Who is Prajapati?

Hi all, just curious if the Buddha is referring to Mara by Pajapati.


Pajapati is one of the ancient Vedic gods. The name literally means "Lord (pati) of Creatures (pajā, i.e. people or generation who have been created). Given the very generic nature of the name, it is used quite loosely in Brahmanical mythology generally, and might be applied to any of various gods, usually in their aspect of creation.

In the Buddhist texts Pajapati is not as standardized or common as other figures such as Sakka or Mara, but as you point out, he is mentioned from time to time.

It’s not a term for Mara.


Does Pajapati Gotami related to this?

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Well, not literally, it’s just a name. But as so often in Pali names, it hovers between a purely personal name and a descriptive epitaph. Pajāpati also means “wife”, i.e. “bearer of children”, and suggests an archetypal role for the Buddha’s stepmother.

In White Bones Red Rot Black Snakes I played with some of the mythic and psychological possibilities of this, and how she, as the “real” mother responsible for upbringing contrasted with the “magical” mother of physical birth, i.e. Māyā.

But this is of course mythologizing, not history. In fact there’s no reason to think Pajāpati wasn’t simply her name.