Chapter Nine: On Good and Evil
(Mark L. Blum translation):
As a carry-over from the last chapter, Kāśyapa inquires from the Blessed One as to whether or not one should continue to depend upon and find refuge in the āryapudgala during his absence. The Buddha responds in the affirmative, stating that they counteract the powers of the evil one:
Over seven hundred years after my parinirvāṇa this Māra Pāpīyas will gradually bring about a collapse of my true-dharma. Like a hunter who dons the dharma robe of a monk, Māra Pāpīyas will take the form of a monk, a nun, a layman, or a laywomen. He may also transform himself into the body of someone at the stage of srotāpanna; he may transform himself into the body of an arhat or even take on the material body of a buddha. King Māra is thus able to take his contaminated form and turn it into an uncontaminated body in order to destroy the true-dharma.
Māra Pāpīyas: The sovereign evil king of the five desires was endowed with every skill in battle. Because he detested so-called deliverance, he was called Pāpīyas.
Māra Pāpīyas (if inflected to nom. sg., then Māraḥ Pāpīyān), elsewhere abbreviated to either Māra or Pāpīyas, is normally depicted as an enemy of the Buddha who represents an opposing set of values, such as indulgence in desire, violence in the service of personal ambition, and so forth. He famously appears right before the Buddha is about to attain complete awakening in an attempt to dissuade him from completing the path. The name Māra is also applied, perhaps figuratively, as a label to false teachers preaching false doctrines, some in the form of sutras and vinayas; they are thus accused of misrepresenting the Buddhist perspective. (Blum’s note)
*It should be noted that a very fine series concerning the evil one can be found in the archives; it is a well-researched effort and offers very good insight into the nature of the beast.
As the passage states, Mara takes on a myriad of shapes in which to gain control over a mind. He can even appear as an apparent being of light who pens his own nefarious dharma that is in direct contrast and abhorrent to the True Buddha-dharma of the Blessed One. The Buddha next describes what some of those reprehensible dharma-passages are like:
In the distant past the Bodhisattva descended to Kapilavastu from the Tuṣita Heaven to appear in the palace of King Śuddhodhana. Through the harmonious combination of the lustful passions of his mother and father, he was born and raised by them to become what he is. But if you say a person could be born into the world of humans who then becomes revered by great multitudes of humans and gods throughout the world, such a thing cannot be true.
And he will also say:
In the distant past [the Bodhisattva] underwent many austerities, making various donations to people, such as giving away his head, his eyes, his body, his brain, his nation, his wife, or his children. And it was by means of doing these things that he completed the path to buddhahood. It was because of these [sacrifices] that he was revered by humans and gods, gandharvas, asuras, garuḍas, kiṃnaras, and mahoragas.
If you come across sutra or vinaya texts that expound these things, you should understand them all to be the work of Māra. Good man, you may also hear of sutras and vinayas that make statements like this:
The Tathāgata Perfectly Awakened One has long since attained buddhahood. He appeared in this realm as one who accomplished the buddha path in order to save living beings. His birth through the sexual union of his mother and father accords with the ways of the world; such was how he manifested himself.
Notice how the false-dharma of the evil one always emphasizes things that have to do with carnality, exclusively focusing on the psycho-physical components. The True Buddhadharma of the Blessed One always transcends these vile aberrations. The whole emphasis on Chapter Five with the Docetic-factor reinforces the stance of the Tathagatas that it’s not the “flesh” that one needs to be concerned with, but rather the spirit.
A person who acts in accordance with what is expounded by Māra is a follower of Māra. A person who acts in accordance with the sutras and vinayas expounded by the Buddha is a bodhisattva.
The Buddha is pulling no punches—if you act with your mind in the gutter of the Skandhas, then you are a child of Mara who is the false father of the five aggravations.
Someone may assert:
Though it is said that the Tathāgata at the time of his birth took seven steps in each of the ten directions, you should not believe this.
This view reflects the teaching of Māra.
Someone else may assert:
At the time of his birth the Tathāgata took seven steps in each of the ten directions. This was the Tathāgata expediently manifesting himself.
This view reflects what indeed has been expounded by the Tathāgata in the sutras and vinayas.
Also, if one states,
If the gods appeared first and the Buddha came later, then why would the gods revere the Buddha?
Understand that such criticism is none other than that of Māra Pāpīyas.
Yea, the Blessed One stands in a premier-position over and above all principalities and powers.
The Tathagata states unequivocally that the authentic-Buddhadharma is always a well-balanced teaching, never a lop-sided affair favoring some aspect of carnality:
If someone does not accept the well-balanced sutras, understand that a person in that position could not be my disciple, for they have not gone forth in the Buddha’s dharma but instead would be a disciple of heretics holding erroneous views. Sutras and vinayas that are [well balanced] like this are those that were expounded by the Buddha. Discourses that are not like this are those that were expounded by a māra, and anyone who follows what has been expounded by a māra is of the assembly of Māra. But it is a bodhisattva who follows what has been expounded by the Buddha.
