Dasa Māra Senā (Mārasenā) – Ten Defilements

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Dasa Māra Senā (Mārasenā) – Ten Defilements

February 19, 2024

Dasa mārasenā” is referred to as the “tenfold armies of the Māra,” where Māra is described as the Māra Devaputta. However, “dasa mārasenā” are “ten defilements” that arise in our minds mainly due to our cravings for sensory pleasures, i.e., kāma rāga.

Who Is Māra Devaputta?

1. Māra is the title of the leader of Devās in the “Paranimmita Vasavattī Deva realm,” which is the highest Deva realm. He is often referred to as Māra Devaputta. Therefore, the impression many have that he is a “vicious being” engaging in immoral deeds is incorrect. However, he — like the Mahā Brahma — believes his existence is permanent. He knows he was born there due to puñña kamma he cultivated as a human. Thus, he wants humans to live morally, engage in puñña kamma, and be reborn a Deva like him.

However, he does not understand Paṭicca Samuppāda or the Noble Truths and believes Nibbāna is “annihilation.” Of course, this is the wrong view of many “secular Buddhists” today: “Buddhism without Rebirth and Nibbāna?

That is why he kept trying to dissuade the Buddha and his disciples; see # 3 below.

However, no Deva or Brahma can stop anyone from learning or practicing Buddha’s teachings. One is in control of one’s destiny. All one needs to do is to get rid of the misconceptions about this world of 31 realms and see “with wisdom” (dhamma cakkhu) that any “pleasurable experience” is mind-made; see “Sotāpanna Stage via Understanding Perception (Saññā).”

2. Thus, Māra Devaputta is evil only because he tries to stop others from pursuing Nibbāna.

In the “WebLink: suttacentral: Māratajjanīya Sutta (MN 50)” Ven. Moggallāna tells the Māra Devaputta that he was a Māra (i.e., the leader of the Paranimmita Vasavattī Deva realm), named Dūsī, in the past. That was during the time of the Kakusandha Buddha, and the sutta describes how Dusi Māra injured one of that Buddha’s leading disciples, Venerable Vidhura.

Then Ven. Moggallāna described how he was born in an apāya because of that immoral deed.

The point is that even the leader of the Paranimmita Vasavattī Deva realm is not released from rebirth in the apāyās, i.e., engaging in puñña kamma by itself cannot stop future suffering.

Māra Devaputta’s Efforts

3. Māra Devaputta believes everyone should engage in puñña kamma and try to be born in Deva realms to enjoy “sensual pleasures.” He does not understand that he himself is not free from future births in the apāyās. He believes Nibbāna means “annihilation.”

In a series of posts (starting with “Recovering the Suffering-Free Pure Mind”), I tried to explain why there is nothing of essence like a soul — associated with a “person”— to be “annihilated.”

Māra Devaputta had many encounters with the Buddha; see the series of 20 suttās starting with “WebLink: suttacentral: Tapokamma Sutta (SN 4.1).” He also tried to discourage bhikkhus/bhikkhunis; see five suttās starting with “WebLink: suttacentral: Sambahula Sutta (SN 4.21)” and ten suttās starting with “WebLink: suttacentral: Āḷavikā Sutta (SN 5.1).”

Māra Devaputta will die one day, and after that, he will roam the rebirth process, ending up many times in the apāyās (unless he attains Nibbāna.)

Note: A non-related word is “mārisa.” That is a respectful term of address, something like “Sir.” For example, in the “WebLink: suttacentral: Brahmanimantanika Sutta (MN 49)” when the Buddha visited Baka Brahma,  the Brahma addressed the Buddha as “ehi kho, mārisa, svāgataṁ, mārisa” OR “Come, sir! Welcome, sir!”

Pañca Upādānakkhandha Is “Māra

4. In the “WebLink: suttacentral: Māra Sutta (SN 23.1),” Venerable Rādha asked the Buddha, “People speak of ‘Māra’. What is the meaning of ‘Māra’?

The Buddha explained to him that one should consider pañca upādānakkhandha (rūpa, vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, viññāṇa) as Māra or “death.”

