MN 49 Mara going up to the Brahma realm?

Hi folks, just curious if anybody else thought that it’s a bit odd how Mara can go up to the Brahma realm when in MN 25 Nivapasutta and other suttas it states that the jhana state/realm(s) are beyond Mara’s reach?

And where is it that Māra and his assembly can’t go? It’s when a mendicant, quite secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unskillful qualities, enters and remains in the first absorption, which has the rapture and bliss born of seclusion, while placing the mind and keeping it connected. This is called a mendicant who has blinded Māra, put out his eyes without a trace, and gone where the Wicked One cannot see.

Is it correct that each of the Brahma realms correspond to a jhanic level and in theory should be beyond Mara’s reach? Just curious to know what others think?

Thank you :anjal:

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In my understanding Mara is not a being, it means the killer and it’s a figure of speech that stands for tanha (craving), the source of all suffering. The way I would interpret this is that craving went to the Brahma world.

The reason why Mara is blinded by Jhana is because craving for sensual pleasures is automatically abandoned while immersed in jhana.

MN 49 seems to be one of those mythological suttas made up some time after the first council.

At least that’s my opinion, I am not flawless so feel free to disregard

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I think this is the issue. There is, of course, a correspondence between the jhanas and specific brahma realms but they are not the same thing. In the suttas, as far as I can recall, it only says that when someone is in the jhana that they have blinded Māra.

This is not the way Māra is explained in the suttas. Māra is a being as much as you and I are. Arahant Mahamoggallāna talks about being reborn as Māra where the current Māra was his nephew. Craving can’t have a nephew. And it doesn’t really make sense that craving could “go” to the brahma realms.

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Yes but personally I don’t take everything that is written in the suttas as an incontrovertible Truth and I use a critical approach. I don’t believe that the oceans are over 5,000 km deep or that there is a million kilometers high mountain on Earth (AN 7.66). Your mileage may vary

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Coming back to this briefly, it could make sense in a metaphorical way, meaning that craving inside a particular being went to the Brahma world together with that being. But anyway I doubt that this sutta describes much more than some reciter’s imagination over 2,000 years ago.

To me it is important to understand that the suttas have been recited orally for about 500 years before being written down. That’s an extremely long time during which they were extremely vulnerable to manipulation, especially when the number of reciters became low. We have to understand that some of our suttas have, in the course of those 500 years, likely passed through the mouths of some people who may not have always had our best interest at heart. Since we will never be able to prove that they are identical with what was recited at the first council I think caution and a critical approach are warranted.

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Okay thank you @Snowbird , that make sense :anjal:

that’s a good point, thank you Bhante :anjal:

In my understanding Mara is not a being, it means the killer and it’s a figure of speech that stands for tanha (craving), the source of all suffering. The way I would interpret this is that craving went to the Brahma world.

Perhaps Mara can be both an actual being and a metaphor for craving? Depending on the context of the sutta I suppose?

I do not recall any sutta that says Brahma must have jhana (please show me if any). Therefore, Brahma’s realm can also include people who do not possess jhanas. So, Mara can be there too.

Mara does not possess jhana since jhana requires seclusion and overcoming the five hindrances. To overcome the five hindrances, Mara must let go of sensual desire and ill will which are impossible for him to do so. Otherwise, he is not a Mara. Therefore, he cannot reach jhanas.

I do not think Jhana is a realm, since a person who possesses Jhana can be reborn into other realms such as Brahma’s realm if he wishes so.

I’d say that when Māra is talking to someone, he is not a metaphor. :blush:

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I was reading the MN translation of Bhikkhu Bodhi and in it he has notes saying that according to the commentary, each brahma realm is equivalent to a jhana level.

But as far as I know, there is no sutta reference for this.

You’re right jhana is a state not a realm. Again referring to the commentary that states that a brahma realm is equivalent to a particular jhana state.

There is.

