By Carol Cook
A Dharma Talk delivered February 15, 2020
At Layne and Neera's
So, Mara! Who is this Mara? And why would we invite him/her to tea? I realize, you may already know the stories about Mara from Buddhist, Hindu and other traditions, and Mara may not sound like someone you would want to invite to tea.
I decided to google a bit to see how Mara shows up on the world-wide net, and Mara does appear in many traditions — both spiritual and otherwise.
-Mara is the highest-ranking goddess in Latvian mythology,
-A Hindu goddess of destruction, death, winter, and the moon.
-Of Hebrew origin, the word Mara means is "bitter" or “sorrow.”
-In the Bible, Naomi, mother-in-law of Ruth, claimed the name Mara as
an expression of grief after losing her husband and sons.
-In Gaelic - the sea, seen both as a destructive force and a source of life.
My most surprising discovery was Mara’s appearance in Dr. Who. I couldn’t even remember who Dr. Who was — maybe the name of a band? (And I realize that any sci-fi buff might think I’m illiterate.) But I also learned that the Mara in the Dr. Who episodes seemed to be lifted from Buddhist literature along with two phantoms named “Dukkha” and “Anatta.”
At least two of the writers of these episodes are reported to have had interests in Tibetan and Zen Buddhism.
Mara has also been featured as a demon in a video game series, Megami Tensei.
I decided to stop here — I was supposed to be writing a talk.
So, as for the Mara in Buddhism, among the many supernatural beings found in Buddhist literature, Mara is unique. He/she is one of the earliest non-human beings to appear in Buddhist scriptures.
In traditional Buddhism, Mara is seen in four metaphorical forms:
Mara as the embodiment of all unskillful mind states, such as greed, hate and delusion.
Mara as death.
Mara as metaphor for the entirety of conditioned existence.
Mara as the deva of the sensuous realm, who tried to prevent Siddhartha Gautama (later known as The Buddha) from awaking on the night of the his enlightenment.
Why “Early Buddhism” More Accurately Reflects
Insight Meditation Society’s Roots
From Insight Meditation Center, Barre Mass.
February 2019 Newsletter
Early Buddhism is a living spiritual tradition based on the original teachings of the historical figure known as the Buddha, or Awakened One, who lived in northern India in the fifth century BCE. The term can also refer to the doctrines and practices taught by the Buddha, including understandings such as the Four Noble Truths, guidance on conduct such as the Five Precepts, and meditation practices like insight (vipassana), mindfulness, and lovingkindness. Today in Asia the followers of Early Buddhism are found primarily in Burma, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. Many IMS teachers trained in these countries before bringing the teachings to the West.
Until recently the tradition of Early Buddhism was more commonly known as Theravada, or Way of the Elders. In fact, IMS originally considered itself to be a Theravadan center. However, modern scholarship has revealed that Theravada is just one of some eighteen schools of Early Buddhism, each with its own views and foundational texts. Early Buddhists today agree that the discourses of the Buddha (collectively, the Dhamma) and his monastic code (the Vinaya) are authoritative. The Theravadan school also considers the Pali Abhidhamma and commentaries such as the Visuddhimagga to be authoritative, while other Early Buddhists may not. Hence Early Buddhism and Theravada are not synonymous, although there is much overlap.
...to this resource for our community. Much gratitude goes out to our entire Sangha – and the numberless causes and conditions – for making this website possible, and for the joy I have experienced in creating it.
Detail of the Great Hall Mural
Courtesy Spirit Rock Meditation Center
Used with permission