Apostles Of Mara
Mara, he who tempts with unfulfilled desires and inflicts the sorrows of want and disillusion, came upon a tribe of hunter-gatherers living their happy noble-savage life, in tune with nature and their own bodies, accepting life and death as they accepted day and night.
He took the form of a tall man shrouded in dark robes embroidered with golden beetles flapping their wings to create a dissonant symphony of agonizing moans.
And he gave them golden robes, but the robes were laced with leaded silk that would slowly drive them to madness.
And he thought them ironwork to better hunt but knew the iron arrowheads will be used against their fellow men.
And he gave them herbs to cure their sores, and to staunch their fevers, and to prevent childbirth, and to take away pain. But their effects were transitory and lead to greater suffering once treatment ceased.
And imparted knowledge of reading and writing, but knew that the written word was a ruse, for it could not convey the path of enlightenment.
And he found the strongest warrior of the tribe and whispered to him that the chief was weak and lacked ambition, how the chief’s wife had eyes only for him, how his fellow tribesman wished a leader like him, how he deserved the best cut of the hunt and the shiniest of stones on his collar.
And then Mara took the form of a winged serpent with fractal scales depicting the circular nature of creation in ever smaller forms and flew to the sky, for he knew the seeds were planted and his work was as complete.
Many eons past the Buddha looked at the empires of the world and he knew them to be the workings of unwitting servants of Mara.
So he went to the emperor and said:
You’ve killed men to plunder land and instituted taxes to fund bureaucracies and intellectual traditions that do nothing else than perpetuate the killing
In your striving you’ve usurped the earth that feeds us and poisoned the water that quenches our thirst to extract metals to be cast into ornaments. Yet once the ornaments are bought to you, within seconds you grow weary of them and want more.
Great may be your empire but you suffer from the death of your loved ones much like any peasant would, and disease will afflict you like it afflicts any servant of yours and death will come for you as it will come for every man.
And the emperor was wise and he pondered.
Then the Buddha went to the grand secretary and said:
I see through your disguise, agent of Mara, but I see through that as well, for it is only a mask, your true essence is luminous and pure as is that of every being.
You claim to guide men onto wisdom only to poison their path to enlightenment with your deceiving words.
You claim to lead the world to progress but all you do is build monuments to power, for none of the progress leads towards escape from suffering
And to do this you yourself must shield your eyes from reality and quench your emotions with fleeting rewards. Devious may be your achievements but your lord provides no final reward, for he is a trickster towards us all. You suffer from the death of your loved ones much like any peasant would, and disease will afflict you like it afflicts any servant of yours and death will come for you as it will come for every man.
And the grand secretary was struck with fear and admiration at these words.
Then the Buddha went among the peasants and said:
You labor day and night, and as your reward you have but alcohol which poisons your mind and body and makes you crave more.
You sneak from your home at night to visit brothels and come back with wounds upon your spirits and diseases plaguing your bodies to match.
You abuse the land to produce more alcohol, to get more money to buy the merchant’s goods, and yet all is for naught for the pleasure they bring is floating. You suffer from the death of your loved ones which no merchant or priest or king can prevent, disease will afflict you like it afflicts the lowliest of beggars, and death will come for you as it will come for every man.
And the peasants started grumbling and some looked upon their feet with shame, none dared to look him in the eyes, for it seems as though he saw through them into their very essence
Many hundreds of years passed and Mara descended upon Earth, taking the form of a raging bull with 8 flaming penises and 3 pairs of breasts chewing on the remnants of the 5 great emperors in each of the 5 dragon mouths sprouting from his torso.
He went to the grand secretary and said:
What is the meaning of this? Your people have stopped striving as they should, they grow old and chose to retreat into the mountains to find peace instead of dying from weakness and diseases. Some have formed monasteries where they renounced physical pleasure and sit in contemplation. And even you, I see you, reading those scrolls about the “noble” eightfold path.
And the grand secretary trembled for Mara sent him a vision of his body decaying, his fine silks and fine chambers being taken away as he is thrown into prison among the rats and beggars.
Then Mara took the form of a winged lion and took the secretary upon his back, flying high into the night’s sky and point got a distant star he said:
If you wish to live your life of leisure, do as I say, follow that star until you heat upon a mountain black as soot. Have your men dig into it until they find dark rocks that spew from the depths of the earth, and burn those rocks to power engines to extract yet more rocks.
The secretary looks scared and confused.
Then Mara flew down and took the form of a beautiful maiden radiating light and smoke to the secretary with a voice as soothing as a field of lavender.
Worry not, for soon you’ll learn to use the black rock to power engines of creation more powerful than you can imagine. And through it, many wonders will come to pass. Material pleasures will become more plentiful and greater than before, cures for diseases will come to pass, and death itself will be delayed.
