On Mara

Thoughts and Opinions
English: Painting of Gautama Buddha sitting in...

English: Painting of Gautama Buddha sitting in Dhyana, unharmed by the demons of Mara. Sanskrit Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Sutra manuscript written in the Ranjana script. Nalanda, Bihar, India. Circa 700-1100 CE. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Last night at my Sangha we had a guest speaker talk about the story of Budda. I have heard the story many times and seem to get something new from each listen or reading (this video is excellent if you are interested in learning about his story, btw).  This time, the part of the story that really stuck out was Buddha’s encounter with Mara as he was sitting under the Bodhi tree:

During the night, he was visited by Mara, the evil one, who tried to tempt him away from his virtuous path. First he sent his beautiful daughters to lure Gautama into pleasure. Next he sent bolts of lightning, wind and heavy rain. Last he sent his demonic armies with weapons and flaming rocks. One by one, Gautama met the armies and defeated them with his virtue. (From http://online.sfsu.edu/rone/Buddhism/footsteps.htm)

There are many versions of this story. The one told last night included magical feats such as Buddha turning arrows into flowers as he sat still.

This is a familiar story to me because it is in the Bible. Jesus also has an encounter with the devil while in the desert, and he also rejects the devil’s temptations. The bible’s devil is evil personified. He is the devil. A real being that actually, physically comes to Jesus to tempt him. Jesus reaches superhero status by overcoming temptation from the devil himself. He does this by fasting for 40 days. We read this and we are made to feel that there is no way we could do this. I mean, that is the whole point. Jesus is God and that is why he could overcome temptation. And that is why we need Jesus.

Mara is the the personification of evil in the Buddha story. Every other time I have heard or read this story I have viewed Mara the same way I have viewed the Devil in the bible. As a real entity that came to tempt Buddha (in the lore of the story, that is. I don’t actually believe in the personification of evil). HOWEVER, for some reason last night something just clicked. Mara is in Buddha’s head. Mara is Buddha’s thoughts. And Buddha was able to shut those temptations down himself, with his own thoughts. That is pretty powerful.

We all have our own Mara. And you know what? It is all in our head. As quickly as the arrows come at us, we can turn them into flowers. We can do this, just like Buddha did.

This reminds me of something that happened to me a few years ago. I had an episode of sleep paralysis. I was in that state when you are in-between sleep and wakefulness. I opened my eyes and looked above me and saw a demon sitting on Rafael and me*. When I looked up at it it slowly moved its head toward me and looked into my eyes. As I woke up, terrified, I thought to myself, “this isn’t real” and the demon dissolved into thin air like a cartoon character.

*this is actually a thing that happens – seeing “demons” in this half-awake state. See this article at WebMD.

Walking on thin ice

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view of the Sea of Galilee from the old city o...

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Now this is interesting:

Nof used records of the Mediterranean Sea’s surface temperatures and statistical models to examine the dynamics of the Sea of Galilee, which Israelis know now as Lake Kinneret.

The study found that a period of cooler temperatures in the area between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago could have included the decades in which Jesus lived.

A drop in temperature below freezing could have caused ice — thick enough to support a human — to form on the surface of the freshwater lake near the western shore, Nof said. It might have been nearly impossible for distant observers to see a piece of floating ice surrounded by water

I don’t know if it takes a genius, or a study to come to that conclusion, but there you go. You can read the whole story here:
CNN.com – Study claims ice, not water, kept Jesus afloat – Apr 4, 2006

Bob Jones Sees Bush Win As ‘Reprieve’

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Ary Scheffer: The Temptation of Christ, 1854

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Yahoo! News – Bob Jones Sees Bush Win As ‘Reprieve’

“In your re-election, God has graciously granted America – though she doesn’t deserve it – a reprieve from the agenda of paganism,” Jones wrote Bush in a congratulatory letter posted on the university’s Web site.

“You have been given a mandate. … Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing. They despise you because they despise your Christ,” Bob Jones

He must worship a different Jesus than I worship….This kind of statement is a good example of the utter and complete hypocracy of the religious right. Their religion says that the greatest comandment is “to love one another” and to “love your enemies”. This is not love. This is hate. This man is no Christian.

