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Mara (demon)

From Academic Kids

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MaraAssault.JPG
An aniconic representation of Mara's assault on the Buddha, 2nd century CE, Amaravati (India).

In Buddhism, Mara is the demon that tempted Gautama Buddha trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women. In Buddhist cosmology, Mara is personified as the embodiment of unskillfulness, the "death" of the spiritual life. He is a tempter, distracting us from practising the spiritual life by making the mundane alluring or the negative seem positive.

The early Buddhists, however, rather than seeing Mara as a demonic, virtually all-powerful Lord of Evil, regarded him as more of a nuisance. Many episodes concerning his interactions with the Buddha have a decidedly humorous air to them.

In traditional Buddhism four senses of the word "mara" are given. Firstly, there is klesa-mara, or Mara as the embodiment of all unskilful emotions. Secondly, mrtyu-mara, or Mara as death, in the sense of the ceaseless round of birth and death. Thirdly, skandha-mara, or Mara as metaphor for the entirety of conditioned existence. Lastly, devaputra-mara, or Mara the son of a god, that is, Mara as an objectively existent being rather than as a metaphor.

Early Buddhism acknowledged both a literal and "psychological" interpretation of Mara. Whichever way we ourselves understand the term, Mara has power only to the extent that we give it to him.

"Buddha defying Mara" is a common pose of Buddha sculptures. The Buddha is shown with his right hand on his right knee and his left hand in his lap, palm facing upwards.

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