their practices. The Buddhist outlook simply made sense to me, certainly more than any other religion: it seemed real. I consider myself a Buddhist Sufi.

I heard Trungpa speak a couple of times, at Tale of the Tiger in Vermont and in the mountains above Boulder. Zen is austere; Tibetan Buddhism is fantastically elaborate. Looking into the latter, I stumbled upon the story of Milarepa, a revered holy man who lived in the twelfth century A.D. He told the story of his life to his disciples before he died, and the story was preserved orally until it was written down by Tsan Nyon around 1500 A.D. In some mysterious intuitive way I identified with Milarepa (as I had identified with the Modoc Indian Captain Jack, leading me to write “Captain Jack’s Revenge”), and I wrote an operatic retelling of his life, based on three fine translations. The title is that of Milarepa’s best-known work.

I was sick of the limitations of the tiny theatres I had been confined to, and I conceived this work on the largest scale, imagining it on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera, with all the Met’s technical resources: elaborate large-scale sets, a very large cast including principals, secondary solo roles, choruses of singers and dancers, unlimited costumes, lighting, etc. In keeping with its subject, the work is conceived as a spectacle as much as a drama. The stage is enlivened with parades, ceremonies, ballet-pantomime, lyrical dance, and special effects (including flying) as well as dramatic action. The stage picture is also an evolving image for meditation, using Buddhist iconography, embodying Milarepa’s inner quest. The music might incorporate real Tibetan chanting, percussion, horns, and other traditional instruments into a contemporary score. In my imagination the scoring will be continuous, although some of the text may be spoken, in a mixture of modes.


“100,000 Songs”

an opera about Milarepa



Part I


1. Birth


The full height and width of the stage is filled with an elaborately decorative vertical picture resembling a Tibetan religious painting (“thangka”). Towering stylized mountains and colorful clouds are the background to constructed inset niches in which ACTOR/DANCERS represent Buddhist imagery in tableaux vivantes. In the center, MILAREPA as an old man sits in full regalia on an elaborately decorated gold and red throne, surrounded by DISCIPLES. As he narrates (sings) his story, the events he describes are enacted on the forestage; at the conclusion of each episode, the participants replace dancers in the thangka.

—PEASANT FAMILY pursued by DRAGON; INEFFECTUAL LAMA; JOSAY, Milarepa’s great-great-great-grandfather, fights and defeats dragon, wins name MILA—What a Man!

—MILA SUTRA LION, Milarepa’s great-grandfather; MILA VAJRA LION, Milarepa’s grandfather, a gambler; CHEAT, who ruins him; father and son travel; VILLAGERS; father becomes holy man, son becomes rich trader, marries VILLAGE GIRL, has a son, Milarepa’s father, MILA BANNER OF WISDOM, who marries WHITE JEWEL.

—HOUSE is revealed. (This is a smaller version of the full-scale house that will later appear center stage.)

—UNCLE and AUNT and SUITE come to stay, but can’t find places in the thangka.

—MILAREPA is born.

Song/dance: “Good News” (WHITE JEWEL, CHORUS)

—MILAREPA, age 7, with long turquoise hair, and his sister PETA, age 3, with long golden hair, enter and dance before the completed thangka and the meditating old man with the baby in his lap.


2. Youth


In the foreground, the house. On the second floor, on his death bed, Milarepa’s father, MILA BANNER, reads his will to his FAMILY, FRIENDS, and NEIGHBORS, most of whom envy and resent his wealth.

Song: “My Wealth” (MILA BANNER, with ENVY CHORUS)

He dies.

Funeral rite: instrumental music, chanting, dancing

UNCLE and AUNT take over the house and property, stealing WHITE JEWEL’s inheritance.

Ballet-pantomime with chant: Seven-year cycle. In the summer WHITE JEWEL, MILAREPA, and PETA slave in the fields under UNCLE; in the winter they are servants to AUNT. As the children grow up, they and WHITE JEWEL deteriorate, till they are pitifully weak, pale, and emaciated.


