Mara (demon)

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Relief fragment of Mara in Gandhara style, found in Swat Valley Mara.JPG
Relief fragment of Mara in Gandhara style, found in Swat Valley
The demons of mara. Palm leaf manuscript. Nalanda, Bihar, India Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita Mara Demons.jpeg
The demons of mara. Palm leaf manuscript. Nalanda, Bihar, India
Mara's assault on the Buddha (an aniconic representation: the Buddha is only symbolized by his throne), 2nd century, Amaravati, India MaraAssault.jpg
Mara's assault on the Buddha (an aniconic representation: the Buddha is only symbolized by his throne), 2nd century, Amaravati, India
Mara depicted in the Burmese style, attempting to tempt Buddha Mara demon nat and Buddha.JPG
Mara depicted in the Burmese style, attempting to tempt Buddha
Mara, his lusty daughters, and demonic army, attempting to tempt Buddha, on a 10th-century icon from Mogao Caves Dunhuang Mara Budda.jpg
Mara, his lusty daughters, and demonic army, attempting to tempt Buddha, on a 10th-century icon from Mogao Caves

Mara (Sanskrit : मार, Māra; Japanese : マーラ, romanized: Māra; traditional Chinese : 天魔/魔羅; simplified Chinese : 天魔/魔罗; pinyin : Tiānmó/Móluó; Tibetan Wylie: bdud; Khmer : មារ; Burmese : မာရ်နတ်; Thai : มาร; Sinhala : මාරයා), in Buddhism, is the demon who tempted Prince Siddhartha (Gautama Buddha) by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara's daughters. [1] In Buddhist cosmology, Mara is associated with death, rebirth and desire. [2] Nyanaponika Thera has described Mara as "the personification of the forces antagonistic to enlightenment." [3]

Japanese is an East Asian language spoken by about 128 million people, primarily in Japan, where it is the national language. It is a member of the Japonic language family, and its relation to other languages, such as Korean, is debated. Japanese has been grouped with language families such as Ainu, Austroasiatic, and the now-discredited Altaic, but none of these proposals has gained widespread acceptance.

The romanization of Japanese is the use of Latin script to write the Japanese language. This method of writing is sometimes referred to in Japanese as rōmaji(ローマ字, literally, "Roman letters"; [ɾoːma ʑi] or [ɾoːmaꜜ ʑi]). There are several different romanization systems. The three main ones are Hepburn romanization, Kunrei-shiki romanization, and Nihon-shiki romanization. Variants of the Hepburn system are the most widely used.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han dynasty and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.



The word "Māra" comes from the Sanskrit form of the verbal root mṛ. It takes a present indicative form mṛyate and a causative form mārayati (with strengthening of the root vowel from ṛ to ār). Māra is a verbal noun from the causative root and means 'causing death' or 'killing'. [4] It is related to other words for death from the same root, such as: maraṇa and mṛtyu. The latter is a name for death personified and is sometimes identified with Yama. The root mṛ is related to the Indo-European verbal root *mer meaning "die, disappear" in the context of "death, murder or destruction". It is "very wide-spread" in Indo-European languages suggesting it to be of great antiquity, according to Mallory and Adams. [5]

Yama god of death in Hinduism, Buddhism, and various Indo-European mythologies

Yama or Yamarāja is a god of death, the south direction, and the underworld, belonging to an early stratum of Rigvedic Hindu deities. In Sanskrit, his name can be interpreted to mean "twin". In the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism, he is called "Yima".


In traditional Buddhism, four metaphorical forms of "māra" are given: [6]

Kleshas, in Buddhism, are mental states that cloud the mind and manifest in unwholesome actions. Kleshas include states of mind such as anxiety, fear, anger, jealousy, desire, depression, etc. Contemporary translators use a variety of English words to translate the term kleshas, such as: afflictions, defilements, destructive emotions, disturbing emotions, negative emotions, mind poisons, etc.

Mrtyu death deities in Hinduism and Buddhism

Mṛtyu, is a Sanskrit word meaning Death. Mṛtyu or Death is often personified as the demigods Mara (मर) and Yama (यम) in Dharmic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.

Metaphor Figure of speech

A metaphor is a figure of speech that, for rhetorical effect, directly refers to one thing by mentioning another. It may provide clarity or identify hidden similarities between two ideas. Metaphors are often compared to other types of figurative language, such as antithesis, hyperbole, metonymy and simile. One of the most commonly cited examples of a metaphor in English literature comes from the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It:


Early Buddhism acknowledged both a literal and psychological interpretation of Mara. [7] [8] Specially Mara is described both as an entity having an existence in Kāma-world, [9] just as are shown existing around the Buddha, and also is described in pratītyasamutpāda as, primarily, the guardian of passion and the catalyst for lust, hesitation and fear that obstructs meditation among Buddhists.

The term Early Buddhism can refer to two distinct periods, both of which are covered in a separate article:

Pratītyasamutpāda key principle in Buddhism; states that all dharmas (phenomena) arise in dependence upon other dharmas

Pratītyasamutpāda, commonly translated as dependent origination, or dependent arising, is a key principle in Buddhist teachings, which states that all dharmas ("phenomena") arise in dependence upon other dharmas: "if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist".

