In 1973, after he proposed it to Julius Evola and he obtained his assent, Renato del Ponte gathered under the title ‘Meditazioni delle vette’ (at the beginning, the work was to be entitled ‘Ghiacci e spirito’) fifteen of his articles on mountain and mountain climbing which appeared in various reviews between 1930 and 1942. This anthology was published at the beginning of 1974 by Edizioni del Tridente, a few months before the author’s death. Since it was soon out of print, Edizioni del Tridente published a second edition – increased by three texts found meanwhile – in 1979 ; then, in 1986, a third edition, reviewed and increased by a new text of 1927 as well as by L' »altezza » (‘Height’), an excerpt of a chapter of the first two editions of ‘Rivolta contro il mondo moderno’ of 1931 and 1951, which was removed in the final edition of 1969. The fourth edition, published by SeaR in 1997, includes these twenty texts. In addition to these, there are three more articles in the fifth edition (Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 2005), which thus brings the total to twenty-three.
The first U.S. edition, published in 1998 by Inner Traditions, is made of twenty of these writings. The three lacking ones are : ‘Verso il deserto bianco’ (1928), an account of a climbing in the Italian Alps ; ‘Turismo, sport, montagna’, two notes published by Evola under a pseudonym in La Torre (1930), about the contamination of mountains by tourism and other modern viruses carried by masses ; ‘Il pittore delle nevi tibetane’ (1959), a new version of ‘An Artist of the Heights : Nicholas Roehrich’ (1931). If ‘A Mystic of the Tibetan Mountains’ can be found in it, it is, however, not accompanied with the twenty-one notes by which this commentary to Milarepa’s work is followed in the original (parts in brackets are not found in the English edition of Milarepa’s work ; they have been translated from the Italian edition, which, in turn, was translated from the German edition).
A Mystic of The Tibetan Heights
Milarepa (or Milasrepa, or even Mila) was a strange Tibetan magician, ascetic and poet who lived by the eleventh century, to whom we owe one of the most notable recensions of the mystical doctrine of the Mahayana, a recension which has given rise to its own tradition, which still exists today. His teachings are given in the form of songs, which are inserted into the stories of his life. J. Bacot has recently made an excellent translation of his biography, as ‘Milarepa – Ses crimes, ses épreuves, son nirvâna’ (ed. Bossart, Paris, 1925). See also G. Sandberg, ‘Tibet and the Tibetans’ (London, 1906) ; and B. Laufer, ‘Zwei Legenden des Milaraspa’ (Archiv für Religionswissenschaft, 4, 1901), ‘Aus den Geschichten und Liedern des Milaraspa’ (Denkschriften der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Wien, 1902), and ‘Milaraspa, tibetische Texte in Auswahl übertragen’ (Folkwang-Verlag Gmbh, Hagen in Westfalen und Darmstadt, 1922).
Since we have not been able to obtain the Tibetan text, this translation has been made for ‘Ur’ by O. Resnevic and J.E. on the basis of Laufer’s German edition, which is now quite rare.
The merely narrative part has been summarised.
Six months had gone by since the ascetic Milarepa, having taken to the high mountains near the great glaciers, had been caught with little food in a snowstorm that bad isolated the mountain peaks from the rest of the world. Believing that Milarepa had died, his disciples made the sacrificial offerings prescribed for the dead. At the beginning of spring they went to look for him, forging a path through the snow, wishing to retrieve the body of their teacher.
During one stop in the glaciers a snow leopard appeared to them. They began to follow it when suddenly, to their astonishment, it turned into a tiger. At the entrance of the Cave of the Demons, they heard a voice singing a song, which they recognized as Milarepa’s, and immediately ran inside to embrace their teacher; it was he who had projected the images of the leopard and the tiger through a far-reaching illusion, having sensed his approaching disciples.
He told them how, during his contemplation, although eating almost nothing, he bad not felt the need for food; that during the feast days, the aerial spirits of the peaks had brought to him the essence of the offerings made to him by his friends; and that when his disciples, believing Milarepa to have died, had begun to make offerings, these became for him a sort of food that made him feel satiated and be wanted nothing.
