Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra

by Gelongma Karma Migme Chödrön | 2001 | 940,961 words

This page describes “having passed beyond the works of mara” as written by Nagarjuna in his Maha-prajnaparamita-sastra (lit. “the treatise on the great virtue of wisdom”) in the 2nd century. This book, written in five volumes, represents an encyclopedia on Buddhism as well as a commentary on the Pancavimsatisahasrika Prajnaparamita.

Bodhisattva quality 12: having passed beyond the works of Māra

12. mārakarmasamatikrānta:

Sūtra: They have passed beyond the works of Māra (mārakarmasamatikrānaiḥ).

Śāstra: 1) There are four kinds of māras: a) the affliction-māra (kleśamāra), b) the aggregate-māra (skandhamāra), c) the death-māra (mṛtyumāra), d) the son-of-god-māra (devaputramāra), chief of the parinirmitavaśavartin gods.[1] By attaining the state of bodhisattva, these bodhisattvas have destroyed the kleśamāra; by acquiring the dharmakāya, they have destroyed the skandhamāra; by being always one-pointed (ekacitta), by not adhering to any (heavenly) sphere and by entering into the immoveable concentrations (acalasamādhi), they have destroyed the paranirmitavaśavartin devaputramāra. This is why it is said that they have passed beyond the works of Māra.

2) Furthermore, in the Prajñāpāramitā, in the chapter on Kio mo (Mārāvabodhaparivarta),[2] the Buddha spoke of the activities and the works of Māra. When one has completely gone beyond the activities and works of Māra, one merits the epithet mārakarmasamatikrānta.

3) Furthermore, rejection of the true nature of dharmas (sarvadharmasatyalakṣaṇa) and the other destructions of this kind are called māra as well.

4) Finally, the afflictions (kleśa), the fetters (saṃyojana), the bonds of desire (kāmabandhana), the outburst of attachment (rāgaparyavasthāna), the aggregates, the bases of consciousness and the elements (skandhāyatanadhātu), the god Māra (māradeva), Māra’s people (mārakāyika), Māra’s servants (mārajana), etc., are also called Māra.

Question. – Where is it that the bonds of desire (kāmabandhana) and other fetters (saṃyojana) are called māra?

Answer. – In the Tsa tsang king (Kṣudraka),[3] the Buddha addressed the following stanzas to king Māra:[4]

Desires (kāma) are your first army (senā),
The army of sadness (arati) is the second,
The army of hunger and thirst (kṣutpipāsā) is the third,
The army of greed (tṛṣṇā) is the fourth.

The fifth is the army of languor and torpor (styānamiddha),
The army of fear (bhaya) is the sixth.
Doubt (vicikitsā) is the seventh army
The army of anger (krodha) and hypocrisy (mrakṣa) is the eighth.

The ninth army is covetousness (labdhā)
And attachment to vain glory (mithyāyśaś),
The tenth army is self-praise (ātmotkarṣa)
And distrust of others (parāvajñā).

[99c] These, your armies,
No person in the world
Or any god
Can destroy them.

By the power of wisdom’s arrow,
By cultivating concentration and wisdom,
I will smash your army, O Mara,
Like a clay pot (āmapātra).

With a mind solely cultivating wisdom
I will save the world.
My disciples, full of energy,
Ever mindful, will cultivate wisdom.

Following my example, they will progress in accordance with the Dharma
And will certainly reach nirvāṇa.
Even though you do not want to let them,
They will go where you cannot go.

Then king Māra, on hearing this,
Angry and confused, departed;
And the evil army of māras
Also disappeared and vanished.

Such is the māra of the fetters (saṃyojana).

Question. – Where are the five aggregates (skandha), the eighteen elements (dhātu) and the twelve bases of consciousness (āyatana) named māra?

Answer. – On Mount Mo kiu lo (Makula), the Buddha taught [the following] to the disciple Lo t’o (Rādha): (also see appendix on Rādhasutta) “The form aggregate (rūpaskandha) is māra; feeling (vedanā), perception (saṃjñā), formation (saṃskāra) and consciousness (vijñāna) are also māra.[5] Wishing to create for oneself a material existence (rūpātmabhāva) in the future (anāgatajanma) is to seek an unstable sphere (calasthāna); wishing to create a non-material existence (ārūpyātmabhāva) is again seeking an unstable sphere; wishing to create an aware, non-aware, neither aware nor non-aware existence (saṃjñā-asaṃjñā-naivasaṃjñānāsaṃjñā-ātmabhāva) is still seeking an unstable sphere. This instability is a bond of Māra (mārabandhana); stability is the elimination of bonds, deliverance from evil.” At this place, the Buddha said that the skandhas, dhātus and āyatanas are māra.

It goes without saying that the vaśavartin devaputramāra, the mārakāyikas and the mārajanas are māra.

Question. – Why is he called Māra?

Answer. – He is called Māra because he carries off (harati) the āyuṣmat and because he destroys the good root of the dharmas of the Path and of the qualities (guṇa).The heretics (tīrthika) call him Yu tchou (Kāmādhipati), Houa tsien (Kusumāyudha) or also Wou tsien (Pañcāyudha).[6] In the Buddhist texts, he is called Māra because he destroys all good works.

His actions and works are called mārakarman.

Question. – What are the works of Māra?

Answer. – 1) They are defined in the chapter of the Kio mo (Mārāvabodhaparivarta).[7]

2) Furthermore, if people have had to undergo happiness and misfortune in the course of successive lifetimes, the causes are the fetters (samyojana) as well as king Māra, who is called the enemy of the Buddha (buddhavairin), the thief of the holy ones (āryacaura). Because he destroys [100a] the actions of all who are ascending the current (pratisrotagāmin), because he has a horror of nirvāṇa, he is called Māra.

