On the Tenacity of Imps

(TIBETAN Buddhism) Milarepa and the Five Demons. (Image sourced from Google.)

One of my favorite stories from Tibetan Buddhism involves one of the tradition’s greatest saints, a sage called Milarepa.

In this story, Milarepa returns to his cave after gathering firewood to find his dwelling overrun by five demons. Wanting to get rid of them, he gives them a lecture on Buddhist teachings such as compassion and emptiness.

The demons stay.

Losing his patience, Milarepa gets angry and starts threatening the demons.

The demons laugh at him—and they stay.

Finally, Milarepa gives up, sits down, looks at his unwanted guests and says: “Well, since you don’t want to go away and since I don’t want to go away either, it looks like we’ll just have to live together.”

At that point, all the demons leave except one—a particularly vicious one that looks like it’s determined to stay. At a complete loss now, Milarepa gets up, walks over to the demon, puts himself in its mouth, and says: “If you want to, you can eat me up.”

That’s when the demon finally gets up and leaves.

Why I love this story so much is because I’m at a point where, like Milarepa, I’ve run out of options when it comes to dealing with my demons. (Demons is such a…fraught word though. I think the more accurate term in my case would be imps or hobgoblins or leprechauns: mischievous, persistent and tenacious little creatures that are forever scurrying through the corridors of my mind.) I’ve tried everything from evasion and distraction to confrontation and meditation, and all that happens is that I look up from my efforts to find my merry little elves waiting for me to finish so they can pester me again.

So like Milarepa, I’m going to sit down on the floor and try the one thing I haven’t tried yet—which is to enjoy the company of what looks like a life-long set of groupies.

And what do you know? I think one already left.


2 thoughts on “On the Tenacity of Imps

  1. Brad says:

    Ah…Seems like a theme we share in common. I like how you’re aware and how you continually try to understand this thing. Keep watching. And keep writing.


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