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Māra (T. bdud བདུད་; C. mo 魔) — is the personification of evil in Buddhism, and often referred to as a demon.[1] Within Buddhist cosmology, he is said to be a powerful divinity of the form realm (rupadhatu) who is dedicated to preventing beings from attaining liberation from cyclic existence (samsara).[1]

Nyanaponika Thera has described Mara as "the personification of the forces antagonistic to enlightenment."[2]

In traditional biographies of Buddha Shakyamuni, Māra appears as his chief antagonist, who attempts to prevent Shakyamuni from attaining buddhahood through various means, including threats and temptations.


The word Māra comes from the Sanskrit form of the verbal root mṛ.

Māra is a verbal noun from the causative root, and can have the meanings:

  • "maker of death"[1]
  • "causing death" or "killing"[3]

It is related to other words for death from the same root, such as: maraṇa and mṛtyu. The latter is a name for death personified and is sometimes identified with Yama.

Forms of Māra

In scholastic literature, four metaphorical forms of Māra are identified:[1]

  • Skandha-māra - the māra of the aggregates (skandhas), referring to the mind and body of unenlightened beings
  • Kleśa-māra - māra as the embodiment of unwholesome emotions (kleshas), such as greed, hate and delusion.
  • Mṛtyu-māra - māra as death (Mrtyu).
  • Devaputra-māra - the deva of the sensuous realm, who tried to prevent Gautama Buddha from attaining liberation from the cycle of rebirth on the night of the Buddha’s awakening.



  • Princeton Dict icon 166px.png Buswell, Robert E.; Lopez, Donald S. (2014), The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, Princeton University 
  • Nyanaponika Thera (2008), The Roots of Good and Evil: Buddhist Texts translated from the Pali with Comments and Introduction, Buddhist Publication Society 
  • Olson, Carl (2005), The Different Paths of Buddhism: A Narrative-Historical Introduction, Rutgers University Press