Vagid Ragimov (trans. James Manteith)

From “A Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa”

Published in: 29. The Career of Freedom

St. Petersburg-based translator Vagid Ragimov tells about his work preparing a two-volume edition of “A Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa,” representing the work’s first-ever direct translation from Tibetan to Russian.

Due to an extremely favorable combination of circumstances, it’s been my good fortune to collaborate with the beautiful yoga community OUM.RU over the past year and a half to translate “A Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa” from Tibetan. I have been translating texts on the Buddhist Dharma for thirty years, and Milarepa’s songs were the first book that I translated, but at that time from English. In December last year, the first volume of the translation of these songs from Tibetan was published; now the second is being prepared. The second volume will also include songs not previously translated into Russian from English.

Jetsun Milarepa is one of the most famous representatives of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Tsangnyeon Heruka (1452-1507), the author of Milarepa’s most authoritative biography, tells us that he was born in the year of the water dragon (1052) and died in the year of the wood rabbit (1135). His life coincided with the second wave of the spread of Buddhism in Tibet (the first took place in the 7th-9th centuries).


If you believe this old man,

Listen to what he says now!

Our tradition of practice is to spread,

Many perfect people will appear in it,

In all countries of the world, people will learn about Milarepa,

And your faith in me will remain unchanged

And you will tell fables about me.


Thus Milarepa finishes one of his instructive songs. Today, Milarepa’s line of succession — Kagyu, or the tradition of Lama Karmapa, really has spread around the world. As have other traditions of Buddhist Dharma.

What are Milarepa’s songs?

He devoted the second part of his life to spiritual practice, becoming a hermit in the mountains. In his approach to practice, Milarepa was unstoppable, ignoring difficulties. He could go months without eating, he didn’t need warm clothes, and he felt most at ease while alone in the mountains, although he also descended to human settlements. He perfectly mastered special methods of tantric meditation. No follower of Buddhist teaching has any doubt that Milarepa was an Enlightened Buddha.

Fate brought different people to him, in different situations. No encounter with him could leave anyone indifferent. After contact was made and pleasantries were exchanged, Jetsun Milarepa would answer questions raised by the people he met and describe his spiritual experience in poetic songs.

The Buddha’s teaching is accurate knowledge, but not dry. Instead, it is beautiful and liberating. It can be explained in philosophical treatises, but best of all, perhaps, in poetry. In his songs, Milarepa sometimes speaks in simple words about deep things, but most often his songs comprise a short lecture on the Dharma, with a strict structure, using various terms. Depending on one’s degree of familiarity with the Buddha’s teaching, one can see this structure, and terms, and many other very useful things on a theoretical and especially on a practical level.*


Vagid Ragimov


* If you want to know more about the meaning of various words and phrases that might not be totally clear, write to me here: I will be glad to answer. Or perhaps a basis for more pieces for the magazine will arise from questions and answers.


(The Russian version of this issue includes a chapter from the “Hundred Thousand Songs” in Vagid Ragimov’s translation.)

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