Duet: “Impermanence of Property” (ZESSAY’s PARENTS)

MILAREPA turns 15. WHITE JEWEL throws a party in the house and asserts her claim to her husband’s wealth. In a dramatic confrontation, UNCLE and AUNT and their NUMEROUS CHILDREN lie, deny, and insult her and throw her out of the house.


Some VILLAGERS weep with her, but WHITE JEWEL is too proud to accept any help.


3. Misdeeds


The scene changes to WHITE JEWEL’s hovel. MILAREPA has been sent to a lama to learn to read and has grown up into a happy young man. One day, drinking, singing, and dancing—

“Song of Youthful Joy” (MILAREPA)

he passes his mother’s hovel. She is miserable and makes a scene. Realizing how unhappy she is, MILAREPA asks what he can do to help. She asks for revenge on the UNCLE, AUNT, VILLAGERS, and NEIGHBORS, and MILAREPA swears to do it.

WHITE JEWEL sells half her field and sends him east to study magic. The scene changes to the Himalayan mountainscape. At a caravanserai, MILAREPA meets FIVE BOYS.

Song: “Going East to Find a Guru” (FIVE BOYS, with WHITE JEWEL’S SPIRIT)

MILAREPA goes with the FIVE BOYS to LAMA CONQUERING TERROR in Yarlung and gives him everything. After a year, having learned enough to make thunder, the FIVE BOYS are satisfied. But this is not enough for MILAREPA, who needs real magic. He tells CONQUERING TERROR the whole story, and the lama sends him to LAMA OCEAN OF VIRTUES in Tsarong.

OCEAN OF VIRTUES helps MILAREPA build a cell—high up on the mountain backdrop—and teaches him a spell. MILAREPA meditates for 14 days and the LOYAL DEITIES appear, presenting him with 35 heads and bleeding hearts. Only UNCLE and AUNT are still alive; MILAREPA says let them live to know his vengeance and justic.

The scene shifts back to the HOUSE and we see what happened. A feast is in progress, guests above, horses below.

“Dance of Wicked Joy”

UNCLE and AUNT have stepped outside. A SERVANT goes down to the stable and sees a GIANT SCORPION among the HORSES, grasping the pillars in its claws. The servant screams and flees. The stallions mount the mares. The mares kick down the columns and the house collapses with everybody in it.

WHITE JEWEL enters, triumphant, and dances on the fallen stones.

Song: “How Happy I Am!” (WHITE JEWEL, with UNCLE, AUNT, VILLAGERS)

The SURVIVORS and the UNCLE, furious, want to kill her and her evil son. To protect them, WHITE JEWEL demands a clearer display of MILAREPA’s magic—hailstorms.

The scene shifts back to the LAMA on his seat. MILAREPA begs for the power to make hailstorms, and the LAMA whispers the formula in his ear. MILAREPA climbs to his cell, meditates for 7 days—

“Meditation” (horns and percussion)

then a cloud comes into the cell, lightning flashes, thunder crashes, and he “hears the voice of the maroon-faced Dza.” The lama keeps him till the grain is ripe, then sends him back home disguised as a monk. MILAREPA takes his place on the mountain above his village and, the day before the rich crop is to be harvested, conjures hailstones, wind, and rain.

“Magic Storm”

The harvest is destroyed. The VILLAGERS vow vengeance.


4. Seeking the Dharma


Overwhelmed with remorse for his destructive deeds, MILAREPA returns to the LAMA, who, regretting his own bad deeds, has decided to withdraw into meditation.

Song: “All have the Buddha within” (LAMA)

He asks MILAREPA to guide his disciples. But MILAREPA too decides to seek enlightenment by meditating on the Dharma (reality).

