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Dr. Archana Sharma
Assistant Professor, A.I.H.C. and Archaeology, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi-05
Volume - 5,
Issue - 4,
Year - 2014
According to the Dictionary of Pali Proper Names 'Mara' is generally regarded as the personification of Death, the Evil one, the Tempter (The Buddhist counterpart of Devil or Principal of Destruction).1 In Sanskrit one meaning of the word 'Mara' is killing.2 Due to this meaning some scholars believes that 'Mara' is a God of death in Brahmanical tradition too and is also known as 'Yama.'3 But in Sanskrit-Hindi dictionary Apte refers the other interpretation of 'Mara' as Kamadeva.4 We also get this signification of Mara in Sanskrit Buddhist tradition. So it would be very interesting to compare the concept of Mara in Buddhist and Brahmanical tradition.
The concept of Mara is an important feature in Buddhist canons and supposed as a personification of Death and evil one. The legends concerning Mara are, in the books, very involved and defy any attempts at unravelling them. In the latest accounts, mention is made of five maras – Khandha-Mara, Kilesa-Mara, Abhisankhara-Mara, Maccu Mara and Devaputta-Mara.5 Elsewhere, however, Mara is spoken of as one, three or four. The term Mara in the older books, is applied to the whole of the worldly existence, the five Khandhas or the realm of rebirth, as opposed to Nibban. The commentaries speaking of three Maras specify them as Devaputtamara, Maccumara and Kilesamara. When four Maras are referred to, they appear to be the five Maras mentioned in above less Devaputtra Mara.6
In view of many studies of Mara by various scholars. Malala sekara explains to attempt a theory of Mara in Buddhism in the following manner- "The commonest use of the word was evidently in the sense of Death. From this it was extented to mean "the world under the sway of death (also called Maradheyya) and the beings therein. Thence the kilesh also come to be called mara in that they were instruments of Death, the causes enabling Death to hold sway over the world. All Temptations brought about by the Kilesas were likewise, regarded as the work of Death. There was also evidently a legend of a Devaputta of the Vasavatti World, called mara, who considered himself the head of the Kamavacara-world and who recognized any attempt to curb the enjoyment of sensual pleasures, as a direct challange to himself and to his authority. As time went on these different conceptions of the word became confused are with the other, but this confusion is not always difficult to unravel."7
Various statements are found in the Pitakas connected with which have, obviously, reference of to Death, the Kilesas. Thus those who can restrain the mind and check its propensities, can escape the snares of Mara. By attaining the Nobel Eightfold Path one can be free from Mara. The Samyutta records a conversation between Mara and Vajira. She has attained arhartship and tells Mara- "There is no satta here who can come over your control, there is no being but a mere heap of Sankharas (Suddhasankhararapunja).8
Cite this article:
Archana Sharma. Role of Mara in Buddhist and Brahmanical Tradition : A Comparative Study. Research J. Humanities and Social Sciences. 5(4): October-December, 2014, 370-373.