Thursday, November 1, 2012


Tuesday nights we now sit @ 6:30pm. To change the pace, we're taking turns bringing Zen stories to talk about. Since one of our Tuesday regulars is my 14-year-old grandson Johnny Hollandbyrd, we make sure the stories and the discussion is not too intellectual and esoteric. That’s a good exercise all by itself. So next week is Polly's turn. But this last Tuesday night (the night before Halloween) Susan started us with a story about Milarepa--perfectly suited for Halloween!
Once upon a time, a long time ago, and very far from here, a great Tibetan poet named Milarepa studied and meditated for decades. He traveled the countryside, teaching the practice of compassion and mercy to the villagers he met. He faced many hardships, difficulties, and sorrows, and transformed them into the path of his awakening.
Finally, it was time to return to the small hut he called home. He had carried its memory in his heart through all the years of his journey. Much to his surprise, upon entering he found it filled with enemies of every kind. Terrifying, horrifying, monstrous demons that would make most people run. But Milarepa was not most people.
Inhaling and exhaling slowly three times, he turned towards the demons, fully present and aware. He looked deeply into the eyes of each, bowing in respect, and said, "You are here in my home now. I honor you and open myself to what you have to teach me."
As soon as he uttered these words, all of the enemies save five disappeared. The ones that remained were grisly, raw, huge monsters. Milarepa bowed once more and began to sing a song to them, a sweet melody resonant with caring for the ways these beasts had suffered, and curiosity about what they needed and how he could help them. As the last notes left his lips, four of the demons disappeared into thin air. 
Now only one nasty creature was left, fangs dripping evil, nostrils flaming, opened jaws revealing a dark, foul black throat. Milarepa stepped closer to this huge demon, breathed deeply into his own belly, and said with quiet compassion, "I must understand your pain and what it is you need in order to be healed." Then he put his head in the mouth of the enemy.
In that instant, the demon disappeared and Milarepa was home at last.


  1. Every morning, when, in silence I go back to my hut, I find the same familiar beasts, hanging out in my soul. Horrible, yet desirable. They’re old friends. Although I meditate in hopes of them disappearing, I´m convinced that, at a deeper level, I don´t really want them to go. They have guided me throughout my life and have brought me to where I am (not that bad of a place). What would be of me without my monsters? Can I trust the blissful yet alien terrain of the dharma over my familiar, yet painful world of mara? Perhaps I haven´t suffered enough in this life to, as St. John of the Cross puts it, be guided by the thirst. Or perhaps, if I continue counting breaths for long enough, I´ll reach sufficient insight to honestly want my home back.
    Beautiful story, thanks for sharing.

    1. Gerardo, great that you came to sit with us last night. I hope this gets to you as I didn't get your email address. Thanks for this comment. My best to you and your family. Bobby