The Great Chronicle of Buddhas

by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw | 1990 | 1,044,401 words

This page describes Story of Mara and Maha Moggallana contained within the book called the Great Chronicle of Buddhas (maha-buddha-vamsa), a large compilation of stories revolving around the Buddhas and Buddhist disciples. This page is part of the series known as the Buddha’s Eighth Vassa at the Town of Susumaragira. This great chronicle of Buddhas was compiled by Ven. Mingun Sayadaw who had a thorough understanding of the thousands and thousands of Buddhist teachings (suttas).

Part 3 - Story of Māra and Mahā Moggallāna

Mara entered The Belly of Venerable Moggallāna

Once upon a time, Mahā Moggallāna was taking up residence at a monastery in the Bhesakala forest sanctuary, near the town of Susumaragira in the province of Bagga. While he was taking a walk in an open space, Māra, the Evil One, chanced to enter his belly and sat on top of the larger intestine. Mahā Moggallāna felt that his belly weighed heavy like a mass of stone. The belly was tight and weighty as though it was full of cooked gram or a bag full of damp and watery gram. He considered that should the heaviness in his stomach be due to indigestion, it would not be proper to keep on walking in the open. He eventually retired to the chamber and sat on a reserved seat.

The Venerable kept on deliberating as to the cause of the trouble in a normal way. Had he made any attempt to rub his stomach after contemplating on the purity of his sīla and making a will to do away all the pain caused by indigestion or disturbances of internal system, the stupid Māra would have been torn into particles. But he did not make any attempt to allay his pain in that manner, instead, he simply kept on deliberating its cause in a normal way.

After thus scrutinizing the cause of his stomach pain, when he noticed the evil Māra was sitting on top of his larger intestine, he said: “Evil Māra... get out;Evil Mara... get out.. don't you try to give trouble to the Tathāgata! Don't you try to bring trouble upon yourself and suffer the consequences for a long time.” (The Venerable had said this because, any attempt to give trouble to the children means giving trouble to the parents. In a like manner, to give trouble to the disciples amounts to giving trouble to the master. That was what the Venerable meant when he says "Don't you give trouble to the Buddha ".)

Māra was thinking that “this bhikkhu has been saying: ‘Evil Māra.. get out, don't you give trouble to the Tathāgata! Don't you try to give trouble to the disciple of the Tathāgata. Don't you try to bring trouble upon yourself and suffer the consequences for a long time,’ without seeing me at all.” He was also of the impression that even the Buddha would not have the power to notice him, leave alone His disciple. Whereupon, Mahā Moggallāna made it plain to Mara: “Evil Māra, I know you and I know what has been going on in your mind.... don't you think that I have no power to know about your thought. You are Evil Mara, you have been presently thinking I know nothing about you, when I said: ‘Get out Evil Māra... don't try to give trouble to the Tathāgata. Don't you try to bring trouble to the disciple of the Tathāgata! Don't you try to give trouble to the disciple of the Tathāgata. Don't you try to bring trouble upon yourself and suffer the consequences for a long time.’ You have been thinking that even the Tathāgata would not have the power to notice you, leave alone a disciple like me. Isn't that what was going on in your mind?”

Māra came to realize that the Thera had actually noticed him and knew his thought, otherwise he would not have said: “Get out Evil Māra.... don't you try to give trouble to the Tathāgata.... don't you try to give trouble to His disciple.... don't you try to bring trouble on yourself and suffer the consequences for a long time,” and so he came out of the Venerable’s stomach and got himself hidden on the outside of the door.

When the Venerable noticed him standing outside of the door, he said to him: “Evil Māra, I see where you are at present. Don't you think I can't see you. I see you standing on the outer-side of the door.”