“Dance of Decision” (MILAREPA, LAMA)

The lama sends him to another techer, LAMA JOY OF THE GODS, in Nyang, to seek delivery in this lifetime from the cycle of existence. JOY OF THE GODS offers him enlightenment in one day or one night of meditation. MILAREPA think it’s easy and sleeps instead of meditating.

“Meditation” (sleepy reprise)

JOY OF THE GODS denounces him and sends him to MARPA THE TRANSLATOR.

At the mention of MARPA’s name a gong is heard and all the lights go out except the light on MILAREPA.

Ecstatic aria: “Marpa” (MILAREPA)

Filled with ineffable joy, MILAREPA sets out to find his guru.

The scene shifts to MARPA’s house, surrounded by his hilltop farm. MARPA and his wife DAMEMA are at breakfast telling each other their dreams, which foretell an auspicious arrival.

Duet: “Dreams” (MARPA, DAMEMA)

MARPA goes out to plough. MILAREPA, approaching on the road, sees MARPA ploughing. He doesn’t think it’s him, but is filled with joy.

“Dance of Bliss for the Guru” (MILAREPA)

MILAREPA asks for MARPA. MARPA says he will take him to him after MILAREPA finishes ploughing the field, and gives him a jug of beer. MILAREPA drinks and ploughs.

Later, in MARPA’s dumpy throne room, MARPA reveals his identity to MILAREPA, who offers himself body, speech, and mind if MARPA will give him the liberation teaching he has brought to Tibet from India. MARPA says yes, but MILAREPA, who is penniless, will have to find his own food and clothes.

Aria: “Success is up to you” (MARPA)


5. Testing and Repentance


MILAREPA begs 21 bushels of barley, sells all but six, buys a copper pot, meat, and beer, and brings everything back to MARPA. MARPA furiously kicks him out of his throne room. MILAREPA takes only the empty pot back in. This time MARPA accepts it, offering it to his own guru, NARPA. MILAREPA requests the teching.

MARPA tells him nomads have been robbing his disciples and asks MILAREPA to launch hail on them. MILAREPA does, and requests the teaching. MARPA says it is not enough, sending him to make magic against the Lhobrak hill-men. MILAREPA does, and one man is killed; returning, he requests the teching. MARPA mockingly names him “Great Magician” but laughs at his request, saying that if MILAREPA can’t restore what he destroyed and bring the Lhobrak back to life, he never wants to see him again. MARPA’s wife DAMEMA sympathizes with him.

“Dance of Despair and Comfort” (MILAREPA, DAMEMA)

The next morning MARPA orders MILAREPA to build a tower for his son, promising afterward to teach him. As guarantee, he offers ENLIGHTENING GRACE-WAVES transmitted from his own gurus.

“Dance of the Grace-Waves”

MILAREPA begins building.

Ballet-Pantomime: At MARPA’s instruction, MILAREPA builds a round house on the east brow of the ridge. When it is half done, MARPA changes his mind and has MILAREPA dismantle it. MARPA returns, drunk, and commands MILAREPA to buld a crescent-shaped tower facing west. When it is half-done, MARPA changes his mind and has MILAREPA dismantle it. MARPA returns and commands MILAREPA to build a triangular house facing north, promising not to have it destroyed. When it is one-third done, MARPA denies ordering such a crazy house and insists that MILAREPA put the stones back. By now MILAREPA has a large sore on his back, and he begs DAMEMA to help him. MARPA invites him to dinner, gives him the Triple Refuge, and tells him about Naropa. A few days later MARPA takes MILAREPA to a different spot and orders a rectangular house nine stories high, promising afterward to teach him. DAMEMA witnesses MARPA drawing the plan on the ground. As MILAREPA is beginning the house, THREE DISCIPLES of Marpa bring MILAREPA a giant stone, which he builds in beside the door. When he is up to the second story, MARPA appears and insists he take the stone out: “You can’t build on someone else’s stone.” MILAREPA pulls down the wall, takes the stone back, then MARPA has him fetch it again and set it where it was. MILAREPA builds to seven stories.