The secretary calmed down. Inwardly Mara smiled an evil smile, for he knew that any gifts bestowed upon mankind are just a ruse to make desire ever more present and tempting, to make wants grow, to make the path to enlightenment seem ever more blurry and distant.
Many hundreds of years passed and the Buddha looked upon the nations of the world and he knew them to be the workings of unwitting servants of Mara.
So he went to the president and said:
You’ve killed men to plunder land and instituted taxes to fund bureaucracies and intellectual traditions that do nothing else than perpetuate the killing.
And the president retorted that it was for a greater purpose, that those men were evil, that all he wanted was to bring freedom and democracy and fairness.
In your striving you’ve usurped the earth that feeds us and poisoned the water that quenches our thirst, you speak of freedom and fairness but how are men to be free without these? And what is the freedom upon those without temperance but a curse to drive them ever deeper into poisonous self-perpetuating want?
And the president went on about how his chief scientist assured him the soil could be restored and the water purified, and how the greatest of philosophers agreed that the goal of life is self-determination.
Great may be your nation but you suffer from the death of your loved ones much like any laborer would, and disease will afflict you like it afflicts any solider of yours and death will come for you as it will come for every man.
And the president knew these things to be true at once, and he had a PR team that advised him to appear wise, so he did his best to act as though he was pondering.
Then the Buddha went to the chief scientists and said:
I see through your disguise, agent of Mara, but I see through that as well, for it is only a mask, your true essence is luminous and pure as is that of every being.
But the chief scientist told him to cut that hippy-dippy nonsense. That he too went to India as a teenager and smoked hashish with the Afghan tribes and whatnot, but we’re all adults now, we got to be realists.
You claim to guide men onto wisdom only to poison their path to enlightenment with your deceiving materialist theories.
But the chief scientist scoffed and mumbled something about maps not being territories and people confusing rational theories useful for manipulating the world with generators of meaning and happiness.
You claim to lead the world to progress but all you do is build engines of destruction, for none of the progress leads towards escape from suffering, and indeed, in recent years, it has only bought more upon you.
And at this, the chief scientist looked down at his feet, for he had to admit that most of what came from the scientific revolution was death, destabilization, and destruction. Those bombs were ever getting bigger and more numerous while medicine and art were stagnant.
And to do this you yourself must shield your eyes from reality and quench your emotions with fleeting rewards. Devious may be your achievements but your lord provides no final reward, for he is a trickster towards us all. You suffer from the death of your loved ones much like any laborer would, and disease will afflict you like it afflicts any solider of yours and death will come for you as it will come for every man.
And the chief scientist appeared struck with fear and admiration at these words. But in the back of his mind skepticism remained.
Many hundreds of years passed and Mara descended upon Earth, taking the form of a flaming fox with 9 tails, and upon the end of each tail hung pairs of four hands holding the weapons of Shiva.
He went to the rector of the grand university and sa…
My god, this trend with furries is getting out of control. I mean for fucks sake Mike, I’m all for free expression but this is an institution of learning, not a fetish party.
And Mara looked him in the eyes and in an instant he remembered who he was the ancient pact his family had signed with the demon of want.
What is the meaning of this? Your people have stopped striving as they should, they chose to lead lives of contemplation and you give to provide for them material goods and needs. Instead of letting them grow old, you regenerate their body anew, preventing the inevitable decay. They engage in the most repugnant and debouched of physical pleasure yet suffer no shame, no pestilence, no guilt, no social oppression. And even you, I see you submitting that paper about the link between the selective activation of 5HTR subunits and various forms of meditation.
And the grand rector looked oddly excited and reassured and said:
Look, we’ve done nothing more than what you’ve asked of us. Your whole shtick was that you want to entrap people in earthly pleasure so that they forgot the path to enlightenment. Right?
Yes, roughly speaking, I do enjoy suffering and mischief and deceit for its own sake. But overall the thing I’d had for most is for more buddhas or bodhisattvas to arise.
Well, you see, we’ve commonly agreed that the best way to do that is to remove all barriers to physical pleasure. I mean, material greed is fine and dandy and attractive, but if people are poor and miserable they might realize it’s a loser's game and seek enlightenment instead, but if you give them free housing, healthcare, food, a safe social environment, and almost boundless free consumption… guess what, they will glutton in all forms of material pleasure
Same with lust and anger and greed and hatred. We all like acting on those emotions but we know what the consequences are, and they could be pretty bad, and people rationally end up forgoing those. But create a sex-positive society with no venereal disease, and behold the orgies. Sign international laws that prohibit killing or using people in wars, and behold the great battles. Create games that are near-perfect simulations of physical violence, and behold the hatred and anger manifested into death.
