SuttaCentral

Do Sutta contains lot of mythology?


#21

Actually, there are some misconceptions about the inquisition. Most trials were not set to confirm witch accusations, but to refute them. Several popes actively acted against popular witch beliefs. The focus of the inquisition was on heretics, not witches. This shows that the religious discourse was well aware of the distinction between exaggerated hysterical folk stories and ‘true’ supernatural powers.

Please check again where exactly we find Mara as a real being in the suttas. I recommend focusing on the SN and AN. You’ll see that Mara as a being is mostly limited to SN 4 and SN 5 - apart from that only in SN 2.30, SN 35.240, SN 51.10 (AN 8.70), AN 2.282, AN 4.15, AN 9.39.

So, basically Mara as character who acts, speaks, and thinks is a feature of SN 4 and SN 5. This can hardly represent early Buddhism in its entirety but is obviously a specific transmission line of a fable-prone transmittor, not unlike SN 11 regarding Sakka. The texts themselves treat the several Mara images as mutually exclusive. We find neatly separated Mara-as-khandhas in SN 23, and Mara-as-salayatanas in SN 35.65.


#22

I was actually referring to these witch trials:


I still think this serves as a good illustration of my general point, ie the importance of understanding contemporary mindsets, rather than imposing modern cultural assumptions. The point here is that at that time people took the accusations against the “witches” seriously, whereas now they wouldn’t.

I just had another look at Mara references in the suttas (literal v. metaphorical). I don’t see any evidence that these two views were mutually exclusive, only that Mara is described differently in different contexts - but of course that’s the case for many words and concepts in the Suttas. Neither do I see any evidence that the literal view of Mara was an aberration, and ironically that suggestion sounds very much like a modern assumption.
Note that I’m not arguing that one view of Mara is more valid than the other, I’m observing that according to the suttas both views were present back then, and suggesting that the literal view would have been more widespread than it is now.

But again, I think my general point here is valid, ie that people back then would have thought quite differently about such things, and we should take care not to impose modern assumptions on ancient texts.