The scene changes to the throne room, where MARPA is initiating his disciple METON. With DAMEMA’s encouragement, MILAREPA takes a seat among the candidates and requests the teaching. Furious, MARPA demands the initiation fee. MILAREPA doesn’t have it. MARPA smacks him, drags him by the hair, and throws him out. MILAREPA wants to die.

MARPA tells MILAREPA to stop building the tower and build a shrine room beside it with a covered walk, promising afterward to teach him. Staying a little drunk on beer given him by DAMEMA, MILAREPA does as he is told. For the next initiation, she gives him butter, cloth, and a copper cooking pot, which he offers for the teaching. MARPA says these are things he already owns. He demands something of MILAREPA’s own. Then he curses, kicks him, and throws him out. MILAREPA despairs and weeps.

MARPA orders him to build the tower to ten stories. DAMEMA objects and tells him about the sore on MILAREPA’s back. MARPA examines it, tells MILAREPA about Naropa’s mortifications and trials, and shows him how to fold his shirt into the kind of pad sore-backed donkeys wear. MILAREPA goes back to work, and MARPA weeps with joy.

MILAREPA falls ill and DAMEMA urges him to rest till his sores heal.

“Dance of Nursing and Healing” (MILAREPA, DAMEMA)

MARPA says get back to work. DAMEMA suggests that MILAREPA leave dramatically and joins him in acting out a departure scene. MARPA sees through it, smacks him several times, denounces him, knocks him down, and gives him a beating.

Weeping but impressed, MILAREPA stays. DAMEMA teaches him the Dorje Padmo meditation, which appeases his heart. He serves her.

“Dance of Service to the Mother” (MILAREPA)

He continues building. NGOGDUN is coming for initiation. DAMEMA gives MILAREPA a deep blue turquoise; he gives it to MARPA and requests the teachings. DAMEMA says the stone is not common property but hers alone, but MARPA claims it, again demanding that MILAREPA give something of his own, then attacks him so furiously that MILAREPA jumps out an upstairs window.

The next morning MARPA asks MILAREPA how he feels. MILAREPA takes all the blame on himself.

Song: “I am the author of my own misery” (MILAREPA)

He weeps. MARPA throws him out.

MILAREPA leaves, taking only his books. After a few miles he begs food and borrows a cooking pot from an OLD MAN, who offers him good pay and a place to live in exchange for reading him the holy books. MILAREPA reads about Taktugen, who sold his own heart for the doctrine, and starts back. Meanwhile—

Back at the throne room, DAMEMA tells MARPA that MILAREPA has gone.

Invocation: “Bring Back My Predestined Son” (MARPA)


6. More Ordeals


DAMEMA secretly arranges for MILAREPA to study with Marpa’s student NGOGDUN, forges a letter from MARPA, and steals the rubies of Naropa for MILAREPA to take to NGOGDUN as a gift. NGOGDUN is tremendously moved by the gift. He sends MILAREPA to make hail against people who are harassing his students. MILAREPA does it but feels terrible. He brings back dead birds and mice that the hailstones killed; NGOGDUN magically revives them, to be reborn as MILAREPA’s disciples after he becomes a buddha. He sets MILAREPA to meditating in a cell, but nothing happens.

MARPA summons NGOGDUN to a consecration. DAMEMA sends MILAREPA a note that MARPA will teach him now. MILAREPA dances for joy.

“Dance for Joy” (MILAREPA) leads into

“Ngogdun Procession”

NGOGDUN prostrates to MARPA, telling him he has brought everything he owns except one old goat that was too lame to follow the herd. MARPA sends him back for the goat.

Ballet: NGOGDUN journeys to fetch the goat. When he returns, MARPA unrolls a scroll; the company forms a living mandala representing the teachings MARPA gives to NGOGDUN. Heavy music. Fade to black.

