Formations of a Skeletal Biography
This chapter considers a form of life writing known as “proto-Life/Songs,” signifying the basic literary structure that influenced the writing of Jetsun Milarepa's life story for centuries to come. Milarepa's earliest biography, established by the yogin's own disciples, had achieved a life of its own within a single generation as students of his direct pupils began to adapt, expand, and promulgate accounts of his religious career. The spread of the yogin's teachings in the century or so following his death created a need for new forms of literature to authorize those transmissions within specific communities and institutions. Among these are the so-called “golden rosary collections” to which many of the proto-texts belong. This chapter discusses six proto-Life/Songs narratives that span several centuries and are drawn from various sources: The Kagyu Rosary, Bank of Blessings, Lama Zhang's Life of Lama Milarepa, Dönmo Ripa's Life of Jetsün Milarepa, Sangyé Bum's Life of Milarepa, and Gyaltangpa's King of Jetsüns.
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