Religious Beliefs

Do Buddhists believe in devils?

Perhaps the closest thing in Buddhism to what many readers think of when they hear the word “devil” is the archdemon Mara. As the Buddha achieved enlightenment, Mara assailed him in hopes of preventing him from sharing his newfound wisdom. Mara summoned up his own three seductive daughters as well as his hateful host of demons. Various troublesome beings, from the mildly mischievous to the viciously malevolent, haunt the Buddhist universe at every level. Unhappy spirits of the deceased pester the living. A class of characters called “Earth demons” personify various powers and riches of the earth itself. Human beings who die after a particularly unethical life may be reborn as one of a class of evil beings, inherited from Hindu tradition, called asuras. Just as the Buddha insisted that none of the gods could rescue anyone from the human condition, so he taught that no demonic power was great enough to destroy anyone. Still, mainstream Buddhism has allowed room for the ranks of devilish characters that are part of indigenous popular belief systems throughout Asia.


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