Mara and His Children
In a final, desperate attempt to foil the intent of the bodhisattva,
Shakyamuni; to diminish his merit and his karma in the face of all the universe
as he sits in determined meditation under the Tree, the Tempter and Sower of
Doubt, Great Mara manifests with his offspring: Devaputramara,
child of the gods; Kleshamara, mental afflictions; Skandhamara,
appearance as form, and Mrtyamara, mortality.
According to Thrangu Rinpoche
Mara is most commonly presented in the Buddhist
tradition as four different types of maras called: Devaputramara, the
mara that is the child of the gods; Kleshamara, the mara that is the
mental afflictions; Skandhamara, the mara that is the aggregates; and
finally Mrtyamara, the mara that is the lord of death. These are
The first of these, Devaputramara, the mara that is the child
of the gods, refers not to some kind of external demonic force but primarily
to your own great attachment and great craving. Therefore, it is given
the name of child of the gods, because when this mara is depicted
iconographically because it is craving or wanting something so much it
is not depicted as something ugly and threatening, but as something
attractive, because that is the feeling-tone of attachment. It is liking
things so much that it interferes with your dharma practice and your
attainment of awakening.
The second mara, Kleshamara, the mara that is mental
afflictions, is your mental afflictions themselves. These become a mara
because, due to the beginning-less habit of maintaining and cultivating them,
they keep on popping up again and again. They are very hard to abandon or even
to suppress, and when they are momentarily absent, they come up again, and in
that way they interfere with your practice of dharma.
The third mara is Skandamara, the mara of the aggregates. The
aggregates here refer to the five aggregates that make up samsaric existence
forms, sensations, perceptions, thoughts, and consciousness. Now, these
aggregates are themselves mara, because being aggregates or composite, they
are impermanent. Being impermanent they are constantly changing, and therefore
they are always a cause, directly or indirectly, of suffering. In
order to attain permanent happiness, in order to transcend the suffering of
samsara, we must transcend the five aggregates. There is simply no
way to attain a state of permanent happiness within the bondage of these
The fourth of the four maras is death itself, which is
depicted iconographic[al]ly as wrathful or unpleasant. Death, of course, is
what we are most afraid of. Death is what comes with great agony and fear and
~ issue 10 of Shenpen
Ven. Traleg Khyabgon Rinpoche: "The devil is
that aspect of ourselves that is unexplored, unacknowledged, denied, pushed
out. Mara it is called in Sanskrit."
Gampopa in The Jewel Ornament of Liberation:
... "the name of certain limiting experiences, which, as the term Mara
[<cf. French: mort] implies, have a deadening influence on
... elaborating on the mara-nature of skandhas "the
psychosomatic constituents of individual life" which when we conceive of
any of these as Real or "ultimates" they have deadening influence -
so we practice to maintain insight (and non-attachment) as they arise.
And "The experiences in meditation which [seem to] have a 'divine'
character because they go beyond the merely human concern, are also nothing
ultimate in themselves. But by clinging to them instead of understanding them
they turn into dead concepts which are likely to undermine the mental health
of the individual. Hence they are termed 'the deadly influence of divine
powers'. It is necessary to overcome these deadly foes if spiritual freedom is
to be won."
"So -- rather like something in my fridge when it has sat
in there too long unattended to. Phew! has to be thrown out! I like the notion
that clinging to anything as "me" or "mine" as
"deadening" -- it seems so. Solid, opaque bodies that cling
certainly leave the realm of our Unborn BuddhaNature and thus tend to smell, and
~ J. on the Kagyu email list
This Mara is a way of talking about a condition of life, or a
thing, that seems so good that we give it special consideration instead of
regarding it with equanimity.
"This describes something instantly recognizable that I
never had a name for. Actually it is something I reflect on every
morning on the bus. As a somewhat lonely gay practitioner who was celibate
from age 22 to 34, and is still without a partner at 50, handsome men can
provide a certain challenge to my morning equanimity. [For] Somehow I
have never found the aversion therapy approach of the oft- recommended
"bag of pus," [viewing the body as merely the sack of vile fluids]
... very appealing.
In the face of beauty I prefer to briefly acknowledge the
suffering of the afflictive emotions and move on to attempt to engender
bodhicitta: Joy dedicated rather than denigrated.
For some time now these "devaputtra maras" have
caused me to offer up prayers that [those people] come to experience the
blessings [as expressed] in the Four
And then I reflect that their beauty alone makes them no more
deserving than any one else on the bus, and my seemingly casual gaze and
intention embraces all of [the passengers with no exceptions] as well.
Alternately I pray that the object of my interest, and all beings, be reborn
from the lotus buds in Sukhavati [the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha.]
Some days the escalators at Vancouver's Granville Skytrain
Station carry a stream of lotuses up and out into the morning."
~ The Kagyu Mailing List
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