Long after his enlightenment, Milarepa went to collect firewood outside the cave where he had been blissfully practicing. When he returned he found in the cave seven metal demons with enormous bodies and eyes the size of cups. Some were grinding barley and making fire, others were performing magical tricks. As soon as Mila saw them he became frightened. He meditated on the Buddha, uttered a subjugating mantra, but was unable to pacify them. He thought, "These might be the local deities of this place. Although I have been here for months and years, I have not praised them or given them any torma." So he sang a song of praise:
You nonhuman demons assembled here are obstacles.
Drink this nectar of friendliness and compassion and be gone.
The first three demons who were performing magic went away. Realizing that the remaining demons were magical obstacles, he sang this song of confidence:
It is wonderful that you demons came today.
You must come again tomorrow.
From time to time we should converse.
With this, three more demons vanished like a rainbow. The remaining demon performed an imposing dance, and Mila thought, "This one is vicious and powerful." So he sang another song, the pinnacle of realization:
A demon like you does not intimidate me.
If a demon like you could intimidate me,
The arising of the mind of compassion would be of little meaning.
Demon, if you were to stay longer, that would be fine with me.
If you have friends, bring them along.
We will talk out our differences.
Lord Vajradhara, Buddha,
Grant your blessings so that this lowly one may have complete compassion.
Then with friendliness and compassion, and without concern for his body, Milarepa placed himself in the mouth of the demon -- but the demon could not eat him and so vanished.
Tibetan practices teach us that we benefit by honoring and feeding the demons. When the demons arrive we must recognize that they are part of the dance of life itself. When they threaten, it is only our illusions that are in danger. The deeper our bow to the awesome changing powers of life, the wiser we will be, and when we embrace them, they turn into a rainbow. Every color shines in the awakened heart.
-- Jack Kornfield, After the Ecstasy, The Laundry