As there he sat, having formed his vow, in the direction of freedom
– As that great seer, sprung from a line of royal seers,
Sat right there – the world rejoiced.
But Māra, the enemy of true dharma, trembled.
Kāma-deva, “God of Love,” they call him in the world,
The bearer of the brightly-coloured bow
and, equally, of flower-arrows;
That same despot in his playground of desire,
The hater of liberation, they call Māra.
His own sons, Hurry, Thrill and Pride,
And his three girls, Fun, Pleasure and Thirst,
Asked him what was troubling his mind;
And he said this to those boys and girls:
“Over there a certain sage, wearing the armour of resolve,
And drawing the bow of strength of mind, with its arrow of sharpness,
Is sitting, with the intention to conquer realms that belong to me –
That is the reason for this despondency of my mind.
For if he succeeds in overpowering me,
And expounds to the world the path of disentanglement,
Then today this realm of mine is empty,
Like the defunct domain of an errant lord.
So, while he has yet to attain the Eye,
While he remains within my range,
I shall go to destroy his vow,
Like the swollen torrent of a river breaking through a dike.”
Then, grabbing his bow made of flowers
And his five world-deluding arrows,
He with his offspring in tow
approached the foot of the aśvattha tree –
To the fig tree where a horse rests easy,
went he who causes people's minds to be uneasy.
And so Māra addressed the sage, who was quietly sitting, still,
Wishing to cross beyond the ocean of becoming.
Keeping his left hand on the tip of his weapon,
While playing with an arrow, Māra said this:
“Up, up! You death-fearing kṣatriya warrior!
Follow your own dharma. Set aside the dharma of liberation.
Subjugate the world, using arrows and sacrifices,
And from the world obtain the position of an Indra,
highest among the bright ones.
For this path is a glorious path to travel,
Forged by the most ancient of Indras among men;
for one born into an illustrious house of royal seers,
This way of a beggar is not a praiseworthy way to go.
Or if today you will not stand up, O determined man!
Then be rigid! Loosen not your vow!
For this arrow that I am holding up, is the very arrow
That I let loose at Sūrpaka, the fishes' foe.
And barely touched by it, [Purū-ravas,] the son of Iḍā,
Though he was the grandson of the the moon-god Soma,
lost his mind;
And 'Good Body' Śan-tanu also became out of control –
What will become, then, in a degenerate age,
of someone other, who is not so forceful?
Up! Up!, therefore!
Quickly stand up! Come to consciousness!
For here stands ready, with darting tongue, this arrow
Which, at fun-loving lovers who are head over heels in love,
Any more than at greylag geese, I do not unleash!”
Not interested, even when spoken to like this,
Śākyamuni, the Śākya sage,
never broke his sitting posture at all,
And so Māra shot the arrow at him,
Having sent to the fore his daughters and sons.
But even when the arrow was unleashed at him,
He thought nothing of it; from constancy, he did not budge.
Seeing him like this, Māra sank down into despondency
And, filled with anxious thought, he said in a low voice:
“When – god though he was – he was pierced by the arrow,
'The Beneficial' Śiva
was toppled into the lap of the Mountain-King's daughter.
This man gives not a second thought to the very same arrow!
Does he maybe not have a heart? Or is it maybe not the same arrow?
Therefore this one calls not for the flower-arrow,
Nor for a Thrilling, nor for the deployment of Fun;
This man merits,
at the unlovely hands of demon throngs,
Frights, rebukes, and beatings.”
No sooner then had Māra called to mind his personal army,
In his wish to form for the Śākya sage an impediment to peace,
Than multifarious followers had gathered round,
Carrying in their hands spears, trees, javelins, bludgeons and swords.
Having the faces of pigs, fish, horses, donkeys, and camels;
Having the snouts of tigers, bears, lions, and two-tuskers;
One-eyed, many-mouthed, three-headed;
With big bellies, just hanging, and with broad bellies, expanding;
Having no knees and thighs, or having jars for knees;
Equipped with large teeth and equipped with nails;
Having big-bellied barrels for hands, and many embodiments;
With faces split in half, and mouths of epic dimensions;
Grey as an ashen dawn, spotted with red marks;
Carrying their skulls-and-backbones in their hands
[or in their elephants' trunks];
having the smoky-coloured hair of monkeys;
With pendulous hips and pendulous elephant-ears;
Clothed in hides, and with nothing on;
With half their faces white; with half their bodies green
[or with half their tree-trunks green];
Some coloured also coppery-red;
or smoky-grey or reddish-brown or black;
Some, again, with their upper limbs cloaked by snakes,
And with girths fully girdled by sounding bells;
[13.23 – SPURIOUS VERSE
Having the stature of palm-trees, while grasping stakes,
Or the stature of children,
with mouths open wide and teeth sticking out;
Or having sheep's faces and birds' eyes,
Or cats' faces and human bodies.]
