Gem of Wisdom for Daily Reflection: 

Understanding Mara - The Lord Of Illusion

Mara's assault on the Buddha, seated beneath the Bodhi tree at Bodhgaya

Mara is a paranirmitavaśavartin deva from the highest celestial heaven of desire, the Heaven of Controlling Others’ Emanations (zhen trül wang jé), but owing to his attachment to objects of desire, he dwells in the celestial heaven of Tushita (ganden) - the Joyous Realm.

Being the lord of illusion, mara enjoys conjuring up alluring deception that cause the unsuspecting to embrace the unwholesome as wholesome, or to get hoodwinked into the preoccupation with the eight worldly obsessions (jikten chö gyé) of:

  • longing for gain and dread of loss;
  • longing for happiness and dread of suffering;
  • longing for fame and dread of disrepute;
  • longing for praise and dread of blame.

Mara personifies the negative qualities in the human ego, which cause the arising of delusion and the ripening of karmic retribution.

He is also the tempter who attempted on numerous occasions to persuade Shakyamuni Buddha to abandon his noble aspiration to liberate all sentient beings.

From another perspective, the existence of the maras are an important reminder that the corrupting influences and myriad obstructions they created for those who aspire to attain emancipation, can be eliminated through the application of buddhadharma when one’s clinging to the dualistic notions of hope and fear are severed, since mara is merely the reflection of our own delusion.

The only way mara can overwhelm us is when we choose to surrender ourselves to the delusion of our own making, which has its origin in our mind and is susceptible to changes in accordance to what thought we may choose to entertain.

Whoever can transcend the fabricated view of the self will for certain gain triumph over the influences of mara.

- Extract from a teaching by Lama Dondrup Dorje Rinpoche. The full text is available to read under the feature of Gateway to Tibetan Buddhism. Click here to see the full list of articles available.