Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing?’ – Martin Luther King, Jr.


Mantra And Monkeys

Milarepa was a mystic who lived in Tibet. One day a young man went to him and said, “I want to attain some powers. Please give me a mantra.”

Milarepa said, “We don’t have any mantras. We are mystics. Mantras are for magicians, for jugglers – go to them. We don’t have any mantras – why should we need powers?”
But the more Milarepa refused the more the young man thought that there must be something there – “Why else should he refuse?” So he kept returning to Milarepa again and again.

Great crowds always gather around saints who drive people away with sticks or throw stones at them. The crowds think that the saint must have something special; otherwise he would not be driving people away. But you don’t realize that attracting people through an advertisement in a newspaper or through throwing stones at them is the same trick; the propaganda is the same. And the second way is more manipulative and cunning. When people are driven away by someone throwing stones they don’t understand that they are actually being attracted: this is a subtle way of doing it. And the people do come although they have no idea that they have been seduced.

The young man thought that perhaps Milarepa was trying to hide something, so he started coming everyday. In the end Milarepa got fed up so he wrote a mantra on a piece of paper for him and said, “Take this. Tonight is a night of no moon. Read this five times during the night. If you read five times, you will be able to do whatever you want to do. Now go and leave me alone.”

The young man grabbed the paper, turned around and ran. He did not even thank Milarepa. But he had not descended the steps of the temple when Milarepa called after him, “My friend. I forgot to tell you one thing. There is a certain condition attached to this mantra. When you read it, you should not have any thoughts in your mind about a monkey.”

The young man said, “Don’t be worried, I have never had such a thought in my whole life. There was never been any reason to think of a monkey. I have to read this only five times, there is no problem.”

But he was mistaken – he had not even descended to the bottom of the steps when the monkeys started coming. He became very scared. He closed his eyes and there were monkeys inside; he looked outside and he saw monkeys even where there were no monkeys. It was already night and every movement in the trees seemed to be a monkey. It seemed that monkeys were everywhere. By the time he got home he was very worried because up until then he had never thought about monkeys; he had never had anything to do with them.

He took a bath, but while bathing the monkeys were with him. His whole mind was obsessed with only one thing – monkeys. Then he sat down to read the mantra. He picked up the paper, closed his eyes – and there was a crowd of monkeys inside teasing him. He became very much afraid, but still he persevered the whole night. He changed his positions; he tried to sit in this way, in that way, in padmasana, in siddhasana, in other different yoga postures. He prayed, he bowed, he begged. He cried out to anybody to help him to get rid of these monkeys, but monkeys were adamant; they were not ready to leave that night.

By the morning the young man was almost mad with fear, and he realized that the mantra power could not be attained so easily. He saw that Milarepa had been very clever; he had put a difficult condition on him. Milarepa was crazy! If there was going to be a hindrance because of the monkeys, then at least he should not have mentioned them. Then perhaps the mantra power could have been attained.

In the morning he went back to Milarepa crying and said, “Take your mantra back. You have made a big mistake. If monkeys were a hindrance in using this mantra, then you should not have mentioned them. I never usually think of monkeys, but the whole of last night the monkeys chased me. Now I will have to wait for my next life to attain this mantra power because in this life this mantra and the monkeys have become one. Now it is not possible to get rid of them.”

The monkeys had become one with the mantra. How did this happen? – His mind insisted that the monkeys should not be there, and so the monkeys came. Whenever his mind tried to get rid of the monkeys, the monkeys appeared. Whenever his mind tried to escape from the monkeys the monkeys came.

To forbid is to attract, to refuse is to invite; to prevent is to tempt.

Your mind has become very sick because you don’t understand this simple point. You don’t want to be angry – then anger comes like a monkey. You don’t want to be sexual – then sex appears like a monkey and gets a grip on your being. You don’t want greed, you don’t want ego – and they all come. But whatever you want – spirituality, religiousness, enlightenment – does not seem to come. That which you don’t want comes, and that which you try to get never appears. All this frustration happens because of not understanding this simple point about the mind.

The second thing to remember is that there is no need to insist on what should be in the mind and what should not. We should be ready to watch whatsoever appears in our minds without making any choices and without any conditions. In this way we can begin to see what the mind is, in reality.


There is a condition worse than blindness, and that is, seeing something that isn’t there. – Thomas Hardy


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