With hair strewn about, with topknots, with half-shaved heads;
Encompassed in lines of thread,
and with their headdresses lying in disorder;
With delighted faces, and with grimaces,
Carrying off vital energy and carrying off hearts and minds.
Some as they progressed sprang wildly into action;
Ones who were different, again, sprang up,
each towards the others;
Some played in emptiness,
While some roamed about on the tops of trees.
One, brandishing a three-pronged weapon, danced;
One, tearing to pieces a bludgeon [or a string of sentences], thundered;
One, in his aroused state, moved like a bull;
One, from the body-grown, blazed forth.
Such were the 'demon throngs' which, on all sides,
Stood surrounding him who was the root of bodhi,
Wanting to capture, and wanting to destroy,
Letting be done the will of the master.
Beholding, in the beginning of the night,
That hour of the battle between Māra and the Śākya bull,
The sky did not shimmer but the earth did shake,
And the four quarters did blaze forth resoundingly.
From every direction the wind blew in wild gusts.
The stars did not shine, the hare-marked moon did not show itself,
And Dark Night covered herself in an extra layer of darkness.
While all the oceans churned.
as bearers of the Earth and committed supporters of dharma,
Not looking kindly on the hindrance to the great sage,
Their eyes rolling angrily in Māra's direction,
Hissed and snorted, and came unwound.
But the divine sages of the Pure Abodes who are devoted,
It seems, to the aim of perfectly attaining the True Dharma,
In their minds, out of dispassion, produced sympathy for Māra,
So that they, in contrast, did not become angry.
When they beheld that root of bodhi beset
By that army of Māra whose essence was desire to do harm,
Those whose essence was dharma, desiring the liberation of the world,
Whispered “Hā!... Hā!..”
into the middle space between heaven and earth.
But when the great seer saw,
as an affront to that method of dharma,
Māra's army standing by,
He did not budge, nor was he bothered at all –
He was like a lion among cows, sitting there in the middle.
Then Māra, to the phantom army he had mobilized,
Gave the order to strike fear into the sage;
And so that war machine of Māra's making
– in which each was possessed of his own power --
Made up its mind to break the sage's composure.
Some, with more than one tongue trembling and hanging down
[or wagging and then wavering],
With acutely savage bites, and yellow-red orbs for their jaundiced eyes,
With jaws gaping apart, and ears as solid as pegs,
Stood there purporting to be terrifying.
From them, as they stood there like that,
So horrid in their appearance and in their hearts,
The great seer did not flinch and did not shrink –
Any more than from naughty infants at play.
Then one of them, turning his angry gaze upon the sage,
Raised a club in his direction,
Whereupon his arm with the club became immovable –
As in ancient times did the arm of Indra,
'Destroyer of Strongholds,' with the thunderbolt.
Some, having lifted up rocks and trees,
Were quite unable to unleash them at the sage;
With their trees and likewise with their rocks, down they fell –
Like the Vindhya foot-hills when smashed by the thunderbolt.
Rocks and trees and axes unleashed by some
Who had sprang up into the clouds,
Stayed up there in the clouds and did not fall down,
Like the many-hued foot-beams of a twilight nimbus.
One who was different put above himself a blazing mass of straw,
As high as the mountains' peaks;
As soon as he released it, it just hung there in the emptiness,
Then shattered, at his suggestion, into a hundred pieces.
One of them, burning brightly as the risen sun,
Unloosed from the sky a great shower of embers,
Like blazing Meru at the end of a kalpa
Spewing clouds of ash out of golden vents.
As it scattered around the root of bodhi,
However, that cinder-shower so full of fiery sparks
Became, through the supreme seer's exercise of friendliness,
A rain of red lotus petals.
While being assailed by these various causes
Of trouble and pain for body and mind,
The Śākya sage never budged from sitting –
For he had embraced his own resolve like a comrade.
Others, meanwhile, spat out snakes from their mouths
As from rotten tree trunks.
Those snakes, as if spellbound in his presence,
Neither hissed nor reared up nor travelled around.
Others became massive rain-clouds,
With lightning and fierce crashing of thunder;
They dropped on that tree a shower of stones
Which turned into a pleasant rain of flowers.
An arrow placed in a bow by yet another,
Burned right where it was; it did not go –
Like anger being kindled, ineffectually,
In the soul an unforgiving man.
But five arrows that one who was different did shoot
Stayed up there in mid-air, and did not impinge upon the sage –
Like the five senses, during pursuit of objects,
When those senses belong to a saṁsāra-fearing scrutinizer.
Bent on destruction,
one who was different furiously sprang forth,
Wielding a bludgeon [or a string of sentences],
while facing in the great seer's direction;
His time having come, into free fall he went, helplessly –
As the world falls into calamitous faults.
