San Francisco Bay Area

The Buddha and the Devil


The Buddha and the Devil

It is said that after Shakyamuni Buddha attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in India, he was confronted by the devil Mara who attempted to sway him from his determined commitment to spread his teachings of universal enlightenment with the people of India and the entire world. Shakyamuni states:


It is better for me to die in battle than to live defeated.


As he sat under the Bodhi tree, Shakyamuni proceeds to expose the many faces that Mara uses to try to trick and deceive other people:


Sensual desire is your first army, the second is called discontent, the third is hunger and thirst, the fourth craving, the fifth sluggishness and laziness, the sixth fear, the seventh indecision, and the eighth disparagement of others and stubbornness.


buddha, devil, mara, buddhism, sgi, nichiren daishonin, enlightenment, evil

Next, Mara attempts to dissuade the Buddha from his original purpose using various temptations, obstacles, and challenges:

  • Mara proposes Shakyamuni renounce spiritual life and return as the political leader of his people (the Buddha was born prince of the Shakya clan but renounced his throne in pursuit of learning and knowledge)
  • Mara manifests an attempted seduction as three female devils


Finally, Mara attempts to encourage Shakyamuni not to teach his enlightenment to others and declares they would not understand it. Then, Brahma appears in order to encourage Shakyamuni to share this wisdom with the world while Shakyamuni wonders whether or not other people would understand his message. Mara appears one last time and suggests to Shakyamuni:


Rather than live with the knowledge that you will be unable to save people, you should instead take your own life and enter Nirvana.


By dawn under the Bodhi tree, Shakyamuni has defeated the devil Mara. He decides that in order to lead all people to the supreme perfect enlightenment, he will break down his knowledge and wisdom into more manageable chunks of information, in order to guide them to the truth. Shakyamuni uses what is known in Buddhism as “expedient means” or Buddhist parables in order to elucidate the truth. The Buddha’s teachings were transmitted orally at first, and then transcribed in Sanskrit approximately 100 years after the Buddha’s passing. The Buddhist teachings are known collectively as “sutras.”



Leave a Reply