At his disciples’ request, Milarepa agreed to suspend bis ascetic practices in the mountains and descend to the plateau, where, at the news of his safe return, a rejoicing crowd gathered. Milarepa, questioned by the people, told the story of his stay on the mountain peak and how he was able to endure the elements, the icy temperatures, and the raging wind, thus overcoming the invisible forces (the « demons ») disguised as snow. Then be offered bis teachings.
The Song of the Snow
At the end of the Tiger Year, before the Rabbit Year began, on the sixth day of Wa Jal, a sense of renunciation grew within me.
To the remote Lashi snow mountain came Milarepa, the anchorite who clings to solitude.
Heaven and earth held a council; a wind that tears the skin was sent.
The rivers ran and torrents surged; black clouds swept in from all directions. –
The sun and the moon were shut in darkness and the twenty-eight constellations were fixed in place; the Milky Way was pegged-down and the eight planets were tied by an iron chain.
The firmament was wrapped in fog; in the mist, snow fell for nine days and nights. Then more and more for a further eighteen nights and days.
The snow fell, big as bags or wool, fell like birds flying in the sky, fell like a whirling swarm of bees.
Flakes fell small as a spindle’s wheel, fell as tiny as bean seed, fell like tufts of cotton.
The snowfall was beyond all measure. Snow covered the whole mountain and even touched the sky, falling through the bushes and weighing down the trees.
In this great disaster l remained in utter solitude.
The snow, the wintry blast, and my thin cotton garment fought against each other on the white mountain. The snow, as it fell on me, turned into drizzle. l conquered the raging winds, subduing them to silent rest.
The cotton cloth I wore was like a burning brand.
The struggle was of life and death, as when giants wrestle and sabers clash.
I, the competent yogi, was victorious (1); my power over the vital heat (tumo) (2) and the two channels was thus shown.
By observing carefully the Four Ills caused by meditation and keeping to the inner practice, the cold and the warm pranas became the essence. This was why the raging wind grew tame and the storm (3), subdued, lost its power.
Not even the devas’ army could compete with me (4). This battle, I, the yogi, won.
Son of a lion, of all beasts the king, I have ever lived in snow mountains: no need to worry about me.
If you believe what this old man tells, Dharma will grow and spread afar.
The Song of Joy
[Thanks to the liberation of the heart the vertu of the disciples bear fruit.
In senses, applied to liberation, Emptiness arises (5)
Cause and base of contemplation is the simple point without dimensions (6)
It is the disappearing of the contemplator into contemplation
And thus the way of contemplation is known by means of the liberation of the heart.
Illumination arising from meditation is like the current of a river (7)
It is not necessary to stay up all night for the scope of meditation,
This would destroy the superior consciousness of meditation (8).
And thus the stability of meditation is obtained by means of the liberation of the heart.
The success of discipline is based on illumination ;
Through the realisation of the unreality of the nidâna (9)
Discipline is purified by the intention of discipline :
And thus the way of the success of discipline is known by means of the liberation of the heart.
Agitation which arises from attachment to temporal things vanishes completely.
The eight false doctrines on the world no longer awake hope or fear.
He who wants to keep what must be kept is surpassed.
And thus the way by which emptiness can (still) be maintained is known by means of the liberation of the heart.
Through the realisation of the unreality of one’s ‘I’,
There is no longer any will to save oneself or the other.
And thus the mode of the will to achievement is known by means of the liberation of the heart.]
In answer to my disciples’ questioning, this is the happy song the old man sings! The falling snow enclosed my house of meditation; goddesses gave me food and sustenance.
By observing my own mind, all things are seen; by sitting in a lowly place, the royal throne is reached.
I, Milarepa, came to the Lashi Snow Mountain to occupy alone the Cave of the Demons. For six full months, the experiences of meditation grew. l now disclose them in this, the song of the Six Essences of Meditative Experiences.
If there be obstacles, it cannot be called space; if there be numbers, it cannot be called stars.
One cannot say, « This is a mountain, » if it moves and shakes.
It cannot be an ocean should it grow or shrink.
One cannot be called a swimmer if he needs a bridge. It is not a rainbow if it can be grasped. These are the Six Outer Parables.
The limits of the definite restrict understanding. Drowsiness and distractions are not meditation. Acceptance and rejection are not acts of will. A constant flow of thought is not yoga.
If there be East and West, it is not wisdom. If birth and death, it is not Buddha. These are the Six Inner Faults.
