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.