Once, long ago, lived a man named Siddhartha, sometimes called Siddhartha Guatama, Shakyamuni Buddha or, simply, the Buddha. Siddhartha was quick as a serpent, and patient as an ox. He was also enlightened.
Siddhartha searched for years to find a method of spiritual practice that would lead directly and safely to enlightenment, a method that would allow anybody who committed themselves to it to lift themselves beyond the reach of suffering even while alive. When he could find no such methods in his whole land, he decided to make of himself a laboratory.
And so he went out into the wilderness and sat under a tree and vowed, saying, “I will not move from this spot until I have achieved the Goal.”
As he sat and meditated, concentrating himself entirely upon the reality of the present moment, Siddhartha was confronted by many visions. Beautiful women danced and stripped before his eyes. Riches fell from the heavens. Gods and demons bowed before him, pledging their eternal service if he would but stand up, then threatening him with inhuman torments if he refused to wiggle a toe. Every possible passion was embodied in front of him. But Siddhartha just sat and smiled. Each vision came and, inevitably, went.
At length, Mara, the king of demons, appeared in person, revealing himself to be behind all of the temptation through which Siddhartha had sat. Even now, with the great Mara himself cajoling, threatening and bribing him, Siddhartha just sat and smiled. Mara realized that he had been bested, but vowed not to let this be the end of the fight, and went on his way. And so Siddhartha became the Buddha, the Awakened One.
But the story does not end there. Siddhartha went on to teach his method to all who would hear him. He taught of patience and wisdom, of compassion and discipline, of a sober way to enjoy life and achieve enlightenment without sacrificing health and sanity. He was known for being patient and wise, compassionate and disciplined. But even he would feel the occasional upwelling of an unhealthy passion, or the budding of an unskillful thought. What he had learned under that tree, though, he applied at those times. He stopped those emotions and thoughts from becoming dangerous and evil words and actions. Whenever they arose within him, no matter how strongly they surged, he would smile and quietly say, “I see you, Mara.” And at that, his mind and soul were stilled and Mara vanished.
Around five hundred years after Siddhartha, but still very long ago, lived a man named Yeshua. Yeshua, known today as Jesus, was a carpenter by trade and a faithful Jew. Yeshua was a brilliant public speaker, an honest teacher, and a true man of God. He was also anointed by God.
Yeshua studied Torah throughout his youth, even interpreting it for the rabbis much older than himself. He knew from a young age that it was his life’s mission to do the will of God. He knew also that his mission involved teaching others how to become anointed themselves and to spread that anointing far and wide. This was his Good News. To begin his mission, Yeshua received a baptism of water to make way for the fiery anointing of God’s Holy Spirit.
And so he went out into the wilderness and sat upon a hill to meditate and pray, and vowed, saying, “I will not move from this spot until I am fully with my Father in Heaven, one with His Will.”
As he sat and meditated, concentrating himself entirely upon the One Reality, Yeshua was confronted by voices and visions. “You are hungry, yes?” he would hear. “Use the power of your Father in Heaven to turn these rocks into bread and you will be sated.” But Yeshua did not budge, calmly responding, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” And so Yeshua saw himself on the pinnacle of the Temple and was told, “Throw yourself down from here to prove that you are God’s son. Surely, your Father will send His angels to save you!” But Yeshua shrugged and said, “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Finally, Yeshua was whisked to a high mountain from which he could see far and wide and was told, “All of this I rule, and all of it I will give to you if you will only bow down and worship me.” But Yeshua said, “Get behind me, adversary! You shall only worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve!” And so the tiny god (devil) left Yeshua.
But the story does not end there. Yeshua went on to teach his way of life to all who would hear him. He taught of patience and wisdom, of compassion and discipline, of a sober way to enjoy life and attain to God. He was known for being honest and true, powerful and humble. But even he would have continue run-ins with unskillful thoughts and dangerous passions. When he found them within himself, he honestly examined them and would pray for comfort or the lifting-up of his cup of troubles from off his heart, but always ending his prayer, “But not my will, but Yours be done.” When he found them within others, he would bring their attention to the situation with a shocking, “Get behind me, adversary!” And at that, he would still his own mind and soul, and the minds and souls of those who came to him for teaching, and the tiny god vanished.