Great faith; reliance on a wise and strict guru;
good discipline, solitude in hermitage; determined, persevering practice; and meditation – these are the Six Ways that lead to liberation.
The original inborn wisdom is the sphere of primordial depth. Without exterior or interior is the sphere of awareness; without brightness or darkness is the sphere of insight; omnipresent and all-embracing is the sphere of Dharma; without mutation or transition is the sphere of tig Le ; without interruption is the sphere of experience. [These are the six spheres which give certainty.
When in the body inner heat develops the yogi feels well
He feels well when the right and left arteries of the heart enter in the medial one (13) ;
He feels well in the higher part of the body on the descent of illumination ;
He feels well in the lower part of the body on the expanding of the seed of the chyle (14) ;
He feels well in the centre of the body by means of love for mercy when the white sperm of the right artery and the red sperm of the left artery meet (15).
In the whole body he feels well in the satisfaction caused by the happy state in which he does not experience fault.
These are the six ways of the spiritual well-being of the yogi (16)]
These are the Six Unshakable Realms of Essence.
I sing this song of Six Essences of my experiences last winter while meditating.
The anguish of the heart that considers real that which has conditioned existence is overcome; the darkness of the illusion generated by lack of knowledge is dissolved (17).
The white lotus of the intellectual vision opens up; the torch of a clear self-consciousness is lit (18); wisdom a wakens. Is my spirit really awake?
When I look up to the blue sky, the emptiness of what exists is clearly evident to me and I do not fear the doctrine of the reality of things.
When I look at the sun and the moon, enlightenment arises
in a distinct manner within my consciousness and I do not fear spiritual dullness and torpor.
When I look to the mountain peaks, the immutable object of contemplation is clearly perceived by my consciousness and I do not fear the unceasing changes of mere theories. When I look down to the river below, the idea of continuity clearly arises in my consciousness, thus I do not fear unforeseeable events.
When I see the rainbow, the emptiness of phenomena is experienced in the most central part of my inner being in zung-jug (19) and I fear neither that which endures, nor that which passes away.
When I see the image of the moon reflected by the water, self-liberation, freed from all concerns, clearly appears to my consciousness and I do not fear stupidity and frivolity.
The Song of the Essence of Things
The storm, the thunder, the clouds from the south. When they arise, they arise from the sky; when they disappear they do so into the sky.
The rainbow, the fog, and the mist. When they arise, they arise from the air; when they disappear they do so into the air.
The substance of all fruits and of every crop comes from the earth; when it disappears it does so into the earth.
Rivers, waves, and sea foam. When they arise, they arise from the ocean; when they disappear they do so into the ocean.
Passions, yearning, and greed. When they arise, they arise from the mind; when they disappear they do so into the mind.
Wisdom, enlightenment, liberation. When they arise, they arise from the mind; when they disappear, they do so into the mind.
The freedom from rebirth, the unconditioned, the ineffable, when they arise, they arise from being; when they disappear, they do so into being (20).
That which is regarded as a demon, when it arises, it arises from within the ascetic; when it disappears, it does so into
the ascetic, since these apparitions are only an illusory game of the inner essence.
By realizing the true nature of the mind, it is possible to realize that the state of enlightenment does not come, nor
does it leave (21).
When the mind, which is deluded by the apparition of the external world, has finally understood the teaching
concerning the phenomena, it experiences that there is no difference whatsoever between phenomena and emptiness (22).
When the true nature of the mind is compared to that of ether, the essence of truth is properly understood.
(1) The hint at the use of visualisation should be noted : the image of the fighter, then that of the victorious swords, as well as images connoting undoubting confidence and scorn for the enemy. They are the levers of the magical mind.
(2)In Milarepa, and in Tibetan texts in general, there are recurrent hints at a mystical heat that the yogi has the power to produce. This heat, quite similar to the ‘Fire’ of Hermetism, has a psychical aspect, which is used to reach the state of contemplation, but, at the same time, it has a physically effective aspect, which allows the Tibetan yogi to remain in contemplation even in the ice-cold eternal snows (the snow melts around the ascetic). A. David-Néel, having visited and returned from Tibet, has given a number of extremely interesting lectures in Paris on this, and on many other magical phenomena apparent in the Tibetan schools, and the texts of these lectures have been reproduced in the review ‘Christliche Welt’, Nos. 1-3,1928, and collected in her famous book ‘Mystiques et Magiciens du Tibet’ (English edition, ‘Magic and Mystery in Tibet’), 1929.