People willingly embrace (upādāna/taṇhā) to rūpa, vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa due to their ignorance of Buddha’s teachings.

Note that in the suttās, rūpa means “rūpa upādānakkhandha” or the “rūpa that is created by the mind.” Thus, unless specifically stated, rūpa, vedanā, saññā, saṅkhāra, and viññāṇa in the suttās ALWAYS refer to the corresponding “upādānakkhandha” that arise in mind.

That is because as long as one craves the five types of upādānakkhandha” one is not released from death. Thus, Māra’ means (recurring) “death” in the rebirth process. As long as there is a birth, there WILL BE a death.

Dasa Mārasenā” Are “Ten Defilements”

5. Therefore, “māra” in “dasa mārasenā” refers not to the Māra Devaputta but to “death” or “maraṇa.”

The “dasa mārasenā” or the “ten defilements” keep us trapped in the rebirth process and perpetuate death. Every birth anywhere in the 31 realms ends in death.

To overcome death (and suffering), we must uncover the “pabhassara citta” (not “pabhasara citta”) or the “pure mind” that is hidden within all of us: “True Happiness Is the Absence of Suffering.”

6. “Dasa mārasenā” or the “ten defilements” are the root causes for attaching to the pañcupādānakkhandha. Also note that in the “WebLink: suttacentral: Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (SN 56.11),” the Buddha expressed dukkha to be pañcupādānakkhandha: “saṅkhittena pañcupādānakkhandhā dukkhā” OR “In brief, the five grasping aggregates are suffering.”

As long as the mind continues to create “mind-made rūpa” (the same as “nāmarūpa”; the same as rūpa upādānakkhandha), the “birth/death cycle” of the rebirth process will not end! In the same way, as long as the mind continues to create “mind-made vedanā” (the same as “samphassa-jā-vedanā“; the same as vedanā upādānakkhandha), the “birth/death cycle” of the rebirth process will not end! Similarly, for attaching to “distorted saññā” (or “saññā vipallāsa”), generation of abhisaṅkhāra, and generation of kamma viññāṇa involving “saŋ cetanā.”

Note:cetanāis pronounced “chethanā.”

Other Māra Suttās

7. Several suttās have the same “Māra Sutta” title and state essentially the same things: SN 23. 11, SN 23. 23, SN 23.24, SN 23. 35, SN 23.36.

The “WebLink: suttacentral: Paṭhamasamiddhimārapañhā Sutta (SN 35.65)” describes Māra with a different approach.

In the “WebLink: suttacentral: Māra Sutta (SN 46.43),” the Buddha states that one must cultivate satta bojjhaṅga to defeat the Māra’s army, which means those defilements we discussed above.

Ten Defilements Lead to Pañca Upādānakkhandha

8. The “dasa mārasenā” that our Bodhisatta “fought with” on the night of Enlightenment are ten types of defilements, starting with kāma (sensual pleasures). It was a “mental battle.”

The “WebLink: suttacentral: Padhāna Sutta (KN Snp 3.2)” describes Buddha’s account of how he overcame the “dasa mārasenā” or the “ten defilements” and lists these ten defilements.

You can read the English translation of the sutta in the link with the following revisions: @ marker 1.4, instead of “for the sake of finding sanctuary from the yoke,” read as “to find the way to be released from the bondage to this world.”

@ marker 2.1 “Namucī” refers to the Māra Devaputta who approached the Bodhisatta and tried to convince him to give up his efforts and to go back to the ‘householder life” and enjoy life. @ marker 3.3 Māra Devaputta tells the Bodhisatta: “Live sir! Life is better! While living the householder life, you can make merits (puññāni kāhasi.)”

As we know, engaging in puñña kamma (without trying to make them kusala kamma) will not get one to Nibbāna. See “Kilesa – Relationship to Akusala, Kusala, and Puñña Kamma.”

Discussion of the Ten Defilements

9. The description of the ten defilements starts @ marker 12.1 in the “WebLink: suttacentral: Padhāna Sutta (KN Snp 3.2).