Ritual feast in MARPA’s throne room. MARPA learns of the forged note and the stolen jewels. In a rage he chases DAMEMA brandishing a stick; she locks herself into a shrine. He orders NGOGDUN to bring back the rubies. Outside, MILAREPA despairs. He tries to kill himself. NGOGDUN restrains him.

Duet: “Is my heart made of iron?” (MILAREPA, NGOGDUN)

General sobbing.


7. Initiation


MARPA regains his composure and announces that this is just what was needed. He summons MILAREPA, and DAMEMA brings him in, although they fear another trip. MARPA explains. Finally he has succeeded in Bringing MILAREPA to despair, freeing him from his evil deeds. Now he will teach him, provide for him, let him meditate and be happy. Boundlessly happy, MILAREPA prostrates himself.

Duet: “What shall we admire most in the guru?” (NGOGDUN-DAMEMA)

MARPA ordains MILAREPA a monk and he takes the Boddhissatva vow. He cuts off MILAREPA’s hair and dresses him in a monk’s robe. They make offerings together. As MARPA gives MILAREPA instruction, a new mandala forms behind them, illustrating the order of the universe.

Aria “My son, I knew you from the first” (MARPA)

MILAREPA: “Thus it was that my guru encouraged, praised, and gladdened me, and my happy days began.”

Images fades out.


8. Personal Guidance by the Guru


MILAREPA retires to meditate in a cave high up.

“Great Om” (begins, continues as drone)

MARPA and DAMEMA come up to see him. MARPA wants to know what he has learned. MILAREPA is reluctant to come out, but DAMEMA helps him pull down the wall.

Aria: “This is the highest path” (MILAREPA)


End of Part I






1. Parting from the Guru


In seclusion in his cell, MILAREPA dreams that his mother is dead and his sister PETA has wandered off to beg. Smothered with pain, he breaks his retreat and asks MARPA to send him home. MARPA tells him they will meet no more in this life but MILAREPA will make the teachings shine. MARPA prostrates himself before MILAREPA and gives him a sealed scroll to look at when he encounters an obstacle. MARPA and DAMEMA accompany MILAREPA to the first mountain pass and send him on his way with their blessing.

Song: “We will meet again as friends in the pure land of buddha” (DAMEMA)


2. Home Again


Arriving in his village, MILAREPA learns that his terrible dream was true. Entering his father’s ruined, abandoned house, he finds his mother’s bones lying in a weedy heap of ashes and dirt. Collecting himself, he meditates.

“Visualization” (WHITE JEWEL and LAMAS dance, CHORUS chants, off)

Emerging from meditation, MILAREPA gathers and cleans the bones and finds what’s left of the sacred books. He takes the bones to his childhood tutor, but finds the LAMA’S SON, who helps him perform the proper ceremony.

“Ceremony of Mother’s Bones”

Learning that MILAREPA is a student of MARPA, the LAMA’S SON urges him to follow in MARPA’s footsteps by repairing his house and marrying ZESSAY, his childhood sweetheart. In his grief, however, MILAREPA has resolved to withdraw to the mountains and meditate in solitude for the rest of his life.

Aria: “Solitude” (MILAREPA)

On his way to the mountains, MILAREPA, weak with hunger, begs at a tent. His AUNT emerges, recognizes him, and sets the dogs on him. Backing away, MILAREPA trips and falls into a puddle. The UNCLE appears and shoots arrows at him. A wild scene ensues, with still-vengeful villagers chasing MILAREPA and throwing rocks at him. MILAREPA gets up on a rock and invokes the lineage. A vision of DEITIES appears and terrifies all but UNCLE. The VILLAGERS restrain UNCLE and bring offerings to MILAREPA.

ZESSAY, now beautiful, comes to see him, hoping he has come to claim the field and house and marry her. When MILAREPA says he has given all that up, she denounces him and his path and leaves.

AUNT appears and proposes a deal: in exchange for the use of his field, she will bring him a sack of barley every month.He accepts, and swears his guardian deities won’t attack. Then he can’t meditate. A bad dream makes him despair, but MARPA appears in the sky and renews his confidence.

