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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Māra

Literally “death” or “killing,” from the Sanskrit root m “kill.” In Buddhist literature, Māra, the equivalent of the Christian idea of Satan, is the tempter of Siddhārtha Gautama during his final meditation which led to enlightenment. Theosophists, however, along with many Buddhists, would interpret that story as allegorical of our own subconscious desires which metaphorically cause the death of our spiritual nature, hence must be killed out in their turn in order to reawaken our spirituality. As the Mahātma KOOT HOOMI put it in a letter to Alfred P. SINNETT, “The victor’s crown is only for him who . . . attacks Māra single handed and conquers the demon of lust and earthly passions . . .” (The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, chronological ed., p. 299). In fact, in Hindu mythology, Māra is the passion of desire or kāma (cf. Harivamśa). Helena P. BLAVATSKY, in pointing out this idea and relating it to Hindu astrology and Egyptian mythology, comments that Māra is not only associated with death, but “is also the unconscious quickener of the birth of the Spiritual” (SD II:579).

Some early theosophical literature also identifies the “dwelling of ‘Māra’ (Death)” as “a locality” between what is termed kāma-loka and rūpa-loka (cf. Mahātma Letters, p. 195). The context of the quote is a discussion of life after death, so it would again indicate that persons who are so completely under the sway of their passions that they have entirely killed out their spiritual nature not only get “hung up” in the plane (loka) of desire (kāma) after death, but end up in what the Buddhists term avīchi (literally “waveless”), the lowest of the Buddhist hells, from which there is no escape — in other words, annihilation. Apparently, however, this is an extremely rare (even if theoretically possible) occurrence.

R.W.B.

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