Then it occurred to the Venerable:—

“Odour emitted from the human body can cause inconvenience to celestial beings one hundred yojanas away in the region of atmosphere (air) (see Di: 2:260) Māra belongs to the realm of Paranimmita Vasavatti which is inhabited by powerful devas who are noted for their purity and delicate body. But, since Māra had accommodated himself on top of the filthy intestine, it may be assumed that he is out to do me harm and cause my destruction. For a being with such a frame of mind, there should not be any immoral act that he is loathe to do!

He does not seem to have any sense of shame and dread of consequences of evil acts. It would, therefore, be wise, in the circumstances, to let him know that we were relatives by blood and to make him meek and sober before he can be persuaded to leave.”

With this end in view, Mahā Moggallāna acquainted Mara with the fact that he was his nephew by revealing the course of his own unwholesome life in a previous existence.

Mahā Moggallāna’s Unwholesome Life of The Past

“Evil Māra... there was an event of interest that occurred in the time of Buddha Kakusandha. I was a Mara by the name of Dusi and my sister was Kali and you were then the son of my sister. Thus you were my nephew then.”

(In this connexion, Mahā Moggallāna recounted a succession of paternal and maternal relatives from knowledge handed down from generation to generation. In the case of human beings, a son ascended the throne of his father by inheritance, but this is not the case with beings of the celestial world. A celestial being springs into life to take the place of another celestial being as and when his predecessor dies, according to his merits. The present Vasavatti Māra, was a nephew of Dusi Māra. After passing away from that existence, he performed good deeds and consequently became Vasavatti Māra, according to his merits. It was not that Dusi Mara’s nephew was still remaining in existence in that realm.)

Having acquainted Māra of how they were related by blood in a previous existence, Mahā Moggallāna went on to reveal the fact that he, in the capacity of Dusi Mara, had committed a heinous act, and he had to suffer in the plane of miseries for a long time (vide Piṭaka Burmese translation of Mūlapaṇṇāsa Pāli Text).

“Evil Māra.... I was Dusi Māra during the time of Buddha Kakusandha, whose chief disciples were Vidhūra and Sanjīva. The chief disciple, Vidhura, excelled the rest in matters concerning the Law (Dhamma);hence he was named Vidūra, meaning a wise thera. Sanjīva Thera would abide in nirodha-samāpatti with ease wherever he might be, either in a forest, at the base of a tree, or at a secluded place. Once it so happened that cowherds, farmers and passer-by mistook him for a dead bhikkhu in a sitting posture, while he was in the middle of enjoying nirodhasamāpatti. They all collected fire-wood, dried grass and cow-dung and placed them on his body, got them alight as an act of cremation and departed.”

(Anāgāmins and arahats wishing to enjoy nirodha-samāpatti perform four preliminary functions of willing (1) that such possessions of his as are not on his person, may not be destroyed by the five enemies, such as fire, etc.; (2) that he may wake up even before the messenger arrives and be ready when his services are required by the Order; (3) that he may wake up even before the messenger arrives and be ready when called or sent for by the Buddha; (4) that he will not pass away while he is still absorbed in samāpatti, (this is achieved by preliminary ascertaining of the time of expiry of his life-continuum). It is not necessary to will for the safety of what he is wearing, etc., as not a single thread of his robe would be affected by the fire caused by the cowherds and others.)

“Evil Mara.... on the following morning, Sanjīva emerged from samāpatti, and came out treading on the burning red hot cinders of the colour of agati flower, shaking off dust from the robe, and entered the village for a round of receiving food. Cow-boys, farmers and passer-by who had cremated him the day before, were struck with wonder when they noticed the mahāthera on his round of receiving alms. They told among themselves: “This is a sort of miracle which had never occurred before;the bhikkhu was seen to have died in sitting posture the other day, and he is miraculously back to life again.” Evil Māra... all those people had therefore called the mahāthera by the name of Sanjīva for his being back to life again; Sanjīva.”

