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Milarepa's Kungfu

Mahamudra in His Songs of Realization

The original meaning of kungfu isn't just martial arts; it refers to a practice that is mastered through years of focused, diligent training. This book reveals a meditation master's "kungfu of the mind."

The view is the wisdom of being empty
Meditation is luminosity without fixation
Conduct is a continual flow free of attachment
Fruition is nakedness bare of any stain


This is the first stanza of Milarepa’s Ultimate View, Meditation, Conduct, and Fruition: pith instructions originally sang to the great yogi Rechungpa, Milarepa’s disciple. These teachings are Milarepa’s direct offering to his disciple of his own profound realization, gained after many years of dedicated practice. Karl Brunnhölzl, acclaimed translator and senior teacher at the Nalandabodhi community of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, calls this hard-earned understanding “kungfu”: “Gong means ‘skillful work,’ ‘hard training,’ or ‘endeavor,’ and fu means ‘time spent...’ The term refers to Milarepa’s diligent and skillful training in the techniques to realize the nature of his mind and benefit countless sentient beings.” 

Ultimate View, Meditation, Conduct, and Fruition is a work of remarkable depth and remarkable clarity. In just five verses, Milarepa gives incisive instructions for progressing and for avoiding pitfalls in the stages of practice:

- View: the basis or ground from which the proper meditation, conduct, and fruition of mahamudra can arise

- Meditation: the training in or the familiarization with that view

- Conduct: the natural outflow of having familiarized with the view in meditation

- Fruition: the final outcome of having fully assimilated and realized the view, which is not different from the view

Milarepa dedicates one verse to each stage, and Karl dedicates one chapter to each verse, weaving in wisdom from other Milarepa songs and from Karl’s own considerable insight. The reader is thus able to fully immerse themselves in each point of Milarepa’s extraordinary teaching.

Karl Brunnhölzl, MD, PhD, was originally trained as a physician. He received his systematic training in Tibetan language and Buddhist philosophy and practice at the Marpa Institute for Translators, founded by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, as well as the Nitartha Institute, founded by Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche. Since 1989 he has been a translator and interpreter from Tibetan and English. He is a senior teacher and translator in the Nalandabodhi community of Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, as well as at Nitartha Institute. He is the author and translator of numerous texts, including most recently A Lullaby to Awaken the Heart (2018) and Luminous Melodies: Essential Dohas of Indian Mahamudra (2019).