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Thread: Buddha and Mara

  1. #1

    Buddha and Mara

    I have a question, mostly to Jundo, but would like to hear other's opinions on that too.

    In his book, "Living with the Devil", Stephen Batchelor seems to argue that the Buddha still experienced troubling thoughts and emotions after he attained nirvana. He thinks that this is the only way to explain passages in the early canon in which Mara keeps appearing before and challenging the Buddha after his enlightment. He says that the orthodox Buddhis view in virtually every school is that Buddha is perfect: he simply doesn't have a negative thought or self-centered emotion. For the author this is highly questionable, both psychologically and neurobiologically.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Gassho
    Agata

  2. #2

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Hi Agata,

    I just posted some more on this in something I wrote at ZFI ... I will give the abbreviated version .... my view on these matters, nothing more ...

    I would say that the vast majority of people in the world, although we are all "Buddha", are sucked into their "monkey mind" most of their lives, maybe 100% of the time. Thus, we can speak of "deluded sentient beings". Their monkey just leads them around by the nose.

    Some folks, on the other hand, believe that once one realizes "enlightenment", one is free of the monkey mind 100% of the time. I don't care for that, see no proof of that apart from oft repeated legends of the past, and think that were it so, we would also loose a good deal of the beauty and complexity of what it means to be human ... reduced to numb wood and cold stones in a vanilla world.

    In my view, much better is the true realization that the monkey mind is the monkey mind (most people in the world, deluded sentient beings, do not realize even this, let alone that they need not be its victim), as well as that realization by which the monkey mind dissolves back into the jungle vines of emptyness, followed by the monkey's lovely re-emergence from the vines he never left to start with, followed by developing the ability to see Curious George's trouble making clearly when the monkey runs amuck, and to free ourselves when needed of its worst doings. In other words, through our Buddhist practice, we can develop the ability to see through the monkey sometimes, make him vanish completely sometimes, return to his cage sometimes, train him sometimes, and let him run free in healthful ways sometimes ... a whole bag of tricks suitable to the circumstances. That is "enlightened" insight and behavior, and is something allowed us through our Buddhist training to be monkey trainers. But without that monkey, life is so much poorer ... for we need to laugh and cry and feel joy and pain sometimes, even if we should be keeping all that in the direction of moderation and not let our simian-self run amuck and lead us to extremes. .

    HOWEVER, I think it naive to think that we can always control King Kong, that he will never break loose and climb the Empire State Building. That does not mean that we are "not yet Buddha", "not yet enlightened". It simply means that, in this complex world, there might be a sliding scale between more "Buddha like " and more "deluded" behavior and experience, and we may always be traveling between those poles on different days, in different circumstances. (Where did this idea come that once someone was "realized", they just never stumbled again, never faced complexity in life, never had the monkey do his thing?) Hopefully, as we continue this practice over time, the monkey becomes Tarzan's friend and not our wild enemy more and more ... but he will always be there, with his animal nature ready to break loose.
    Yes, Agata, as you say ... there is a tendency to dip our Buddhas in gold, rob them of all human characteristics. I prefer a Buddha with something to teach about the true human condition, not something unrealistic out of a Buddhist fairy tale of what people, in their fantasies and extreme imaginings of a hero made "perfect" and robbed of human form, dream "Golden Buddhas" should look and act like. Just like I prefer my Jesus who was still wrestling with his "Why have you foresaken me, Father" as he stood on the cross.

    Gassho, Jundo

  3. #3

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Not well read on Tipitaka or the Pali Canon. But. Just based on two passages I read from the sutras. One on Buddha finding a drunk monk laying on a road and one about finding out that one of his dharma talks led to suicides or suicidal thoughts of monks, he does seem to show at least some sense of emotion. I personally like my Buddha with emotion. Human. Dealing with Life. I don't like "following" walking and talking stones. :| :wink:

  4. #4

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    I think it might have been Gil Fronsdal or another teacher who likes to compare Buddha to an Olympic distance runner that breaks speeds records. A distance who breaks a record is still human, but he can also show us how far you can go with practice.

