Oct 3, 2023
Michael Haggiag

22. Mara Has One More Go


The Buddha has reached enlightenment but he has has no idea how he’s going to explain it to anyone.



So, the Buddha is sitting under this fig tree having a wonderful time. He’s figured out how to escape from suffering. He’s completely happy and what’s more he feels free in a way he could never imagine before. But if he believes he’s solved all his problems, he‘s got another thing coming. Mara shows up again and whispers in his ear: “Who are you going to tell?”

The Buddha understands at once what Mara is driving at and it shakes his confidence. If he tries to teach what he’s discovered, who will listen? Who will try as hard as he has to free himself from the world and all its illusions? Who wants to give up their toy even when it makes them unhappy?  At first he thinks it will be impossible, but his heart is now open to the world. It’s no longer shut off in the palace of me, myself and mine. He wants to reach out to the world and help where he can.

At this point in the story, Brahma shows up. In India there are a lot of gods. Hundreds of them in fact. Everybody in India has their own personal god who they can pray to, but Brahma is the big bloke in the sky. He’s like God. So, God shows up and tells the Buddha that for the good of mankind he has to teach. Now the Buddha sits down under several more trees in the same clearing in the woods and tries to work out what he can say. This time it takes him more than a month!

It’s question time again and Harriet, the girl with the three earrings in each ear, raises her hand. She looks furious. “I thought Buddhism didn’t require you to believe in God. A lot of people in this country don’t believe in God anymore.”

Jizo speaks carefully, like someone picking his way through a minefield. Certainly you don’t have to believe in God to be a Buddhist, but you do need to believe in your own Buddha nature. Harriet frowns, “What is Buddha nature?”

Jizo studies her for a moment. “Ah, that’s a mystery! It can be experienced but it can’t really be described.” Then he gives her one of his toothy grins. “I can tell you this much: whatever you can see or hear or touch or even think about has nothing much to do with Buddha nature.”

Jizo strikes the big gong by his seat at the front of the meditation hall. It has a deep sound that goes right through my skin and makes me forget everything else. It’s the signal that today’s practice session is over.

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