Malleable Māra

Transformations of a Buddhist Symbol of Evil

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Michael D. Nichols
  • Albany, NY: 
    State University of New York Press
    , March
     2019.
     268 pages.
     $85.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9781438473215.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Michel Butcher forthcoming.

Description

Analyzes the breadth of representations of the mythic figure of Māra in Buddhism to reveal how closely tied such narratives are to the social and historical concerns of Buddhist communities.

This is the first book to examine the development of the figure of Māra, who appears across Buddhist traditions as a personification of death and desire. Portrayed as a combination of god and demon, Māra serves as a key antagonist to the Buddha, his followers, and Buddhist teaching in general. From ancient India to later Buddhist thought in East Asia to more recent representations in Western culture and media, Māra has been used to satirize Hindu divinities, taken the form of wrathful Tibetan gods, communicated psychoanalytic tropes, and appeared as a villain in episodes of Doctor Who. Michael D. Nichols details and surveys the historical transformations of the Māra figure and demonstrates how different Buddhist communities at different times have used this symbol to react to changing social and historical circumstances. Employing literary and cultural theory, Nichols argues that the representation of Māra closely parallels and reflects the social concerns and anxieties of the particular Buddhist community producing it.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Michael D. Nichols is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Saint Joseph’s College.

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