There is a timid knock on the polished mahogany door. Silently it swings open on the oiled hinges. With his head bowed and his hands shaking a young demon scurries into the room, clutching a sheaf of papers. He holds them out to Mara and stands quaking before the desk.

With a brusque gesture, Mara snatches the papers and ruffles through them. A glint of awful fire appears in his eyes.

"You miserable worm! You call this a status report!" He flings the papers at the junior officer who, paralyzed with fear, fails to catch them, letting them scatter around the floor.

"PICK THEM UP AND GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!!!!" Mara's terrible voice booms like a thunderstorm. The demon whimpers as he frantically gathers the papers and then bolts from the room.

The secretary is shocked. "Mara, you're horrible."

He calmly sips his coffee." When I want to be, my dear, when I want to be."

Sixth Army

My sixth army, you have a special place in the task of keeping beings in a state of bondage. Mara's hand writing with a quill
You weaken the beings whom you attack and render them vulnerable to my terrible aspect. I prefer to charm and delight, but will brook no opposition and those few who fail to be seduced must be terrorized into submission!

Physical cowardice is useful in its place but it is the spiritual and moral type that is most suitable for our purposes. Beings must be cajoled into clutching at a sense of security. This is the trick we must play. Of course, you and I know that there is no security in my realm. All beings are subject to the awful realities of birth, sickness, old-age and death. Their goods and chattels, their relations, friends and mates are all as ephemeral as chaff in the wind. No matter. The dream of security may be a hopeless one, but it is powerful. Beings everywhere are afraid to risk what they have, and can be reduced to spiritual impotence by that fear.

Encourage them often not to take risks. If they risk they may grow, and if they grow they may waken. Teach them to cling to the flimsy raft of their life until it is washed over the cataract. They may be kept in this state of fear for countless cycles of birth-and-death. Their folk wisdom has it that a coward dies many times, a brave man but once. Few indeed realize the deeper truth hidden in that trite proverb.

We can use this cowardice to keep them from facing the reality of existence. Even to think about it is too scary. The idea of examining it in a methodical way, as for instance in a meditation retreat, is just too much to bear. If they do come to the point of sitting down, they will need courage to finally break through the veil. If they manage to get past the petty anxieties of their life dramas, they will encounter the real primal fears. It takes great courage to plunge into the Voidness and this we can undermine.

This is, after all, the golden age of cowardice. No one wants to take a chance. This manifests in a host of symptoms. As their numbers increase and the pressure on the earth's resources mounts, those who have a generous portion grow mean and afraid of those that have nothing. Their culture is one based on delightful lies of our devising and the ugly realities are hidden away. The sick and the old are hidden from view and the dead are never seen. Insurance companies grow fat on the people's futile attempts to prevent the unpreventable.

Keep them afraid to leave the pathetic ruts of their little lives. Keep them afraid to think, to love, to give, to dare the unknown. Should they find the courage to question it is the beginning of the end.

We can encourage them to make a virtue of their cowardice. Call it prudence. Call it responsibility. "Be sensible. Why ask for trouble? Leave well enough alone." They will get up every morning and put on their hats and take the subway to their dull grind of a job and carefully plan for their retirement. By that time, they will be so beaten down that they will slide easily and thoughtlessly the rest of the way to the grave.

What we have to watch are the ones who have a little gumption left; they may start thinking of going on a pilgrimage or worse, to a monastery. Whisper about the dangers. "Why throw away your job in these tough economic times? Be sensible, hang in there, only twenty more years to your pension!"

Copyright © 1997 Arrow River Community Center

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