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< Mara versus Satan > MN-49 Brahma-nimantanika Sutta

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  • < Mara versus Satan > MN-49 Brahma-nimantanika Sutta

    MN-49 The Brahma Invitation Sutta tells a dramatic story. There are 3 prominent figures in this sutta: the Buddha, Baka the Brahma, and Mara. This sutta raises questions about the beings existing in the "higher" realms. Let's start with an obvious one:

    Mara is often called "the evil one" in the Nikaya. To readers with a theistic upbringing, it is easy to conflate "Mara the evil one" with "Satan/Devil" in Abrahamic religions. (just noticed a parallel: Don't confuse Ajahn Brahm's teachings with Abrahamic teachings!)

    Is Mara really "evil" driven by ill-will? Or Is Mara merely deluded and misguided, yet spoke out of good intention?

    Typically beings existing in these higher planes have accumulated quite a bit of wholesome merits. They have good karma. They are ethical beings, quite pure in their heart, and their mind is calm. Is this correct?

    From the sutta, the Buddha pointed out Baka had once reached the Second Jhana and had regressed to the First Jhana at the time of this sutta. By association, Mara is more or less at the same jhana level. In fact Mara seems to possess more psychic accomplishment than some of Baka's followers because Mara can "take possession" of an attendant of Baka. In Thanissaro Bhikkhu's translation comments he wrote: "(Another interesting point is illustrated by the fact that Mara is the source of the demand that one obey a creator god.)"

    I noticed the same point. Mara sounds exactly like many evangelical preachers: Accept and believe in God, otherwise you will go to hell! Perhaps they mean well. Perhaps they really don't want the infidels to go to hell. But Mara is not telling people to raise religious war and kill people. Mara (and Baka too) are just saying: don't waste your time & energy trying to break out of the "cosmic universe" because they thought "God" created the universe, and there is no escape since nothing can go beyond it.

    Is it an exaggeration to call Mara "the evil one"? Surely we don't call evangelical preachers "evil", in general.

  • #2
    Hi Franz,

    All beings have done some amount of good and bad karma. So how about Mara the sweet one?

    With kindness,



    • #3
      Mara the Hindrance?

      I won't call Mara "sweet"
      Baka-Brahma & Mara are deluded. They have huge egos. They are both control-freaks.
      Yet they are skillful meditators - attaining first & second jhanas, perhaps beyond.
      So they are not unethical since they must observe "sila" carefully to reach jhana states.

      For me the major take-away lessons from reading MN-49:
      -- Jhana alone is useless without the Insight as taught by the Buddha. To get an inkling of Dhamma one must study the Buddha's teachings. Thus do not advise others not to read the suttas or don't think about the dhamma teachings.
      -- Even Sakyamuni Buddha, the Great teacher (Sattha), could not convert or convince some sentient beings about the Four Noble Truths and Dependent Origination. So much for the Mahayana fantasy about "delivering all sentient beings from suffering before seeking one's own liberation."

      Mara certainly wish to block others from following the Buddha by casting doubt about the Buddha and spreading fake information.
      If it is a sin and evil to deter others from seeking "Cessation of Dukkha", then Mara is guilty.
      Perhaps we should call Mara: "Mara the great hindrance"


      • #4
        Dear Franz,

        While I agree with nearly all of the above at first glance, I do not agree that "one must study the Buddha's teachings to get an inkling of dhamma". Dhamma exists outside of Buddhism. I would caution you, in a warm and lovingly kind tone, not to make that assumption. Be well.


        • #5
          A Sravaka's journey of study &amp; practice

          Jerrod, you are jumping the gun again because you have "insider access" to the questions posted, but not yet published.
          Others will not understand your comments because Bhikkhu Sunyo has not responded to my reply to his comments yet.
          I shall be patient and see what the good monk has to say.

          As a Sravaka, and not a "paccekabuddha" who has no need to learn from anyone else, I know the distinction between "Dhamma exists outside of Buddhism" or any other "-ism", yet "how one get a full course instruction about Dhamma" is an entirely different matter. A sravaka needs to study the Buddha's teachings with humility, and with gratitude.

          metta, Franz


          • #6

            I always seem to forget that I have to wait for the monastics to approve most posts in here. Once again, sincere and humble apologies to Ven. Sunyo and anyone who may have taken offense. Though while I'm posting here again anyway I will add that the Buddha didn't teach anything that we all don't already have inside each one of us. It is there to be discovered whenever we feel up to it.


            • #7
              Jerrod, people will still be scratching their head about your two comments.
              Especially since you reiterated your points again without the context of my two responses.
              Let's be patient and wait for Ven Sunyo's comment.


              • #8

                I'm not worried about it. Neither should you be. I'll approve your posts when I get a chance so that nobody is left in the dark. As for Sunyo, I knew him before he was a monk and I am certain he doesn't mind a bit. Be well.


                • #9
                  Hi Franz,

                  I don't remember Mara being able to attain Jhana. Either way, sometimes jhana happens to people who don't have the best sila.



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