Mara, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas
According to the legends, on the night of his Enlightenment, Sakyamuni, sitting alone in meditation, defeated Mara in a conflict between his spiritual power and that of Mara. Hitherto, the mighty God Mara, ruler of the sixth sphere, earth, and hell, and personification par excellence of all that binds beings to samsara, had held almost unlimited spiritual power over the inhabitants of these realms. Now, at last, another Buddha-to-be had appeared whose accumulation of merit endowed him with the spiritual power (anubhaya, adhisthana) to overcome the claims and seductions of Mara, to break the chains of life and death, and to become a Buddha.
In these legends the bodhisattva Sakyamuni by his own spiritual power defeats Mara’s spiritual power just prior to obtaining Enlightenment. Later texts became concerned with the effects of Mara’s spiritual power on the bodhisattvas. How can the novice, who is lacking in the spiritual power acquired through years, even aeons, of meritorious activities, not fall victim to the ways of Mara? By what practices does an irreversible bodhisattva acquire the spiritual power to recognize and resist Mara?
The Astasahasrika prajnaparamita sutra1 provides answers to both questions. Concerning newly-set-out Bodhisattvas, the text first describes the situation in which Mara might be encountered, then states what a bodhisattva is expected to do himself to avoid Mara’s influence, and finally promises that if a bodhisattva does exert himself correctly, then the Buddha(s) will come to his aid.
The Astasahasrika is quite definite on the thesis that it is because of a bodhisattva’s own limitations, his own spiritual failures, that Mara obtains the opportunity to take advantage of him. In the following passage, the Buddha describes ten such situations to Ananda.
To be continued.
1 Cf. Kumarajiva’s translation of the Astasahasrika, T. 227, 573b6-cll. The parallel but not identical passage occurs in the Sanskrit P.L. Vaidya, Buddhist Sanskrit Texts (BST), “Astasahasrika- prajnaparamitasutra” (Darbhanga, 1960) p. 206.17: For an English translation from the Sanskrit, cf. E. Conze, The Perfection of Wisdom in 8,000 Lines, (Calcutta, 1958) A (Mitra page references given in Conze’s text) 417. All quotes in this paper originally appeared in my dissertation The Bodhisattva-structure in Kumarajiva’s Astasahasrika -prajnaparamitasutra (University of Wisconsin, 1971).
2 A good friend is defined by the Astasahasrika thus: “A bodhisattva’s good friend instructs him in training in the perfection of wisdom. He tells him about the deeds and faults of Mara. When he knows the deeds and faults of Mara, then the good friend teaches him to avoid them. This is called the good friend of the bodhisattva, mahasattva, who has put forth the thought of the great vehicle and is dressed in the great adornment.” (KA T. 227, 538 cl2ff; A 17; BST 9.16). “The Buddhas, the Lords, are the bodhisattva’s good friend. Why? Because they instruct him so that he enters the perfection of wisdom. 0 Subhuti, they are called the bodhisattva’s good friend. Furthermore, Subhuti, the six perfections are the bodhisattva’s good friend.” (KA T.227, 571b25ff;A 396; BST 197.6).
3 A bad friend is defined in Kumarajiva’s version as a person who teaches others 1) to stay far away from perfect wisdom, 2) not to take pleasure in enlightenment, 3) to train in taking hold of a sign and discriminating it, 4) to compose and embellish literary verse, 5) to train in the dharma-sutras of the sravakas and pratyeka-buddhas, and 6) to become with them, (the sravakas and pratyeka-buddhas), accessories to the deeds of Mara. (KA T. 227, 538c8ff; not in the Sanskrit version).
A Tiger with Horns
The Sino American Buddhist Association, Gold Mountain Temple, and Vajra Bodhi Sea together will sponsor three cultivation sessions this coming Winter. The first, a Kuan Yin Seven, consisting of seven days of recollecting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva (Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) will begin on October 30th and end November 5th. The following day, November 6th, is the anniversary of Kuan Yin Bodhisattva’s birthday, which will be celebrated with recitation of s5tras and mantras, and a vegetarian feast at 11:00 A.M.
Beginning December 6th will be three weeks of Dhyana Meditation ending on December 26th. Meditation will begin early in the morning and last until late at night each day during these three weeks. Instructional talks will be given daily by the Master. The following day, December 27th, will begin a Seven-Day Recollection of the Buddha Session, which runs through January 2nd, 1972. January 3rd is the anniversary of the Birthday of Amitabha Buddha and there will be ceremonies throughout the day and a vegetarian feast at 11:00 A.M.
Cultivation of Dhyana Mediation is compared to a tiger, and cultivation of the Recollection of the Buddha is compared to horns. Thus the combination of both meditation and recollection is “A Tiger With Horns”, a most powerful creature.
For further information, call or write the Sino-American Buddhist Association, Gold Mountain Temple, 1731 15th Street, San Francisco, California, 19103. Tel: 621-5202 (415)T