In the Buddhist tradition Mara represents the god of evil. You might say he is all of our failures and fears rolled into one nice neat package – disappointment, discouragement, fear, anger, and revenge. He shows up and people get cold chills. One day the Buddha is teaching his students and his trusted servant Ananda, sees Mara lurking around the edge of the crowd. Ananda freaks out and runs to the Buddha. Out of breathe yelling and pointing he shouts “Mara’s here, Mara’s here.” The Buddha instructed Ananda to chill out; or the ancient equivalent thereof. He stands up, dusts himself off and looks into the crowd.
“Mara,” the Buddha said “I can see you.”
Then very calmly he added “Come, let us have some tea together.”
We’re all afraid of something. We are scared of losing something. It may be money, a job, a relationship or maybe it’s the fear that one day you’ll finally get everything you dreamed for and worked for and you won’t be prepared for it and THEN what will you do!!!!! As we get older we realize that we have less, rather than more time on this planet. We begin to fear our death.
Whatever the case, our fears hang around in the back ground just waiting for the opportunity to put in an appearance. We attack them and when we can’t remove them quickly we view them as a mark of failure. We read stories about people who’ve overcome their fears and moved on to lofty heights and we wonder why it is we seem to be stuck with our fears like an unwanted friend. We work harder to remove them but like a scuff mark on a gymnasium floor they just won’t go away, will they? We slump our shoulders and resign ourselves to a life of “less than.”
The story of Mara and The Buddha serves to teach us two things. The Buddha didn’t tell the crowd to ignore Mara, rather he acknowledged him and did so graciously. Our first step to gaining control over our fears is to recognize they exist, not like a pebble in our shoes but that they are a part of us, just like an arm or a leg is part of us. Secondly, we have to accept they are part of us and that at times they make our lives difficult. Rather than shooing Mara off, The Buddha invites him to have tea. He accepts him and does so with honor. We can’t partition our lives to be present and joyful with only the things that make us happy.
I spend a lot time, more than I should, working on ways to avoid or remove a fear I haven’t even faced. Better to ignore it, and it just might go away. I get angry at my fears. I detest them like a pimple in the middle of my forehead. The more anger and rage I hurl at them, the more they seem to dig in – especially when I’m under some stress and strain. Better that I recognize my fears and when they pop up I am working on letting them simply be there and going on with life and taking advantage of the opportunities before me. I am learning to pause and when I begin to feel the walls slowly moving in on me I utter the words “Mara, I can see you.” Recognition is a most powerful tool.