Passion (emotion) emotion

Passion is a feeling of intense enthusiasm towards or compelling desire for someone or something. Passion can range from eager interest in or admiration for an idea, proposal, or cause; to enthusiastic enjoyment of an interest or activity; to strong attraction, excitement, or emotion towards a person. It is particularly used in the context of romance or sexual desire, though it generally implies a deeper or more encompassing emotion than that implied by the term lust.

"Buddha defying Mara" is a common pose of Buddha sculptures. [10] [11] The Buddha is shown with his left hand in his lap, palm facing upwards and his right hand on his right knee. The fingers of his right hand touch the earth, to call the earth as his witness for defying Mara and achieving enlightenment. This posture is also referred to as the bhūmisparśa "earth-witness" mudra.

Buddharupa statues or models of the Buddha

Buddharūpa is the Sanskrit and Pali term used in Buddhism for statues or models of beings who have obtained buddhahood, including the historical Buddha.

Three daughters

In some accounts of the Buddha's enlightenment, it is said that the demon Māra didn't send his three daughters to tempt but instead they came willingly after Māra's setback in his endeavor to eliminate the Buddha's quest for enlightenment. [12] Mara's three daughters are identified as Taṇhā (Thirst), Arati (Aversion, Discontentment), and Raga (Attachment, Desire, Greed, Passion). [11] [13] For example, in the Samyutta Nikaya's Māra-sayutta, Mara's three daughters were stripping in front of Buddha; but failed to entice the Buddha:

They had come to him glittering with beauty –
Taṇhā, Arati, and Rāga –
But the Teacher swept them away right there
As the wind, a fallen cotton tuft. [14]

Some stories refer to the existence of Five Daughters, who represent not only the Three Poisons of Attraction, Aversion, and Delusion, but also include the daughters Pride, and Fear.[ citation needed ]

Mara has been prominently featured in the Megami Tensei video game series as a demon. Within the series, Mara is portrayed as a large, phallic creature, often shown riding a golden chariot. His phallic body and innuendo-laden speech are based on a pun surrounding the word mara, a Japonic word for "penis" that is attested as early as 938 CE in the Wamyō Ruijushō , a Japanese dictionary of Chinese characters. According to the Sanseido dictionary, the word was originally used as a euphemism for "penis" among Buddhist monks, which makes it very likely that it was initially meant as a direct reference to Mara the demon (as tempter and obstacle to enlightenment.) [15]

Mara appears in Roger Zelazny's novel Lord of Light as a God of Illusion. [16]

See also


  1. See, for instance, SN 4.25, entitled, "Māra's Daughters" (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 217–20), as well as Sn 835 (Saddhatissa, 1998, page 98). In each of these texts, Mara's daughters (Māradhītā) are personified by sensual Craving ( taṇhā ), Aversion (arati) and Passion (rāga).
  2. Trainor, Kevin (2004). Buddhism: The Illustrated Guide. Oxford University Press. p. 34. ISBN   9780195173987.
  3. Thera, Nyanaponika (2008). The Roots of Good and Evil: Buddhist Texts translated from the Pali with Comments and Introduction. Buddhist Publication Society. p. 22. ISBN   9789552403163.
  4. Olson, Carl (2005). The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction . Rutgers University Press. p.  28. ISBN   9780813537788.
  5. J. P. Mallory; Douglas Q. Adams (1997). Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Taylor & Francis. pp. 150–153. ISBN   978-1-884964-98-5.
  6. Buswell, Robert Jr; Lopez, Donald S. Jr., eds. (2013). Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. pp. 530–531, 550, 829. ISBN   9780691157863.
  7. Williams, Paul (2005). Buddhism: The early Buddhist schools and doctrinal history ; Theravāda doctrine, Volume 2. Taylor & Francis. pp. 105–106. ISBN   9780415332286.
  8. Keown, Damien (2009). Buddhism. Sterling Publishing Company. p. 69. ISBN   9781402768835.
  9. "Mara, Māra: 13 definitions".
  10. Vogel, Jean Philippe; Barnouw, Adriaan Jacob (1936). Buddhist Art in India, Ceylon, and Java. Asian Educational Services. pp. 70–71.
  11. 1 2 "The Buddha's Encounters with Mara the Tempter: Their Representation in Literature and Art".
  12. Keown, Damien (2004). A Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. p. 174. ISBN   9780191579172.
  13. See, e.g., SN 4.25 (Bodhi, 2000, pp. 217–20), and Sn 835 (Saddhatissa, 1998, p. 98). In a similar fashion, in Sn 436 (Saddhatissa, 1998, p. 48), taṇhā is personified as one of Death's four armies (senā) along with desire ( kāmā ), aversion (arati) and hunger-thirst (khuppipāsā).
  14. SN 4.25, v. 518 (Bodhi, 2000, p. 220).
  15. "摩羅(まら)とは - Weblio辞書".
  16. "Lord of Light Summary". Shmoop. Retrieved August 18, 2019.


Further reading

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