Calling Mara for high tea
Posted on October 7, 2010 | Author: Vithal C Nadkarni | View 248
Does ignorance disappear with enlightenment like darkness before dawn? Does the presence of Bodhi automatically preclude that of Mara? Buddhism offers both a literal and psychological interpretation. Mara is often depicted as a deity of evil, somewhat like the Vedic gods.
But he is as much of a psychological force or a metaphor for various processes of doubt and temptation that obstruct spiritual practice. While Mara fled in disarray on the morning of the Buddha’s enlightenment, it seems he was only temporarily discouraged, notes the Buddhist meditator and therapist Tara Brach.
Even after the Buddha had become deeply revered throughout India, Mara continued to make unexpected appearances. The Buddha’s loyal attendant, Ananda, always on the lookout for any harm that might come to his teacher, would report with dismay that the ‘Evil One’ had again returned, writes Brach in her essay on embracing your life with the life of the Buddha. However, instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, the Buddha would calmly acknowledge his presence, saying, “I see you, Mara.”
He would invite him for tea and serve him as an honoured guest. Offering Mara a cushion so that he could sit comfortably the Buddha would fill two earthen kuladhs with tea, place them on a low table between them, and only then take his own seat, says a famous account of the attainments of the He Who Walked Thus (Tathagata).
Mara would stay for a while and then go, but throughout the Buddha remained free and undisturbed. This is the ‘happy’ practice what the Bhagavad Gita also eulogises as the essence of tapas characterised by unconditional friendliness (manahprasada) and mildness (soumyatvam). Nor should one confuse it with lack of resolve or compromise. In fact, selfdiscipline or atmavinigrahais the very essence of mental corralling, which is one of the definitions of yoga, according to Patanjali as well as Vyasa. So, how does one cope when Mara visits one in the form of troubling emotions or fearsome stories? First of all, recognise the reality of craving and fear that lives in each human heart, Brach advises.
“By accepting these experiences with the warmth of compassion, we offer Mara rather than fearfully driving him away. Seeing what is true, we hold what is seen with kindness,” she adds. Thus, to befriend the world, one may smoke the peace pipe with the Devil himself.