A Tibetan Story

Milarepa was meditating in his cave when he heard in the distance the ferocious barking of a dog.  He knew he was about to have visitors.  A terrified deer burst out of the underbrush and froze, not knowing where to run.

Milarepa felt deep compassion for this soul whose karma had ripened into the panic of a poor hunted animal. So he began to sing.  First he sang about the hopelessness of trying to run from the delusions of the senses.  Fear and flight only ensnare more completely. Then he sang of the only refuge: the silence and serenity of the true self.

The deer walked to Milarepa and began licking his hands. Milarepa gently patted the deer to comfort it. The deer lay down beside him with her back against Milarepa’s knee.

Then the hunting dog burst onto the scene. The red bitch was collared with spikes and her tongue drooled with bloodlust.  Her eyes were fiery with ferocity.  Her job in life was to hunt down and kill and she was ready to fulfill her mission.

But Milarepa took pity on this poor soul whose karma had ripened into the life of a hunting dog.  He sang to the dog that anger and violence can never bring true peace and freedom.  That enlightenment is the only thing worth hunting for.  Without it, a dog could spend eternity in ferocious pursuit of only delusions.  Then Milarepa sang of the way to enlightenment.

The dog whimpered and cast down her eyes.  Slowly she walked to Milarepa and nudged his hand.  Milarepa patted the dog on her head and she laid down with her back against the deer.

Milarepa knew the dog’s master would arrive soon. The hunter walked proudly out of the underbrush.  He was a richly dressed man with an arrogant expression.  He had an arrow ready in his bow.  He glared at Milarepa.

“You’ve bewitched my dog!” the hunter snarled. “You greasy monks multiply like rats around here!  No one will notice one less.”  With that he fired at Milarepa but the arrow missed its target.

“You’ll have plenty of time to shoot me later,” Milarepa said, “but first listen to my song.” Milarepa sang that a human life is more precious than a jewel.  But to waste a human life in violence and chasing after pleasures which are only illusions can only cause suffering. What sort of karma was the hunter making for himself?  What life could he expect to suffer next?  Would he be the deer or the dog? The only pleasure worth chasing is enlightenment, which makes of the entire world a beautiful harmony.

While Milarepa sang, the skeptical hunter went into his cave, expecting to find there abundant possessions and enough food for a feast, for that was how many undedicated monks lived, pretending poverty.  But the cave of Milarepa was empty.  The hunter realized this was no ordinary monk, and certainly no black magician.  He saw his ferocious hunting dog resting side by side with the wild deer.  His arrows had always hit the mark but he had missed when he shot at Milarepa.  The hunter realized he was in the presence of a true master.

And so the hunter renounced his life of power and pleasure to study the path with Milarepa.

(my paraphrase of a story from The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa)