Bruno Abraham-Kremer: my meeting with Milarepa

- through Francois Leclercq

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Famous actor, director and author of plays, BAK is a clearer of unknown lands, whether terrestrial or interior, never delimited by borders. Through his pieces, he explores the unknown, he who constantly repeats that "life is a brilliant improvisation", as in his Trilogy of the Invisible, created in 1997 on texts by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt. The second part is called Milarepa, the cotton man. A life-saving encounter without staging.

At the age of thirty, I was irresistibly drawn to Tibet. An intuition, the fulfillment of a childhood dream, going to the roof of the world, meeting the people who lived there and who were necessarily different.
One day, a friend I met during this trip told me: “My sister is a Tibetan nun, she follows lessons in Bodnath. »
– I would like to meet her. How to do ?
– It's easy, it seems that she walks around the stupa every afternoon. It's the only Western one, so it's easy to spot.

So I go there and I search among the crowd of pilgrims who turn around the stupa. She is not there !
I question...
– Yes, yes, she's always there as usual, you can wait for her.

So I wait. To deceive my impatience, I buy a small wooden statue in a shop, a small reproduction of Milarepa, but at that time, I did not know it. And with my statuette in my hand, I wait again and again… not knowing why, but convinced that I should stay and wait. Milarepa gave me my first lesson on the patience that I usually lack so much.

“Milarepa touches me intimately, because despite an exceptional, heroic destiny, he remains a human being.
human. "

After four hours, the nun appeared. Her name was Michèle or Djeunpa Tcheuki and her smile was bigger than her!

“Do you love Milarepa,” she said, pointing to my statuette.
- I do not know who it is…

So she tells me his story and offers to take me the next day to a cave where he meditated for thirty years!
In the tiny cave, whose wall still bears traces of his hands, I discover, shocked, some parts of his life, distilled by Djeunpa Tcheuki.
She accompanies me to my bus, I am touched by her gaze on me and all those around us. A question escapes me: “Why this look so tender on these people you don't know? »
The answer burst out: "They may be Buddhas, everyone is a potential Buddha!" »
Milarepa spoke through her.
“Pity makes you generous. And the generous will find me. And the one who finds me will be Buddha.”

Back in France, I read Les cent mille chants and, immediately, I was caught up in its story.
I discover with amazement how much Milarepa speaks to me about me, about my life today by sharing his experience lived in the XNUMXth century, but which still resonates with as much force.
This mystical epic imposes itself on me as the second part of my Trilogy of the Invisible. The show will be called Milarepa, the Cotton Man.

A meeting that marked my life

Milarepa touches me intimately, because despite his exceptional, heroic destiny, he remains a human being. Nothing stops him in his quest for truth and freedom. Obstacles never make him go back, on the contrary, they help him to build himself up. He goes after himself no matter what.
At that time, I felt locked in, blocked; Milarepa taught me an essential thing: it is never too late to try to free oneself from attachments to our suffering. You have to try to “sacrifice your suffering”.
His struggle to become an accomplished human being speaks to me about me. Her journey gives me confidence, encourages me, tells me that I too can, at my level, at my own pace, free myself from my shackles. Without ever being moralistic or dogmatic, he shows me a concrete path that I can follow here, today, in my own context. His whole life experience is “teaching”.

There are events in his life that keep working on me. Maybe having played this story almost 150 times is like a seed that took root in me…
For example this episode, at the end of his long retirement of thirty years in a cave, where he only ate nettles. He comes out of there convinced that he has finally freed himself from all attachment, and suddenly he stumbles with his foot on the only possession he has left: a decoction vase for his nettles.

“The vase shattered against a pebble.
From the broken vase springs a single green block in the shape of the pot; it was the residue deposited by the nettle.
At the same time, I had a vase and I had none left.
I thought I had got rid of everything, and yet this poor vase which contained my only wealth had become my wealth. This vase, becoming desirable, had become my master.
Now that I had smashed the earthen pot, what was I going to do with the nettle pot?
I stepped over it. »

Yes, Milarepa helps me in my quest for orientation in the world. He who seeks to discover his true nature, to reconcile with himself and who discovers that he needs to love himself to become the actor of his life.

“Topa ga”, the one we listen to with delight

Milarepa's great strength is to show us the "reality" of the path to inner freedom. He escapes the very dogma of religion by becoming this "divine madman", this wandering bard. As soon as he met someone, he sang. We nicknamed him “Topa ga”, the one we listen to with delight! He was singing.

"By singing only love songs, I forgot the controversies"
He was composing his hundred thousand songs. »

Relentlessly and until his last breath, he continues to bring down the veils of illusion. Milarepa seeks beyond forms, towards ever more simplicity, stripping. It helps me as a Westerner to understand “emptiness”.

 » Under the influence of the ultimate truth
There is no meditator, no object to meditate on
There are no signs of accomplishment
No steps or way to go
No ultimate wisdom, no Buddha body.
So there is no nirvana
It's all just words, a way of saying. »

These are his last words, his last lesson.
It reminds me that words are nothing without a direct, lived, embodied and daily experience. A life lesson both personal and professional for the actor and director that I am.
I remember one evening, after the show; a young man stands in front of me and thanks me, because I understood “his suffering”. Seeing my dubious air, he rolls up his sleeves and shows me his forearms studded with heroin injection marks: "You see, I know what suffering is, and Milarepa understood my suffering, and you, by playing it, you can make everyone understand what my suffering is”.
All is said.
I have been trying to experience this truth in my daily life since the story of Milarepa took root in the heart of my life, and my experiences as a man and actor have since retained its serene and joyful imprint.

photo of author

Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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