  5. #5

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    I recall having read somewhere that Buddha once told his disciples that true knowledge of a thing can only be gained after that knowledge has been tested and found true. He said that it must be tested, and tested and tested again and found true, so I think he understood that doubt will come in on occasion no matter how strong you are in your practice. Too often I read things from other sects of Buddhist thought that seem to try an elevate the Buddha to a state of God-hood, and that was never the intention. Buddha himself after achieving enlightenment was confronted by a man who asked him if he was a god, and Buddha answered that he was not. I prefer to think of Buddha as a man who, through rigorous practice, came to the most profound understanding and realization that a human being can come to, and when he had doubts, he would examine his doubts under the light of his realization and after careful consideration would still find that the Dharma held true.

    I don't think Buddha fought any aspect of life, including the aspects that create doubt. I think he could accept that his Dharma would be tested from time to time, and that those tests would produce legitimate doubts, because he knew that the Dharma would either prove true time and time again, or that it would not and that would lead him to an even greater realization.

  6. #6

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by agata
    He says that the orthodox Buddhis view in virtually every school is that Buddha is perfect: he simply doesn't have a negative thought or self-centered emotion. For the author this is highly questionable, both psychologically and neurobiologically.
    I think that is a good point that on psychological and neurobiological grounds it is unlikely Buddha freed himself entirely of problematic thoughts and emotions. It seems doubtful that anyone could have such supper human capabilities.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    It simply means that, in this complex world, there might be a sliding scale between more "Buddha like " and more "deluded" behavior and experience, and we may always be traveling between those poles on different days, in different circumstances. (Where did this idea come that once someone was "realized", they just never stumbled again, never faced complexity in life, never had the monkey do his thing?) Hopefully, as we continue this practice over time, the monkey becomes Tarzan's friend and not our wild enemy more and more ... but he will always be there, with his animal nature ready to break loose.
    Well said Jundo.....Again it seems implausible to completely rid our mind of delusions, but that does not mean we are totally at their mercy. I thought your Sit-a-Long with Jundo: Zazen for Beginners (Part X) http://www.shambhalasun.com/sunspace/?p=14544 was particularly effective in discussing how zazen can transform our deluded mind.

    (By the way.... I really enjoy some of the points Steven Batchelor work. He does have some fantastic audio recordings of his talks (on his site http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/ under "talks".)

    Gassho,
    Jisen

  7. #7
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha and Mara

    I am afraid that all hagiography of the saints, Eastern or Western, is skewed; otherwise we would have to believe that as kids all the saints were perfect little dumplings from their birth, never sassed their folks, always went to church and could inderstand Pali, Slavonic or Koine Greek from a very early age. They preached to the birds and trees, walked across swollen rivers and never fell from Grace or Wisdom their whole lives.

    Well that being the case, since I , and I venture to say, no one here has done any of these things from their tender youth, what chance is there for us? We might as well just toss in the Zafu and walk away defeated! That's the trouble with idealizing those who worked hard to live good and true lives; when we do, we do not give ourselves the chance to really do as they did.

    I don't know about you but I prefer my saints...with dirty feet from walking and working just as I have to.

    Gassho,

    Kyrill-Seishin

  8. #8

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Hello all,

    I love your replies!

    Me too, I also prefer "my saints" or Buddha with dirty feet.

    Jundo, thank you for your answer.

  9. #9

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Of course, in a related thought, I always thought that the logic around why the Buddha and his Sangha was very perfect and beyond our human faults was faulty. If Buddha and his Sangha were "perfect"....then why have rules for monks and nuns? Why have a Vinaya Pitaka if everyone is beyond this earthly realm with no emotions or self-cneteredness if all are perfect?

  10. #10

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by Kyrillos
    Well that being the case, since I , and I venture to say, no one here has done any of these things from their tender youth, what chance is there for us? We might as well just toss in the Zafu and walk away defeated! That's the trouble with idealizing those who worked hard to live good and true lives; when we do, we do not give ourselves the chance to really do as they did.

