Retreat time in particular offers a wonderful opportunity for reflection; affording so much time to cultivate this practice, and with so much support. It’s unbearable sometimes! All this good fortune – yet oftentimes what we have to sit with is absolutely excruciating, just the opposite of what one would want or what one would expect. What we have to meet within ourselves on this path is extremely challenging.
Sometimes we can see this with clarity and understanding and sometimes not. Sometimes we are caught up in the whirlwind of it, in the dukkha of it. In both of these times, however, we can learn a lot: when we’re caught into it all and when we have clarity and perspective on what we call ‘my stuff.’
I was reflecting recently on the different psychological models we have. The model of the Buddha’s world and the way he communicated the Dhamma can be seen as a certain psychological model. Within that, Ma ̄ra was the deluder – the personification of delusion – that which had to be conquered. Nowadays, I think it can clash slightly with the kind of Western psychological model we’ve been brought up with and conditioned by. Nowadays, it’s just ‘my stuff’ – my emotional world, my grief, my rage, my despair – having to ‘work out my stuff’. But actually, we’re talking about the very same forces in the mind.
There are different ways the Buddha talked about dealing with Ma ̄ra, the deluder. In fact, the whole path of training –s ̄ıla, sama ̄dhi, pañña ̄ – is to do with overcoming Ma ̄ra. Ultimately, however, just to know Ma ̄ra, to know all the forces of the mind, is the way in which we can overcome their deluding power. Maya, in Sanskrit, is another word for mind– meaning that which is illusory and has the power to delude. Knowing it for what it is, however, is really the place of victory.
This reflection by Ajahn Jitindriya ̄ is from the book, Awakening Presence, (pdf) pp. 71-72.