Letters of Mara

I heard Ayya @sujato talking about these “Letters of Mara” during a Sutta lesson from a few years ago. It’s worth a read!


I am reviving an old thread, because i am not sure this is worth a new one; mods, if it is, please split or ask me to.

I have read/heard people use “Mara” and “Satan” almost interchangeably but… are they?

Both are in some ways:

  • personifications of evil;
  • desiring eternal suffering for all
  • considered by some as literal entities
  • considered by some as metaphors
  • used in numerous different religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, etc.; many forms of Christianity, some Judaism, several forms of Satanism.)
  • use corruption especially of sensuality and desire to harm human lives.
  • lie, mislead, depend on ignorance, illusion, delusion.
  • are “fed” by anger, hate, violence, greed, ill will.

But they do differ in some ways:

  • Satan is usually described as created by a Creator God, and this is key to its mythology; i do not know if there is mythology regarding the origin of Mara, but it seems unclear and narratively unimportant.
  • Mara can be defeated by Buddhas and arhants, over whom it has no power; Satan is only defeated by God’s will, and has power over this world by God’s will.
  • The mythology narrative of Satan depends on ideas such as souls, selves, eternalism, single lives; the mythology of Mara depends on ideas such as rebirth and impermanence.


It seems to me both are valid;

Sensual passions are your first army.
Your second is called Discontent.
Your third is Hunger & Thirst.
Your fourth is called Craving.
Fifth is Sloth & Drowsiness.
Sixth is called Terror.
Your seventh is Uncertainty.
Hypocrisy & Stubbornness, your eighth.
Gains, Offerings, Fame, & Status
wrongly gained,
and whoever would praise self
& disparage others.

That, Namuci, is your army,
the Dark One’s commando force.
A coward can’t defeat it,
but one having defeated it
gains bliss.
Do I carry muñja grass?
I spit on my life.
Death in battle woud be better for me
than that I, defeated,

Padhana Sutta

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Imo, Satan and Mara each have implicit concepts and views within, which are not congruent.

To use the names interchangeably might reinforce mental frameworks which do not lead to Right View or the path of liberation.

It seems similar to saying, as some have done elsewhere, that Jesus was a Buddhist; inaccurate, nonhistorical, shallow and misleading view of Buddhism and Christianity and history.

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Mara never asks the Buddha or his monks to hurt anyone but asks them to enjoy sensual pleasures and do good! He wants people to have a blissful existence. Do you want the ‘evidence’!

No, that seems consistent with EBT descriptions, which I have seen you evidence as studying better than I. However if you think it would be worth sharing, please do.

I would consider this as a way in which they differ, yet have some similarities; Satan is classically described as wanting humanity to suffer, and to be endlessly frustrated, though endulging in sensual pleaures & cultivating greed, ill will & ignorance can be a hell to eternal hell. Mara would seem to prefer frustrations of sensual pleasures never reach the point of motivation for the Buddha’s path. Does that seem accurate? Any comments?

I don’t know a lot about Satan except that he is evil. By evil I don’t take that to mean he wants us to engage in sense pleasures, rather do evil deeds!

I don’t think theistic religion is aware that sensual pleasures bring frustrations or suffering, as God’s creations cannot be malevolent. But suffering is an inherent part of theology which accepts heavenly birth as reward for followers of that particular religion, since heavenly realms are needed as ‘heaven on earth’ is seen to be an impossible scene.

I sincerely hope this makes sense, as I could be misapprehending theology!

I think there is considerable history & diversity in any flavor of religion. Some give considerable attention to evil, human motivations, choices, suffering, cosmology, while emphasizing this or that explanation. Some theist religions have ascetic expressions, which does suggest that sensual engagement is perceived as leading to or even be sin.
These theologies depend on ideas of self, soul, eternalism. Those ideas are debunked logically in the EBTs.

I think there are already some excellent threads on these.