The young traveler found a nice spot to meditate under the shade of a bodhi tree. As he sat under the tree, meditating and watching his thoughts come and go, his mind started to break free of the constraints of his ego. He entered each moment, fully present, as his thoughts dropped away.
The Arrival of Mara
Mara, the evil one, arrived, determined to distract him from his path toward Nirvana. Over and again, Mara threw all his evil power and destruction toward the implacable Siddhartha, determined to unseat the immovable man.
Finally, in desperation and rage, Mara yelled out at Siddhartha, “Rise from your seat. It does not belong to you but to me!” Mara's warriors and demons rose up beside their lord and swore that they bore witness to his right to Siddhartha's seat. “Who bears witness to yours?” Mara roared at the still-unshaken Siddhartha.
Siddhartha sat motionless and then slowly reached out for help. He put out his arm and placed his right hand on the Earth. The Earth instantly roared like thunder back at Mara, “I bear witness!” Mara crumbled in defeat, disappearing from Siddhartha's presence.
Siddhartha had achieved enlightened mind, and now in his place sat the Buddha, the Fully Awakened One. He had awoken to the true nature of the world, and everywhere was a newfound freedom and compassion that was like nothing he could have imagined.
But the Buddha could not just sit under the bodhi tree forever, enjoying his newfound freedom and basking in the lightness of Nirvana. The world was full of people who had not yet woken, suffering people, who could use the Buddha's teachings to awaken themselves. And so the Buddha listened to his heart and to his nature, got up from his seat under the bodhi tree, and ventured forth to share his teachings with the people who so desperately needed his help.
On the Road
Buddha left the bodhi tree and went in search of his earlier teachers and fellow seekers of the holy life. Remembering fondly the five ascetics he had spent so much time with and who for so long had been so supportive — regardless of the way they had parted — Buddha headed toward the Deer Park at Isipatana outside Varanasi, where they were rumored to be living. Together, they formed the first sangha, or order of monks. He would spend the rest of his life — the next forty-five years — sharing the message of the lessons he had learned and passing on the wisdom and beauty of awakening.
The course of his remaining years was now clearly laid out before him: he would teach an ever-growing band of disciples. In time, Buddha attracted a range of people. After he first balked at allowing women to join the sangha, he eventually allowed them to form an order of nuns. Here was a stark difference introduced by the Buddha. By Hindu standards, his teachings were heterodox; contrary to the orthodoxies of Jainism and Hinduism, Buddhism taught that women could experience enlightenment.