After almost six years of painful and ultimately futile austerities, Siddhattha Gotama abandoned the practice of self-mortification that did not lead to liberation from suffering. He then came to the bank of Nerañjara River, to the village of Senanigāma.
There, the Buddha-to-be was visited by none other than Māra – the Evil One. Māra pretended to sympathize with the Buddha-to-be, and said to Him thus, “You are lean and deformed. Near to you is death. A thousand parts of you belong to death; to life remains but one. Live, O good sir! Choosing life is better! By living, you can perform merit… What do you hope to accomplish with this strenuous practice? Hard is the path of striving…”
However, the determined Ascetic Gotama rebuked Māra the Evil One for feigning sympathy, addressing him as ‘kinsman of the heedless’. The Buddha-to-be reaffirmed His determination not to be defeated again by defilements, and to attain the supreme liberation from craving and clinging.
For that, the Buddha-to-be asserted – “The coward does not overcome evil; but he who is not a coward (even in the face of death) and who overcomes evil attains happiness! Some ascetics are not seen plunged in this battle to overcome defilements. They know not, nor they tread the path of the virtuous. But I go forward to battle (defilements)… Better for me is death in the battle than to live on, vanquished by evil!”
Such was the indomitable spirit of the Blessed One! Māra the Evil One, seeing that the Buddha-to-be would not budge from his quest, acknowledged defeat, and left the scene instantly.