On the night of his enlightenment, the story goes, the Buddha was visited by the forces of Mara, the Evil One, who was determined to stop the Buddha from achieving awakening. Most of Mara’s devastating and spectacular displays of hopes and fears had to do with the body, either sensual allurements or threats of bodily harm. Declaring that the many threatening minions arrayed behind him were his army, Mara defiantly called out, “Where is your army, O Buddha?” In response, the Buddha touched the ground and said, “The earth is my witness and support.”
In touching the earth, the Buddha was not only calling on the earth goddess to be his protector. He was saying, the earth is my body. My body expresses earth, is produced and supported by earth, is made exclusively of earth elements. Nothing on earth, no matter how frightening, can threaten this indestructible earth body. Even if it is broken up into a million pieces it remains, going home to its Mother who gave birth to it, who embraces it now and always will embrace it.
With this gesture of truth, belonging, and ultimate invulnerability, born of surrender to and identify with the earth, Buddha expressed his absolute fearlessness, and in doing so defeated Mara. After this, his enlightenment unfolded.
And this is exactly true of all of us. Our bodies too are the earth. They rise up from her, and are nurtured, fed, and illuminated by her. Our bodies are in constant touch with the earth, and they return to earth, from which they have never parted.
Our human bodies are expressions of the earth’s creative force. Everything that makes human life – breathing, eating, elimination, perception, feeling, language – occurs only in concert with earth. No thought would ever take place without the prior existence of earth. No thought would be thinkable without air, water, fire, space, dirt. Even our most abstract ideas, like freedom, justice, and happiness, are nothing more or less than earth’s urge, the thought of wind, sky, water, and light. Nothing we think or do could ever be more profound or true than these natural elements, which are literally nothing more or less than our own bodies.
from When You Greet Me I Bow