There is a story about Buddha and Mara, who represents the forces of evil. One day the Buddha was in his cave, and Ananda, who was the Buddha’s assistant, was standing outside near the door. Suddenly Ananda saw Mara coming. He was surprised. He didn’t want that, and he wished Mara would get lost. But Mara walked straight to Ananda and asked him to announce his visit to the Buddha.
Ananda said, “Why have you come here? Don’t you remember that in olden times you were defeated by the Buddha under the Bodhi tree? Aren’t you ashamed to come here? Go away! The Buddha will not see you. You are evil. You are his enemy.” When Mara heard this, he began to laugh and lag. “Did you say that your teacher told you that he has enemies?”
That made Ananda very embarrassed. He knew that his teacher had not said that he had enemies. So Ananda was defeated and had to go in and announce the visit of Mara, hoping that the Buddha would say, “Go and tell him that I am not here. Tell him that I am in a meeting.”
But the Buddha was very excited when he heard that Mara, such a very old friend, had come to visit him. “Is that true? Is he really here?” the Buddha said, and he went out in person to greet Mara. Ananda was very distressed. The Buddha went right up to Mara, bowed to him, and took his hands in his in the warmest way. The Buddha said, “Hello! How are you? How have you been? Is everything all right?”
Mara didn’t say anything. So the Buddha brought him into the cave, prepared a seat for him to sit down, and told Ananda to go and make herb tea for both of them. “I can make tea for my master one hundred times a day, but making tea for Mara is not a joy,” Ananda thought to himself. But since this was the order to his master, how could he refuse? So Ananda went to prepare some herb tea for the Buddha and his so-called guest, but while doing this he tried to listen to their conversation.
The Buddha repeated very warmly, “How have you been? How are things with you?” Mara said, “Things are not going well at all. I am tired of being a Mara. I want to be something else.”
Ananda became very frightened. Mara said, You know, being a Mara is not a very easy thing to do. If you talk, you have to talk in riddles. If you do anything, you have to be tricky and look evil. I am very tired of all that. But what I cannot bear is my disciples. They are now talking about social justice, peace, equality, liberation, nonduality, nonviolence, all of that. I have had enough of it! I think that it would be better if I hand them all over to you. I want to be something else.”
Ananda began to shudder because he was afraid that the master would decide to take the other role. Mara would become the Buddha, and the Buddha would become Mara. It made him very sad.
The Buddha listened attentively, and was filled with compassion. Finally, he said in a quiet voice, “Do you think it’s fun being a Buddha? You don’t know what my disciples have done to me! They put words into my mouth that I never said. They build garish temples and put statues of me on altars in order to attract bananas and oranges and sweet rice, just for themselves. And they package me and make my teaching into an item of commerce. Mara, if you knew what it is really like to be a Buddha, I am sure you wouldn’t want to be one.” And, thereupon, the Buddha recited a long verse summarizing the conversation. –Thich Nhat Hanh, in Soul Food, by Jack Kornfield and Christina Feldman