I don’t despise Jesus. Liberals in general don’t despise Jesus, fyi. But I am really begining to despise these people.

Fundamentalism, Our Founding Fathers, and Jesus

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John the Baptist baptizing Christ

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Congress.Org — Jesus was a liberal

Jesus was quite clear that what he found most upsetting was people using the letter of the law while ignoring the spirit of it. The spirit of the law, according to Jesus, was to love your neighbor. Trying to deny your fellow human beings, including your gay brothers and sisters, equality and marriage rights is not loving them but harming them. You are hypocritical, self-serving, and self-deceiving to think otherwise.

Christians of today should take some lessons from Christ, and treat there fellow humans with love, compassion and understanding. For all the “What Would Jesus Do?” merchandise out there, you’d think a lot more Christians would have really sat down and thought about that one.

This is a great opinion piece. This author speaks my mind completely. I found out about it at Daffodil lane (gotta give em props!) I couldn’t agree more. There is so much hate out there being spat at us by people who claim to be Christians. I don’t understand it at all. Do they truly understand the teachings of Christ? I don’t think they do. I don’t see any love or compassion out of these fundamentalist Christians AT ALL. None. Now, I am really speaking of the those that align themselves with the Bush Administration, the neo-cons, if you will. How can anyone who follows the teachings of Christ align themselves with the Bush agenda?!?

As I mentioned in other posts, I used to be an Evangelical Christian. There were two good things that came out of that time in my life. The first, is that I met my husband at church :). The second is that I studied the bible. I mean, I really really studied it. For about two years I read nothing else but the Bible. And I think that it was a good thing. The Bible is actually a really wonderful book. I hadn’t read it in awhile but opened it up again to respond to this comment. I was reminded of what a wonderful book this is. The advice and teachings in the New Testament are truly words to live by, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. ”, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. ” Those are the words of Christ himself. Do you see any of this behavior from neo-cons? I don’t. I don’t know why they bother calling themselves Christians. They are following a dogma that has been fed to them by The Church, whether it be evangelical or Catholic, or whatever. They are following something that they were told to believe from the pulpit, not by Christ. Pre-emptive war is not Christian-like. Alienating homosexuals and denying them rights is not Christlike. Our job, as Christians, is to love one another. That’s it. God will sort everything else out. God will be the judge. Somehow, that message has been lost to the Christian Fundamentalists. They are so intent on the letter of the law that they are missing the point.

Holy Blood

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The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail

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I am reading this book, “Holy Blood, Holy Grail“. The hypothesis of which is that Jesus survived the crucifixtion, and married Mary Magdalene. I began to be intrigued by this idea by reading the popular mystery, “the DaVinci Code“. I have to say, as much as I didn’t really like the DaVinci Code, I am intrigued by this idea. I don’t know if I believe it. But, admittedly, it is easier to believe than the alternative view, that Jesus rose from the dead and roamed the earth with his disciples. I’m not saying that I don’t believe that, either. But you have to admit, it is a little bit hard to believe….

I am reminded of one of my all time favorites scenes from any movie. It is a scene from “The Last Temptation of Christ“, the scene in which Jesus watches with surprise, the Apostle Paul preaching to the city the Gospel. Jesus, who has been told by an “angel” that he can choose not to be crucified, and that he can choose a life of marriage with Mary Magdalene (which he does choose), tries to tell Paul that he, in fact, is Jesus, and that he did not rise from the dead. He was standing right there in front of him. He is not the risen savior. Paul becomes very angry with Jesus and threatens him. He says something like, “Don’t ruin this for me.” Paul had quite a life traveling and preaching the Gospel, you know. Anyway, I find this scene so brilliant because Paul in this scene depicts Christians today. They are so blinded by what they are told by thier pastors or preists that they can’t see the truth, and they wouldn’t be able to see it if it walked up to them on the street.

When I used to read the bible I always wondered about Paul. I mean, he never even met Jesus. His big claim to apostledom his that he had this “experience”. And what he preaches is so different from what Jesus preaches.

Well, I guess that’s enough Jesus-talk for one day.