21 May 2022

#80. Māravijaya

3 min read

Ajanta Cave 1.

The narrative was identified by Griffiths (Burgess 1879, 14).

The legend is from the life of the Buddha.—Indra, disguised as a grass-cutter, offered a bundle of straw to the Bodhisattva who had reached the stage just before the enlightenment. The Buddha first sat in the vajrāsana posture (vajrāsanam abhiruhya or Diamond Seat), then paryaṅkam baddhvā (crossed legged). He decided to remain in the position until he achieved the enlightenment. Meanwhile, Māra, the ruler of the world of sensuality, was hell-bent on making the Bodhisattva and other human beings permanent prisoners of sensuality. He went to the Bodhisattva in the guise of a postman and gave him the false news about a terror attack at his hometown Kapilavastu.

Though initially taken aback, the Bodhisattva recognised the messenger as Māra. So, he was unmoved. Māra then declared that Gautama was not virtuous enough to achieve the enlightenment. The Bodhisattva replied that he had sacrificed three world-ages and had given up all his belongings, even his body, to achieve the enlightenment. Māra alleged that his own great position is the proof of his past great deeds of many sacrifices. He accused that the present position of the Bodhisattva is the proof that he did not have any such sacrifice in the previous births.

Thereupon, the Buddha called the Earth Goddess as a witness. The goddess appeared and confirmed that what the Bodhisattva had said was true. Discouraged but still not defeated, Māra fled away, and sent his three daughters, namely, thirst, lust, and desire, to entrap the Bodhisattva. They tried to seduce him in various ways. However, the Bodhisattva transformed them into old women. When they returned to Māra, their unholy forms made Māra extremely worried and depressed.

Then Māra fought back by assuming himself as a warrior. His soldiers turned into animals and demons with many kinds of terrible weapons. But, when they flung the weapons at the Bodhisattva, they fell on the ground. To see an incapacitated army, the indefatigable Māra created a poisonous storm and a millstone shower to annihilate the Bodhisattva. Upon this, the deities of Sukhāvati (the Pure Land) protected the Bodhisattva by creating a secured leaf-hut for him.

Eventually, to distract the Bodhisattva, Māra turned the leaves of the Tree of Enlightenment into crystals, which started to make a great noise in the thunderstorm. But the deities of the Pure Land removed all such attacks. Then, they relegated Māra’s warriors into the underworld. It was the same night when the Bodhisattva achieved enlightenment and became the Buddha.

—Source: Singh 2019, 31-33; cf. Schlingloff 2013, I, 453-470 .

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