A woman, in contrast
– Megha-kālī, “the One Black as a Cloud” –
bearing a skull [or a bowl] in her hand,
To delude the mind of the truly great seer
[or of a would-be mahā-rishi],
Flitted about there unrestrainedly;
she did not stand still –
Like the intellect of a flibbertigibbet
who is flitting through ancient scriptures.
One of them directed a blazing eye,
Desiring with the fire of his glare,
like a venomous snake, to burn [his object] up;
He was blind to the seer sitting right there –
As a sensualist is blind to a better way that has been pointed out.
One who, again, was different,
lifting up a heavy millstone,
Exerted himself for nothing,
his efforts coming to naught;
He was like one seeking to obtain,
through toilsome physical doings,
The peerless dharma that is to be realized
by the act of knowing and by the balanced stillness of samādhi.
Others who, likewise, were different,
having the semblance of hyenas and of lions,
Howled with loud laughter and roared mighty roars,
At which beings on all sides made themselves small,
Deeming heaven, struck by the thunderbolt, to be bursting.
Wandering creatures of the forest, and elephants,
letting out calls of suffering,
Dispersed in all directions and hid themselves away.
Again, on that night, as if it were day, from every quarter
Singing sky-goers dropped down to earth, struck by suffering.
But even as those individuals,
by such sonorous expressions of themselves,
Were causing all beings to tremble,
The sage did not wobble, and did not make himself small,
Any more than would Garuda, at the cawing of crows.
The less the sage was afraid
Of the fear-inducing mobs assembled there,
The more did Māra, the enemy of upholders of dharma,
Out of sorrow and out of rage, attack.
Then a certain being,
being of great distinction,
But having no discernible form,
just hanging there in the emptiness,
Saw Māra seeking to do the seer harm and,
without vengefulness or fury,
Boomed at Māra in a mighty voice:
“Do not do, O Māra, work that is empty!
Let go of hurtfulness! Come to quiet!
For this man can no more be shaken by you
Than the great mountain Meru can be shaken by the wind.
Even if fire were to give up being hot,
Water its wetness and the earth its solidity,
With the good karma he has heaped up over many kalpas,
This one could never abandon his resolve.
For, such is his firmness of will, and his courage,
Such is his fire, and such is his compassion for living creatures,
That this one will not rise up without having realized the truth –
Just as the thousand-rayed sun does not rise
without dispelling darkness.
For, by twirling the fire-stick
one obtains the oblation-scoffing flame.
Again, by digging the earth one finds water.
For one who persists, nothing is impossible.
Done according to principle, everything is truly done.
Therefore, in his compassion for the afflicted world
As it twists and turns
through illnesses and through emotions like red passion
-- through breakdowns and booms –
This great man of healing deserves no impediment,
As he wears himself out,
in his quest for the medicine of knowing.
And when, by many wrong byways, the world is being carried away,
He who, with effort, is willing the right path,
He who knows the terrain, should no more be harassed
Than should an experienced guide when a caravan has got lost.
While living beings are lost in a great darkness,
He is being made into a lantern of knowing –
It is no more right for a noble Āryan to snuff him out
Than to snuff out a light being kindled in the dark.
Again, seeing the world sunk in the great flood of saṁsāra
And unable to find the far shore,
He has committed to ferry this world across –
What man of honour would think evil upon him?
For the tree, deeply rooted in constancy,
whose fibres are forbearance,
Whose blossom is good conduct,
whose branches are awareness and good judgement,
The tree of knowing, the bestower of dharma-fruit,
Does not deserve to be uprooted, now that it is growing.
His purpose is to free living creatures who are bound in mind
By the tightly gripping fetters of foolishness;
Your murderous intent towards him is not appropriate
When he is exhausting himself to undo the ties that bind the world.
For now is the time circumscribed by those actions
Which he did for the sake of awakening;
Thus, in this act of firm abiding, this one is sitting,
In exactly the manner of the sages of the past.
For this place here is a navel in the surface of the earth,
Wholly possessed of deepest-seated core power;
For there is no other place on earth
That could absorb the shock waves
from the coming back into balance of this one here.
So do not grieve; come to quietness.
Don't be proud, Māra, of your greatness.
High rank is precarious and not apt to be relied upon.
Why, on shaky footing, would you get above yourself?”
And so, having listened to that speech of the other,
And having witnessed the unshakability of a great sage,
Māra, deflated, his bubble pricked, went on his way,
Taking with him the arrows by which,
in its heart and mind, the world is struck.
All exuberance gone, its effort rendered fruitless,
Its stones, straw fire-bombs, and trees, all strewn about,
That army of his fled then in all directions,
Like a hostile army when hostility itself
has done for the chain of command.
As the Flower-Bannered One surrounded by his acolytes,
melted away, defeated,
Leaving victorious the great seer,
the passion-free vanquisher of darkness,
The moonlit sky shone like a smiling girl,
And a rain of fragrant flowers, containing water, fell down.
The 13th canto, titled Victory Over Māra,
in an epic tale of awakened action, composed by Aśvaghoṣa.