3.2. The Striving of Gotama
As I strove to subdue myself
beside the broad Nerañjarā,
absorbed unflinchingly to gain
the surcease of bondage here,
Namucī came and spoke to me
with words all garbed in pity thus:
O you are thin and you are pale,
and you are in death’s presence too:
a thousand parts are pledged to death
but life still holds one part of you.
Live, sir! Life’s the better way;
you may gain merit if you live,
come live the life of purity, pour
libations on the holy fires
and thus a world of merit gain.
What can you do by struggling now?
The path of struggling too is rough,
and difficult and hard to bear.
Now Māra, as he spoke these lines
drew near until he stood close by.
The Blessed One replied to him
as he stood thus:
O Evil One,
O Cousin of the Negligent,
you have come here for your own ends.
Now, merit I need not at all.
Let Māra talk of merit then,
to those that stand in need of it.
For I have faith and energy,
and I have understanding, too.
So while I thus subdue myself,
why do you speak to me of life?
There is this wind that blows, can dry
even the rivers’ running streams;
so while I thus subdue myself,
why should it not dry up my blood?
And, as the blood dries up, then bile
and phlegm run dry, the wasting flesh
becalms the mind: I shall have more
of mindfulness and wisdom too,
I shall have greater concentration.
For living thus I come to know
the limits to which feeling goes.
My mind looks not to sense-desires:
Now see a being’s purity.
Your squadron’s first is Sense-desires
your second’s Sexual Discontent,
Hunger and Thirst compose the third,
and Craving is the fourth in rank,
the fifth is Sloth and Accidy,
while Fear is called the sixth in line,
Sceptical doubt is seventh, the eighth
is Sliminess, Hardheartedness;
Gain with Honour, Praise besides,
and ill-won Notoriety,
Self-praise and Denigrating others—
These are your squadrons, Namucī,
the Black One’s fighting troops.
None but the brave will conquer them
to gain bliss by the victory.
As though I’m weaving muñja-grass,
proclaiming no retreat: shame upon life
defeated here—better to die in battle now
than choose to live on in defeat.
Ascetics and brahmins there are found
that have surrendered here, and they
are seen no more: they do not know
the paths the pilgrim travels by.
So, seeing Māra’s squadrons now
arrayed all round, with elephants,
I sally forth to fight, that I
may not be driven from my post.
Your serried squadrons, which the world
with all its gods cannot defeat,
Now I’ll break with wisdom sharp,
as with a stone a raw clay pot.
With all mind’s thoughts within the range,
with well-established mindfulness,
I’ll travel on from state to state
many disciples leading out.
They, both diligent and resolute
carry on my Sāsana,
and though you like it not, they’ll go
to where they do not grieve.
Though step by step for seven years
I’ve followed on the Blessed One,
the Fully Enlightened One, possessed
of mindfulness, he gave to me no chance.
A crow there was who walked around
a stone that seemed a lump of fat;
“Shall I find something soft in this?
And is there something tasty here?”
He finding nothing tasty there,
made off: and we from Gotama
depart in disappointment, too,
like to the crow that tried the stone.
Then full of sorrow he let slip
the lute from underneath his arm,
then that dejected demon
disappeared just there.