the four maras

I’m reading When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron after many recommendations – from my wife, from Seth Godin, from Derek Sivers. It’s an amazing book. Chapter 11 is about the four maras, which are new to me.

What we habitually regard as obstacles are not really our enemies, but rather our friends. What we call obstacles are really the way the world and our entire experience teach us where we’re stuck. What may appear to be an arrow or a sword we can actually experience as a flower. Whether we experience what happens to us as obstacle and enemy or as teacher and friend depends entirely on our perception of reality. It depends on our relationship with ourselves.

We habitually try to avoid what is happening when we hit an obstacle in our lives. The four maras provide descriptions of the ways in which we do this.

Devaputra Mara

Seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. We’re addicted to this pursuit. We reach again and again for something to blot out the pain, to numb it away. We might even meditate to avoid it.

Skandra Mara

When things fall apart, instead of taking the opportunity to open up to reality, we habitually close off again and find some solid ground to stand on again by re-creating our self-concept of who we are, instead of “touching in to that mind of simply not knowing, which is the basic wisdom mind”.

Klesha Mara

We let a simple feeling that arises turn into strong emotions. We add a story line that most likely isn’t really there. Sometimes we even blow on the flames.

In their essence, (emotions) are simply part of the goodness of being alive, but instead of letting them be, we take them and use them to regain our ground.

We can turn our emotions “into flowers” by seeing the wildness of them and beginning to befriend and soften toward ourselves and then also to all human beings – they’re just like us.

Yama Mara

The fear of death, but actually the fear of life.

To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake, is to continually be thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. From the awakened point of view, that’s life. Death is wanting to hold on to what you have and to have every experience confirm you and congratulate you and make you feel completely together.

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