A Modern-Day Mara Story

Ananda and other disciples of the Buddha memorized the lessons he taught, passed them on to others once the Buddha’s life on earth ended, those followers passed them on, and, eventually, they were written down, along with commentary. While the translations and interpretations of the Buddhist canon vary, scholars can come pretty close to knowing what the Buddha actually said and what he meant. But stories of the Buddha’s life are harder to authenticate.

I recently shared a story about Mara, the anti-Buddha, that most likely originated in modern times. And, as I started thinking about Mara again today, another modern-day story came to me:

Stairs fragments of Big Buddha Temple, SamuiLong after the Buddha’s parinirvana, an old man named Jigme decided to devote the rest of his life, as well as any future lives he might have, to spreading his understanding¬†of the dharma, as adapted for his time and culture. Having studied Buddhism over most of his life, Jigme knew how to touch the Buddha within. He could quiet his mind and live in the moment, with compassion and free of attachment or aversion. But he wondered why he didn’t do that more — live in that state, touch the Buddha within.

Jigme’s teacher told him that the more he touched the Buddha within, the closer he’d get to permanent Buddha-hood, but Jigme let other things — the annoyances of life — distract him. Then one morning, while taking a shower, Jigme experienced a moment of enlightenment — about Mara. Jigme remembered that Mara is a devious and resourceful demon, just as the Buddha is an honest and resourceful presence.

Jigme realized it was a mistake to think that each annoyance of life is a discreet occurrence but instead to see it as part of Mara’s plan. Jigme realized he needed to treat Mara as a real threat in the same way he treats the Buddha as a real refuge. Jigme realized he needs Mara as much as he needs Buddha. And he vowed to make Mara his frenemy and to stay vigilant for his distractions.

How does the story end? Does Jigme defeat Mara and become a full-time Buddha? Like so much in Buddhism, the answer is don’t-know.

— Mel Pine (Fearless Lotus)

Copyright 2016 © Mel Harkrader Pine

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