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  • Māra

(lit. '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). He appears in the texts both as a real person (i.e. as a deity) and as personification of evil and passions, of the totality of worldly existence, and of death. Later Pāli literature often speaks of a 'fivefold Māra' (pañca-māra): 1. M. as a deity (devaputta-māra), 2. the M. of defilements (kilesa-m.), 3. the M. of the aggregates (khandha-m.), 4. the M. of the karma-constructions (kamma-m.), and 5. Māra as death (maccu-m.).

As a real person, M. is regarded as the deity ruling over the highest heaven of the sensuous sphere (kāmāvacara), that of the paranimmitavasavatti-devas, the 'deities wielding power over the creations of others' (Com. to M. 1). According to tradition, when the Bodhisatta was seated under the Bodhi-tree, Māra tried in vain to obstruct his attainment of Enlightenment, first by frightening him through his hosts of demons, etc., and then by his 3 daughters' allurements. This episode is called 'Māra's war' (māra-yuddha). For 7 years M. had followed the Buddha, looking for any weakness in him; that is, 6 years before the Enlightenment and one year after it (Sn. v. 446). He also tried to induce the Buddha to pass away into Parinibbāna without proclaiming the Dhamma, and also when the time for the Buddha's Parinibbāna had come, he urged him on. But the Buddha acted on his own insight in both cases. See D. 16.

For (3) M. as the aggregates, s. S. XXIII, 1, 11, 12, 23. See Padhāna Sutta (Sn. v. 425ff.); Māra Samyutta (S. IV).


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