I see you, Māra!

Semptember 19, 2023

Buddhist tradition speaks a character called Māra who takes the role of being the very embodiment of delusion. The night before Siddhartha’s enlightenment, Māra visits him under the Bodhi tree: “How dare a mere human seek enlightenment?”.

To break his resolve, Māra throws everything at the runaway prince of Lumbini. Through the course of the night, he takes many forms to scare, seduce and enrage him. The Boddhisattva met each attack with an open heart of acceptance. In one of the stories, Māra shot a rain of arrows of greed and hatred. As the arrows come close, they just turn into flower blossoms. Come dawn, Siddhartha was surrounded by a mound of flagrant petals, and when he opened his eyes, he opened them as Buddha, the “Awakened One”.

Māra fled at the sight of the Buddha but it wasn’t their last encounter. Throughout his life, he made unexpected appearances. Ānanda the Buddha’s most beloved attendant made sure to alert the Buddha whenever he saw him . The Buddha’s immediate response to Māra’s presence was to say “I see you, Mara!”

Instead of ignoring, fighting or running away from Māra, he merely acknowledged that he saw him. After that he invited him for tea, even offering him a cushion. Māra hung around for bit but seeing that he had no effect on the Buddha, he simply left.

This is it. The implication of this teaching is powerful. The Buddha didn’t fight, engage or run away from what is unpleasant. Instead, he simply acknowledged it’s presence and faced it. By opening his heart with compassion, the Buddha found peace.

For some reason, this particular story prompted a sense of Metanoia. Treading these waters however, the tendency to canonize the subject to the point of separative indifference is immediately obvious. To me, the poetic license and empathetic projection added more color, more evidence to the fact the Buddha was distinctly human.

So I see you Māra, and I invite you for tea.


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