Upcoming Events

TAPSA: “How Can You Be Upset?!” — Māra as (Redeemably?) Affectively Defective

April 22, 2021 - 5pm

Virtual Event

Adam Miller, PhD Candidate in the History of Religions, The University of Chicago Divinity School 

From his first appearance in the Precious Banner Sūtra, an important mid-first millennium Mahāyāna Buddhist sūtra, Māra finds himself on a decidedly unenjoyable emotional rollercoaster. Increasingly upset on account of a series of losses, Māra eventually launches a final desperate attack against a gigantic preaching lotus that had emerged in the city of Rājagṛha and the myriad beings surrounding it. But in his deeply affected state, characterized as one of negative emotional intensity, he has all but entirely lost his capacity to affect. Suddenly bound by a fivefold fetter, he finds himself unable even to retreat. And though in the presence of the giant lotus and its audience, he is utterly alone. Weeping and terrified, Māra is then approached by a former ally named Ghoṣavati, who asks him why he is so upset and advises him to go to the Buddha for refuge so that he can be happy. But Māra, unwilling to undergo a genuine affective reorientation, remains bound. This chapter argues that Ghoṣavati’s words constitute a feeling rule that, although delivered only to Māra in its narrative context, marks certain ways of feeling in the presence of the dharma as inappropriate and subtly encourages audiences in the reading present to cultivate a shared affective orientation such that they form a community.

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