Are you familiar with the feeling when you want to get away from reality, routine, dedicate your time to reading or doing sport, or go on a diet, in other words, start a new life, make yourself better, but either pipe bursts or someone celebrates its birthday, or someone – God forbid - dies, and so on? In other words, each kind action is followed by difficulties, be it good or bad news, events, moods.
If we take any biography of an outstanding person, the story of achievement success will certainly contain difficult choice, times of depression, losses, fears, but the point is their overcoming. To create something new one has to break something very old very often. But to start your own way is only the half the work, and it is a hard labor which requires courage, persistence, firmness and dedication to hold your ground. Even such a personality as Buddha Shakyamuni during his “Way to Enlightenment” underwent various trials. According to scriptures, it was Mara who tried to prevent Buddha from reaching enlightenment, sending daemons or his daughters to him – lust, passion and delight, was Mara. And this deity or phenomenon will be discussed in this article.
Mara is personified as embodiment of artlessness, as death of spiritual life. He diverts people from spiritual practices by making secular life attractive or giving negative as positive.
There are four meanings for the word “Mara” in the traditional Buddhism:
· Klesha-mara (Sanskrit: “hardship, trouble, suffering”) – or Mara as the embodiment of all poor, mean emotions.
· Mrtyu-mara (Sanskrit: “death”) – or Mara as the embodiment of death, a continuous sequence of reincarnation.
· Scandha-mara (Sanskrit: ”conventionality, form”) – or Mara as metaphor for the entirety of conditioned existence.
· Devaputra-mara (Sanskrit: “a child of God”) – Mara “the son of a god”, related to a specific kind of spiritual pride”
Sometimes this list is added Kamma-mara – or Mara as power of sensual desires.
Mara hinders people from getting rid of passions – a source of suffering – and making their life completely altruistic and noble. Any beginner of yoga faces such troubles as misunderstanding (with relatives, friends and people in general), doubts (in the accuracy of Teaching choice, guru and so on), fears (about the future or being left alone), temptations (of indulgence in secular life, living as you got used to), self-torture (when you didn’t make enough effort in practice) and so on. And in the world of yoga it is Mara who is blame for all these things. Firstly he uses the simplest tools and tricks. To put it plainly, he tries to manipulate you through your old habits, affections and desires. The trick is that practicing yoga, we constantly raise the level of our development and consciousness, and the desires we had half a year or even a month ago become irrelevant.
For instance there is a married couple, a husband always at work, a wife is a homemaker, who doesn’t bother a lot, but has already been dreaming about a romantic journey for a long time. But the wife starts practicing yoga and after several months she is going for a ten-day retreat to indulge herself in practice and to improve her spiritual way. Knowing that there is nothing but office matters and business meetings in her husband plans, our heroin is packing her suitcase without feeling guilty, and is morally getting ready for a serious and very significant event. But here happens the miracle! Circumstances at husband’s work turn in such a way, that he is given a vacation exactly on this date, and he organizes a romantic journey, which his wife has been dreaming of for so long. Unfortunately, not everyone can see an ideal work of Mara in this case, though it is quite a shining example. As the woman has a choice here: spiritual improvement or satisfying of passions in the resort.
It is very important to understand the following thing: all we’ve ever dreamed about comes true! Another point is that our dreams are, as a rule, attached to the level of our development, which changes every day when a person practices. So the ability to control your thoughts and wishes plays a huge role if you don’t want to put barriers for yourself on the way to your progress.
For example dreams about sweets are realizing in the moment one decides to go on a healthy diet; dreams about someone’s attention in the moments when the highest level of concentration is necessary; bonuses and promotion – when signing a resignation to get some free time for a good cause and so on. All these things serve as a control of a practitioner’s ability to stand his ground and can show whether he is subject to some passions. As experience shows, the more obstacles you face the more probability is the action or practice made, regardless of the circumstances, will bring a lot of good, let advance greatly and help more living creatures!
