Introduction to Theravada Buddhism
Life of Gotama Buddha
The Noble Eightfold Path
What is Sangha ?
The Three Refuges
The Five Precepts
Overview of the Tipitaka Scriptures
Be Heard !
The Temptation of Mara
His prolonged painful austerities proved utterly futile. They only resulted in the exhaustion of his energy. Though physically a superhuman, on account of his delicate nurture as a prince, he could not possibly stand the great strain. His graceful form faded almost beyond recognition. His golden-coloured skin turned pale, blood dried up, sinews and muscles shrivelled, his eyes were sunk and blurred. At this critical stage, Mara approached the ascetic Gotama and said :-
"You are lean and deformed. Near to you is death. A thousand parts ( of you belong ) to death; to life ( there remains ) but one. Live, O good sir; life is better. Living you could perform merit. By much merit could be acquired. What will you do with this striving ? Hard is the path of striving, difficult and not easily accomplished."
He replied :-
"O Evil One, kinsman of the heedless ! You have come here for your own sake. Even an iota of merit is of no avail. To them who are in need of merit it behoves you, Mara, to speak thus. Confidence - Saddha, self-control - Tapo, energy - Viriya, and wisdom - Panna are mine. Why do you question me, who am thus intent, about life ? Even the streams of rivers will this wind dry up. Why should not the blood dries up, the bile and phlegm also dry up ? When the blood dries up, the bile and phlegm also dry up. When my flesh wastes away, more and more does my mind get clarified. Still more do my mindfulness, wisdom, and concentration become firm."
"While I live thus, experiencing the utmost pain, my mind does not long for lust. Behold the purity of a being !"
Sense-desires - Kama, are your first enemy,
"This is your army, the opposing host of the Evil One. That army the coward does not overcome, but he who overcomes obtains happiness. This Munja do I display ! What boots life in this world ! Better for me is death in the battle than that one should live on, vanquished !".
With these words the ascetic Gotama dismissed Mara and made a firm determination to attain his goal, Buddhahood.
The Middle Path
The ascetic Gotama was now fully convinced, through personal experience, of the utter futility of self-mortification. Abandoning it forever, he adopted an independent course - the Majjhima Patipada - the Middle Path. He recalled how when his father was engaged in the ploughing, he sat in the cool shade of the roseapple tree, having attained to the first Ecstacy. He thought - well, this is the Path to Enlightenment !
He realized that Enlightenment could not be gained with an exhausted body. So he decided to take some food. The five ascetics who attended on him disappointed at this unexpected change of method, deserted him and went to Isipatana, saying that "the ascetic Gotama had become indulgent, had ceased from striving, and returned to a life of comfort."
At a crucial time when help would have been most welcome, his only companions left him, but he was not discouraged. After a substantial meal offered by Sujata, a generous lady, he made a firm resolve not to rise from his seat until he attained Buddhahood.
Copyright © A Manual of Buddhism, 2005