The heat is produced as follows. After preliminary exercises, which accustom the practitioner to remaining naked, or almost naked, in the cold, concentration is prescribed on a fire whose centre corresponds to the umbilicus (solar plexus), where the mantra of the element of fire, that is, Ram, is visualised. At this initial stage, one must think of the fire as hidden beneath ash. A deep in-breath is thought of as a gust of wind which ignites it. The ash begins to become red. The practice proceeds with the thought that every in-breath is a new blast of wind which further kindles the flame in its centre. The awakening of the fire is followed in thought, which proceeds to imagine it rising from this centre, up the spinal column, in the form of a red thread. The thread becomes bigger, until it has the dimension of a finger, then of an arm, and then of the entire body, which has been transformed into a single furnace, filled with burning coal. At this point, the practitioner no longer sees the fire, nor does he feel his body, but he sees the whole universe blazing, like an immense sea of fire, rocked by the wind ; and when, finally, self-consciousness and his sense of his environment are lost, he feels himself to be a flame in this sea of flames. Then, the heat starts to free itself from his body, in a supernatural way.
In these schools other methods are used also. For example, the Goddess burning-wife-of-the-thunderbolt-God, that is, of the Dorje, is invoked, and, after one has identified with her until one’s sense of self is almost obliterated, one proceeds to short-circuit, as it were, the head centre and that of the solar plexus. One imagines oneself descending from the former in the form of an oil, which gradually sets the latter ablaze, after which one maintains the fire by means of respiratory discipline.
(3) Milarepa establishes a rapport with the forces of the storm, which take form within him as a psychic state of restlessness. Having achieved this real contact (it is not about ’emotions’ in any way), by transforming his own interior state into one of calm, he simultaneously calms the storm outside himself.
(4) Taking the forms of the storm and the cold, it was a demon which tried to pull down the ascetic. « The world is full of demons », said the Greeks, and here, likewise, we read that « there is an infinite number of demons within the process of perceiving ». Things which resist are symbolic expressions of spirits which resist. Every material victory or defeat is the shadow of a related spiritual meaning. As spirits, we fight with spirits, even when, perceiving ourselves only as body, we think we fight alongside certain bodies, and against other bodies, in purely material struggles.
(5) Shûnyatâ : state of « emptiness », inner liberation, ‘areità’ (note of the translator : here, a neologism is used : ‘areità’, apparently from the Greek ‘a-rein’, meaning ‘devoid of water’ or ‘devoid of humidity’) which arises from the overcoming of the illusion of separate existence. It is on the basis of this idea that we must fathom the sense of what is indicated in the following verses as the key to illumination and realisation, which we render as the « freed heart », rather than following the « guten Herz » of the German text ; this latter expression means either nothing at all, or the contrary of what the Tibetan original intends, which is precisely the state in which the « tie of the heart » is cut, and the anguish (duhkha) and attachment (tanha) characteristic of separate existence are suspended.
(6) That is : to detach the mind from images and to establish it in a point without dimensions. This leads to the simplicity which is at the root of contemplation. It is a minimal point, analogous to the evangelical « eye of the needle », through which one enters the « kingdom of heaven ». Made of nothing – a Naasene fragment quoted by Hippolytus says (V, I, 30) – it turns into a size beyond every understanding. Compare the remarks of Van der Leew, in ‘Il Fuoco della Creazione’ (Turin, 1927), pp. 86-87. Symbolised as ‘gold’, it is the point which is maintained in the centre of the (mental) ‘void’.
(7) Cf. Corpus Hermeticum, Asclepius, III, 1 : « The course of the divine is as hard to arrest as the flow of a rapid and impetuous river : thus, it often escapes the grasp of the most attentive, and even of the masters themselves. » [Translator’s note : the ‘Asclepius’ is actually not part of the ‘Corpus Hermeticum’ : though they are often printed together, it is in fact a separate work].
