The Ten Mara-States of the Skandha of Conception

"Ananda, now those disciples who practice samadhi and in whom the skandha of sensation is exhausted, although the stream of transmigration has not yet ended, the mind is able to take leave of the body like a bird from its cage. Having reached this level, their mortal body is able to experience the sixty stages of the development of a bodhisattva towards Buddhahood and freely assume any form or move anywhere without obstruction. This may be compared to a man talking in his sleep, who though he has no awareness of what he is doing, makes perfect sense to those who are not asleep. This is called 'the effect of the skandha of conception.' When thoughts no longer stir in the mind and random ideation is eliminated, the mind is like a mirror free of dust and dirt that is able to reflect every detail of his present incarnation from beginning to end. This is called 'the end of the skandha of cognition.' At this level one can transcend the defilements of the passions. If we examine the cause of all this, it is the all-pervasiveness of erroneous thinking.

1. "Ananda, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, may become enamoured of this state of perfect clarity in samadhi. In this condition they may be tempted to sharpen their faculties in pursuit of skillful means to gain advantage. At this time Deva Mara will exploit this situation by entering the body of a bystander, who will preach the dharma, and unaware of his possession will claim to have attained the supreme nirvana. He will approach the ambitious practitioner and assume the pulpit seat to preach the dharma. The possessed man will alternately appear to the ambitious practitioner as a monk, as Indra, a woman or a nun, or a glowing body in a dark room. The practitioner will become confused, take this man as a bodhisattva, and believe his teachings. His mind will thus be shaken, and he will violate the monastic rules and secretly pursue worldly desires. He will be fond of holding forth on coming calamities, good fortune, and strange events. He may also predict the appearance of Buddhas in certain places, or the kalpa of scorching fire, or strife and wars in order to frighten people and cause them to ruin their family fortunes. This is called 'ghosts becoming maras in their old age and harassing practitioners.' When the maras are weary of their victim, they will abandon his body. The ambitious practitioner and his possessed master will both be subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

2. "Ananda, once again, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of perfect dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may feel an urge to roam abroad. Projecting their thoughts, they may crave new experiences. Deva Mara will take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will preach the dharma, and unaware that he is possessed, claim that he has attained the supreme nirvana. The possessed man will approach the restless practitioner and preach the dharma. Without changing his own form, his listeners will suddenly visualize themselves as seated on precious lotus blossoms. With bodies that have been transformed into golden rays of light, they will gather to hear the words of the possessed man. Most of his listeners will have these extraordinary experiences, and in their ignorance, take him for a bodhisattva. For his part, he will give in to dissolute habits and violate the monastic rules, secretly indulging in carnal desires. He will be fond of announcing the appearance of Buddhas in the world and identify them by person and place as incarnating Buddhas and bodhisattvas. Seeing these events, the practitioner will bewitched and succumbs to perverted views, thereby destroying the seeds of Buddha-wisdom. This is called 'old drought ghosts becoming maras to harrass practitioners.' When weary of their sport, the drought ghosts will depart the body of the practitioner. Both practitioner and master will be subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.


3. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of perfect dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a craving for spiritual union and concentrate all of their thinking on this desire. Deva Mara will take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will begin to preach the dharma, and unaware that he is possessed, even claim to have reached the supreme nirvana. He will approach the seeker of union, and assuming the pulpit, begin to preach the dharma. Without changing his form or that of his listeners, he is able to induce his audience to expand their consciousness even before they hear his words. Their thinking will become overactive, and some will be able to see their former lives, read other people's minds, peer into hell, and know all good and evil deeds in the world. Some will be able to chant gathas and recite sutras. They will all become ecstatic with these new experiences. The practitioner in his delusion will take the possessed man as a bodhisattva and become enamored of him. He will violate the monastic rules and secretly indulge in carnal desires. The possessed man will hold forth on the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, detailing their level of attainment, period of manifestation, and genuineness. When the practitioner sees these things, he becomes brainwashed and easily enters upon the path of heretical enlightenment. This is called 'goblins who in their old age become maras to disturb the practitioner.' When the goblins become weary of their sport, they depart the victim's body. The practitioner and his possessed master will both be subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

4. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of perfect dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a desire to get to the root of things and glimpse the beginning and end of all phenomena. They may sharpen their mental faculties and strive for detailed analysis. Deva Mara will take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will preach the Buddha-dharma, and unaware that he is possessed, claim that he has reached the supreme nirvana. He will approach the source-seeking practitioner, and assuming the pulpit, will preach the dharma. With an air of awe-inspiring authority, the possessed man will be able to sway the seeker and win the submission of his listeners before uttering a single word. His listeners will be persuaded that their own flesh-and-blood bodies, transmitted father to son generation after generation, are identical with the eternal nirvanic and bodhi dharmakaya of the Buddha. He will point to the present world and call it the Buddha-land and maintain that it is identical with the pure-land paradise and the golden Buddha-body. The practitioner will believe him absolutely, lose his former faith, and submit to him body and soul, believing this to be utterly unique. The average listener will be deluded and mistakenly take him for a bodhisattva. Now giving in to their own inclinations, they will then violate the monastic rules and secretly indulge in carnal desires. The possessed man will be fond of saying that the eyes, ears, nose, and tongue are all pure-lands and that the sexual organs of man and woman are the true abode of bodhi and nirvana. The ignorant will believe these perverse teachings. This is called 'bewitching fiends who in their old age become maras to plague the practitioner.' When the fiend is weary of his sport, he departs the victim's body. The disciple and his possessed master will then both be subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

5. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of perfect dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a desire for spiritual communion. Their minds will wander the universe searching and seeking for profound insights. Deva Mara will take advantage of this condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will approach the practitioner and preach the dharma, and unaware that he is possessed, claim that he has attained the supreme nirvana. He will go to the seeker of spiritual communion, and assuming the pulpit, will preach the dharma, causing his listeners to temporarily believe that he is a hundred or a thousand years old. His listeners will feel great affection for him, and becoming devoted followers, will serve him all manner of food and drink, clothing, bedding, and medicine. They will never tire of waiting on him. He will cause all of his listeners to believe that he was their teacher and intimate in a former life. They will develop a spiritual attachment to him, stick to him like glue, and consider this a unique experience. The practitioner in his delusion will believe him to be a bodhisattva and gravitate to him, violating the monastic rules and secretly indulging in carnal desires. The possessed man will be given to claiming that in a previous age and in a past life he saved such and such a person, or that such and such a person was a wife or brother in a past life and that he comes again to save them. He will claim that his followers will return to such and such a world and serve such and such a Buddha. Or he may claim that there are other glorious heavens where the Buddha and all the Tathagatas dwell. The ignorant believe this nonsense and lose their original consciousness. This is called 'pestilent ghosts becoming maras in their old age and plaguing practitioners.' When they become weary of their sport, they abandon the victim's body. The disciple and his possessed master will then both be subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

6. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a desire for deeper knowledge and strive to know their previous lives. Deva Mara will take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will preach the dharma, and unaware that he is
possessed, claim to have attained supreme nirvana. He will approach the practitioner, and assuming the pulpit, preach the dharma. He will cause his listeners to each know his own karma, or he may tell a certain man that, although he has not yet died, he has already become an animal. He may tell another to stand on his tail, and the first man will indeed be unable to stand up. On seeing this, his listeners will be greatly moved and submit to him. If a thought arises in any of their minds, the man will know it immediately. He will insist on austerities that go beyond the Buddha's precepts, and will condemn the monks and curse their followers. He will expose people's private affairs, not sparing them any ridicule. He will be fond of foretelling coming fortune or disaster, and his predictions will be accurate down to the smallest detail. This is the powerful ghost who has become a mara in his old age and come to plague the practitioner. When the mara is weary of his sport, he will abandon the victim's body. Both the practitioner and his possessed master will then be subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

7. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a desire for deeper penetration and search for seclusion and peace. Deva Mara will take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will preach the dharma, and unaware of his possession, claim that he has attained the supreme nirvana. He will approach the place where the disciple dwells, and assuming the pulpit, begin to preach the dharma. In this place the possessed man will unexpectedly discover a large precious pearl. Sometimes the mara will appear in the form of an animal with a pearl in its mouth, together with other precious gems, prophetic documents, heavenly registers, and all manner of miraculous things. He will give these things to his listeners and then adorn his own person with them. He may also attempt to seduce his listeners by burying a pearl under the ground, which illuminates the surrounding area. All his listeners consider this most extraordinary. The possessed man will eat only medicinal herbs, abstaining from food, or he may live on a single hemp seed or grain of wheat per day. With the help of the mara he will remain plump and healthy. He will condemn the monks and curse their followers, without sparing them any ridicule. He will be fond of revealing the secret location of treasures and the retreats of holy men. Proceeding to these places, they will actually encounter strange men. This is called 'the ghosts of forests, earth, cities, rivers, and mountains becoming maras in their old age.' They may also encourage licentiousness and violation of the Buddha's rule, or secretly indulge in the five desires with followers. Or, going even further, he may subsist on wild vegetation and refrain from any fixed occupation in order to plague the practitioner. When the mara is weary of his sport, he will abandon the victim's body. The disciple and his possessed master will then both be subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell. You must be aware of this danger and not reenter the cycle of samsara. The deluded will fall into eternal hell.

8. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a desire for spiritual insight and all its manifestations. He will seek to plumb the source of transformations and search for supernatural power. Deva Mara will take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will preach the dharma, unaware of his possession, and claim that he has attained the supreme nirvana. He will approach the seeker of spiritual insight, and assuming the pulpit, preach the dharma. He may hold a flame in his hand and place a pinch of fire over the head of each of his listeners. The flames will be several feet high, but will not give off heat, and will not burn the person. He may also walk on water just as if it were dry land, or sit motionless in midair. He may slip into a bottle or a bag, or even walk through walls without any obstacle. Only knives and weapons can affect him. He will call himself a Buddha, and though he is a layman, will receive the obeisances of monks. He will condemn the Buddhist rules and curse the followers. He will expose people's private affairs, sparing no ridicule. He will be fond of boasting of his supernatural powers and sovereign mastery. He may cause his listeners to see Buddha-lands, which are demonic illusions without any reality. He praises acts of licentiousness and refrains from criticizing bestial behavior. He will take these shameful acts as methods for transmitting the dharma.

