Rabu, 19 Juni 2013

The Rebuke to Death (sutra)

Dhr. Seven, Wisdom Quarterly, "The Rebuke to Mara," The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha (Bhikkhu Nanamoli and Bhikkhu Bodhi)
Mara, the personification of Death in Buddhism, on the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos 2007, Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles)
  
Thus have I heard. On one occasion Ven. Maha Moggallana was living in the Bhagga country at Sumsumaragira in Bhesakala Grove, in the Deer Park.

Now on that occasion Maha Moggallana was [meditating by] walking up and down in the open. And on that occasion Mara the Evil One [Mara Namuci] had gone into his belly and entered his bowels. Then Maha Moggallana considered thus: "Why is my belly so heavy? One would think it were full of beans." Thus he left off walking and went into his dwelling, where he sat down on a seat made ready.
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When he had sat down, he gave thorough attention to himself, and he saw that Mara the Evil One had gone into his belly and entered his bowels. When he saw this, he said:

A mara can adopt any shape, beautiful or hideous (Great-wall-hikers/flickr.com)
 
"Come out, Evil One! Come out, Evil One! Do not harass the Tathagata [the Buddha], do not harass the Tathagata's disciple, or it will lead to your harm and suffering for a long time."

Then Mara the Evil One thought: "This recluse does not know me, he does not see me when he says that. Even his teacher would not know me so soon, so how can this disciple know me?"

Then Maha Moggallana said: "Even thus I know you, Evil One. Do not think: 'He does not know me.' You are Mara, the Evil One. You were thinking thus, Evil One: 'This recluse does not know me, he does not see me when he says that. Even his teacher would not know me so soon, so how can this disciple know me?'"

Wheel of Rebirth ruled by Death (exoticindianart.com)
Then Mara the Evil One thought: "The recluse knew me, he saw me when he said that," whereupon he came up from Maha Moggallana's mouth and stood against the door bar.

Maha Moggallana saw him standing there and said: "I see you there, too, Evil One. Do not think: 'He does not see me.' You are standing against the door bar, Evil One.
  
"It happened once [a very long time ago], Evil One, that I was a mara named Dusi ["the Corrupter" or "Corrupted One," mara being a title or position rather than a single being like the Judeo-Christian "Devil"], and I had a sister named Kali. You were her son, so you were my nephew.

"Now on that occasion the Blessed One Kakusandha [a previous buddha aeons ago], accomplished and fully enlightened, had appeared in the world. The Blessed One Kakusandha, accomplished and fully enlightened, had an auspicious pair of chief disciples named Vidhura and Sanjiva..." (MN 50.1-9).

Maha Moggallana goes on to recount how, as a mara named Mara Dusi, he himself had been frustrated when considering that he did not know the comings and goings of virtuous Buddhist recluses. So he took possession of Brahmin householders, telling them:
 
"Come now, abuse, revile, scold, and harass the virtuous recluses of good character; then perhaps, when they are abused, reviled, scolded, and harassed by you, some change will come about in their minds whereby the Mara Dusi may find an opportunity." [Causing defilements to arise in their minds, he hopes to prevent them from escaping samsara.]

Then when he had taken possession of the Brahmin householders, they did indeed abuse, revile, scold, and harass the virtuous recluses:
 
"These bald headed recluses, these dark skinned menial offspring of Brahma's feet, say 'We are meditators! We are meditators!' and with shoulders drooping, heads down and all limp,
  • they meditate,
  • premeditate,
  • out-meditate, and
  • mismeditate
just as an owl on a branch waiting for a mouse meditates, premeditates, out-meditates, and mismeditates..."

[It may sound good to meditate with the focus of an owl. But these terms taken together elsewhere (MN 108.26) describe the meditation attempts of someone whose mind/heart is obsessed by the Five Hindrances.]
  • [NOTE: The commentary takes great pains to point out that Mara did not exercise control over their actions (karma), in which case he alone would have been responsible and the Brahmins would not have been responsible and could not have generated bad karma by their deeds. Rather, Mara caused the Brahmins to imagine scenes of the recluses engaged in inappropriate conduct, and this vision aroused their own defiled actions and antagonism INDUCING (not forcing) them to harass the recluses. Mara's intent in doing so was to make the recluses give rise to anger and/or dejection.]
Maha Moggallana then explained to Mara the Evil One what happened to those Brahmins as a result of their karma:
 
"Now, Evil One, on that occasion most of those human beings, when they died, reappeared on the dissolution of the body, after death, in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell."

He further recounted how the Buddha Kakusandha told those recluses what the Mara Dusi was up to and how they should practice universal loving-kindness meditation (metta bhavana) in all directions and how he asked them to follow that up with universal compassion, appreciative joy, and equanimity [These four are known as the Supreme Abidings or Brahma Viharas, aka the "Four Immeasurables"].

This caused a problem for the Mara Dusi who considered:
 
"Though I do as I am doing, still I do not know the comings or goings of these virtuous recluses of good character. Let me now take possession of the Brahmin householders, telling them: 'Come now, honor, respect, revere, and venerate the virtuous recluses of good character; then perhaps, when they are honored, respected, revered, and venerated by you, some change will come about in their minds/hearts whereby the Mara Dusi may find an opportunity."

He did so, and as a result of their karma, when they died, most of them were reborn in a happy destination, even in a heavenly world.
 
The Buddha Kakusandha instructed the recluses on a meditation to overcome pride, negligence, egotism, conceit, complacency, and other such defilements.
 
This also frustrated the Mara Dusi until he was driven to possess a boy to throw a rock at the head of one of the chief disciples causing him a bleeding gash. The Buddha Kakusandha turned to look at the Mara Dusi while stating, "This Mara Dusi knows no bounds." He then fell into the Great Waste to suffer unbelievably for millennia only to be reborn as a repugnant chimera and now himself, aeons later, a chief disciple of a buddha.

What followed was the recitation of an extraordinary set of verses most readers will find too hard to believe.

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