3) Māra has three types of actions: a) play (līlā), laughter (hāsya), idle chatter (ālapā), singing (gītā), dancing (nṛtya), and everything that provokes desire (rāga); b) iron fetters (bandahana), beating (ghaṭṭana), whipping (kaśa), wounds (prahāradāna), spikes (kaṇtaka), knives (śastra), slashing (saṃchedana) and everything that is caused by hatred (dveṣa); c) [demented mortifications] such as being burned, being frozen, tearing out one’s hair (keśolluñcana), starving, jumping into the fire, throwing oneself into the water, falling onto spears and everything that results from stupidity (moha).

4) Finally, the great hindrances (ādīnava), impure attachments to the world, that is all the work of Māra. Hatred of the good, scorn of nirvāṇa and of the path to nirvāṇa are also the work of Māra. Plunging into the ocean of suffering without ever awakening and innumerable errors of this kind are all the work of Māra. When one has rejected and abandoned these, one is mārakarmasamatikrānta.

Footnotes and references:


These four māras are mentioned in Mahāvastu, III, p. 273, 281; Madh, vṛtti, p. 442; Dharmasaṃgraha, ch. LXXX; Śikṣāsamuccaya, p. 198. – The late Pāli sources recognize a further māra, abhisaṅkhāra-māra; cf. Malalasekera, II, p. 611–613.


This chapter dedicated to Māra is in the Pañcaviṃśati. It is entitled Kio mo p’in (Mārāvabodhaparivarta) in Mokṣala’s version, T 221, chap. XLVII, k. 10, p. 72c–74b; – Mo che p’in (Mārakarmaparivarta) in Kumārajīva’s version, T 223, chap. XLVI, k. 13, p. 318b–320b. The Mārakarmaparivarta, chap. 21 of the Aṣṭasāhasrikā, ed. R. Mitra, p. 385–396, is very similar.


S. Lévi, Les seize Arhats protecteurs de la loi, Extract of JA, 1916, p. 32 sq., shows how the Chinese translators rendered the name Kṣudraka āgama by the words Tsa tsang, ‘mixed collection [piṭaka]’ in order to distinguish it from Tsa a han, the traditional designation for the Saṃyukta āgama. But I [Lamotte] doubt whether Tsa tsang king restores an original Kṣudrakāgama, because the Mppś is familiar with only four āgamas, namely, Ekottara, Madhyama, Dīrgha and Saṃyukta (cf. Mppś. T 1509, k. 2, p. 69c; k. 33, p. 306c), in contrast with Pāli Buddhism which knows five nikāyas, namely, Dīgha, Majjhima, Saṃyutta, Aṅguttara and Khuddaka. If it then cites a Kṣudraka, it cannot be under the title of āgama, but only under the name of a sūtra or group of separate sūtras. This is why, in the manner of the Kośavyākhyā, p. 33 (Arthavargīyāṇi sūtrāṇi kṣudraka paṭhyante), I [Lamotte] have translated Tsa tsang king only as “kṣudraka”.


These stanzas occur, with a few differences, in the Suttanipāta, v.436–439, 443–445, 449, and Lalitavistara, p. 262–263, the texts of which follow:

Suttanipāta: Lalitavistara:

436 Kāmma te paṭhamā senā… Kāmās te prathamma senā…
catutthī taṇhaq puvuccati || trṣṇā senā carurthikā ||

437 Pañcamī thīnamiddhhan te.,,, Paṇcamī styānamiddhaṃ te…
makkho thambho te aṭṭhamo || krodhamrakṣau tathāṣṭami ||

438 lābho siloko sakkāro… Lābaślokau ca satkāro…
pare ca avajānati || yaś ca vai dhvaṃsayet parān ||

439 Esā, Namuci, te senā… Eṣā hi Namuceh senā
jetvā ca labhate sukhaṃ || kṛṣṇabandho pratāpinaḥ |

440 Esa muñjaṃ parihae…
yañce jīve parājita ||

441 Pagāḷhā ettha na dissanti… Atrāvagāḍhā dṛśyante
yena gachanti subbhatā || Ete śramaṇabrāhmaṇāḥ.

442 Samantā dhajiniṃ disvā…
Mā maṃ ṭhānā acāvayi ||

443) Yaṃ te taṃ na-ppasahati (sic)… Yā te senā dharṣayati…
āmaṃ pattaṃ va asmanā || te āmapātram ivāmbunā ||

444 Vasiṃkaritvā saṃkappaṃ… Smṛtiṃ sūpasthitāṃ kṛtvā…
sāvake vinayaṃ puthu || kiṃ kariṣyasi durmate ||

445 Ty-appamattā pahitattā…
yattha gantvā na socare ||

449 Tassa sokaparetassa vīṇā… (In prose) Evam ukte Māraḥ …
tatt’ ev’ antaradhāyatha || tatraivāntaradhāt.


Cf. Saṃyutta, III,p. 195: Rūpaṃ kho Rādha Māro vedanā … viññānam Māradhammo.


The epithets of Kāma, god of love, are innumerable: Kusuma: -astraḥ, -āyudhaḥ, -iṣuḥ, -bāṇaḥ. –śaraḥ; Pañca: -iśuḥ, -bānaḥ, -śaraḥ. These five armies are: aravindam aśokaṃ ca cūtaṃ ca navamallikā | nīlotpalaṃ ca pañcaite Pañcabāṇasya sāyakāḥ.


See above.