2. “Bhikkhus, sensual pleasures are impermanent, hollow, false, deceptive; they are illusory, the prattle of fools. Sensual pleasures here and now and sensual pleasures in lives to come, sensual perceptions here and now and sensual perceptions in lives to come–both alike are Maara‘s realm, Maara’s domain, Maara’s bait, Maara’s hunting ground. On account of them, these evil unwholesome mental states such as covetousness, ill will and presumption arise, and they constitute an obstruction to a noble disciple here.
Maara is the personification of sensual desires. Invariably given a male gender, he is sometimes characterised as a senior prince deity or even a king deity in Paranimmitavasavatti, the highest level of the sensual celestial realms-kaamaloka. The texts refer to an army of deities who help Maara to tempt us in daily life and annoy meditators. His natural role is to retain beings in the sensual realms. His purpose is much like a natural force similar to gravity keeping us on Earth only Maara’s force is keeping us in the sensual realms.
Different beings take on Maara’s role and perform his duties impersonally. In Maaratajjaniya Sutta (The Rebuke to Maara) from the Majjhimanikaaya Ven. Mahamoggallaana relates the story of one of his own past lives when he took on the role of Maara and disturbed an eminent monk, Venerable Sa~njiva during the dispensation of a previous Sammaasambuddha Kakusandha.
By successfully practising absorption meditation-jhaana, beings can temporarily “hide” from Maara in the higher fine-material celestial realms-ruupaloka, or non-material celestial realms-aruupaloka. However, after leaving these deep absorptions, or passing away from the ruupaloka realms, the human or deva will be susceptible to Maara’s influence once again. Lord Buddha encouraged followers to practice absorption meditation because of the many benefits for yogis.
The sequence at the end of the Ariyapariyesanaa Sutta (MN26.41-42) describing the four fine material jhaana and the four formless attainments are presented as though the next and highest attainment is the cessation of perception and feeling – an attainment that follows after the fourth formless attainment – the base of neither-perception-nor-non perception.
41. “Again, by completely surmounting the base of nothingness, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. This bhikkhu is said to to have blindfolded Maara, to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Maara’s eye of its opportunity.
42. “Again, by completely surmounting the base of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, a bhikkhu enters upon and abides in the cessation of perception and feeling. This bhikkhu is said to to have blindfolded Maara, to have become invisible to the Evil One by depriving Maara’s eye of its opportunity, and to have crossed beyond attachment to the world. He walks confidently. Why is that? Because he is out of the Evil One’s range.”
The above two suttas state that one who attains these high formless attainments will be out of Maara’s range and that Maara will be blind to them, while they are abiding in these attainments. This is because Maara the deva resides at a much lower level than beings who have reached the formless realms. In much the same way that ordinary human beings are usually unable to see deva or brahma beings, so Maara is unable to see beings who abide in formless attainments. Maara’s realm is in the sensual realm.
Even though the meditative absorptions-jhaana offer a most sublime happiness and contentment, they remain unsatisfactory due to their impermanent nature. Yogis avoid becoming attached to each successively refined jhaana attainment by noticing each jhaana’s particular unsatisfactory nature. Ultimately Lord Buddha exhorted followers to escape the round of becoming by overcoming clinging to any object, no matter how refined or apparently pleasurable it may be. Noting the unsatisfactory, impermanent and impersonal nature of all phenomena, a yogi understands the Four Noble Truths, gains insight into realities both gross and subtle, and attains the non-temporary refuge of Nibbaana.
The sequence at the end of Kandaraka Sutta (MN51.26-27) explains how a yogi uses the exalted mind resulting from jhaana practice to understand suffering, the origin of suffering, the cessation of suffering and the path leading to the cessation of suffering.
26. “When his concentrated mind is thus purified, bright, unblemished, rid of imperfection, malleable, wieldy, steady, and attained to imperturbability, he directs it to knowledge of the destruction of the taints. He understands as it actually is: ‘This is suffering’; he understands as it actually is: ‘This is the origin of suffering’; he understands as it actually is: ‘This is the cessation of suffering’; he understands as it actually is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering.’ He understands as it actually is: ‘These are the taints’; he understands as it actually is: ‘This is the origin of the taints’; he understands as it actually is: ‘This is the cessation of the taints’; he understands as it actually is: ‘This is the way leading to the cessation of the taints.’
27. “When he knows and sees thus, his mind is liberated from the taint of sensual desire, from the taint of being, and from the taint of ignorance. When it is liberated there comes the knowledge: ‘It is liberated.’ He understands: ‘Birth is destroyed, the holy life has been lived, what had to be done has been done, there is no more coming to any state of being.’