1) Kāma (sensual pleasures):Kāmā te paṭhamā senā” OR “Sensual pleasures are your first army.”

All living beings have the innate craving for “pañca kāma.” This craving (kāma rāga) is specifically based on the three “close contacts” of taste, smell, and touch (sex). However, all five physical-sensory faculties are employed to fully “immerse in experiencing such close contacts, ” thus the term “pañca kāma,” which is experienced in the six Deva realms, the human realm, and the four apāyās.

Yet, occasionally, some become dissatisfied with “pañca kāma” and pursue “jhānic pleasures.” They are reborn in “rūpa loka,” where the three “close contacts” are absent.

Some of those yogis go beyond jhānās and cultivate arūpāvacara samāpatti. They are reborn in “arūpa loka,” where only the mind is present.

Both rūpa and arūpa lokās have lower strengths of “attachment to the world.” They are “rūpa rāga” and “arūpa rāga.” However, upon returning to the human realm, all of them re-immerse in “pañca kāma” with “kāma rāga.” See “Kāma Rāga Dominates Rūpa Rāga and Arūpa Rāga.”

Thus, the world revolves around “kāma rāga.” That is why the Buddha placed “pañca kāma” or “kāma rāga” at the top of the list. Kāma has two related meanings: “liking/craving” and “the nemesis of Nibbāna.” An Anāgāmi, who has overcome “kāma rāga,” is well on his way to Arahanthood. He only needs to remove cravings for rūpa rāga and arūpa rāga, i.e., craving for “jhānic/samāpatti pleasures.”

2) Arati (absence of liking for Nibbāna): “Rati” (pronounced “rathi”) means “liking,” but here, “arati” (opposite of “rati”) specifically refers to the “absence of liking for Nibbāna.” Even some Buddhists (especially ) are afraid of Nibbāna because they think Nibbāna means “annihilation.” Of course, most people are unaware of Buddhism, let alone Nibbāna. How can those people have a “liking for Nibbāna”?

3) Khuppipāsā (Thirst for agitation): Here, “pipāsa” means “thirst; “khu” refers to “lowly” things referring to “sensory attractions.” When a mind is attracted to sensory inputs, it becomes agitated; thus, “khuppipāsā” leads to an “unsettled/agitated mind” (called “kuppa.”) Nibbāna, on the other hand makes a mind “calm and cool.” That is why it is “akuppā cetovimutti.”

4) Taṇhā (Tendency to “attach” via greed, anger, ignorance): The natural tendency is to “attach to worldly ārammaṇa,” which, as we have discussed, naturally provide “subha/asubha saññā” for sensory inputs based on “distorted saññā.” See “Fooled by Distorted Saññā (Sañjānāti) – Origin of Attachment (Taṇhā)” and other posts in “Sotāpanna Stage via Understanding Perception (Saññā).”

5) Thinamiddha (Lethargic mind): A mind that has not comprehended anything about Nibbāna gets into a “lethargic mood” whenever it does not get to experience “kāma assāda” (while in the kāma loka). This can lead to depression, too. Those who are fully engaged in “kāma assāda” are more likely to be “depressed” in the absence of them. On the other hand, anyone getting at least a glimpse of Nibbāna would start spending more time learning Dhamma and naturally stay away from excessive kāma assāda and depression.

6) Bhīrū/Bhaya (Fear of death and also fear of losing “kāma assāda”): Only an Arahant is completely free of any fear; in fact, an Arahant looks forward to the death of the physical body because that will stop the “bodily suffering,” the only suffering left for a living Arahant. This fear is maximum for those below the Sotāpanna stage because the possibility of suffering in the apāyās exists. Even those who are not aware of the existence of apāyās fear death and possible loss of “kāma assāda.