This says where you go if you die if you have a certain level of jhana

e.g

"There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the devas of Brahma’s retinue

"Again, there is the case where an individual, with the stilling of directed thoughts & evaluations, enters & remains in the second jhana: rapture & pleasure born of composure, unification of awareness free from directed thought & evaluation — internal assurance. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the Abhassara[1] devas.[2] The Abhassara devas,

sutta continues for each jhana

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.123.than.html

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@AdrianMagno As for the answer to your original question about mara being in brahma planes, here is my interpretation:

The Buddha teaches samma samadhi, i.e. Supermundane jhanas. What makes it Supermundane is that it handles the 3 poisons that manifest as the 5 hindrances. So Supermundane Jhanas blind Mara, not Puthujjana jhanas.

Wrong view jhana is based on a self, a notion of a being, therefore they believe the jhana is caused by a being whether their own self or another God. This does not involve overcoming identity view and therefore craving is not dealt with, so it is a jhana with craving, hence the Buddha says someone who has Supermundane right view with jhana and has overcome craving for the 5 aggregates is reborn in the pure abodes not the Brahma realms

"There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He regards whatever phenomena there that are connected with form, feeling, perception, fabrications, & consciousness, as inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. At the break-up of the body, after death, he reappears in conjunction with the devas of the Pure Abodes. This rebirth is not in common with run-of-the-mill people.

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an04/an04.124.than.html

They don’t delight in the 5 aggregates while in jhana, whereas the puthujjana:

He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that.

That is craving for the 5 aggregates while in jhana.

Mara can’t reach the pure abodes, as Mara still craves the 5 aggregates.

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I think it is (or at least ought to be) uncontroversial that Brahmā deities don’t spend their whole time in jhāna. Such is obvious from the kind of things they are represented as doing in the Brahmā Samyutta.

For example, in jhāna there are no unwholesome states, so had they been uninterruptedly in jhāna, Baka Brahmā wouldn’t have been able to fall into wrong view and Mahābrahmā wouldn’t have become anxious at the prospect of his underlings learning that he wasn’t omniscient.

And in jhāna there’s no five-sense-door experience, so the Brahmās wouldn’t have been able to converse with the Buddha or to listen to and applaud the Dhammacakkappavattanasutta.

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I’d like to add that there’s a sutta where outsiders go up to the Buddha and tell him that they also overcome the 5 hindrances so what’s the difference between his teaching and theirs and the Buddha responds that in his teaching he overcomes both the external and internal 5 hindrances, I take this to mean that Ariyans see the mind as no-self whereas Puthujjana ascetics only understand that the external world is no-self, which is how they become ascetics, but only Ariyans see the mind as no-self, especially intention.

Therefore even when Puthujjana Brahmas are in jhanas they still have unwholesome states of craving because they still identify with the mind and thus crave the 5 aggregates while in jhanas, which is why they “return” to sensual craving (including sensual thoughts), and non-returners do not.

Therefore mara has found a foothold in the Brahmas, as per the metaphor of a turtle shell

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I believe this is correct, it corresponds with the sutta’s.
A more metaphoric way to talk about Mara is seen in sutta nipata 3.2
A fragment from it:

Sensual pleasures are your first army,
the second is called discontent,
hunger and thirst are the third,
and the fourth is said to be craving.

Your fifth is dullness and drowsiness,
the sixth is said to be cowardice,
your seventh is doubt,
contempt and obstinacy are your eighth.

Profit, praise, and honor,
and misbegotten fame;
the extolling of oneself
while scorning others.

This is your army, Namucī,
the strike force of the Dark One.
Only a hero can defeat it,
but in victory there lies bliss.

Here you see that the army of Mara refers to our own tendencies.

SN4.24 describes the daughters of Mara as: tanha, arati and raga, who tried to seduce the Buddha.

But Mara is also referend to as a actual being. Texts also mention mara’s. There is an assembly of mara’s too. (for example AN8.69)

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Look at MN120, we see that:

Furthermore, take a mendicant who has faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom. And they’ve heard: ‘The Brahmā of a thousand is long-lived, beautiful, and very happy.’ Now the Brahmā of a thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of a thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. As a person might pick up a gallnut in their hand and examine it, so too the Brahmā of a thousand meditates determined on pervading a galaxy of a thousand solar systems, as well as the sentient beings reborn there. They think: ‘If only, when my body breaks up, after death, I would be reborn in the company of the Brahmā of a thousand!’ They settle on that thought, stabilize it and develop it. Those choices and meditations of theirs, developed and cultivated like this, lead to rebirth there. This is the path and the practice that leads to rebirth there.

