Having a goal of raising your consciousness and becoming “Enlightened” is noble, but it can inevitably bring challenges in our daily lives. At times when you’re feeling triggered or swept away by thoughts and emotions, it can seem like you’ve made no progress at all. However, Enlightenment is the birthright of every human being, and it is our destiny as a species to awaken.
The Story of Mara the Tempter
In the final hours before Siddhartha’s (the future Buddha’s) awakening, it is said that he made the decision to meditate through the night, vowing not to stop until attaining full Enlightenment. It was at this time that Mara the tempter, a demon entity began to torment and tempt him. He scoffed at Siddhartha and mocked him, deriding the idea that a human being would ever think that they could attain this exalted state.
That night, Mara made three attempts to distract Siddhartha and make him lose his focus. The first temptation was the offering of his own daughters as concubines. The second was the promise of unlimited power on earth. Siddhartha was unmoved by both temptations.
The Birthright of Humanity
The third trial from Mara involved playing on Siddhartha’s human insecurities, taunting him about his “audacity” to think that he could become Enlightened.
Mara tried his hardest to attack the innate human doubts and fears that we all have, but to no avail. Mara persisted, but Siddhartha’s response was to raise one hand upward toward the heavens while placing the other on the earth. This hand Mudra is now famous in Buddhist statues and imagery and is referred to as “Calling Earth to Witness.”
In taking this pose, Siddhartha was in effect summoning the human legacy, simultaneously mundane and sacred, flawed yet perfect. In doing so, Siddhartha invoked both his humanity and his birthright to become Enlightened – the same birthright we all share. With this, Mara was defeated, and the Buddha became Enlightened.
Staying the Course
Even the Buddha was not beyond being tempted by earthly pleasures, the lust for power and his own human frailty. However, just like the Buddha, you can overcome doubts and diversions on your path to Enlightenment.
Some of the hindrances to awakening include ill-will toward others, sloth or inertia, doubt and worry. However, practitioners can take solace in the Buddha’s success, the teachings of Buddhism, and the community of like-minded people both locally (the Sangha) and worldwide who are striving for Enlightenment. Tapping into the energy of the collective during moments of doubt and temptation can be particularly valuable and effective.
Take heart in the success of the Buddha and others like him. It is out of the very mud of suffering that the lotus flower of Enlightenment can grow.