|Great Enlightenment Temple (Maha Bodhi Cetiya), Bodhgaya, India (kathmandubeyond.com)|
|Go back, be rich, prince! - Mara, I see you.|
|Under Bodhi tree ("Enlightenment Tree") at the platform seat (Glenn Losack M.D./flickr)|
|Mara makes obstacles, kills, distracts.|
How to gain enlightenment
Siddhartha the ascetic wondered if this might be the way to enlightenment -- these pleasant absorptions -- and a certainty came upon him.
(In many past lives as a wandering ascetic he had developed, enjoyed, and benefited from the absorptions, which lead to spiritual bliss, supernormal powers, and enhanced consciousness, so at some level of subtle awareness he felt certain that they could help him now).
|Relax, you've got plenty of time.|
Entering the first four jhanas successively and emerging, Siddhartha then asked himself the all-important question: What is this suffering due to? He realized that this was conditioned by that, but that was conditioned by something else. And he went back and back through 12 causal links (called Dependent Origination) to realize how things arise, how this present suffering arises, how it is he had come to be through an unfathomable past.
|Inside the main shrine of the Maha Bodhi ("Great Enlightenment") Temple in Bodh Gaya ("Enlightenment Grove"), Bihar (vihara) state, India (bharat), there is a golden statue under glass (Simon Maddison/maddison_simon/flickr)|
While he could not will himself not to desire, not to crave, there was a way to bring about the cessation of craving: One could look at things just as they really are. For example, whatever one lusts, why does one lust after it?
|WARNING: Don't look!|
|Walking corpses (femen.org)|
We are quickly re-illusioned; we run to it as our only safety and comfort in a harsh world, and we die still firmly in the grip of delusion, craving, and aversion (to all that is repugnant).
The heart/mind will not stand for the painful and disappointing truth. But, Siddhartha wondered, we were to stay with it? It allows an opening for systematic insight exercises, and one can break through to a realization that this has gone on not only in this life, this existence, but in countless past lives, past existences, past states of consciousness, past homes, past births, past states of becoming. And something more shocking is true: It is not only the gross impurities that are repulsive, there is a very subtle illusion going on:
That thing, that thing
|Sid broke through (Songkhram_Ahuwari)|
We never realize this; we cling to it instead as if maybe next time it will satisfy us, fulfill us, grant us lasting happiness and contentment. It fails, and fails, and fails, and yet we keep doing it seeing no other choice than to chase after illusory things. And it is not only sensual pleasures, but intellectual views (speculations, theories, philosophies, opinions, sides, real delusions about ourselves, about the world we think we see, feel, and taste out there).
|Stop seeking. Live and die again.|
In other words, once one sees that things are not what they seem but are instead a painful trap, an mesmerizing illusion, a wheel we have been treading, a process the ancient mystics long ago named samsara -- this endless "continued wandering on." See, death would not be the end, death had never been the end, but just then Death got angry.
|Mara (Cupid) is beautiful|
Siddhartha persevered and remembering countless past lives, past conditions, past times when these same things had been true, these lines pursued, never seeing this Dependent Origination of things.
|Attack before he realizes the Truth!|
|Tibetan monks use wooden planks to do 100,000 prostrations to the Bodhi tree (not shown)|