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Wk 156 – Buddhism – Siddhartha & Mara

In this session, I would like to share the story of how Siddhartha became the Buddha, meaning the Awakened One. The Buddha to be, Siddhartha was years in his journey, practicing different techniques with different teachers trying to discover the cause of human suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path out of suffering. He finds himself in Bodh Gaya in India to practice. The pilgrimage guides him to approach the famous space where he sits and practices under a Bodhi Tree. He touches the trunk and vows to sit under this tree until he answers the questions of human suffering and is able to bring back the knowledge of how to free oneself from it. He renounces everything, feeling the strength in his devotion to the cause and then begins to practice. 

The next character in this story I want to introduce you to is Mara who is said to be the God of death, delusion, ignorance that locks us in our Kleshas obscuring our Enlightened Nature. He rules the 6 realms of Samsara, which are different ‘worlds’ of birth, life and death or refers to as the wheel of suffering according to this tradition. Mara has been warned about Siddhartha and rushes to where he practices as he doesn’t want him or other beings to become Enlightened and enter Nirvana as this would diminish the population of the worlds he rules. 

Mara blows in as a storm, Siddhartha, deep in practice under the Bodhi Tree, remains undistracted, content in practice, showing determination and devotion to his intention. The story goes, Mara appears to challenge Siddhartha, showing up as the shadow side of humanity in the 3 forms. The first form are Maras three daughters who are beautiful women who dance naked around Siddhartha. They represent thirst, desire, and passion. Normally the woman’s movement, moans and beauty would seduce anyone, yet this doesn’t draw Siddhartha out of practice. He faces his own human attachment to pleasure, neither grasping, desiring or pushing away, just allows longing to arise in the body and mind and remains in practice.

This annoys and inflames Mara’s anger and his fury turns into a raging Demon, the second form. The most terrifying, blood curdling howls and demonic form engulf Siddhartha. As he sits in practice, bravely and mindfully opens to fear without fleeing, fighting or entertaining the ignorance/Avidya of separateness. He sees himself within the demon’s heart and the demon within his own heart as they are One. He continues to practice.

Mara looses it and becomes violently incensed, calling on his massive army that is set on killing Siddhartha. This army of barbaric men with their weapons drawn descending all around Siddhartha with vicious intent, roar as they launch their arrows to murder him. Siddhartha facing aversion/Dvesa to violence and harm, he remains tender-hearted and kind to those filled with greed, hatred and distain. He becomes increasingly peaceful and calm sitting in practice. The thousand arrows that were launched to hit Siddhartha, all burst into rose petals as they touch his skin and fall surrounding him.

This enrages Mara, who finally shows himself and demands Siddhartha to defend his right to Freedom, stating “Who will speak for you?” Siddhartha opens one hand to Mara, a gesture of reassurance, blessing and protection which indicated to Mara “Do Not Fear” and the other hand turned to touch the Earth to evoke the Earth as a witness to the truth of Siddhartha’s words and actions. The Earth trembles violently as Siddhartha’s finger touches it. The Earth declared “I bear you witness!” The most powerful earth quakes shake as these words are spoken and this terrified Mara to the core and he flees. You can imagine the most terrifying thing back then is natures wrath. 

At this moment, Siddhartha realises his True Nature which is Pure, Loving, Radiantly Aware and becomes the Buddha, the Awakened One. Realising the truth of suffering, the causes of suffering, the path to freedom, Truth Impermanence.

Mara like Buddha are features within our own heart. Our job as students of Yoga is to be mindful of the contents in our own heart and have a relationship with them. Mara is the revealer of truths, how we get distracted, attached, resistant and stuck in cycles. Our practice slows us down, where we can pause, look within and take inventory and try to practice what it feels like to stop. Delay the gratification of seeking something more pleasurable, sit with what we are averse to and wake up to what is motivating our fears. 

The story continues. Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, was always on the look out for Mara’s return. One day Ananda spots him and tries to shoo him away. Instead of ignoring or driving Mara away, the Buddha, calmly acknowledged Mara’s presence and asked him into his home. Welcome Mara in to sit and have tea together. They sat and Buddha turned, sipping and said “I see you Mara.”

Most of the internal stuff we struggle with just wants to be seen, heard and validated. It is suggested that we cultivate light of Prana within our practice. This not only promotes healing, but insight in what is happening? What wants my attention? What is asking for acceptance? Why do I feel this? Where do I feel this? What would support me? How can you use what comes up in practice as a teacher? Can you see the blessings in Mara? This light is transformative in practice inquiring and noting to wake up to why we suffer; Egotism, Attachment, Aversion and Fear and freeing ourselves from it.

TRUTH of IMPERMANENCE. Everything has a beginning, middle and end in this realm.

The Yoga Sutra tells us that the purpose of Kriya Yoga is to reduce the Kleshas, which is the presence of Mara, we follow this technique:

  1. Tapas – Practices that create heat for positive change
  2. Sva Dhyaya – Study of oneself
  3. Isvara Pranidhana – Surrendering over to the god head of your understanding

Patanjali suggests practice and detachment are the means to still the movements of consciousness that prepare us for the state of Yoga. 

  1. Viveka – Keen discernment, wise judgements, clear perception
  2. Abhyasa – focused diligent practice, devoted and disciplined in the pursuit of practice
  3. Vairagya – detachment with love from what arises in the field of sensory perception, indifference to sensory awareness 

What we will find is that Mara is present when these YS 1.31 – 4 symptoms of suffering show up in practice:

  1. Negative Thinking
  2. Emotional Distress
  3. Instability felt in the body, whether to tense or not enough integrity 
  4. Disturbances int he breath that mirror the disturbance in the mind

We draw on the Buddha Nature within and see Mara by YS 1.33 – cultivating within these 4 virtues in practice:

  1. Cultivate non-judgemental awareness
  2. Cultivate friendliness
  3. Cultivate joy
  4. Cultivate compassion

Welcome Mara in. Welcome all, reject none. Everything becomes a teacher. Welcome Mara in for tea and say I see you Mara.