The Story of Milarepa’s Cave

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Adapted from Pema Chödrön, Start Where You Are:

One evening Milarepa returned to his cave after gathering firewood, only to find it filled with monsters. They were cooking his food, reading his books, sleeping in his bed. They had taken over the joint.

He didn’t quite know how to get these guys out of his cave. Even though he had the sense that they were just a projection of his own mind — all the unwanted parts of himself — he didn’t know how to get rid of them.

So first he taught them the dharma.

He sat on this seat that was higher than they were and said things to them about how we are all one. He talked about compassion and emptiness and how poison is medicine.

Nothing happened. The monsters were still there.

Then he lost his patience and got angry and ran at them. They just laughed at him.

Finally, he gave up and just sat down on the floor, saying, “I’m not going away and it looks like you’re not either, so let’s just live here together.”

At that point, all of them left except one.

Milarepa said, “Oh, this one is particularly vicious.” (We all know that one. Sometimes we have lots of them like that. Sometimes we feel that’s all we’ve got.)

He didn’t know what to do, so he surrendered himself even further. He walked over and put himself right into the mouth of the monsters and said, “Just eat me up if you want to.”

Then that monsters left too.

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