All Buddhas only wish
that all practise and share
the Dharma well to benefit all.
According to the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra, Mara (the most evil heavenly demon king from the Paranirmita-vashavartin heaven) once disguised as Sakra (the chief god of Trayastrimsa heaven) and appeared with twelve thousand music-making goddesses before World-Upholding Bodhisattva. After they paid respects, the Bodhisattva reminded ‘Sakra’ that although he had gathered merits [which are limited, just like his wisdom], he should not indulge himself; and ought to contemplate the five desires (for the seen, heard, smelt, tasted and touched; for wealth, sex, fame, food and sleep) to be impermanent, and seek (good roots for) enlightenment with this [impermanent] body, life and wealth, so as to cultivate the indestructible Dharma [for an immeasurable body, life and (spiritual) wealth, which are attainable in Pure Land and Buddhahood]. ‘Sakra’ therefore asked the Bodhisattva to receive the goddesses for serving him, to which he quickly replied that he should not make this inappropriate offering to a monastic disciple of the Buddha.
Vimalakirti the layman Bodhisattva appeared and revealed that this ‘Sakra’ is actually Mara, who has come to confuse the Bodhisattva, asking that the goddesses be given to him instead. Frightened, Mara tried to become invisible, but to no avail. Exhausting his supernormal powers, he could not leave with the goddesses. A voice then manifested in the air, [probably from Vimalakirti too,] saying he could leave only if he gives them, which he fearfully agreed to. Vimalakirti next instructed the goddesses to aspire for Buddhahood, and to experience ‘thirty kinds of joy in the Dharma for Bodhisattvas’* instead of joy in the five desires. After hearing this, Mara says he wishes them to return to his heavenly palace with him. However, they replied that as they now delight much in the joy in the Dharma, they no longer crave the five desires. Mara next remarked to Vimalakirti that he ought to be able to part with them as Bodhisattvas practise giving all, to which he consented, saying that they will enable all to fulfil their Dharma aspirations [even if they return].
When the goddesses asked Vimalakirti what they should do at the palace, he replied that there is this Dharma teaching called the Inexhaustible Lamp which should be learnt. Its practitioner is like a lamp, able to light up hundreds and thousands lamps, dispelling the darkness with inexhaustible brightness [without losing its own light]. Likewise, a Bodhisattva should guide hundreds and thousands of beings to aspire for Buddhahood inexhaustibly. With this Dharma teaching of the Inexhaustible Lamp, it will lead to increase in all excellent Dharma teachings [including itself]. Although staying at the palace, this Inexhaustible Lamp can be used to to guide countless gods and goddesses to aspire for Buddhahood, so as to repay the debt of gratitude to the Buddha [for his teachings], and to benefit all beings. Agreeing to do so, the goddesses bowed and vanished.
Even if Mara does not tempt us personally, as long as we are not advanced Bodhisattvas like Vimalakirti, we are already sufficiently distracting ourselves with worldly joys. Having the resources to indulge does not mean that we should, lest we become unmindfully caught up in fleeting pleasures, in contrast with truly lasting Dharma joy. This episode also reminds us not to make inappropriate offerings to spiritual practitioners, lest we become their maras! Mara rightly feared Vimalakirti as not only was he able to disclose his identity, he was able to inhibit his powers while teaching his many followers, who were in turn urged to return to Mara’s domain to teach more of his followers with the teaching of the Inexhaustible Lamp to share the brightness of wisdom indefinitely. The great saboteur becomes greatly sabotaged for good cause! May we too, be Inexhaustible Lamps, wherever we are, to joyously spread the light of the Dharma.
When all practise and share
the Dharma well to benefit all,
all will become Buddhas.