A false-master also leaves the field wide-open for sexual impropriety, being an agent of Mara’s dharma:
When my bhikṣus want to engage in sexual activity they should remove their dharma vestments and put on secular clothing; then and only then should they indulge in sex.
The consequence of sexual activity is not a transgression for me. While the Tathāgata was in the world there were bhikṣus who repeatedly engaged in sexual activity and yet obtained true liberation. When their lives came to an end, they were reborn in the heavens. There have been people like this in the past and there are people like this in the present; I am not the only person to do this. So even if one commits a violation of one of the four grave pārājika offenses or five heinous crimes, or engages in any kind of impure ritual, that person can still attain genuine liberation. And although the Tathāgata did say, “Committing a minor duṣkṛta violation [results in] falling into a hell for eight million years, measuring time as it passes in the Trāyastriṃśa Heaven,” this was just the Tathāgata manifesting himself for the purpose of instilling fear in people. After all, some people say, “There is no distinction between the severity of pārājika and duṣkṛta offenses.”
Pārājika: In Sanskrit and Pāli, “defeat,” according to the monastic codes, those misdeeds that entail automatic (and, according to the Pāli recension of the VINAYA, permanent) expulsion from the SAṂGHA and reversion to the laity. There are four pārājika offenses for monks (BHIKṢU): (1) sexual intercourse through any of the orifices, (2) theft, (3) murder or abetting the murder of a human being, and (4) falsely claiming to have attained any degree of enlightenment, or to possess suprahuman powers (uttaramanuṣyadharma).
Buswell Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism Kindle Edition.
Duṣkṛta: In Sanskrit, “wrongdoing”; a general category for the least serious of ecclesiastical offenses; for this reason, the term is also rendered in Chinese as “minor misdeed” (xiaoguo) or “light fault” (qingguo).
Buswell Jr., Robert E.; Donald S., Jr. Lopez. The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism Kindle Edition.
It’s easy to discern from this passage how certain “religious types” don’t take their vows seriously, always downplaying sexual offenses and making light of them.
Similarly, you may encounter a vinaya master who makes the claim that “all precept violations are without karmic repercussions.” You should avoid getting close to someone like this. For the Buddha has said:
Transgressing even a single dharma [in silence],
I regard as deceitful speech.
Your next life may not be visible to you
But it will not be formed without bad [karmic fruit].
In other words, never downplay the results of karman.
You may encounter someone who says:
I have already attained anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi. Why? Because I possess buddha-nature. Those who possess buddha-nature will definitely attain unsurpassed perfect enlightenment without fail. So by this reasoning, I have already attained awakening (bodhi).
Interesting how this false claim is still alive and well in our own day and age. Anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi does not come easy, it is not like cheap grace; there are even those at the 10th stage of Mind Development who have still not mastered it. It only comes after much cultivation in rich Dharmatic-soil and instilled by the Blessings and Anointings of the Tathagatas themselves.
Thus, the Buddha warns:
You should recognize this person as having committed what I consider a pārājika offense. Why? Although one may have buddha-nature, without cultivating one’s understanding of skillful means one will therefore not see it. And never having seen it, one simply cannot attain anuttarā samyaksaṃbodhi. Good man, understand the implications here: the Buddha’s dharma is exceedingly profound; it is inconceivable.
Returning again to sexual impropriety:
A bhikṣu like this may be someone known to be “without any sexual faculty,” or “of two sexual faculties,” or “of indeterminate sexual faculty.” For someone of indeterminate sexual faculty, when they feel lust for a woman their body thereupon becomes feminine, and when they feel lust for a man their body thereupon becomes masculine. A bhikṣu like this is known for having a problematic sexual faculty; I do not call this person male, I do not call this person female, I do not call this person a renunciant, and I do not call this person a lay follower either. You should not become close to bhikṣus like this, give them offerings, or respect them.
Blum’s footnote states:
The narrative here suggests 1) that sexual or gender insecurity in an individual may explain why a person acts with exaggerated self-interest, and 2) that if someone has a bisexual identity and acts upon those feelings with partners of both sexes, then the rule in effect is that they are to be excluded from both joining the sangha or even being accepted as a member of the Buddhist lay community.
Any way you look at it, the Buddha frowned upon sexual impropriety and promiscuity, in all its forms. Indeed, it would not bode-well for today’s mixed up (and messed-up) over-sexed PC culture. We are most certainly living at the tail end of the Dharma-ending age.
Kāśyapa closes-out this chapter by saying to the Buddha:
World-Honored One, now for the first time I understand the distinction between what māras preach and what buddhas preach. As a result, I feel that I am able to enter into the deep significance of the Buddha’s dharma.