Reprise: “Dance of Bliss for the Guru” (MILAREPA)

AUNT arrives heavy laden to buy his field. MILAREPA has no more interest and gives her the field and house, then withdraws to a meditation cave on Horsetooth Rock.


3. Meditation


High on the mountains in front of his cave, MILAREPA meditates. A vast mandala begins to form behind, above, below, and around him, and special music is heard. But MILAREPA is suffering on his hard cushion, weakened by hunger, shaking with cold. SKY MARPA appears and sends him a group of WOMEN, who serve him a ritual feast and teach him the Fire of Tummo.

“Tantric Fire Ritual” (WOMEN and MILAREPA)

MILAREPA glows with inner warmth. Four years pass. Meditating in the cave, he is still glowing but almost dying of starvation. He has been eating nothing but nettles. When he staggers out of the cave, his body, covered with greenish hair, is like a skeleton, his skin the color of nettles. But the sun is warm, there is water and many nettles, and he joyfully stays another year. He meditates, putting MARPA’s scroll, unopened, on top of his head.

HUNTERS appear and think MILAREPA is a ghost. They threaten to rob him; realizing he has nothing, they rough him up and mock him. His DIETIES take revenge. The mandala and its music continue strongly.

After another year nothing is left of his clothes but rags. More MEN arrive and give him meat and food. Eating, he feels much better.

A SNEAK comes to rob him but finds nothing. MILAREPA bursts out laughing. So passes another year.

More empty-handed HUNTERS happen by, and one of them recognizes MILAREPA. They think he is the most pitiful person in the world, but he says he is the luckiest and most ambitious.

Song: “I go to samadhi” (MILAREPA)

Going down the mountain recalling the song, the HUNTERS encounter MILAREPA’s little sister PETA, who is alone in the world and begging. They tell her they have seen MILAREPA and send her to him. They are reunited, but she thinks he is more miserable than she is. She gives him food and drink and leaves. The food helps, but her departure destroys his meditation. PETA returns with ZESSAY. They blush at his nakedness and weep at his condition, thinking he is crazy. Actually, he is in bliss.

Song: “Happiness” (MILAREPA)

They reject his ideas and leave. MILAREPA eats, but he feels physical pain and mental turmoil, and he can’t meditate. There could be no greater obstacle than inability to meditate so he opens Marpa’s scroll. As he opens the scroll, MARPA appears top center in the great thangka/mandala behind him and the music strengthens as he reads it.

Song: “Soaring free” (MILAREPA & TUTTI)

During this song MILAREPA’s meditation has brought him the power to fly. At first he merely rises above the rock where he is meditating and glows with special radiance. Then he flies about, visiting each of the scenes in the thangka. Below, on the stage floor, a FATHER and SON, ploughing with oxen, look up and see him. The father is appalled but the boy is thrilled.

Now MILAREPA feels he can help other beings. But a YIDAM appears with MARPA’s command that he devote himself wholly to meditation, which will save all. Aware that his miraculous flying will bring him worldly attention, MILAREPA sets forth, naked, carrying only his nettle pot, to meditate at Chuwar in greater solitude.

He meets a group of MAIDENS, who pity him. MILAREPA sings them a song and the MAIDENS dance to it.

Song: “Oh pitiful delusion!” (MILAREPA)

He finds another sunny cave and meditates for some months. People bring him food and drink. He fears popularity. Meanwhile, PETA is looking for him. She comes upon a splendid procession: LAMA BARI LOTSAWA carried on a throne beneath a canopy, richly dressed; MONKS play conches, cymbals, clarionets, flutes; CROWD OF MEN offer him tea and chhang.

“Lama Bari Lotsawa Procession”

PETA tells MILAREPA this is the way a holy man should be treated.