* 30 Kinds Of Joy In the Dharma For Bodhisattvas:
 乐常信佛: Joy of constant faith in the Buddha,
 乐欲听法: Joy of aspiring to hear the Dharma,
 乐供养众: Joy of making offerings to the masses,
 乐离五欲: Joy of renouncing the five desires,
 乐观五阴如怨贼: Joy of contemplating the five aggregates as hateful robbers,
 乐观四大如毒蛇: Joy of contemplating the four elements [earth, water, fire, wind] as poisonous snakes,
 乐观内入如空聚: Joy of contemplating the inner entrances [eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind] as empty meeting places,
 乐随护道意: Joy of Joy of complying with intention to protect the path,
 乐饶益众生: Joy of benefiting sentient beings [with the Dharma],
 乐敬养师: Joy of respecting and supporting teachers,
 乐广行施: Joy of widely practising giving,
 乐坚持戒: Joy of resolute upholding of precepts,
 乐忍辱柔和: Joy of patience with gentleness,
 乐勤集善根: Joy of diligent accumulation of good roots,
 乐禅定不乱: Joy of concentration without scatteredness,
 乐离垢明慧: Joy of renouncing defilements with illuminating wisdom,
 乐广菩提心: Joy of giving rise to [and promoting] Bodhicitta [aspiration to guide all to Buddhahood]，
 乐降伏众魔: Joy of subduing [inner and outer] demonic masses,
 乐断诸烦恼: Joy of eradicating all afflictions,
 乐净佛国土: Joy of purifying Buddha Land[s],
 乐成就相好故, 修诸功德: Joy of accomplishing excellent forms with cultivation of all meritorious virtues,
 乐庄严道场: Joy of adorning the bodhimanda,
 乐闻深法不畏: Joy of listening to the profound Dharma without fear,
 乐三脱门, 不乐非时: Joy of the three gates to liberation [emptiness, formlessness and desirelessness], not delighting in untimely [attainment],
 乐近同学: Joy of being near those who learn together,
 乐于非同学中, 心无恚碍: Joy of being with those who do not learn together, without clinging and obstacles,
 乐将护恶知识: Joy of taking good care of evil-knowing advisors [with the right Dharma],
 乐亲近善知识: Joy of being close to good-knowing advisors,
 乐心喜清净: Joy of rejoice in purity, and
 乐修无量道品之法: Joy of cultivating immeasurable path factors of the Dharma.
忆念我昔，住于静室，时魔波旬，从万二千天女，状如帝释，鼓乐弦 歌，来诣我所。与其眷属，稽首我足，合掌恭敬，于一面立。我意谓是帝释，而语之言：“善来憍尸迦！虽福应有，不当自恣。当观五欲无常，以求善本，于身命财 而修坚法。”即语我言：“正士！受是万二千天女，可备扫洒。”我言：“憍尸迦！无以此非法之物要我沙门释子，此非我宜。”
所言未讫，时维摩诘来谓我言： “非帝释也，是为魔来娆固汝耳！”即语魔言：“是诸女等，可以与我，如我应受。”魔即惊惧，念维摩诘：“将无恼我？”欲隐形去，而不能隐；尽其神力，亦不 得去。即闻空中声曰：“波旬以女与之，乃可得去。”魔以畏故，俯仰而与。
尔时，维摩诘语诸女言：“魔以汝等与我，今汝皆当发阿耨多罗三藐三菩提心。”即随 所应而为说法，令发道意。复言：“汝等已发道意，有法乐可以自娱，不应复乐五欲乐也。”天女即问：“何谓法乐？”答言：“乐常信佛，乐欲听法，乐供养众， 乐离五欲；乐观五阴如怨贼，乐观四大如毒蛇，乐观内入如空聚；乐随护道意，乐饶益众生，乐敬养师；乐广行施，乐坚持戒，乐忍辱柔和，乐勤集善根，乐禅定不 乱，乐离垢明慧；乐广菩提心，乐降伏众魔，乐断诸烦恼，乐净佛国土，乐成就相好故，修诸功德，乐庄严道场；乐闻深法不畏；乐三脱门，不乐非时；乐近同学， 乐于非同学中，心无恚碍；乐将护恶知识，乐亲近善知识；乐心喜清净，乐修无量道品之法，是为菩萨法乐。”
于是波旬告诸女言：“我欲与汝俱还天宫。”诸女 言：“以我等与此居士，有法乐，我等甚乐，不复乐五欲乐也。”魔言：“居士可舍此女？一切所有施于彼者，是为菩萨。”维摩诘言：“我已舍矣！汝便将去，令 一切众生得法愿具足。”
于是诸女问维摩诘：“我等云何，止于魔宫？”维摩诘言：“诸姊！有法门名无尽灯，汝等当学。无尽灯者，譬如一灯，然百千灯，冥者皆 明，明终不尽。如是诸姊！夫一菩萨开导百千众生，令发阿耨多罗三藐三菩提心，于其道意亦不灭尽，随所说法，而自增益一切善法，是名无尽灯也。汝等虽住魔 宫，以是无尽灯，令无数天子天女，发阿耨多罗三藐三菩提心者，为报佛恩，亦大饶益一切众生。”尔时，天女头面礼维摩诘足，随魔还宫，忽然不现。