Definition - What does Mara mean?

Mara is a Sanskrit word which means “demon.” Mara is seen as someone or something that makes unpleasant and negative things seem positive and appealing.

In the Buddhist tradition, there is a story of the demon, Mara, who tried to seduce Gautama Buddha away from his spiritual endeavors through visions of beautiful women. These women are sometimes described in different legends as Mara’s daughters.

Mara is the tempter who distracts humans from their spiritual paths. This concept is sometimes applied to yoga, where mara may arise in various forms during yoga practice to distract yogis.

Yogapedia explains Mara

Mara is the personification of unwholesome desires, impulses and distractions. In this sense, mara has the potential to be the death of a person’s spiritual growth and life by taking that person away from their spiritual path. It is said that even the enlightened masters must be vigilant and alert to the appearance of mara.

Mara may arise during yoga practice in the following forms:

  • Desire: the sense that it will feel good to stop or come out of a pose.
  • Fear: a worry that something may go wrong or hurt if the practice continues. It may also stop people from trying yoga in the first place, because they fear the unknown.
  • Duty or obligation: a sense that the person should be doing things a certain way or doing something else. The concern that they may be practicing in the wrong way may be a barrier to progressing.

These challenges can be overcome through remembering the intention of the yoga practice, through maintaining focus and surrendering to what arises.

Some yoga teachings say that mara is not inherently good or bad. Instead, mara is a manifestation of parts of ourselves, and through awareness we can build a more helpful relationship with our inner demons.

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