Song: “I am naked, I am odd” (MILAREPA)

Now his AUNT, their old nemesis, arrives, loaded with provisions, accompanied by OTHER ADMIRERS. PETA pulls back the little drawbridge. MILAREPA goes up on a rock and tells them to go away. But the AUNT begs, and MILAREPA resets the bridge and embraces and forgives her. She meditates.

SHIWA O REPA, BODHI RAJA, and other STUDENTS have appeared around MILAREPA, who is now old, venerating him and meditating according to his example. They ask him questions, and he answers.

Song: “Old Man’s Promise” (MILAREPA)


4. Nirvana


As at the beginning of the opera, MILAREPA is seated on a throne surrounded by a panoply of gods and devotees.

“Deep Om chant” (emerging, continuing)

Before them appears a procession even grander than that of LAMA BARI LOTSAWA. GESHE TSAKPUWA’s procession is like a circus parade, with MUSICIANS and DANCERS, JUGGLERS and ACROBATS.

“Geshe Tsakpuwa Procession”

The procession pauses stage center. GESHE TSAKPUWA acknowledges the audience, but the MILAREPA people are all meditating and don’t notice him. The procession continues off.

A WEDDING PARTY assembles. As MILAREPA comes down from his perch, TSAKPUWA enters, and they meet. TSAKPUWA prostrates himself. MILAREPA gazes at him with compassion, then goes on. Trying to show up MILAREPA for an ignorant fool, TSAKPUWA takes him a scroll and asks for explication. MILAREPA dismisses dialectics with a song.

Song: “I have forgotten now” (MILAREPA)

The CHORUS side with MILAREPA. Furious, TSAKPUWA mixes poison into milk and sends it to MILAREPA via his CONCUBINE, promising her a turquoise. MILAREPA, all knowing, refuses to drink till she gets the jewel. Then she begs him not to drink, saying she will drink it herself. But MILAREPA’s mission is complete, and he drinks. He tells his FOLLOWERS to prepare a feast and summons all who wish to see him.

As the DISCIPLES gather, a rainbow appears in a sky filled with gods. Parasols and banners take form in the five-colored clouds, and flowers fall in five colors. Perfume fills the air, and exquisite music.

Song: “How to See the Gods” (MILAREPA)

His DISCIPLES are uplifted and ecstatic and beg for his blessing, which he gives. NGANDZONG REPA and others want to give him medicine, but he sees no point in it. ALL ask for the teaching, and he gives it.

GESHE TSAKPUWA, still trying to show up MILAREPA as a fake, asks that MILAREPA transfer to his sickness to him. MILAREPA instead transfers it to a door, which with a loud crack begins shaking violently and breaking apart. MILAREPA meanwhile is free of sickness and dances.

Duet: “A Taste of Pain” (TSAKPUWA, MILAREPA)

TSAKPUWA says it’s a magician’s trick and again asks MILAREPA to transfer his sickness to him. MILAREPA gives him a moment of half his sickness, the TSAKPUWA collapses, writhing in pain, then paralyzed and choking. Then MILAREPA, again ill, returns to his rock, supported by DISCIPLES. TSAKPUWA accepts him as a teacher and joins the DISCIPLES.

Having accomplished his purpose here, MILAREPA decides to go to Chuwar to die. The DISCIPLES want to carry him on a palanquin but he says there is no reality to his sickness and sends them on ahead. As the DISCIPLES disperse, darkness falls, and MILAREPA divides into MANY MILAREPAS, who appear in various parts of the stage: one meditating in a cave high above, one collapsing with illness on a rock, one walking with OLDER MONKS, one being met by DISCIPLES at Chuwar, one singing on an outcropping, many appearing to individuals, who present offerings.

All the MILAREPAS vanish except the one seated in the cave. Manifesting sickness, he gives his final testament and teaching.

Song: “I will be with you” (MILAREPA and TRIO OF REPAS)

He enters into deep meditation and, as the sun rises, passes into Nirvana.


(Full libretto available on request)