Māra Dusi’s Heinous Acts

“Evil Māra... Dusi Māra hit upon a plan to create a situation that would agitate the minds of the good natured bhikkhus by cruel means. He thought to himself: ‘I have no knowledge of whence those virtuous, righteous bhikkhus come from and where they are bound for; I will incite the brahmin householders to decry those bhikkhus who are reputed to be virtuous and righteous, to speak evil of those bhikkhus among themselves, using abusive language, despising, condemning, decrying, and deriding the bhikkhus. Such behaviour on the part of the brahmin householders would disturb and derange them, thereby creating a chance for me to cause harm to them.’ ”

Evil Māra...that Dusi Māra went ahead to incite the brahmin householders to act according to his instructions by calumniating and humiliating the bhikkhus, with the result that brahmin householders started to speak ill of the bhikkhus through misunderstanding:

‘Those bhikkhus with foul means of livelihood, those shavelings of dirty, low castes, born of the arched upper part of a Brahmā’s foot, sitting down lazily, gloomily pretending to be enjoying jhāna, with bent necks and faces drooping down.

They may be likened to an owl lying in wait for rats in the foliage of a tree, a fox looking slyly for fish along the bank of a river, like a cat lying in wait for its prey at the mouth of a drainage pipe or at a garbage container, like an ass, with a hole in its back, moping near a garbage dump at a corner of a fencing; those bhikkhus shavelings of dirty, low castes, born of the arched upper part of a Brahmā’s foot, sitting down lazily, gloomily pretending to be enjoying jhāna, with bent necks and faces drooping down.’

They thus abused the bhikkhus, by using abusive and harsh words, they calumniated the bhikkhus according to the instruction of Dusi Māra, through misunderstanding.

Most of those people were reborn in the planes of woes, such as niraya or hell, the worlds of animals, petas, and asuras, according to the sum of guilt.

(We should consider the following points with reference to the passage: “Most of those people were reborn in the four planes of woes” in order to arrive at a correct view of the case.

If those people were possessed by Dusi Māra and were made to abuse the bhikkhus as his ‘agents’, they were not guilty of such an offence because of lack of intent or volition on their part in doing so. Dusi Māra was solely responsible for this immoral act and it follows that those people were not liable to be reborn in the planes of misery on that score!

What actually happened was this: Dusi Māra did not attempt to possess them and use them as his agents, but he created a situation that compelled them to turn against the bhikkhus through misunderstanding. He created scenes that showed the presence of women in the vicinity of the bhikkhus;scenes that showed the presence of men in the vicinity of bhikkhunīs; bhikkhus in the act of fishing with traps and nets, of catching birds with traps, of hunting with hordes of hounds in the forest, enjoying drinks in the company of women at the liquor shops, dancing and singing; women lingering in the vicinity of bhikkhus and young men in the vicinity of the residence of the bhikkhunīs at dusk.. (These were the tactics adopted by Dusi Māra).

People noticed such incompatible, discordant scenes whenever they went to the forests, to the parks and to the monasteries, so much so that they were thoroughly disgusted with the bhikkhus and agreed among themselves not to make any further offerings to them saying: “These bhikkhus indulge in acts inappropriate for them. How should we gain merit by making offerings to such base persons?”

They reviled the bhikkhus whenever they saw them and they were thus reborn in the planes of misery for their unwholesome deeds toward bhikkhus.)

“Evil Māra.... when Buddha Kakusandha came to know that His bhikkhus had been outraged by the people under the undue influence of Dusi Māra, He urged His disciples to cultivate the four sublime abodes (vihāra): (1) Mettā: Loving kindness, (2) Karuṇā: Compassion, (3) Muditā: Altruistic Joy, (4) Upekkhā: Equanimity. The bhikkhus cultivated the four Factors of jhāna, the Brahmā Vihāra, with due diligence as instructed by the Buddha.