(8) To comprehend these expressions, and the following ones, we should recall the Taoist doctrine of ‘acting-without-acting’, that is, of acting with purity of intention, without partiality or ‘concern’. It is necessary to eliminate the ‘I’, which interferes with experience, and, by taking control of it, or watching it, destroys it. In the classical tradition, the same idea is represented by the story of Narcissus, who dies as a result of losing his sense of reality through his infatuation with own image. The verse to which we refer talks specifically about an
exacerbated intentionality, which, rather than attracting the superior form of awareness, repels it. Milarepa, elsewhere (Bacot, op. cit., p. 201), offers the image of the « firm and happy water of the unconscious (or, undifferentiated consciousness) on which the flowers of illumination blossom ».
(9) The ‘nidâna’, in Buddhist metaphysics, are the conditions interconnected in causal series (pratitya-samutpada} which, starting from the state of not-knowing, the supreme root of the following states, lead to ex-sistence in the world, subject to space and time, birth and death.
(10) ‘Empty’, our translation of « Gelübde », here as elsewhere, must be understood in the purest sense of the term, as a state of constant dedication and fervent inner adherence to the direction willed to begin with.
(11) Six, because, as is well known, ‘thought’, in these doctrines, is not consciousness, but one particular faculty or organ of consciousness, which is to be reckoned as added to the group of the other five senses or conditions of knowledge.
(12) Our translation of ‘mitgeborenwerden’ here evokes Claudel’s meaning of the term ‘co-naissance’. Indeed, it is a state which is ‘knowledge’, not as a subjective process, but as a sympathy of community, as a being born-together – a becoming of the thing and of the form of consciousness in a state of coincidence. In the following verse, as a matter of fact, Milarepa turns abruptly to the adhesion of ‘within’ with ‘outside’ in the immensity of knowledge.
(13) This implies a ‘junction’ of two normally separate but symmetrical parts, like the arms and hands, with with they have a certain correspondence. This ‘junction’ resembles the ritual joining of the hands or crossing of the arms, and gives a sense of unification, strengthening and integration of being. Although they are not unrelated to the actual arteries, as known by physiologists, these are essentially two fluidic currents which underlie the circulatory system.
(14) Much would have to be explained to fully elucidate this verse, and we may undertake this on another occasion. It should be recalled, in any case, that, to the yogi, all the organs and functions of the body are resolved into corresponding states of consciousness, which contain knowledge of the external world, its elements, and its influences. Through food, the outer world penetrates into the body of man, and the function of the chyle carries out assimilation. The yogi perceives and follows the outer world according to the assimilation process which is developed in the lower part of his body. He is connected in this way to the outer world, he assimilates it, thus achieving a higher degree of integration, the source of a new form of well-being.
(15) Once again, an explanation would go far beyond the limits of a note. The complete doctrine in question can be found in ‘L’Uomo come Potenza’ by J. Evola : the two arteries, or currents of force (in Sanskrit, nâdî, from nad = running ; in Tibetan, rtsa) of which we are now speaking, are to be distinguished from the previous ones, those of the heart. They do not have any true topo-physiological correspondence, because they zig-zag between the right and left sides of the vertebral column, with which they are interlaced, like the two snakes around the central column of the Hermetic Caduceus, the corresponding symbol in the Western tradition. They constitute the fundamental polarity, male-female, permanent-dynamic, Sun-Moon, right-left, Fire-Water, of the force in man. The red nâdî is the left one, which corresponds to the alchemical element of Mercury (there is a reason for the difference of colours between the Eastern symbolism and the Western one), and is called idâ in Sanskrit, or roma in Tibetan. The white nâdî is the right one, which corresponds to the fixed, male and solar element of Sulphur, and is called pingalâ in Sanskrit, or dhuma in Tibetan. He who succeeds in combining these two currents realises in himself the completeness of the Androgyne, the Rebis. Then the unified force takes the axial, central direction, indicated by the central column of the Caduceus, to which corresponds, in Eastern esotericism, the channel called sushumnâ in Sanskrit, or in Tibetan, rkyang-but. The entry to the latter is called brahmadvâra, that is, « threshold of Brahman », equivalent to the « threshold of
the Kingdom of Heaven » ; this is meant to indicate the subsequent realisation of certain supra-human modalities of consciousness, which correspond to the planets, the psychic forces related to the planets, the seven colours of the rainbow, and so on, according to the Hermetic tradition.
