Over 2500 years ago, when Siddhartha Gautama sat under the Bodhi tree intent on awakening, he was repeatedly taunted by Mara, an otherworldly being whose sole purpose was to disrupt human awakening by activating greed, aversion, and delusion with all sorts of lures and threats. The appearance of Mara was not new to Gautama. He had been practicing meditation for six years. But this time his intention to awaken was so firm, Mara couldn’t distract him from it. As he sat through the long night, he learned how to be in a skillful relationship with Mara. Instead of making an enemy of Mara, he said, “Mara, I see you. Mara, I know you.” And that friendly seeing, naming, and acknowledging was enough to diffuse the power of Mara.
If this story helps you, if it feels helpful to think about all the temptations toward unskillfulness that greet you at every turn during meditation and throughout life as a demon who taunts and tempts you, excellent! But for many of us in the 21st century, incorporating an otherworldly being into our daily way of coping, just doesn’t feel like a natural fit. It certainly doesn’t for me. I am more comfortable with imagining the workings of the mind, how all the synaptic activity of thinking creates a pattern of memory. Though I’m fascinated by the workings of the brain, I seem to have limited capacity to study and retain scientific facts. I am most at home in the language of poetic metaphor, and especially creating metaphoric imagery to aid awakening. That’s what excites me. And right now developing this veil metaphor has me jazzed.
The veils I have been writing about for the past several posts are visual representations of the thought patterns we all have. These patterns are as seductive as Mara was for Siddhartha. I chase down a thread of thought and lose all sight of what’s right before me. Whether I am meditating, driving a car, or talking with a friend, it’s easy to get entangled in a veil and become unskillful. It starts with seeing or hearing something that reminds me of something else and off the mind goes! The veils can blind me to what’s right before me. If that sounds at all familiar, then you understand our common challenge. We want to be present in this moment to experience life with all our senses, to be right here and now. We want to live more skillfully, with authenticity and clarity of intention. But our mind chatter keeps getting in the way.
Think of a time you experienced a moment of awe. In that moment, you were fully present! You were in touch with all your senses. Didn’t it feel as if a veil of fog had lifted? That’s what I’m talking about! We can experience that clarity and awe in every moment. We can see clearly with our whole radiant being, a vibrant expression of life, loving itself into being.
To do so we need to recognize that our veils of thought are not who we are. The experiences they represent exist only as memory or anticipation. They are not present. But we can be present if we don’t chase them down or make enemies of them. ‘Veil, I see you. Veil, I know you.” In this way we acknowledge them, let them go, and we return to full awareness. Just like Siddhartha, who became revered as the Buddha, we too can awaken.