The Illusion of The Physical World

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the festival of the Passover, and for seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten. -Ezekiel 45:21

Dear members and friends,  

“Mara” is the collective description of all pleasurable things that belong to the physical realm in Buddhism. Thus, Mara is the name of the demonic celestial king who tempted Prince Siddhartha by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara’s daughters. The challenge of life according to Buddha is that we need to overcome what appears to be physically real and pleasant in order to obtain inner peace, which can only be found within non-physical reality. This is one of those matters that sounds doable, but in actuality is almost impossible to achieve. The reason is simply that our reality is formed and shaped, ever since we are born, by the never-ending influences of physical sensations. However, according to Buddha both the information received in our physical world and the reality created based on that information are illusory and impermanent. This means that our physical reality cannot satisfy our heart’s innate desire to seek that which is permanent and absolute. 

The Buddha taught his disciples the absolute necessity of denouncing all physical pleasure in order to cultivate their enlightenment. It is not exactly the same, but something similar is taught in the Bible where God orders the Israelites to eat unleavened bread while celebrating the festival of Passover. As far as human pleasure is concerned, eating unleavened bread cannot be considered as a celebration, especially after having leavened bread daily. However, God insisted on this in Exodus and emphasized it again in Prophets such as Ezekiel. In my understanding, the deeper message from God regarding the necessity to eat unleavened bread over the Passover is a reminder to us about the essential truth: true happiness cannot be gained from what is of the physical world, but only what is of divine origin. In a way, this is the foundational truth in the Bible: what satisfies and fulfills the human heart fully cannot be found in the physical world, but has to be given by God. This is the very reason why God is always inviting us to come back to God, which is not for God’s sake, but our sake. 

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee