“To cause benefit is not easy – so try first not to cause harm.”

There is the story of Milarépa and Marpa. Marpa worked Milarépa to nearly death as part of his teaching. Milarépa had to build and dismantle houses over and over again before Marpa would give him any formal meditation instruction. Every time Milarépa had completed a new house, he would ask Marpa to come and check to see whether it was satisfactory. Milarépa fervently hoped each time that he would receive the teachings he needed so intensely – but Marpa would rage at him: Idiot! It’s the wrong shape and in the wrong place! Pull it down and replace every stone just exactly where you found it! Milarépa had to build these houses with his bare hands, without even the help of a yak or donkey to carry the stones, and after a while he was covered with sores where the stones rubbed against his back. Now this must sound terrible, and in some way it is – but Milarépa had something terribly important to learn. He had cultivated vengeance – the worst, most unskilful motivation. He had left an appalling trail of destruction. Marpa’s teaching was therefore—partially—to display practically to Milarépa that to do things is infinitesimally easier than to undo them.


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