    I don't know about you but I prefer my saints...with dirty feet from walking and working just as I have to.

    Gassho,

    Kyrill-Seishin
    Ah, I can appreciate Saints, Buddhas and Bodhisattvas with their pristine dirty feet, walking to offer aid to their fellow beings.

    Deep Bows, Kyrill-Seishin

  11. #11

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    The Buddha was learning. What was the path? One moment of enlightenment does not make a lifetime of enlightenment. It is a process from day one. The precepts weren't made out of thin air. They were a result of actions and effects learned through experience.

    Zazen is integral to whatever it is we are doing. As Dogen said "It's a practice that balances Body and mind out." You might find that you have a great experience when sitting Zazen (which is just thoughts settling and Bodymind balancing out). No big deal (but really a bid deal . However, practice (or "your experience") doesn't mean that thoughts stop, or moments of discontent come up. It just means we have to maintain a somewhat balanced life and the things that are involved in that process are things like: Zazen, and eating right or (not too much), work (samu) etc..

    For example, today I didn't sit Zazen so... I felt a little out of balance. Then I sat Zazen and...BABOOM! :roll:

    Gassho

  12. #12

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    If Buddha had dirty feet, oily hair, and a big zit on the tip of his nose would it have mattered? When he left his seat after attaining his enlightenment and set about to teach humanity a way to self realization he entered the stream of humanity with all its faults. Why wouldn't he be subject to the same faults? I prefer to accept the results he produced in what we all call BUDDHISM. Can we deny the fact that the " Four Noble Truths" and "The Noble Eightfold Path" have been tested and tested and tested yet remanin after some 2500 years. If we found out he became Sinbad the sailor would it change the truth he taught? Personally, I like the Buddha more human it's much harder to make him an idol that way. When he is not an idol, and I meet him on my path, I can bid him hello and continue on my path instead of killing him for the obstacle he represents. Gassho, Shogen

  13. #13
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by zak
    When he is not an idol, and I meet him on my path, I can bid him hello and continue on my path instead of killing him for the obstacle he represents. Gassho, Shogen
    Thanks for that Shogen. I am afraid that many of our obstacles are idols to us, and I'd much rather recognize them and pass by rather than have to smash ot stomp on them...way too much effort.

    Gassho,

    Kyrill-Seishin

  14. #14
    disastermouse
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    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by agata
    I have a question, mostly to Jundo, but would like to hear other's opinions on that too.

    In his book, "Living with the Devil", Stephen Batchelor seems to argue that the Buddha still experienced troubling thoughts and emotions after he attained nirvana. He thinks that this is the only way to explain passages in the early canon in which Mara keeps appearing before and challenging the Buddha after his enlightment. He says that the orthodox Buddhis view in virtually every school is that Buddha is perfect: he simply doesn't have a negative thought or self-centered emotion. For the author this is highly questionable, both psychologically and neurobiologically.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Gassho
    Agata
    Are you sitting to escape problematic thoughts or the monkey mind?

    In my (admittedly limited) experience, it doesn't work that way.

    (het

  15. #15
    Senior Member AlanLa's Avatar
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    Re: Buddha and Mara

    I think perhaps it is our dualistic delusions that create perfect saints and the miraculous Buddha. Since we are imperfect, they therefore must be perfect, because if they were like us there would be nothing to aspire to. And what are you left with when there is nothing to aspire to? Oh yeah, zen.

  16. #16

    Re: Buddha and Mara

    Quote Originally Posted by AlanLa
    I think perhaps it is our dualistic delusions that create perfect saints and the miraculous Buddha. Since we are imperfect, they therefore must be perfect, because if they were like us there would be nothing to aspire to. And what are you left with when there is nothing to aspire to? Oh yeah, zen.
    Endless bows. Thank you.

    Of course, this 'Zen practice' is endless aspiring and striving to follow the path ... sometimes by endless bows. For all that we say there is "nothing to achieve" and "nothing in need of fixing", we can never give up either, and just let our self wallow in its greedy, angry, ignorant side.

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