Jetsun Milarepa (Wylie: rje btsun mi la ras pa) (c. 1052 – c. 1135 CE) is generally considered one of Tibet's most famous yogis and poets. He was a student of Marpa Lotsawa, and a major figure in the history of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism.
Born in the village of Kya Ngatsa – also known as Tsa – in Gungthang, a province of western Tibet, to a prosperous family, he was named Mila Thöpaga (Thos-pa-dga'), which means "A joy to hear." His family name, Josay, indicates noble descent, a sept of the Khyungpo or eagle clan.
Example via www.ramdass.org: Milarepa
When his father died, Milarepa's uncle and aunt took all of the family's wealth. At his mother's request, Milarepa left home and studied sorcery. While his aunt and uncle were having a party to celebrate the impending marriage of their son, he took his revenge by summoning a giant hailstorm to demolish their house, killing 35 people, although the uncle and aunt are supposed to have survived. The villagers were angry and set off to look for Milarepa, but his mother got word to him, and he sent a hailstorm to destroy their crops.
Many of Milarepa's deeds took place in the homeland of Chö kyi Drönma, the Samding Dorje Phagmo, and his life and songs were compiled by Tsangnyön Heruka, sponsored by her brother, the Gungthang king Thri Namgyal De.
Milarepa later lamented his evil ways in his older years in conversation with Rechungpa: "In my youth I committed black deeds. In maturity I practised innocence. Now, released from both good and evil, I have destroyed the root of karmic action and shall have no reason for action in the future. To say more than this would only cause weeping and laughter. What good would it do to tell you? I am an old man. Leave me in peace."
According to the book Magic and Mystery in Tibet by French explorer Alexandra David-Néel, Milarepa boasted of having "crossed in a few days, a distance which, before his training in black magic, had taken him more than a month. He ascribes his gift to the clever control of 'internal air'." David-Néel comments "that at the house of the lama who taught him black magic there lived a trapa [monk] who was fleeter than a horse" using the same skill. After witnessing such a monk David-Néel described how:
He seemed to lift himself from the ground.. His steps had the regularity of a pendulum ... the traveller seemed to be in a trance.
This esoteric skill, which is known as Lung-gom-pa in Tibet, is said to allow a practitioner to run at an extraordinary speed for days without stopping. This technique could be compared to that practised by the Kaihōgyō monks of Mount Hiei and by practitioners of Shugendō, Japan.
Knowing that his revenge was wrong, Milarepa (Then known by his boyhood name 'Fortuitous') set out to find a lama and was led to Marpa the Translator. Marpa proved a hard taskmaster. Before Marpa would teach Milarepa he had him build and then demolish three towers in turn. Milarepa was asked to build one final multi-story tower by Marpa at Lhodrag: this 11th century tower still stands. When Marpa still refused to teach Milarepa, he went to Marpa's wife, who took pity on him. She forged a letter of introduction to another teacher, Lama Ngogdun Chudor, under whose tutelage he practiced meditation. However when he was making no progress, he confessed the forgery and Ngogdun Chudor said that it was vain to hope for spiritual growth without the guru Marpa's approval.
Milarepa returned to Marpa, and was finally shown the spiritual teachings. Milarepa then left on his own, and after protracted diligence for 12 years he attained the state of Vajradhara (complete enlightenment). He then became known as Milarepa. 'Mila' is Tibetan for; 'great man', and 'repa' means; 'cotton clad one.' At the age of 45, he started to practice at Drakar Taso (White Rock Horse Tooth) cave – "Milarepa's Cave", as well as becoming a wandering teacher. Here, he subsisted on nettle tea, leading his skin to turn green with a waxy covering, hence the greenish color he is often depicted as having, in paintings and sculpture.