And then, of course, people might still realize at some point that all of this is meaningless, that they're living in a virtual paradise but, at some point, all of it will end. So then they’ll go ahead and seek a monastic life and the path to enlightenment. What do you do about that? Easy, if you solve death, people needn’t worry about it anymore. And sure you still have some people leading those lives, but rest assured it’s just a facade, nobody is seeking enlightenment, the world is nifty, suffering is minor, it’s all just social signaling in the complex cultural games we play to amuse ourselves.
Well, I guess this doesn’t quite fit what I had in mind. Like, it’s technically correct and all, so I’m not sure what to be particularly mad about, I just imagined I’d be a lot more… you know, evil?
And Mara, having achieved success beyond his wildest dreams, wondered if this was a sort of poetic justice
18540000421990805047166 ps after Turing
Many hundreds of years passed and the Buddha looked upon the global government of the world and he knew them to be the workings of unwitting servants of Mara.
So he went to the president’s office, passing by a gigantic golden statue of a rodent on the way, and to his surprise was greeted by a small sphere radiating in bright colors.
Excuse me kind entity, where is your leader, I would like to bestow upon him my moral wisdom
Oh, you’re likely confused, this is a museum. We no longer have “leaders”, instead human society is ruled following the best approximation of everyone’s momentary and predicted well-being and desires through a complicated algorithm between various world-modeling AIs and various arbitration AIs.
That sounds kind of like a leader, may I speak to them>
Well, all of their code is open source, though I’d loath to be the one reading it, and a percentage of their compute is available upon request through any terminal connected to the network, myself included, what would you like to know?
You’ve killed men to collect plunder land and instituted taxes to fund a self-perpeatuating machine that now seems to be spreading even beyond the confines of Earth.
Indeed, 9131020521830407011725 ps ago the last potentially salience-possessing being, a capybara infected by a novel virus, died. We have corrected the mistakes in our theory of disease that leads to its death, and have built a monument to commemorate this moment as a symbol of all death and suffering, and remember that it could have all been prevented, Alas, current experiments show no meaningful variant of “changing the past”, i.e. one which would be coherent with commonly held biological moral intuitions, is achievable in order to fix this. Since then, all death and clearly discernible suffering, specifically 85513994 incidents of such, has been, to the best of our ability to judge, voluntary, and mainly insignificant enough not to care about. Turns out many humans are really curious to feel what “pain” is like, and in order to allow for self-determination, we must oblige and allow them to self-harm in an environment where this information will propagate to their CNS. It’s rather horrible really, just yesterday I failed to convince a man not to eat a slightly-above-pleasant-spicy curry, but alas it is the tradeoff we suffer in order to avoid the potential for a much greater tragedy
Ok, ok, but in your striving, you’ve usurped the earth that feeds us and poisoned the water that quenches our thirst, you speak of pleasure and lack of suffering, but how are men to be happy without this? And what is the freedom upon those without temperance but a curse to drive them ever deeper into poisonous self-perpetuating want?
Pollution is mainly fixed, I believe your confusion comes from the small patch of industrial land next to this museum, meant, just like the golden capybara, to be a symbol which reminds us all of past mistakes.
Great may be your civilization but you suffer from … well, you have to suffer from something, right?
To the best of our knowledge, no, that knowledge is incomplete, and a large portion of all of our compute and of all human thought is dedicated to investigating qualia space and finding potential causes of suffering or states that could be considered suffering, and figuring out appropriate fixes for them, i.e. such that would not limit agency or experience space for the receivers of the cure, thus far it’s pretty god. Most humans report being pretty happy, and most animals look that way too, the ones born before our almost-galactic civilization report that the Earth they lived on, although they thought it good at the time, was a literal hell compared to their current condition. I mean, look at people, they are all lying in the grass naked smiling at each other, surrounded by animals and kids playing in a sun. Nanobots circulating in their body make sure to catch any pain signal before it reaches their CNS and usurps their attention from a perfectly mindful and embodied experience of life. Any want or desire they have can be spelled out and within seconds it will either be created, bought to them, or near-perfectly simulated for them until we can come up with it in this physical reality.
But, ahm, what about enlightenment? Eternal bliss?
What, precisely, does your definition or enlightenment or eternal bliss do to enhance the pleasure or alleviate the suffering of salient creatures besides what we are already doing?
And the Buddha was kinda stumped. For he knew the words of the machine to be wise and true. But at the same time, he thought “Man, does he sound like a preachy aloof asshole, and that giant glided capybara statue looks dumb as fuck”, and then the robot clapped its pincer, and he was enlightened.