When Dusi Māra found out that such a tactic could not influence the minds of the bhikkhus, whose past existences and future destinations were beyond his range of intelligence, he decided, once again, to reverse the mode of his tactics by influencing the people to pay homage and make offerings, with ulterior motive to disturb and derange the bhikkhus, thus giving him opportunity to harm them. (His tactic will be dealt with later on).

Evil Māra.... those brahmins did as they were bid, paying homage and offering alms to bhikkhus.

Evil Māra.... most of those people were reborn in the celestial planes of happiness for such acts of merit.”

(Some points of interest with regard to the attainment by the people to the planes of happiness:—

Just as Dusi Māra created unpleasant scenes on the previous occasion, so he created pleasant and agreeable scenes to promote devotional faith of the people in the bhikkhus:

He created scenes depicting the bhikkhus in different postures; some were flying in the sky, some standing or sitting with crossed-legs, some stitching robes, others preaching or learning canonical literatures, and spreading robes over their bodies for warmth in the sky as well as young novices plucking flowers in the sky. (This is another tactic of Dusi Māra).

When the people noticed the bhikkhus engaged in such activities wherever they went, in the forests, in the gardens or in the monasteries, they told the people in the town their own experience saying, “These bhikkhus, even young novices are of great glory and powers and worthy of offering. It is greatly beneficial to make offerings to such glorious, worthy bhikkhus.”

People made offerings to the bhikkhus in the form of robes, food, monasteries and medicine and earned great merit; they were reborn in the celestial planes of happiness after death for such acts of merit!)

“Evil Māra.... it was how Dusi Mara used his undue influence on the people to pay homage and make offerings to the bhikkhus once again.

After revealing this part of that fateful event to Mara, Buddha Kakusandha turned to the bhikkhus and urged them to practice meditation: “Come bhikkhus, abide practising meditation by repeated contemplation on the unpleasantness of the physical body (asubha);repulsiveness of material food (ahare patikula); unpleasant, undelightfulness, unsatisfactory nature of the world (anabhirati), insubstantiality and impermanent nature of the conditioned phenomena (anicca).”

“Evil Māra.... in obedience to the exhortation of Buddha Kakusandha, all the bhikkhus meditated on asubha, ahare patikula, anabhirati, anicca in the forests or secluded corners and at the base of the trees, with the result that they attained arahatship in due course.”

(N.B. Buddha Kakusaṇḍha visited all the residential places of the bhikkhus in the world, regardless of the number of bhikkhus at one place, and urged them to take up meditation. The bhikkhus practise these four kinds of meditation as foundation of their spiritual work and went on to cultivate insight meditation, ultimately gaining arahatship.)

“Evil Māra.... sometime afterwards, Buddha Kakusaṇḍha went on alms round, attended by the Right-hand chief disciple, Mahāthera Vidhura, when Dusi Māra, failing to achieve an opportunity to harm bhikkhu by instigating the householders to revile them or also to honour them, made his last bid to destroy the Sangha by himself. He took possession of a youngster and threw a handful of stones at Mahā Thera Vidhura. The stones hit the Mahāthera’s head cutting the skin and touching the skull, as the result of his assault.

Evil Māra.... the Mahāthera Vidhūra followed Buddha Kakusandha with streams of blood running down his head, unmoved or unshaken by the incidence. Thereupon, Buddha Kakusaṇḍha turned around bodily to look at him, with the look of an elephant and condemned the offender: “This foolish Dusi Māra does not know his own limits,” and at that very moment Dusi Māra passed away from the world of devas. He was reborn in the plane of misery.”

(Herein, the passage "with the look of an elephant" should be understood that, when an elephant turns to look at an object, it does not turn its head only, it actually makes a rightabout-turn.

The bones of ordinary people are joined together with their edges touching one another; in the case of Paccekabuddhas bones are joined together by hooks at the end of each joint, in the case of Buddhas bones are joined together by rings on either side of the joints. It is for this reason that Buddha Kakusandha had to make complete turn of the body before He could look at the object behind His back, like a golden figure turning round by mechanism. Buddha Kakusaṇḍha thus turned round and made that remark: “This Dusi Māra does not know his own limits. He has done an extremely, heinous act.”

