"I'm thirsty Mara, can we take a Soma break?" the secretary pouts.

"'All Beings are sustained by nutriment...' "

She pours herself a shining cup of sublime nectar from a crystal decanter. " What's that honey?"

" Nothing...just something I read in a book a long time ago."

" You're so intellectual..." she coos, climbing back into his lap and turning the page in her memo pad.

Third Army
Hunger and Thirst

My mighty and terrible Third! Greetings! Mara's hand writing with a quill
Your methods may be crude compared to the refinements of my beloved First Army but they are nonetheless powerful. The cravings you engender are even more primeval than those of sex. Sex, after all, they only imagine they cannot live without. Food and drink they really do need to sustain the physical organism.

I will always remember that it was you, the minions of Hunger that lured the race now called human into my clutches in the first place. Ah! How long ago was it? A couple or three billion of their quick years? I remember it as if it were yesterday! The great earth was formless and void and the beings that dwelt therein were glorious, self-luminous and fed on jhanic bliss.*

* [Mara's discussion here is based on the cosmological myth found in the Agganna Sutta (Digha 27.) This discourse describes how human beings devolved from god-like entities. The beginning of this descent occurred when the entities tasted a primeval nutritive essence floating on the surface of the sea, causing them to develop coarse physical bodies.]

Bah! Not much we could do with them; a tedious state of affairs. So we caused the seas to develop a nutritious foam and then some of them became just a wee bit curious. Patiently and slyly we whispered in their godlike ears for many a millennium "mmm...tasty." One by one they dipped a fingertip and delicately licked. One by one they began absorbing the coarse physical stuff and their own forms coarsened. Gradually, imperceptibly they took on coarser and coarser forms and required more and grosser food. Ha ha! Now we have the fools lining up for greasy burgers!

Of course the purely physiological response of an empty belly is not our real weapon; it's the imaginary hunger -- the greed for tastes, the lust for savours. They can become quite obsessed with food and the obsession can take many amusing forms. The gourmet who spends a small fortune on exotic dishes, the health-nut who makes a fetish of diet, the glutton who overloads his system with calories and the anorexic who starves herself with a pathological vanity -- all are in a state of delusion that exaggerates the importance of what is, when all is said and done, merely fuel for the organism. Very important also is the lack of fortitude in bearing with the bodily sensations. Beings want always to be satisfied; never let them suspect that that is precisely the one thing that is quite beyond our power to provide.

Nevertheless the cruder forms of hunger, the real need for food, serves our purposes as well. Driven by the need to sustain their bodies they perform actions in the world, working on farms and factories, and action is karma and karma drives sense-sphere becoming. You know this very well.

Our Great Adversary understood the dangers of the Third Army -- as always in his maddeningly direct way he taught a Middle Path through this swamp. He himself tried extreme fasting, which often serves our ends quite as well as gluttony, and rejected it as a method. His rule for the monks stipulates moderation in eating and a limited form of fasting; abstaining from food for half of each day. Nevertheless, you the Army of Hunger are one of my chief weapons against the monks in their efforts to escape. Often we can bedevil their minds and dreams with images of delicious food. Always remember with celibates that food is their chief outlet for sensuality. With the monks of orders outside his dispensation who do not keep the rules of Vinaya we have often had great success in this area, creating many a jolly Friar Tuck!

The main thing to remember is to prevent them from eating mindfully. If a human keeps her wits about her and eats with awareness, contemplating the sensations and feelings aroused, then she can learn a lot. This is very dangerous for us. Fortunately this is a difficult exercise and we all know how little they like difficult exercises.

Surveying the state of the world today it seems you are succeeding splendidly. Half the world is starving and the other half obese. In both cases they are obsessed with food. Keep them that way and they will not turn their thoughts to things beyond our realm.

Copyright © 1997 Arrow River Community Center

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