Legends About the Enlightened One
Legends are ancient stories. They have been passed on from generation to generation. Here are a few legends about the Enlightened One Buddha.
Legend of Mara
Legends are there behind every ancient story. Buddha who lived 2,600 years ago and is said to be the founder of Buddhism has a lot of such legendary stories. There are a lot of legendary stories about his enlightenment and the incidents that followed it. The temptation story before his enlightenment, stories of enlightenment and stories after his enlightenment are some of the important legends.
Legends about Mara before Buddha’s enlightenment
Mara is supposed to be the tempter. He is just like Cupid who shoots arrows of sensuality to tempt men and women. In South Indian literatures Cupid is named as Maran (god of love with a bow and arrow). Perhaps he may be the one described as Mara in Buddhist legends.
Siddhartha was the name of Buddha before he attained enlightenment. Mara’s story starts with Siddhartha’s search for truth. Siddhartha was wandering here and there, meeting people and requesting them to clarify him with the reasons for human suffering. At last he decided to go on a fast to control the passions and senses. He sat under a tree, in deep meditation. While he was meditating under the tree, the Buddha’s archenemy or tempter, Mara, appeared before him. Mara may be just a personification of Siddhartha’s carnal desires.
Mara the tempter
An array of temptations followed. First a beautiful woman appeared before him, tempting him to distract from his path of search for truth. But Siddhartha forced himself to stay on meditation, transforming Mara’s forces into colorful flowers that rained petals from above. Unable to distract Siddhartha from his meditation, Mara tried a final trick of showing Siddhartha a vision of his own image. But again it was a failure to Mara. Then Mara showed another image of Siddhartha, this time a future image of Buddha which Siddhartha was going to attain soon and become famous. But this too, Siddhartha resisted through his persistent meditation. In fact, the first one was sensual temptation of carnal pleasures and the temptation that followed was temptation of pride to attain glory. When Mara, the tempter, found he could not succeed in tempting Siddhartha, in spite of all his tricks and temptations, he gave up his attempt and went away.
Another legendary story of Mara
In this story also Mara is the tempter, in charge of tempting everyone with evil desires. If they do not pay heed to the temptations, they will be surrounded by misfortunes. Mara does everything to pull away them from their goal by tempting them with every possibility. In Siddhartha’s case also, when Mara found that Siddhartha was almost touching the point of his goal he engaged himself in a great war of sending temptations. He sent his three beautiful daughters to try and tempt Siddhartha. They sang sweet songs and danced, exhibiting their exceptional beauty in front of him. But Siddhartha recognized the temptation of Mara and continued his meditation more vigorously. Now Mara, who himself was afraid of Siddhartha’s increasing spiritual power, felt defeated and left him.
Legendary story about fast and enlightenment
This legend describes about how fasting helps meditation and enlightenment. Siddhartha was sitting under the tree, eating nothing but drinking only rain water. After a long time, he was so weak that he could not even meditate. A young girl from a village nearby observed Siddhartha’s pitiable condition and offered him a bowl of rice and milk. Siddhartha accepted the bowl of milk and rice. While he was eating it, he realized that going without food would not help him find enlightenment. When he finished eating, he placed his bowl on the river flowing nearby and said, “If I am about to reach enlightenment, let this bowl float on the river.” The bowl obeyed his command and was floating.
Legend about the name Buddha “the enlightened”
Another legend says that after his meditation, sitting under the pipal tree, Siddhartha was radically changed. When he encountered other people they could see a special radiance in his face and a lot of change in his appearance. Soon after the attainment of enlightenment, Siddhartha was walking along with a man. The man could not bear the unusual radiance and peaceful demeanor of Siddhartha. When the man asked Siddhartha if he was god or a magician, he answered the stranger that he was “Buddha” (an awakened one). It is how Siddhartha came to be called as Buddha, the enlightened.
Legends about the enlightenment of Buddha are too many to be written here. They are quite interesting. They contain much truth and knowledge in them, suggesting practical ideas to human life.