Koan: This is a place in Story of the Buddha where Siddhartha has just drunk the rice milk to break his long fast, broken with his group and finally found a place to sit that does not shift beneath the Bodhi Tree facing East. The sky darkens and Mara the king of demons comes to assault him (taken from John Tarrant’s, The Story of the Buddha:

Mara’s final strategy was argument. He challenged Siddhartha, asking,
‘By what right do you claim the seat on which you sit?’ He asked Siddhartha.
Siddhartha in that moment didn’t really care what questions he was asked though, something unstoppable was unfolding in him.
‘Mara continued, ‘I have my armies to bear witness for me. But who will speak for you?’ Siddhartha’s hand answered.  Almost out of courtesy, he reached down and touched the ground.
‘I call upon the earth.’ He said.
The voice of the earth goddess, Bumadevi, rose from below:
‘I bear witness.’ The sun and moon paused, and the animals bowed. Mara howled and his howl diminished as he fled. 

I have noticed that there are unexpected gifts and caregivers when the sky is very dark – just like the grass cutter offering him the matt of clean new-cut grass to sit on, and the woman who prepared the rice milk with love and joy. Certain gifts emerge from the debris flow of change and offer themselves. Our job is to notice and acknowledge them so they can help.

The earth is what stirs me to leave the grey cubicle I put around myself sometimes. With all that shimmer always available, why does it take my personal Mara to shatter me into remembering I can touch down? When I ask this, and place a finger on the ground, I feel that lightning bolt of con-nection, the earth touching me back.  We will explore again this remarkable turning point of change in the Buddha’s story and feel its ripples in our own.


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