Saturday, 2 October 2010

On "Defeating Mara" (Negativity)

For Simone

“Mind (as well as metals and element) may be transmuted, from state to state; degree to degree; condition to condition; pole to pole; vibration to vibration. True Hermetic Transmutation is a Mental Art.” The Kybalion

I’ve not seen it in reality, but in my imagination and perhaps that was influenced from the first images I saw on TV. It’s the way a vicious snake recoils when prodded by a stick. It might recoil like a bouncy spring preparing to uncoil and strike again so that the movement with the stick has to be ninja quick and decisive. The intention is not to pet the snake like the games you might play with a dog or a kitten. This is a vicious snake bent on attacking, possibly killing you. The strike must therefore be intentionally to force the snake into submission; for it must be wilfully removed from your path where its only desire is to bring you harm.

Of course it can be argued that the snake was not in your path; that you in fact crossed the snake’s path - thereby justifying its attack. But would anyone wilfully cross a snake’s path? That, I would say depends on one’s state of Mind. Meander with me through these brief lines and see where the insight takes you...

From my rudimentary readings on Buddhist philosophy, I stumbled on the concept of ‘Mara’. Some definitions refer to the term as a ‘demon’ – a destructive force. It was one of the many obstacles Buddha had to defeat before he attained enlightenment. This he was able to do owing to the perfecting light within him. In other words, he had reached a level of purity (on the verge of enlightenment) that made Mara impossible to penetrate his consciousness.

The philosophy tells that Mara, who had a massive, powerful army compared with the lone Buddha meditating under the Tree of Knowledge, mounted attack after attack on him. Mara engaged the furies of the elements to frighten the Buddha; extreme winds blew around him, uprooting trees, crumbling mountains, devastating villages; rains engulfed the earth; firey rock boulders were tossed at him but Buddha was undisturbed; his concentration unshakable. Mara’s soldiers retreated when they realised their clamorous might was no match for Buddha’s quiet power. They could not understand that although Mara commanded the elements to attack Buddha how he remained unharmed. What kind of force had he used as counter attack when he had remained calm, quietly meditating and alone under that tree? They feared that Buddha’s invisible but mightier force would bring about their own destruction.

Mara too began to wonder at the might of Buddha and wanted to know who would bear witness to his kindness and generosity (which would secure the latter’s enlightenment). You see Mara thought he himself was kind and generous and could not therefore understand how Buddha was defeating him. Mara’s soldiers, in earshot of his despairing cry said, ‘indeed, we bear witness of your kindness and generosity.’ But a beautiful woman emerged from the belly of the earth and proclaimed that Buddha’s generosity extended to many existences (in his other incarnations) and for that reason his generosity surpassed that of Mara. Thus it is that Mara (the demon who contested Buddha’s path to enlightenment) was defeated because the earth itself could testify to Buddha’s kindness, whilst only Mara’s (a symbol of negativity) soldiers could give such testimony about him.

At a certain angle of seeing Buddha’s defeat of Mara is linked to the hermetic teachings of transmutation. How do we change the order, not only of things but of being? That capacity to change our being from state to state has everything to do with how we use our minds. What was in play in the story were spiritual composure and mental dexterity over physical oppression (negativity).

How we think, how we channel our energies determines a positive or negative outcome of our actions. When Mara engaged the furies of the elements what were Buddha’s options? One option might have been to stop his meditation since he was in a position of vulnerability. So why didn’t he? How could he stop his meditation when this was perhaps the very source of his power? In his state of meditation what was Buddha seeing? Did he see himself battling with Mara, being defeated by him and therefore spiritually castrated? Or was he having another vision? Buddha could not have been visualising his own defeat. He might not have been visualising that of Mara’s either. I don’t think he was focusing on negativity or giving energy to the fact of his oppression. I think he must have been visualising victory; seeing himself as an enlightened being; focussing on his light and how much brighter he could make it; thereby seeing his divinity.

Negativity manifests in our lives in all sorts of ways. For example, one of my nieces scoffs at me if I happen to tell her she’s beautiful or looks at me as if I’ve saying something absurd. She also scoffs when anyone compliments her about her figure as if she genuinely doesn’t believe what they’re saying. Although she has recently graduated I don’t think she appreciates her degree because it was not the classification she expected. Now, the more she reacts in this way, rejecting the positive vibrations directed at her, the more she creates an image of negativity that serves as a block to her personal and spiritual development. In order to transmute a mental state of negativity (the dark corners of our imagination) we have to see the good within us. In other words, it’s not enough for others to keep telling us how talented or loved or beautiful we are we have to know, truly, deeply know this for ourselves. I don’t mean in a kind of arrogant self-aggrandising way. But in a way that is humble and true; something that others can feel emanating from us without us having to declare it. It’s the power, the force from which Mara’s soldiers ended up fleeing because it was so real, quietly potent and measurable by countless incarnations. To his core Buddha was a being of light and goodness and this was his focus in the face of countless attack by Mara.

Often we are less inclined to see ourselves as ‘good’ or rather as god (expression of divine mind). Instead we readily recognise the demons within us but do not know how to fight them. It is the good (god, Buddha) who fights the demon (Mara, bad, negative entities). Interestingly, when we speak of these demons they are always plural, but if we recognised our divinity, our god-self it would be a singular mighty force by which those demons can be defeated. These demons (Mara and his soldiers) are our fears, our greed, hatred and unforgiveness, envy, jealousy, lack of humility (and countless other lacks – generosity, compassion, willingness, understanding, gratefulness), downright maliciousness, wickedness, selfishness, and so forth. We have to recognise these demons, it’s true, but only because we know they must be defeated by that which is our good, our god self. For our demons deny us the cultivation of our god self. But they are there because we must experience all there is to know that self and to find ourselves as Buddha did on the path to enlightenment where testimony of our “goodness” (our right to divinity) is hailed by the earth itself. My Shout to you is to identify your Mara and defeat it. Buddha used the mental art of meditation, vibrating on a powerful frequency. You will have to find your own means to transmute the negative vibrations of Mara to a positive one of personal and spiritual fulfilment and only you know what those vibrations truly are. Buddha was alone, as you are alone. Your defeat of Mara is possible when instead of acknowledging its power (being fearful, unforgiving, ungenerous, ungrateful etc) you visualise your glorious victory over it.

Shout Out