After recognizing Maras ill intent, Sakra resolves to “recall the Perfection of Wisdom, bring it to mind, repeat it, and spread it.” (Conze 78) This definitely indicates some sort of process or method. What is interesting is that you have to both “recall” the perfection of wisdom, then “bring it to mind.” (Conze 78) So merely remembering it is not enough, you have to focus on it after making yourself remember it. Then, you “repeat it,” indicating that it is some sort of chant or mantra. (Conze 78) Finally, you “spread” it. I think “spread” means to let it penetrate your mind and expand, as thoughts tend to do when you focus on them. (Conze 78)
After Sakra performs the Perfection of Wisdom, Mara is discouraged, and “immediately” “turns back again” and “goes on his way.” (Conze 79) This implies that Mara was more disappointed than defeated, going on his way perhaps to enter someone elses mind.
The portrayal of Mara as a sneaky sort is apt here. It suggests that evil thoughts and temptation sneak up on us, often at important times. Actually, the more we need to concentrate, the stronger the thoughts seem to get at times. The basic moral of the story is pretty clear: practicing the Perfection of Wisdom will help keep Mara away.
Although the basic thrust of the story is clear, there are still a lot of confusing elements of the story, especially in regards to the relationship the characters hold to each other.
The significance of having Sakra, the Chief of Gods, perform the Perfection of Wisdom is unclear to me. (Conze 78) Perhaps it was meant to show that Sakra, a very supreme being, had something to learn from the Lord.
Another source of confusion is the fact that Sakra could chase Mara away for the Lord instead of the Lord chasing Mara way himself. (Conze 78) I thought that the only person who could chase Mara away was the person who Mara was pursuing himself. Perhaps, it means that if Sakra, the Chief of Gods, became a Bodhisattva, he would be able to chase Mara away for regular beings when they are being pursued by Mara. If this is the case, it would be a quite a break for us down here on Earth.
Also, is there any significance to the Buddha being referred to alternately as “Tathagata” and “The Lord”? (Conze 78) Are there two different aspects of the Buddha or is this just poetic variation?
Finally, what is the meaning of the four assemblies being face-to-face with the Buddha? (Conze 78) The four assemblies refer to all laypeople and all monastic people. Is this just another way of referring to all people in the world?
Conze, Edward (1973). The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its Verse Summary.
Silk, Jonathan (1998). The Heart Sutra in Tibetan: A Critical Edition of the Two Recensions
Wriggins, Sally Hovey (2004). The Silk Road Journey with Xuanzang.
Prebish & Keown (2007). Introducing Buddhism..