Who is Milarepa?

Milarepa Listening painting is complete! Read more to learn more about this great Tibetan yogi and how his journey relates to you.

Gayatri with Milarepa painting and day lilies

Who is Milarepa?
Milarepa was a 7th century practitioner in Tibet who became enlightened after many years of practice under his teacher Marpa. Milarepa worked through incredibly dense karma of having killed people by doing hard physical work for his teacher (building and unbuilding stone houses seven times). At one point, he did leave his teacher because he couldn’t take the heat. After that, he did a long retreat in the wilderness, pictured here in this painting, and attained his enlightenment. I found a lot of hope in this that I can become enlightened too, and a lot of gratitude that I have a teacher to support me in the process.

Milarepa holds hand to ear in the gesture of listening to his teacher. This is a quality I aspire to on a daily basis – to listen to and absorb the teachings. My teacher has often spoken of the state of being present like a soap bubble, you have to be focused and relaxed to maintain it. Milarepa’s nimbus or halo is like a soap bubble and mini abstract painting within a painting.

As I have painted this while living in Madison, one day I noticed Milarepa is sitting on an isthsmus! The landscape is a merging of Madison and Colorado as the wilderness background shows Long’s Peak and Mt. Meeker. In thangka painting, the landscape is stylized and perfected overall, which speaks to the enlightened view where everything is illuminated.

In Milarepa’s sweet face, I can see my baby nephew Ember who I have spent a lot of time with recently. Behind Milarepa is a cooking fire and pottery vessel, a reference to wood-fired pottery that my husband makes.

References for this piece include Milarepa Thangka by Faith Stone and Milarepa drawing by Robert Beer.