What is the Classical understanding of Mara?

Hello all,

What is the classical understanding of Mara? Not the figurative versions, the literal one.

As we all know, Mara is mentioned quite a bit in texts but the Buddha doesn’t flat out say what exactly he is. Did the early commentators explain what the evil mara that constantly meddled in the affairs of the Buddha actually was?

Yes, commentaries mentioned it. You can refer to this.

"Already in the Anguttara Nikāya, Māra is described (aggo ādhipateyyānam iddhiyā yasasā jalam) as the head of those enjoying bliss in the Kāmāvacara worlds and as a dāmarika devaputta (as mentioned earlier). A.ii.17. "


In the Suttas, eg: Maratajjaniya sutta & Vajira Sutta, it was Mara Devaputta. The Deva being, an extremely powerful Deva in Paranimmitavasavatti Heaven realm, leading a faction of Devas.

there are 4 Mara aspects inside the sources:

(1) Klesa-mara or Mara as the embodiment of all unskillful emotions and defilements (klesas)
(2) Mŗtyu-mara or Mara as death, in the sense of the ceaseless round of birth and death.
(3) Skandha-mara or Mara as metaphor for the entirety of conditioned existence with almost immediate personification, of the power of temptation, the tendency towards evil, moral conflict, and the influence of such factors as indolence, negligence, and niggardliness
(4) Devaputra-mara or Mara the son of a deva (god), that is, Mara as an objectively existent being rather than as a metaphor. An anthropomorphic deity ruling over a heaven in the sensual sphere (kāmāvacara-devaloka)