Friday, September 20, 2013

Oh, DEATH (Mara)!

Dhr. Amber Larson and CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; Professor G.P. Malalasekera, Dictionary of Pali Proper Names (; "A Theory of Death" by Dhr. Seven and Ashley Wells
A Beautiful Death III (Zhang
Death is lovely disguised as love (Cupid)
In the view of the many scholars in various studies of Māra, it might be worthwhile to attempt a "Theory of Death (Māra)" in Buddhism based on the wealth of ancient texts.

The most common use of the word Māra (or marana) was evidently in the sense of "Death." From this it was extended to mean "the world under the sway of death" (also called Māradheyya, e.g., A.iv.228) and all the beings in "the world" -- samsara, cyclical existence, particularly the lowest sphere, which is where we exist, known as the Kama Loka or "Sensual Sphere."
The defilements (kilesas) of the heart/mind also came to be called Māra in that they were instruments of Death, the causes enabling Death to hold sway over the world.
Mara: not so lovely after all
All Temptations brought about by the defilements were likewise regarded as the work of Death.
There is also evidently a legend of a being (the "son," putra, or offspring of "shining ones") born among the devas of the Vasavatti world called Māra. This "son of god" (deva-putra) considers himself the head of the planes of the Sensual Sphere (Kāmāvacara) world. He recognizes any attempt to curb the enjoyment of sensual pleasures as a direct challenge to himself and to his presumed authority. In this sense he is quite like the Lucifer of Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, and Sumerian mythologies.

A mara struggles with St. Issa (Jesus) in a war of principalities rather than flesh and bone.
As time went on these different conceptions of the word "Mara" became confused with one another, but this confusion is often easy to unravel.

Various statements are found in the collections of Buddhist writings connected with Māra, which make obvious references to Death, the defilements, and the world over which Death and the defilements hold sway:
"Those who can restrain the mind/heart and check its propensities can escape the snares of Māra" (Dhp. Yamaka, V. 7).
"One who delights in objects cognizable by the eye, and so on, has fallen under Māra's sway" (S.iv.91).
"One who beset by attachment is entangled by Māra" (S.iii.73).
"Māra will overthrow one who is unrestrained in sense enjoyment, immoderate in food, idle, and weak" (Dhp. Yamaka, vs. 8).
"By attaining the Noble Eightfold Path one will be free from Māra" (Dhp. vs. 40).

The Samyutta Nikaya (i. 135) records a conversation between Māra and the Buddhist nun Vajirā. She has attained full enlightenment and says to Māra: "There is no 'being' here who can come under your control; there is no 'being' but a mere heap of formations" (gloss as skandhas).

Later books, especially the Nidānakathā of the Rebirth Tales or Jātaka Commentary (J.i.71ff.; cp. MA.i.384) and the Buddhavamsa Commentary (p. 239 ff), contain a very lively and detailed description of the temptation of the Buddha by Māra as Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi tree immediately before enlightenment.

Mara's army moves in on Siddhartha under the Bodhi tree. Siddhartha meditates with resolve, fearless and full of compassion, even as Mara attacks (DW).
These accounts describe how Māra, the devaputta or one "born among devas," literally "son of god," seeing the Bodhisattva (the future Buddha) seated there, with the firm resolve of becoming a supremely enlightened buddha, summoned all his forces and advanced against the peaceful meditator.
These forces extended to a distance of 12 times seven miles to the front of the Bodhisattva, 12 to the back, and nine each to the right and to the left. Māra himself, with a thousand arms, rode on his war elephant, Girimekhala, 150 leagues in height. His followers (yakshas, ogres, demons) assumed various fearsome shapes, armed with dreadful weapons.
Mara Devaputra advances on the Bodhisattva
At Māra's approach, all the various "shining ones" (devas), reptilians (nāgas, serpents, dragons), and others -- who were gathered around the Bodhisattva singing his praises and paying him honors -- disappeared in headlong flight. The Bodhisattva was left alone, and he called for assistance the ten perfections he had developed over so many lives that it is hard to count.
Māra's army is described as being tenfold, and each division of the army is described, in very late accounts (especially in Sinhalese books of Buddhist Sri Lanka), with a great wealth of detail. Each division was faced by the Buddha-to-be with one perfection and put to flight. More

A Theory of Death
Dhr. Seven and Ashley Wells, Wisdom Quarterly
Death skull (
We do not actually die at "death" -- except that everyone is "dying" all the time. At every moment, at every submoment in three phases of arising, turning, and passing away -- what is "I" is hurtling toward destruction. These "things" are all impermanent. They are unsatisfactory. And, most surprisingly, they are impersonal. What is "I" is impersonal. And what bears these three marks of existence is always dying. It is just that at "death," the crossing over from one appearance to another, the wandering on through the Wheel of Rebirth and Redeath, one makes a more dramatic leap. Here, now, I am this. Then, there, what will I be? This is a question for fools. Was I, and if so what was I? This is another foolish question that leads nowhere. What are wise questions to contemplate? The Four Noble Truths: Is there disappointment (dukkha, "suffering," unsatisfactoriness)? What is the cause? What is the cessation? What is the path to the complete cessation of disappointment? These are wise reflections that lead somewhere worth pursuing, because at the end of this line of questioning there will be freedom.

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