Sunday 10am Community Practice & Discussion
This Sunday morning Benjamin Hohl will lead an exploration of the theme "fearless wakefulness" from Ajahn Amaro's book Roots and Currents (freely available as a PDF here). Below is an excerpt from the book (pages 281-283). All are welcome! Registration and Zoom information available here.
"Under the Bodhi tree the Buddha's response to death, i.e. Māra's threats, cajolings, temptations and attempts to cause doubts, was not life-affirmation; nor did he go into deep jhāna [meditative absorption] and evade Māra, blast him with a vajra bolt, try to be reasonable and negotiate on Māra's terms or justify himself. Instead his response was a fearless wakefulness. Almost invariably, throughout the accounts of the Buddha's meetings with Māra, as soon as he is aware of the malefactor's presence he says: 'I know you, Mara.' And the game is over.
This is a myth, but such tales maintain their power through their congruity with truth as we experience it. When Māra knows that the Buddha has seen the trick, the hook inside the bait, he knows his victim is not going to bite. Māra is defeated in that gesture of knowing. This suggests that the opposite to death is not birth, life-affirmation or destruction of death, but wakefulness.
Perhaps the most meaningful way of considering the encounters between the Buddha and Māra is to regard them as depicting the arising of unwholesome, ego-based states in the mind of the Buddha; they portray the instinctive fears, doubts and desires which arise in his mind but find no place to land there.
Using the myth as a map of our own psyches, Māra also represents our own ego-death experiences (loneliness, anger, obsessiveness, greed, doubt, etc.), and the Buddha's example points the way for the wisdom of our hearts to respond most skillfully to them: by wakeful and radical non-contention. For as soon as we contend against death, we've bought into the value system and swallowed the hook; when we hate and fear death or want to swamp it with what we take to be life, Māra has won: 'Such a one has gone over to Māra's side and the Evil One can do with him as he likes' (S 35.115). We can perhaps run with the line for a while, but sooner or later...
Non-contention is not passivity, denial or switching off, dumbly suffering the slings and arrows as they thump into us, but a full awareness. The Buddha doesn't say: 'It's all yours, Māra.' Defeating Māra is the point, but he is defeated by not contending against him. One of the most often quoted passages of the Dhammapada states:
Hatred is never conquered by hatred.
Only by love is it conquered.
This is a law ancient and inexhaustible. (Dhp 5)"
We hope to see you this Sunday!
With metta (loving-kindness),