You are welcome, Dio. I am glad you enjoyed it. It was definitely one of my favorite reads of 2010...and I am a voracious reader!
So....the quote from Batchelor...
The creation of a nonviolent world is founded on an empathetic respect for the inviolable freedoms and rights of others. The oppressed call out to be free to pursue a path, unconstrained by the constraints placed on them by Mara's latter-day army of governments, religions, superpowers, and market forces. Now that the principalities and the powers stockpile weapons of mass destruction, contaminate the earth with their feverish industry, release floods of images to trigger insatiable desires, treat animals and humans as commodities and functions of a market, . . . As sovereign nation-states behave more and more like personalities (embodied and caricatured in the figure of monarchs, presidents and dictators), they assume the diabolic features of a disconnected cell of a self, blind to their own defects and infatuated by their own image.
The devil is incarnate today as the structural violence that pervades and ruptures the interconnected world.
Then you ask...
How can we, as pacifistic enlightened (of a sort) beings, counter such a monstrous creation as this modern Mara? -Dio
That is the question of the ages, is it not? Clearly in this section Batchelor is addressing the macro, largely sociological issues that stand in opposition to individual freedom and enlightenment. If we look to the metaphorical example of the Buddha's liberation, was it really different for him? I would say no, it was just a different time and place. Because we are able (if we are lucky, or perhaps diligent and mindful) to see these tremendous external forces massed against us, I think we have the tendency to also look on the outside for solutions. That may be the real devil here, not the horror of these external forces, but the psychological dependency that they create inside us. And this may be a completely natural way to react, especially considering the degree to which we are social animals. We need each other. This has been particularly problematic in cultures that have placed the emphasis on individual achievement regardless of the effects it may have on the community around us.
If we look at the story of the liberation of the Buddha, we see a tale that has been woven to show us that to break free of this mass delusion, we must look inside ourselves rather than to the world for answers. The Buddha was affected by external forces from the beginning that were conspiring to keep him where he was and on the eternal wheel of Saṃsāra. His father was conspiring to make him into something that he wanted him to be without allowing Gautama to find his own path. He lived that early life surrounded by walls that were both physically and psychologically real. As a young man, it never occurred to Gautama that there was any other reality than the one he was living.
It was when he finally caught those images of reality outside of his narrow world that he began to truly awaken to a fleeting glimpse he had seen as a child meditating one day. It was not until he saw disease, old age, and death with his own eyes that he realized that he had been living in the world of Mara. Later, after rejecting the ascetic life, he sits under the Bodhi tree and meditates trying to recapture that experience he had as a child...a profound and subtle experience of interconnectedness and impermanence. It is then that Mara really comes out with the big guns...the external forces of fear and desire, and then finally with the external force of social duty to try to remove the Buddha-to-be from the threshold of enlightenment. But the Buddha prevailed when he touched the earth and the Earth bore him witness. This part of the story always makes me a little sad because we are so estranged from nature and I fear we have become too numerous and dependent to ever be "at one" with her again.
In many of the stories of the Pali Canon, Mara continues to try to knock the Buddha back into the world of delusion for the rest of his life, right up until the day he died. But the Buddha prevailed and his story remains to help us all realize that we have the power to find a path to walk in the world as it is, without becoming a puppet of it's forces.
It is interesting that the sangha is one of the points of refuge in Buddhist traditions. Here we see a coming back into the community, with the inevitable social constraints that go along with being a part of a larger group. But I see the value there, even if there is always a danger of institutionalization and politics. Many Christian churches around the world are a primary source of helping people who are suffering. Many of these churches are not concerned about "evangelical" aspects of this community service, they just want to help people in need. Social organizations can do very good things as long as they remain focused on the real, rubber-meets-the-road work that needs to be done. The same must be true of a sangha. Even though the Buddha was tempted (again by Mara) to go it alone, he realized that a few would understand the complexity of his realizations and that even if it was only a precious few, those few were worth the effort.
So, and I know this has been a bit long-winded, but it has been a few weeks since I "got my East on"
...In the end we must tend to ourselves first. Once we have found that immovable spot in our being, we can begin the work of being the change that we want to see in the world. The trick is to get out of the world of theory and into the world of practice. My Zen calendar seems to be pointing to a nice way to get such ideas under way with four simple rules...
1. Show Up
2. Pay Attention
3. Tell the Truth
4. Do Not Become Attached to the Results
Makes sense to me.
"He was a dreamer, a thinker, a speculative philosopher... or, as his wife would have it, an idiot." -Douglas Adams