It is particularly unfortunate that we that we do not have the text of these verses in Tibetan. We wonder what the phrase of the German translator, referring to this realisation, « in der Mitte », really corresponds to? Certainly, not so much to « in the middle » as to « in the center », in the sense of the basal point of the human being. And that « durch die Liebe des Erbarmens »? Here the deformation seems to us certain. What does « by means of love for mercy » mean in so technical a field? Is this a mystical turn of phrase, accorded, in conformity with the personality of Milarepa, to his androgynous self-realisation? To a particular and ‘cordial’ tone of soul which he instilled in it, or with which he favoured it?
The term « seed » or « sperm » is an allusion to the root-element, to the generating principles which dominate the current in the arteries where they reside.
(16) Yoga – as we have said already in another occasion – comes from the root yog, which means to join, and to subject. To rejoin oneself to oneself in completeness is to exercise dominion. And the sense of well-being comes from integration. The states indicated by Milarepa represent to us various degrees : awakening of the hermetic fire – unification of the being in the centre of the heart – illumination – merging, re-integration of the outside in the inside, below, through the mystery of chylification – resolution of the primary dyad which is at the root of the being. This gives rise to a sense of well-being within the body, springing from this completeness, so that one feels pure, unalterable, just, throughout one’s entire being.
(17) Ignorance – avidyâ – is, as has been said, the first ring in the chain of the nidâna. Just as re-integration is the process of pulling the being together and uniting it with itself, so, conversely, ignorance is the alterity of the being which relates to itself as other. But the other, in this doctrine, only exists as phenomenon within the consciousness which perceives itself as other ; that is why what is really at the root of everything is a fact of ignorance, a fact of unawareness. Limitation follows, because the sense of alterity naturally detaches the consciousness from the part of itself in which it no longer recognises itself. Once « the rooted illusion of ignorance » is removed, consciousness frees itself, and the world frees itself. Since the sense of solid and heavy reality has disappeared, all belongs to the free nature of ‘air’ and of ‘the void’. The soul – as will be said later – identifies its own real nature with that of ether, ungraspable and without limits, and realises that, since the apparitions are made of ‘void’, there is no difference between them and ‘the void’ itself, that nirvâna and samsâra, liberation and not-liberation, are one and the same thing, and the sense of this transfiguration is an awakening.
(18) Consciousness, therefore, means the destruction of the illusion of separateness, which is described below as the principle of error.
(19) This is a technical term for the entry into the middle channel achieved by the joining of the two snake-like side channels. Growth in the medial, axial line develops specifically the experience of immateriality, of the spiritual void nature.
(20) Just as images in dreams are merely symbolic transcriptions of deeper impressions, so the ‘demons’, ‘gods’ and ‘spirits’ of occultism should be considered, from an absolute point of view, as projections and energetic visualisations of modalities of magical consciousness. (Compare ‘Ur’, No. 6, 1928, also found in the edition of Tilopa, Rome, 1980, pp. 173-174). ‘Consciousness’ here, naturally, is not to be understood in a finite and human sense. We cannot help considering such appearances as real, if the common separate mode of consciousness is maintained – because, then, alienation from the deeper, ‘abysmal’, consciousness is established de facto, and it is the deeper consciousness alone which realises directly that such apparitions are nothing but symbols.
(21) The state of illumination does not come or go. It persists, buried, beneath all experience, as an elementary substratum, like a piece of gold covered with dark slag. Our problem is to perceive it and be awakened by it, like a sleepwalker who approaches an abyss and suddenly awakens.
(22) This is the central doctrine of the Mahayana, according to which the duality between ‘this world’ (samsâra) and the ‘other world’ (nirvâna) is overcome, by means of a solution of transfiguration and transposition. The ‘other world’ is only a transformed modality of consciousness, which realises that every thing, every form, every being, every thought, does not ex-sist, but is, and that all of them possess within their being the immaterial spiritual void nature, into which consciousness has freed itself, as their immediate essence.
(23) A particular case of identity is the non-difference between contemplation and non-contemplation. Liberation is like realising something which was the case all along, but which, for some reason unknown to us, we did not see. The state of non-contemplation is not destroyed : it is recognised as one of the many apparitions which are now freed of substance and grasped as identical with ‘the void’, which is the very ether of contemplation.