There is no mention about jhana to be reborn in Brahma’s realm here. The focus is: faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom.

As I have said, a person who has jhana can be reborn to Brahma’s realm, but this does not mean that Brahma must have jhana.

A Brahma may possess jhana, this is the case of a person who possesses jhana but wants to be reborn to Brahma’s realm. However, when he is born there, he enjoys too much sensualities and neglects jhana.

I disagree.

Later in the sutta the same phrasing is used for rebirth in the five Pure Abodes. This requires non-returnership, but the sutta doesn’t stipulate this.

The same phrasing is then used for the attainment of arahantship. Here too jhāna is not mentioned.

So it would seem that the sutta is concerned with outlining the necessary conditions, but not the sufficient conditions, for the various outcomes, except in the case of rebirth in the human realm and the kāmāvacara heavens.

Bhikkhu Bodhi’s endnote quotes the commentary:

The five qualities mentioned are sufficient for rebirth into the sense-sphere realm, but for the higher modes of rebirth and the destruction of the taints, more is required. Basing oneself on the five qualities, if one attains the jhānas, one is reborn in the Brahma-world; if one attains the immaterial attainments, one is reborn in the immaterial world; if one develops insight and attains the fruit of non-returning, one is reborn in the Pure Abodes; and if one reaches the path of arahantship, one attains the destruction of the taints.

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I think it’s not required to have the same attainments to visit a heavenly realm. A being is born in the form realm through the karma of having attained the dhyanas (jhanas), and they are said to be nourished by the pleasure of samadhi, so the gods there must be in a constant state of samadhi. But there’s plenty of similar stories in Buddhist sutras about people and gods visiting different realms using their miraculous powers.

Mara is indeed an interesting character, though, as he seems to represent delusion or anything contrary to Dharma, which in narratives is depicted as someone being possessed by Mara or Mara taking another form that’s usually good and behaving badly. In MN 49, he does this with a Brahma god. He appears to symbolize all the forces in the world that pushes back against the Dharma and create obstacles to practice.

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If jhana is the required factor to get into Brahma’s realm then I think the sutta cannot miss or simply imply that factor because it is the most important factor. However, it only mentions these factors: “faith, ethics, learning, generosity, and wisdom.”

The practice to go there is:

He sets his mind to this, he resolves his mind on this, he develops his mind for this. Since his thoughts and behaviors are developed and frequently directed in this way, they lead to that kind of rebirth. Monks, this is the practice which leads to that kind of rebirth. (Suddhaso)

There is no mention of five hindrances, jhana here. If we follow that practice, we do not practice jhana.

This because we think that we must have jhanas for them. There are different paths for liberation. However, if we think jhana is the required factor for liberation then we must prove it.

Moreover, in AN4.123, we can see

“There is the case where an individual, withdrawn from sensuality, withdrawn from unskillful qualities, enters & remains in the first jhana: rapture & pleasure born from withdrawal, accompanied by directed thought & evaluation. He savors that, longs for that, finds satisfaction through that. Staying there — fixed on that, dwelling there often, not falling away from that — then when he dies he reappears in conjunction with the devas of Brahma’s retinue. The devas of Brahma’s retinue, monks, have a life-span of an eon. A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades. But a disciple of the Blessed One, having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, is unbound right in that state of being. This, monks, is the difference, this the distinction, this the distinguishing factor, between an educated disciple of the noble ones and an uneducated run-of-the-mill person, when there is a destination, a reappearing.”

A run-of-the-mill person having stayed there, having used up all the life-span of those devas, goes to hell, to the animal womb, to the state of the hungry shades.” Who are they? Do they have jhanas? It seems to me that this Brahma’s realm can have ordinary person together with noble ones.

If we think these run-of-the-mill persons have jhana then we should prove that from the Suttas.