In connexion with the passage: “At this moment Dusi Mara passed away from the world of devas and was reborn in the planes of misery” it should be understood that, devas of the celestial planes usually die in their respective planes at the expiry of their terms of life. It should not be taken, therefore, that Dusi Māra died in the world of human. It should be understood that he went back to the celestial plane and passed away from there to be reborn in the plane of misery.

It should be borne in mind that, although Dusi Māra died the moment Buddha Kakusaṇḍha turned round to look at the scene of crime, it does not mean that he lost his life on that score. As a matter of fact, his life term was cut off as if by a huge axe because of his atrocious offence against a Buddha’s chief disciple who was possessed of great virtues and vast attributes.)

“Evil Māra.... Dusi Mara had to serve his term of punishment in the three planes of misery, namely, Chaphassāyatanika, Sañkusamāhata and Paccatavedanīya.”

(N.B. The denizens in this type of hell, had their sense-organs (eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, chest (heart) pierced by tapered iron-rods, and, as a result, they were constantly subjected to excessive pains at the site of each sense organs termed ‘pains through contact’; and that plane of misery is accordingly known as ‘Chaphassāyatanika plane of misery’. The same hell is also known as ‘Sañkusamahāta plane of misery’ because it has abundant supply of tapered iron-rods to punish the denizens. Another name for it is Paccatavedanīya, because of its nature of self-infliction even without anyone to impose the suffering.)

“Evil Mara....warders of this hell used to come at regular intervals, and told me that when two javelins had come together at my chest it would mark the completion of a thousand years.”

(N.B. The passage: “When the two javelins have come together” needs to be explained. The denizens of this type of hell measure three gavutas in size. The executioners, in two groups, started to punish them by piercing and lacerating his body with javelins (tapered iron-rods) from the chest, saying: “This is the spot where your thoughts had arisen to do evil.”

Each javelin was of the size of a palm tree in diameter;each party of executioners comprised fifty in number. One group went from the chest towards the head causing severe pains by lacerating with javelins all their way. The other group made their way towards the feet from the chest in like manner. Each party took 500 years to reach the head or to the feet, or one thousand years to make a complete round trip when the two groups come together again at the chest.)

“Evil Mara.... I had to suffer tormentation in that Great Hell for hundreds of thousands of years, and on being released, I had to pass through a sub-section of that hell, named Ussāda, where I was subjected to punishment more severe than in the Great Hell, for ten thousand years before the final release.

Evil Māra.... I had the body of human beings and the head of fish throughout the term of tormentation in that Hell (The head of man is round and on it the javelins are liable to slip off whereas the head of fish is long and flat and serves as a good target.”

After recounting the events of the past, Venerable Mahā Moggallāna proceeded to preach the Māra in twenty one stanzas to make him repent his own follies:

(a) “The hell where Dusi Māra was punished for offending the Arahat Vidhūra, the disciple of the Buddha, as well as the Buddha Himself has the nature of being tormented by piercing with iron javelins; these javelins will give punishment automatically, even without executioners.

Evil Māra.... You are liable to be tormented in such a hell for offending the disciple of the Buddha, who has understood the cause and effect of any deed.

(b) There are certain abodes situated in the middle of the ocean. They have the pleasant appearance of gems with brilliant colours. A great number of celestial maidens can be seen singing and dancing in those abodes.

Evil Māra.... you have offended the chief disciple of the Buddha, who is fully aware of these abodes, pleasures enjoyed by those celestial maids, and causal conditions of those pleasures.

(c) That bhikkhu had caused the Pubbayon monastery, donated by Visākhā, mother of the rich man Migara, to be shaken, even while being watched by the company of Sangha at the instance of the Buddha.

