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Meditation Note from Alaska



Do Go Ma Sung
편집장  2016-05-24 20:59:09, 조회 : 4,174, 추천 : 1464
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The mountain in the picture above is Mt. Denali. It is also called Mount McKinley. With a summit elevation of 6190 meters, it is the highest mountain in North America and located in the interior of the State of Alaska. The top of the mountain is always covered with snow. It is not easy to see the top of Denali due to clouds. Denali is reserved as a national park where we can see wild life such as bear, wolf, mountain goat, moose, and caribou.

Ko Sang-don, the first Korean climber to reach the summit of Mount Everest, successfully climbed Denali in 1979. Unfortunately, however, he died on this mountain due to an accident while he was coming down. There is an old saying that the higher the mountain, the deeper the valley. As we know, clouds always follow sunshine. The good comes with the bad.

In Buddhism, there is a similar expression, Do Go Ma Sung, which means the more you practice the path of enlightenment, the stronger the obstruction of Mara you will face. In other words, the closer you get to the final stage, the stronger the opponent.

Shakamuni Buddha was challenged many times by Mara during the 6 years he was practicing meditation to attain enlightenment. Evil is personified in Mara, the Buddhist Demon, who represents temptation, sin, and death. Finally, when Shakamuni Buddha attained enlightenment under the bodhi tree, Mara challenged him with many temptations and attacks to prevent him from becoming Buddha. Mara sent his three daughters, Taṇhā (greed), Ararti (Discontentment) and Rāga (desire) to Buddha to seduce and destroy him.

They approached Buddha and tempted him with beautiful postures. Then, they said, "Each man has different tastes. Some like girls, some like voluptuous ladies, some like middle-aged women, and others like older women. Thus, we have to change our bodies to various appearances to seduce him." They disguised themselves into 10 different appearances and seduced Buddha with all their efforts.

As their seduction continued, Buddha talked to them.

"Even though your appearances are nice, your minds are not clean. It is like poison in a vase with pretty flowers. What would be the purpose if those things will perish by themselves? You purposely came to me and tried to disturb my peaceful mind, so you are not good. Your bodies contain filth, so what are they good for? Go away. They are useless."

After Buddha said this, Mara's three daughters turned into old women and left in sorrow. In desperation, Mara ordered his army to attack Buddha with spears, swords, fire arrows, rocks, thunder and hail. Buddha did not surrender, and finally, attained utmost and perfect enlightenment.

Even after Buddha had repelled Mara's temptations and attacks, he was often slandered by vicious opponents and encountered disturbances when he turned the wheel of the Dharma.

One day, Rahula, Buddha's son, was struck by opponents with a bowl, and the blood ran from his head. Maudgalyayana, one of the Buddha's ten major disciples, was even murdered by opponents of Buddhism.

Mara’s obstruction does not occur only to those who practice deep meditation. Anyone of us can face the obstruction or temptation of Mara. You may see this kind of situation in temples. For example, when you pray in a temple, you are bothered by the sound of a string of beads or the chanting from another person. That's why you may think you can't concentrate on your praying. Sometimes people are disrespectful to each other because of this kind of incident. If you feel your praying is disturbed, that is the obstruction of Mara.

Once, when I was in a temple listening to a monk’s Dharma talk. I could see that many people were inspired. However, if they were bumped by other people as they were going out the door or found their shoes were disarranged, they became easily angered. Their resolve suddenly disappeared and the mind of the sentient being has taken over. Even though these things are trivial compared to the fatal incidents of Buddha and his disciples, they act as an obstruction of Mara to laymen. Instead of being recognized as forms of demon-obstruction, they are considered emotional reactions.

You might experience simple interruptions. When you resolve to pray and read sutras, friends call you to have a drink. When you practice meditation, you feel uncomfortable with the cushion. These things commonly happen. Even though I decided to pray every day for 100 days, I never finished completely. I also saw how some of my acquaintances couldn't keep their resolve. I tried to read one day, but couldn't concentrate because of TV noise, which was upsetting. Such things happen quite often.

However, the real obstruction of Mara comes not from an external factor but from my own desire and ignorance. According to Sutta Nipata, there are 10 armies of Mara: sensual pleasures; discontent; hunger and thirst; greed; laziness and apathy; fear; doubt; conceit and ingratitude; profit, fame, and honor falsely received; self-boasting and belittling. Mara's armies can actually be anything that obstructs our understanding of reality. They come from our delusion. That's why Buddha said wisdom dissolves Mara. If we cultivate our minds and seek wisdom, we become bodhisattva. Our own mind can create Mara or Bodhisattva. Therefore, we have to seek the truth in our mind, not outside of it.

According to Bo Wang Sam Mae Ron (Treatise on the King of Treasures Samadhi), you should not avoid encountering the evil one when you practice. It goes:

“If there is no evil, your great vows weaken. That's why the Great Sage says we should regard evil as a friend who challenges us to keep practicing.”

I hope that all Buddhists will put more effort into practicing meditation, praying, and studying sutras. If we don't experience any obstruction, that may mean we have not practiced or cultivated our minds enough. Let's make a big step towards brightening the light of wisdom until we overcome all of Mara's obstructions.

By Daesong Yim




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