Saturday, December 24, 2016

SUTRA: Mara (Cupid) must be crazy!

John D. Ireland (trans.), "The Great Struggle" (Padhana Sutra) edited by Wisdom Quarterly

SUTRA: Mara must be crazy
He's very harmful, but Cupid's so cute!
[The Buddha:] "Near the river Nerañjara, when I exerted myself in meditation to attain security from bondage [1: yogakkhema = nirvana], Namuci [2: Mara] came speaking words of compassion:
  • [2: Namuci is another name for Mara that means "One who does not let go" (his hold over beings easily).]
"'You are emaciated and ill-looking; you are near death! Whereas a thousand parts of you belong to death, only a fraction of you is alive.

Why should I exert (padhana) myself?
"'Live, venerable sir! It is better to live! Living you may perform many meritorious deeds. From practicing celibacy and tending the [ritual, ceremonial] sacrificial fire, much merit is made.

"'But what is to be obtained by striving? It is difficult to enter the path of exertion [effort, padhana]. It is difficult to do and difficult to maintain.'"

Mara in Ancient Rome is Cupid.
Mara spoke these words while standing in the presence of the Awakened One. To Mara speaking in this way, the Enlightened One replied:

"Friend of the negligent, O Evil One, for what reason have you come here? Those who still have need for merit, Mara may consider it worthwhile addressing them. I have confidence (saddha) and energy (padhana) and wisdom.

"Being thus bent on striving [toward the supreme goal of full enlightenment and complete liberation], why do you ask me to live [on wandering in samsara]?

Five topless women in a tub with Mara at the window behind them (

Mara's seductive daughters try to entice
"This wind [vayo, which makes movement possible] would wither even rivers, so why shouldn't my exertion dry up blood? When the blood dries up, [the humours] bile and phlegm wither.

"On the wasting away of the flesh [the basis of sensuality], the mind becomes more and more serene. And mindfulness, wisdom, and concentration (samadhi) are firmly established. In me, who abides enduring such an extreme experience, the mind does not long for sensual pleasures. See the purification of a living being!
  • [Analyzing the body into the Four Elements (dhatus) temporarily frees one from sensual craving for it. There are specific sets of practices on how to practice this analysis set out in The Path of Purification, a famous commentarial work by Buddhaghosa.]
Mara's Armies
The wandering ascetic Siddhartha kept meditating as Mara attacked in waves.

"Sensual Desire is your first army, the second is Discontent, the third Hunger-Thirst, the fourth Craving, the fifth Sluggishness-Laziness, the sixth Fear, the seventh Indecision, and the eighth Disparagement of Others and Stubbornness: gain, fame, honor, prestige wrongly acquired and whoever praises oneself and despises others -- these, Namuci, are your armies, the strike forces of the Dark One [3].
  • [3: Kanha, the "Dark One" (Sanskrit Krishna), is another name for Mara. He is Ancient Indian lore's Cupid (Kamadeva) and personifies sensual passions. He carries a lute (vina), mentioned at the close, which he plays to captivate beings. His other equipment includes a bow, arrows, a noose, and a hook.
A lazy and cowardly [unenergetic and fearful] person cannot overcome them, but by conquering them one gains bliss.
"I wear muñja-grass! [4] Shame on life here in this world! It is better for me to die in battle than to live defeated. Some recluses and brahmanas are not seen (exerting themselves) here, so immersed are they (in worldliness). They are not aware of that path by which those of perfect conduct walk.
  • [4: Indian warriors used to wear a tuft of this grass, called muñja, on their head or headgear to indicate that they were prepared even to die in battle and determined not to retreat whatever might happen.]
Cupid (at left) in Indian lore is Kamadeva.
"Seeing the surrounding army ready and Mara mounted (on a militarized elephant), I am going out to fight so that he may not move me from my position. This army of yours, which the world together with its devas is unable to subdue, that I will conquer with wisdom, like an unfired clay-bowl with a stone.

"Having mastered the mind and firmly established mindfulness (sati), I shall wander from country to country guiding many disciples [to freedom]. And they will be diligent and energetic in practicing this teaching, the teaching of one free of sensual craving, and they will go where, having gone, one no longer grieves."

Mara in Ancient Greece is Eros.
Mara: "For seven years I followed the Venerable One step by step but did not find an opportunity to defeat that mindful Awakened One. A crow flew around a stone having the color of fat: 'Can we find even here something tender? May it be something to eat?'

"Not finding anything edible the crow left that place. As with the crow and the stone, we leave Gotama [Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha], having approached and become disheartened."
Overcome by sorrow his lute fell from his arm and thereupon the unhappy spirit disappeared from that place.
Wait, is Mara real?
Interested in my daughters, Sid?
Māra (literally, "the killer") is the Buddhist Tempter-figure. He is often called "Māra the Evil One" (pāpimā māro) or Namuci (lit., "the non-liberator," i.e., the opponent of liberation).

Mara appears in the texts both as a real person (a deity called Mara Devaputra) and as personification of harm and passions, of the totality of worldly existence, and of death.

Later exclusively Buddhist Pāli language literature often speaks of a "Fivefold Māra" (pañca-māra):
  1. the deity Mara (devaputta-māra)
  2. the defilements as Mara (kilesa-mara)
  3. the aggregates as Mara (khandha-mara)
  4. the karma-formations as Mara (karma-mara)
  5. Māra as death (maccu-mara).
These daughters do not interest me.
As a real person, Mara is regarded as the deity (deva) ruling over the highest heaven of the Sensual Sphere (kāmāvacara), that of the paranimmita vasavatti-devas, the "deities wielding power over the creations of others" (Commentary to MN 1).

According to tradition, when the Bodhisatta (Buddha-to-be) was seated under the bodhi-tree, Māra tried in vain to obstruct his attainment of enlightenment, first by frightening him with demons and so on then with his Three Daughters' allurements.

This episode is called "Māra's War" (māra-yuddha). For seven years Mara followed the Buddha, looking for any weakness in him, that is, six years before the enlightenment and one year after it (Sn. v. 446).

He also tried to induce the Buddha to pass away into final nirvana without teaching the Dharma and also when the time for the Buddha's final nirvana actually came, he urged him on. But the Buddha acted on his own insight in both cases. See DN 16. For (3) Mara as the aggregates, see S. XXIII, 1, 11, 12, 23.

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