Those who develop more confidently, Mara treats in a much more sophisticated way. For instance he makes a practitioner think that he has perceived the truth, he is right and everyone except for him is in a muddle. There appear followers who share his point of view, i.e. who are still mistaken. Mara turns everything in the mind of the practitioner in such a way that he starts to impute his own drawbacks to others. He calls his mentor selfish and accuses him of restraining his development by throwing sand in the wheels, not allowing taking the initiative. The trick is that while in a muddle we think that others without exception misunderstand something, are mistaken. There is a brilliant statement of experienced person, it sounds like this: “When I started to notice that the number of people who are mistaken is too big, I realized that something here is wrong”. Unfortunately the period of such a crisis can last from a couple of days to the whole life. Lots of people go out of their way, being tempted by samsara, and having thoughts that they have achieved everything in their spiritual life and can control themselves and live, as they say, in the world without subjecting to passions. If you meet a person who manages to stay impartial to any appearance of samsara, appreciate them and ask to teach you.
Mara uses the remains of your ignorance. It can be affection, fear, vanity, and any kind of desires – everything that our ego requires. Manipulation happens exactly through our selfishness. And as it was mentioned earlier, obstacles can be both positive and negative, depending on the character of a person and the level of his development at this moment. A fair person will be cheated through the call of duty, an unconfident one – through the sense of guilt, an ambitious one – through the praise and so on. Of course it is not a fundamental truth. Fears, doubts, temptations are all Mara’s tools. There is an opinion, not without reason, that Mara is the reflection of a human mind. It is quite possible. And really, you can call it as you wish: troubles, barriers or actions of Mara. The point is that a practitioner goes out of his way or retards his development. You shouldn’t forget that we are not alone in this world and the moment we show our weakness, it is spread over those who are connected to us.
I will repeat, it doesn’t matter whether we consider these deviations as machinations of Mara or explain them as the movement of energy in our body, or the usual mood changes! It is important to bear in mind that this is an inadequate condition of a person. It means that a person doesn’t belong to himself, he can’t make the right decision, can lose or miss something very significant for his development and the development of others.
But what can we do when we already got in such a situation? From my own not very rich experience a can say that it is important to remember where you aim, what ambitions you had at the beginning of your way. In other words, you should have an inside mark, some orienting point, that you can’t refuse from even with a clouded mind, someone or something that you can trust on without any doubt. And it can’t be feelings or emotions, you should have knowledge and a vision. It can be compared to a spinning top which the main character of the film “Inception” Leonardo DiCaprio used to realize whether he was sleeping or not. When he was sleeping, the top was twirling constantly, while in real life it wasn’t so stable. So practitioner should have such a whirligig. Sound information, biographies of holy people, mahasiddhas, different successful people and also communication with the people of a more advanced level will contribute to the formation of this whirligig. The more stable and brave practitioner is, the more probably it is that he will be able to overcome all the temptations of going off the way or putting it off for some time.
To break free from the captivity of Mara, as Andrey Verba has admirably said, you should become indifferent to passions. In other words, when a person becomes indifferent to illusions, when it realizes its aim, and what really leads to development, and what leads to degradation, or takes away to another road, which it wasn’t going to follow - then nothing can stop him. And a practitioner is outside the control of illusions and obscurity.
The main points of evaluation in any situation are sanity and consciousness. By checking any situation in the light of these two qualities, the opportunity of making a mistake is to a much less extent. Developing these qualities, a practitioner protects himself from Mara attacks.
We can’t miss the obvious – passions reach us until we see them and react them, feel the least affection. It is possible to rich such a level when you can’t be cheated even while you are sleeping, as the right views has moved from the unconscious to conscious. It can be reached by a constant practice and wish of being an adequate, altruistic creature with the views peculiar to a sensible person.
To sum up, I want to wish everyone to be indifferent to passions. We should learn to live our own life and enjoy the purity of being. To wash up, we need pure water after all, otherwise if using for example sweet water, we will wash off only dirt and cover with sticky layer of another one. The same can be applied to the real life, we need to look for the means which don’t leave any mud but purify us.
There is a remarkable saying of Padmasambhava: “If the avalanche of unhappiness falls on you, when you try to take up spiritual practice, the truth is that your bad karma and darkness are being cleaned”. So maybe it is worth changing our vision and taking troubles as purification, making Mara our friend who shows our weaknesses and overcoming his tricks with gratitude, patching holes in our piety?
All the best! Om!