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Is there any definition for 'Mara' in Buddhism? Islam has a concept called Shayṭān. They explain it as the devil inside a human (Islam explanation). There is something like this in Christianity too. Does Mara represent the bad side of humans or is Mara understood differently in Buddhism?

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There are 5 kinds of Maras in Buddhism.

  1. Khandha Māra - The five aggregates of clinging
  2. Kilesa Māra - The defilements
  3. Abhisankhāra Māra - The Karmic force
  4. Maccu Māra - The death itself
  5. Devaputta Māra - The god Mara who leads a faction in the Paranimmita-Vasavatti heaven.
  • I just have one more question. It says that the Arupa-loka beings are entirely of mind and cannot hear the dhamma. Then how do they practice? – Lanka Jun 27 '15 at 11:19
  • They don't! They just enjoy the peacefulness of Arupa Jhana until their life runs out. They can practice in the next life. – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 27 '15 at 11:30
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Mara is seen as a tempter in some Buddhist texts perhaps personifying cravings and hindrances on the path. Perhaps I'll just highlight two references to Mara I am familiar with that point to this

The Enlightenment of the Buddha

During the Buddha's enlightenment Mara came to question, tempt and generally shake Siddhartha's (soon to be Buddha) confidence - sending women, firing missiles etc..

Finally he questioned Siddhartha's right to site on the spot under the Bodhi tree. The Buddha touch the earth as his witness and authority to sit there - put a bit more poetically here

Mara challenged Siddhartha--who will speak for you? Then Siddhartha reached out his right hand to touch the earth, and the earth itself roared, "I bear you witness!" Mara disappeared

This is why the Buddha is often seen touching the earth in pictures, rupas etc...

The Dhammapada

Another reference that points to Mara being more of a tempter rather than anything more comes from the flowers verses int the Dhammapada

. Realizing that this body is like froth, penetrating its mirage-like nature, and plucking out Mara's flower-tipped arrows of sensuality, go beyond sight of the King of Death!

I think it is notable (and evocative) that Mara is described as having flower tipped arrows. They are temptations that fly at you - more remeniscant of Cupid to my reading here.

So generally though I would hesitate to conflate Mara with evil (as in Satan) but maybe as own own internal obstacles and a personification of that.

  • Craving and hindrances fall under "Kilesa Māra". But "Devaputta Māra" is not a personification. He's a god leading a faction in the Tāvatiṃsa heaven. – Sankha Kulathantille Jun 28 '14 at 19:34

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