One day Siddhartha, the Buddha-to-be, felt that he was about to have a breakthrough. Meditating under a beautiful pippala tree, he had the sense that sometime that night he would realize full enlightenment and become a Buddha. Suddenly, Mara appeared. Mara sometimes appears as doubt, sometimes as anger, darkness, jealousy, craving, or despair. When we feel doubtful or skeptical, he is there. When we feel angry, irritated, or lacking in self-confidence, that is Mara. Siddhartha had been visited by Mara many times before, and he knew that the best way to treat him was to be very gentle. That day Mara came in the form of skepticism. He said, "Who do you think you are? Do you think you can attain great enlightenment? -- Don't you realize how much darkness, despair, and confusion there is in the world? How can you hope to dissipate all of it?" Siddhartha smiled, expressing great confidence. Mara continued, "I know you have practiced, but have you practiced enough? Who will witness that you have practiced long and hard enough? Who will testify that you can gain enlightenment?" Mara demanded that someone confirm that Siddhartha was going to become a Buddha, a fully awakened person.
- At that moment, Siddhartha touched the Earth with his right hand, very deeply, with all his mindfulness, and said, "The Earth will testify for me." Suddenly, the Earth trembled and appeared as a goddess, offering him flowers, leaves, fruits, and perfumes. After that, Earth looked directly at Mara, and Mara just disappeared.
- Even after the Buddha attained enlightenment, Mara continued to visit him. One time, after he had been teaching for a year and a half, he returned to his hometown, Kapilavastu, to share his insight with his own family and people. One day, sitting alone, he was absorbed in the thought that there must be a nonviolent way to run a country that would avoid the kinds of suffering brought about by prisons, tortures, executions, and war and bring real happiness to people. Suddenly Mara appeared and said, "Lord Buddha, why don't you become a politician? You can apply your wisdom, knowledge, and skills as a politician." The Buddha looked directly at Mara and smiled, "Mara, my old friend, I know you well," and Mara just disappeared.
- The Buddha did not want to be a politician. He only wanted to be a monk, and he knew that it was Mara who was trying to tempt him to become a politician. All he did was recognize Mara and smile at him. When we recognize Mara as Mara, everything is all right. At times we ourselves touch the Earth, but not deeply enough.
- When the Buddha touched the Earth with his hand, he touched it with all his mindfulness. At Plum Village, when we are visited by Mara-when we feel irritated, lacking in self-confidence, angry, or unhappy-we practice walking meditation, touching the Earth deeply with our feet. When we do it mindfully and joyfully, Mara leaves us in less than an hour. The Earth, our mother, has brought us to life many times, and each time she receives us back into her arms. She knows everything about us, and that is why the Buddha invoked her as a witness.
-She appeared as a goddess, offering flowers, leaves, fruits, and perfumes to the Buddha. Then she just looked at Mara and smiled, and Mara disappeared. Mara is not much in the presence of the Earth. Every time you are approached by Mara, if you come to the Earth and ask for help by touching her deeply, the way the Buddha did, you will be offered flowers, fruits, butterflies, and many other gifts of nature, and the Earth will look at Mara in such a way that he will disappear.
--We have so many reasons to be happy. The Earth is filled with love for us, and patience. Whenever she sees us suffering, she will protect us. With the Earth as a refuge, we need not be afraid of anything, even death. Walking mindfully on the Earth, we are nourished by the trees, the bushes, the flowers, and the sunshine.
--Touching the Earth is a very deep practice that can restore our peace and our joy. We are children of the Earth. We rely on the Earth, and the Earth relies on us. Whether the Earth is beautiful, fresh, and green, or parched, depends on our way of walking. Please touch the Earth in mindfulness, with joy and concentration. The Earth will heal you, and you will heal the Earth.