[[Image:MaraAssault.jpg|thumb|200px|Mara's assault on the Buddha (an iconic representation: the Buddha is only symbolized by his throne), 2nd century, Amaravati, India. Demon ‘Mara’ in Sanskrit. Anything that obstructs the attainment of liberation or enlightenment. There are four principal types of demon: the demon of the delusions, the demon of contaminated aggregates, the demon of uncontrolled death, and the Devaputra demons. Of these, only the last are actual sentient beings. The principal Devaputra demon is wrathful Ishvara, the highest of the desire realm gods, who inhabits Land of Controlling Emanations. Buddha is called a `Conqueror’ because he or she has conquered all four types of demon.
Mara (Sanskrit, also Māra; Tibetan Wylie: bdud), in Buddhism, is the demon that tempted Gautama Buddha by trying to seduce him with the vision of beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said to be Mara's daughters. In Buddhist cosmology, Mara personifies unwholesome impulses, unskillfulness, the "death" of the spiritual life. He is a tempter, distracting humans from practicing the spiritual life by making the mundane alluring or the negative seem positive.
The early Buddhists, however, rather than seeing Mara as a demonic, virtually all-powerful Lord of Evil, regarded him as more of a nuisance. Many episodes concerning his interactions with the Buddha have a decidedly humorous air to them.
- Klesa-mara, or Mara as the embodiment of all unskillful emotions.
- Mrtyu-mara, or Mara as death, in the sense of the ceaseless round of birth and death.
- Skandha-mara, or Mara as metaphor for the entirety of conditioned existence.
- Devaputra-mara, or Mara the son of a deva (god), that is, Mara as an objectively existent being rather than as a metaphor.
Early Buddhism acknowledged both a literal and "psychological" interpretation of Mara. Mara is described both as an entity having a literal existence, just as the various deities of the Vedic pantheon are shown existing around the Buddha, and also is described as a primarily psychological force — a metaphor for various processes of doubt and temptation that obstruct spiritual practice.
"Buddha defying Mara" is a common pose of Buddha sculptures. The Buddha is shown with his left hand in his lap, palm facing upwards and his right hand on his right knee. The fingers of his right hand touch the earth, to call the earth as his witness for defying Mara and achieving enlightenment. This posture is also referred to as the 'earth-touching mudra.
The word "Mara" comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *mer meaning to die, and so it is related to the European Mara, the Slavic Marzanna and the Latvian Māra. Mara in Latvian mythology means — The Mother of Earth and has positive meaning. She is wise and generous.
In some accounts of the Buddha's enlightenment, it is said that the demon Māra sent his three daughters to tempt the Buddha to give up his quest. Mara's three daughters are identified as Tanha (Craving), Arati (Boredom), and Raga (Passion). For example, in the Samyutta Nikayas Māra-samyutta, Mara's three daughters fail to entice the Buddha:
- They had come to him glittering with beauty
- Taṇhā, Arati, and Rāga
- But the Teacher swept them away right there
- As the wind, a fallen cotton tuft.