This is called 'powerful spirits of the mountains, sees, winds, rivers, earth, or all the demons of the plant kingdom accumulated over countless kalpas, or dragon demons, or dying immortals reborn as demons, or declining immortals who are anticipating death and whose bodies are possessed by other ghosts and who become demons in their old age to harass the practitioner.' When these demons become weary of their sport, they abandon their victim's body. The practitioner and his possessed master then both are subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

9. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a desire for extinction in nirvana, to penetrate the nature of transformation, and seek for profound voidness. Deva Mara may take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will then preach the dharma, and unaware of his possession, claim to have attained the supreme nirvana. He will approach the disciples, and assuming the pulpit, preach the dharma to the assembled. Suddenly he will disappear without any trace, and then suddenly reappear and disappear again at will. Or he may appear as transparent as crystal, or his limbs may be as fragrant as sandalwood. Or his excrement and urine may appear like rock candy. He will condemn the Buddhist rules and curse the monks. He will preach the invalidity of the doctrine of causality and deny reincarnation and the distinction between the worldly and saintly states. Though he has attained voidness, he secretly indulges in desires of the flesh and holds that followers who likewise indulge will also attain voidness and discard causality. This is called 'the subtle essences of eclipses, gold, jade, and supernatural herbs, unicorns, phoenixes, turtles, and cranes, which surviving for tens of thousands of years have become spiritual and appear across this land and who in their old age become maras to harass the practitioner.' When they are weary of their sport, they abandon their victim. The practitioner and his possessed master are then both subject to the law of the land. You must be aware of this danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

10. "Continuing, those disciples who have purified the skandha of sensation and are no longer assailed by troublesome worries, in a state of dhyana and in the midst of samadhi, may conceive a desire for longevity, and painstakingly searching for immortality, seeking to exchange our mortal state for eternal life. Deva Mara will take advantage of the practitioner's condition to possess an innocent bystander, who will preach the dharma, and unaware that he is possessed, claim that he has attained the supreme nirvana. He will approach the disciples, and assuming the high pulpit, begin to preach the dharma. He will be given to talking of distant places and of unobstructed travel, sometimes journeying ten thousand miles and returning in the blink of an eye with items fetched from those regions. Or he may demonstrate his ability to cause someone to sprint from one side of a small room to the other without ever being able to reach the opposite wall. These things will inspire faith in his listeners and belief that he is a Buddha in their midst. He will proclaim that all living things are his offspring and that he is the begetter of all buddhas, that he now manifests in the world, that he is the primal Buddha, and that his appearance is spontaneous and requires no spiritual practice. This is called 'Deva Mara living in the world and commanding her minions, such as jealous (female) chamanda demons, and the four deva-king's vital essence vampire demons who exploit the meditative state of practitioners whose minds are not yet steadfast to consume their vitality.' These demons may not possess another man, but may appear directly to the practitioner as one wielding a vajra to confer longevity or as a beautiful woman who seduces him and exhausts his organs before a year is out. The practitioner mumbles to himself as if talking to a ghost. If he fails to recognize these demons, he will suffer the consequences of the law, and will probably perish from exhaustion before his punishment is carried out. In this way the practitioner is harassed and even brought to death. You must be aware of this
danger and avoid returning to the cycle of samsara. If you remain deluded and ignorant of this, you will fall into eternal hell.

"Ananda, know that it is during the kalpa of decline that these ten mara-states afflict the practitioners of my dharma. Some demons possess human bodies, and some appear in their own form. They all claim omniscience and advocate lustful desires and violate the rules and rites of the Buddhist order. From demon master to demon disciple, this licentiousness is transmitted, and in this way practitioner's minds are deluded by this evil influence, which lasting for hundreds of generations causes even the sincere to become followers of the demons. After they die, they become his minions, and not having true knowledge, fall into eternal hell.

"Ananda, there is no need for you to enter nirvana at this time. Even if you attained the state of arhatship that is beyond study, you must be willing to reenter the world during the kalpa of declining dharma to express your compassion and save right-minded and faithful living things so that they will not be possessed by maras and will obtain right knowledge and views. Now that I have saved you from the cycle of birth and death, you may repay my kindness by carrying out my teachings.

"Ananda, these ten phenomena associated with the state of dhyana are all the product of interactions between the skandha of conception and the practice of meditation. Living things are stubbornly deluded and unable to evaluate their own level of accomplishment. When they encounter these experiences, they do not understand and claim that they have attained sainthood. For their boastfulness they fall into eternal hell. After my passing into nirvana, you disciples must transmit my teachings to all living things for the sake of their enlightenment. Do not allow Deva Mara to take advantage of you, but guard yourselves well and strive to realize the supreme Tao.

 



 



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