17. The Great Battle
The moment that the world had been waiting for was now at hand. Siddhartha,who had given up a kingdom in search of truth, was approaching the tree.On his way he passed a man carrying freshly cut grass and asked him fora small bundle. This he would use as his seat.
As he drew closer the air became very still. It was as if the whole worldwas holding its breath, anxiously awaiting what would happen next. Thebranches of the tree bent down as if welcoming him to come and sit downunder its shade.
Siddhartha carefully arranged the grass into a small cushion and sat down,facing the east. He crossed his legs in a firm meditation posture and restedhis hands in his lap. Then he made a bold and determined vow. "I shallnot arise from this position until I have reached my goal, even if I diesitting here!" And all the spirits of the air looking on rejoiced, hearingSiddhartha's great pledge. It was the full moon day of the fourth month,and the sun was about to set.
But the ancient stories tell us that not everyone rejoiced at this moment.There was one force, called Mara (23), who was terrified and angry. ForMara is the name the ancient Indian people gave to the evil forces thatdisturb our minds. Mara is our greed, hatred, ignorance, jealousy, doubtand all the other poisons bringing people unhappiness and grief.
Thus, when Mara saw Siddhartha seated under the Tree of Enlightenment,he was enraged. Calling his sons and daughters around him he shouted, "Look,all of you. Prince Siddhartha is seated in meditation. If he is successfuland discovers the way to end all suffering, what will happen to us? Don'tyou understand that we shall lose all our power? We cannot harm peopleif he teaches them the truth. We must disturb his meditation, or else weare doomed!"
So Mara and his evil forces tried everything to disturb Siddhartha. Theyproduced a fearful storm and hurled lightening bolts down around him. Theychurned up a great wind until everything around seemed ready to crash down.But beneath the branches of the tree everything remained calm, protectedby the force of Siddhartha's meditation.
Mara saw that the storm had no asffect so he turned to his troops and shouted"Attack!" The whole horde of evil spirits, demons and nightmare shapesturned against Siddhartha. They ran towards him wildly, yelling blood-curdlingscreams. They shot poisoned arrows of hate at him. But as these arrowsflew towards the Prince, they turned into lotus petals and fell harmlesslyat his feet. Nothing could disturb the peace of his meditation.
"If these weapons and fearful shapes do not distract him," Mara thought,"perhaps a vision of beauty will disturb his mind." All at once the frightfuldemons turned into the most beautiful and alluring of women. These bewitchingcreatures dance in front of the meditator, but even they could not affecthim. Memories of the pleasure palaces, visions of his own wife and son,heavenly music, delicious food - nothing could break through the calm determinationof this seeker of truth.
Mara felt defeated. But he had one last plan. Dismissing his attendents,he appeared alone in front of the Prince. Addressing him in a mocking voicehe said, "So you are the great Prince Siddhartha? You think you are a greatmeditator. So many holy people have failed to find the truth, but you thinkyou will succeed!
"How foolish you are! Don't you know that it takes a lot of preparationto find the truth you are looking for. What have you ever done to be worthyof success? First you wasted twenty-nine years pampering yourself. Thenyou wasted six more years starving yourself. Now you sit here thinkingthat wisdom will just come to you.
How foolish! Quit this meditation, or at least show me a witness who willswear that you are worthy of succeeding where all others have failed."
These scornful words failed to bother Siddhartha. Silently he lifted hisright hand from his lap, reached in front of him and touched the earth.Yes, the earth itself was Siddhartha's witness! For countless lifetimeshe had appeared on this earth in various forms. He had practiced generosityand patience, he had acted lovingly and had avoided harming others, andhe had meditated on the truth. He had done all these things - sometimesas a man, sometimes as a wome; sometimes rich, sometimes poor - over andover again. He had done this all, just for the sake of discovering theend to all suffering. And the earth was his witness.Mara realized that now he was truly defeated, and faded away like a baddream. Siddhartha was left completely alone. The storm clouds parted andthe moon shone brightly in the sky. The air smelled sweet and a light dewglistened on the tips of the grass. Everything was ready.