Evil Māra.... you will have to suffer the consequences of your offence against the bhikkhu accomplished in abhiññā and paññā.

(d) That bhikkhu had caused the Sakka’s Vejayanta palace to be shaken with his big toe, with the aid of his supernormal power, thereby frightening all the devas. Evil Māra.... you will have to suffer the consequences of your offence against the bhikkhu accomplished in abhiññā and paññā.

(e) That Bhikkhu had gone to the Vejayanta palace of Sakka and asked him this question: “Sakka.. do you know the fact of emancipation that is void of all forms of desires?” Sakka, on being asked thus gave the right answer.

Stupid Māra.... you will have to suffer the consequences of your offence against a disciple of the Buddha, who is accomplished in abhiññā and paññā which enabled him to ask such a question.

(f) That bhikkhu had asked the Brahmā a question near the Sudhamma Dhamma Hall: ‘Dear lay devotee... are you still of the erroneous view that there is no powerful bhikkhu or recluse capable of coming to the realms of the Brahmās? Have you ever seen the overwhelming rays of the Buddha that excel those of the illuminations of the Brahmas, of their mansions and of their costumes?’

The Brahmā answered: ‘I no longer hold the old erroneous views. I see the rays of the Buddha that surpass the illuminations of the Brahmas and of their mansions and of their costumes. Why should I insist anymore that I am permanent, or an immortal being?’

Evil will have to suffer the consequence of the offence against the disciple of the Buddha, who is accomplished in abhiññā and paññā which enabled him to ask such questions.

(g) That bhikkhu had contacted, through abhiññā based on vimokkha-jhāna, the summit of the Mahā Meru and the four islands continents, East, West, South and North, at the time of suppressing the dragon King, Nandopananda: (the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna had covered the Mahā Meru and the four islands continents through the agency of a created dragon at that time).

Evil Mara.... you will have to suffer the consequences of your offence against the disciple of the Buddha, who is accomplished in abhiññā and paññā which enabled him to ask such questions.”

(N.B In dealing with the Māra, the Venerable Mahā Moggallāna was referring to himself as if he was another bhikkhu, and such a mode of preaching is termed Annapadesa method.

The Venerable Mahā Moggallāna managed to subdue Mara by exhibition of his supernormal power (abhiññā) in seven ways from (a) to (g):

(a) with reference to Māratajjaniya Sutta of Mūlapaṇṇāsa Pāli Text;

(b) with reference to his supernormal power to go on tours of preaching as in Vimāna Vatthu and Peta Vatthu.

(c) with reference to exposition of Mahā Moggallāna Sutta in Mahā Vagga Saṃyutta Pāli Text.

(d) & (e) with reference to Culatanhāsañkhaya Sutta of Mūlapaṇṇāsa Pāli Text. (f) with reference to Aññatara Brahma Sutta of Sagātha Vagga Saṃyutta.

(g) with reference to Visuddhi Magga Commentary, Second Vol., on the suppression of the dragon King, Nandopananda.

(h) Fire does not make any effort to burn the foolish person. It is the foolish person who gets himself burnt by touching the fire. Just as the foolish person gets himself burnt by touching the fire, so will you be causing to be burnt yourself by offending the Buddha.

(i) Māra.... you have done sinful act by offending the Chief Disciple of the Buddha. Do you fancy that your sinful act will not produce any fitting result?

(j) Evil Mara.... The amount of unwholesome acts standing against you increases with the progress of time. Evil Māra.... have you not got tired of doing harm to the Buddha? (you should have taken lesson from the evil acts of your uncle Dusi Mara who had to suffer in realms of misery. You should at once cease your acts of harm to the disciples of the Buddha.

The Venerable Mahā Moggallāna thus exhorted the Māra, citing examples, so as to repent his follies and dread the consequences for a long period, in the forest sanctuary of Bhesakala, with the result that Mara, with a heavy heart, disappeared on the spot.

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