7) Vicikicchā (doubt): This refers specifically to doubts about Buddha’s teachings. “Are there kamma and kamma vipāka?” “Is there really a rebirth process? Are there really apāyās? ” Will I be annihilated if I follow Buddha’s teachings? etc.” Such doubts can discourage one from pursuing Nibbāna. Another cause is the attachment to sensory pleasures, not realizing that most of them arise due to “built-in distorted saññā.” See “Fooled by Distorted Saññā (Sañjānāti) – Origin of Attachment (Taṇhā)” and other posts in “Sotāpanna Stage via Understanding Perception (Saññā).”

8) Makkho thambho (“Hardened” mind incapable of learning Buddha Dhamma or even standard morals): “Makkho” means to “erase,” and here, it refers explicitly to “erasing morals.” When that happens, a mind can become “rough” and “unable to learn (Buddha’s teachings).” Even those with “good morals” may have “hardened minds” due to wrong views. I see this often in some of my friends, who are moral but materialists who do not believe in rebirth; unfortunately, this is common among scientists.

9) Lābho siloko sakkāro, Micchāladdho ca yo yaso (seeking material profit and praise): “Lābha” and “sakkāra” mean to “seek material wealth.” They also believe others would hold them in high regard and praise (yasa) them for their ill-gained wealth (Micchāladdho ca yo yaso.)

10) Māna (High regard for oneself): While praising oneself (Yo ca attānaṁ samukkaṁse), they scorn others (Pare ca avajānati.)

That is a brief discussion of the ten defilements that the Buddha called “Māra’s army.”

Kāma Rāga Is the Main Culprit

10. Most defilements arise in our minds due to our cravings for sensual pleasures or kāma, the first on the list above.

Most dasa akusala are done with kāma rāga. This is a critical point to remember.

As we discussed in “Kāma Rāga Dominates Rūpa Rāga and Arūpa RāgaBrahmas in the 20 realms above the kāma loka only crave “jhānic/samāpatti pleasures.” They are incapable of doing akusala kamma with speech (lying, gossiping, etc.) and the body (killing, stealing, sexual misconduct.)

Thus, the critical step toward Nibbāna is to be released from the kāma loka by attaining the Anāgāmi stage.

We Have Control Over the Ten Defilements

11. At the end of the “WebLink: suttacentral: Padhāna Sutta (Snp 3.2),” the Bodhisatta tells Māra Devaputta, “That is your army, Māra.” It is hard to defeat your army for someone who lacks wisdom (asura). But whoever wins the battle will receive the “ultimate bliss (of Nibbāna)” (Jetvā ca labhate sukhaṁ).

We must note that the Buddha did not mean that the Māra Devaputta directed those ten defilements to the Bodhisatta’s mind.

All those ten defilements are within our minds. No one can direct them to the mind of another.

The Bodhisatta’s mind also had those ten defilements. But he successfully overcame them and stopped them from arising again by eliminating the seven anusaya/ten saṁyojana from his mind by cultivating paññā (wisdom).

New Series of Posts

12. I started a new series of posts, “Buddha Dhamma – Advanced,” to provide a systematic analysis of how pañca upādānakkhandha arises per Paṭicca Samuppāda (Note: pañcakkhandha never arises under most situations.) Some posts will be new, and others will be old posts rewritten to provide a cohesive picture.

I will also incorporate the critical role of the “distorted saññā.” It generates a biologically “built-in” illusion in human minds that there are “pleasurable things in the world.” Ignorance of that is the main reason why it is hard to remove kāma rāga. See “Fooled by Distorted Saññā (Sañjānāti) – Origin of Attachment (Taṇhā).”

This section is more suited for people with a sufficient background. They must be familiar with the “hidden pure mind” (pabhassara citta) as explained in the “Recovering the Suffering-Free Pure Mind” series of posts and a good understanding of Paṭicca Samuppāda.” Of course, one must have an understanding of what is meant by saññā: “Saññā – What It Really Means.”

The difference between pabhasara and pabhassara is explained in “Uncovering the Suffering-Free (Pabhassara) Mind.”

13. Please comment and ask questions about any post listed under the “Buddha Dhamma – Advanced” section in the forum thread “WebLink: Pure Dhamma Forums: Posts in the ‘Buddha Dhamma – Advanced’ Section,” even if they may also be listed under other sections.