As the Buddha was about to become enlightened, his enemy Mara – and Mara’s forces – arrived and shot 40,000 arrows of doubt at him. Who was he to be awakened to the Truth of Our Existence?
I have heard two stories about what happened next. First, the Buddha calmly looked upon Mara and the arrows, placed his hand upon the earth and said, “I see you, Mara,” and awakened in that moment, within the shower of arrows that had no power to harm him. In the second story, the arrows, when seen and acknowledged with detachment and compassion, turned into 40,000 flowers.
I have always loved both versions. I have always been drawn to the simplicity of Buddhist teachings, at least since I was around 14 when my first glimpse of Buddhism was Jack Kerouac’s Dharma Bums and bits and pieces of J.D. Salinger’s Franny & Zooey.
Yet, today as I meditated and moved through my morning yoga, I was struck with the idea that I was always, ALWAYS WRESTLING MARA. I didn’t just see Mara. I didn’t turn arrows into flowers. It was more like mud wrestling that went on, sometimes, like a loop of film playing over and over again.
I thought, what a great idea for a book: Wrestling Mara! I felt the whole book waiting for me to download it, fresh off the universe for me to write.
By the end of my meditation, I was writing a different book, a book about Dancing With Mara! A feminine perspective of Buddhism.
I saw a quote of Andy Warhol’s the other day as I sat to meditate. It said, “When confronted with my mind, I just say “So what” and basically just let everything go.
I envied that for a bit. Then, it occurred to me that almost all my Zen teachings were… from men. Sure, they were richly emotional, seasoned, empathic, psychologically dazzling men AND they were men. Their brains are seemingly wired to say “So what?” and move on with their day. I might even hazard a guess that it is far easier for the male brain to meditate, to achieve something peaceful and keep it compared to the layers upon layers that women are in touch with, whether you think of it as nonlinear or neurotic or emotional… I wondered how does the feminine mind reconcile with Mara? Is seeing Mara enough? I had been lead to believe it was. The story of I See You Mara and the story of turning Mara’s arrows into flowers – both of them gave me this hope of awakening. Yet, there was a hidden expectation that upon awakening I would stay that way.
Buddha reportedly said, “I have seen the ridgepole and broken it. I will not build that house again.” For me, with my 2019 Western mind, I have to see the ridgepole (ego) over and over and over again and remember over and over again to place the ego into the middle of the lotus, embrace it and see her for what she is: not reality.
Tall order for me. Tall order for most folks I know.
Meanwhile, have you visited my Etsy shop lately? I am constantly surprised that it’s mine.
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