The Bodhisatta takes his seat upon the "bodhi seat" of grass; at night Mara brings his army to drive him from his quest

The event depicted in this picture is called "Mara's challenge." It occurred on the day of the full moon of the sixth lunar month, not many hours before the Buddha's enlightenment. The sun was just setting behind the trees. The four-legged creature making as if to gore the Great Being is known as Naragirimekhala, the elephant of King Vassadi Mara, the commander of the army. The woman who is squeezing her hair is "Mother Earth," Sundharivanida.

Mara had already confronted the Great Being once before, when he was just leaving the city gates on his great going forth, but this time the confrontation was the greatest of all Mara's attempts to overthrow the Buddha. The army assembled by Mara on this occasion was of such size that the entire earth and sky were darkened by it. It came in from the sky, from across the earth and from beneath the earth, and was so fearsome that the devas that were guarding the Great Being all fled in terror to their palaces.

The Pathamasambodhi described the scene of Mara's army thus: "... some of the beings had red faces and green bodies, some had green faces and red bodies; some of them manifested as white bodies with yellow faces ... some of them had striped bodies and black faces ... some of them had serpent lower bodies and human upper bodies ..."

As for Mara, he appeared with a thousand arms on each side, each arm brandishing a different weapon-swords, spears, bows and arrows, javelins, wheel blades, hooks, maces, rocks, spikes, hatchets, axes, tridents, and more.

The reason that Mara confronted the Great Being on many occasions was that he hated to see anyone excelling him. Thus, since the Great Being was making efforts to be the "best" person in the world, he opposed him. But he always lost. On this occasion, he was defeated in the first round, so he tried some trickery, accusing the Great Being of usurping his seat, the "bodhi" seat, which he claimed to be his. Mara named as witnesses members of his own entourage. On his part, the Great Being could find no witnesses to support him, the devas having all fled, so he stretched out his right hand from under his robe and pointed his finger to the earth, upon which Mother Earth rose up to be his witness.

All of the above is an allegorical account. Its meaning will be given in the next chapter.
 

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