Translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi
Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Uruvela on the bank of the river Nerañjara at the foot of the Goatherd’s Banyan Tree just after he had become fully enlightened.  Then, while the Blessed One was alone in seclusion, a reflection arose in his mind thus: “I am indeed freed from that gruelling asceticism! It is good indeed that I am freed from that useless gruelling asceticism! It is good that, steady and mindful, I have attained enlightenment!” 
Then Mara the Evil One, having known with his own mind the reflection in the Blessed One’s mind, approached the Blessed One and addressed him in verse:
- “Having deviated from the austere practice
By which men purify themselves,
Being impure, you think you’re pure:
You have missed the path to purity.” 
- “Having known as useless any austerity
Aimed at the immortal state, 
That all such penances are futile
Like oars and rudder on dry land, 
By developing the path to enlightenment—
Virtue, concentration, and wisdom—
I have attained supreme purity:
You’re defeated, End-maker!” 
 Spk assigns this sutta to the first week after the Buddha’s enlightenment.
 By gruelling asceticism (dukkarakārikā) the Buddha refers to the rigorous austerities he practised for six years before he discovered the “middle way” to enlightenment.
 There is a delicate irony here in Māra the Tempter, usually the suave proponent of sensual indulgence, now recommending strict asceticism. This confirms the old maxim that the extremes are actually closer to each other than either is to the mean.
 Spk: Low austerity practised for the sake of immortality (amarabhāvatthāya kataṃ lukhatapaṃ); that is, devotion to self-mortification (attakilamathānuyogo).
Spk-pṭ: For the most part one is devoted to the practice of bodily mortification for the sake of immortality, and when that is pursued by those who accept kamma it may be for the sake of becoming a deva (believed to be immortal).
See too Sutta Nipata 249d. (in Snp 2.2).
- 249. Not the flesh of fish, nor fasting, nor nakedness, nor shaven head, matted hari, dirt, nor rough animal skins, nor observance of the fire ceremony, nor even the many penances there are in the world for (gaining) immortality, not hymns nor ablations, nor the performance of sacrifices at the proper season, purity a mortal who has not crossed beyond doubt.
Spk: “This is meant: If a ship were placed on high ground, and were loaded with merchandise, and the crew would board it, take hold of the oars and rudder, and pull and push with all their might, for all their effort they would not be able to advance the ship even one or two inches; the effort would be useless, futile. So, having known austerities thus, I rejected them as futile.”
 Virtue, concentration, and wisdom are the three divisions of the Noble Eightfold Path: virtue (sīla) includes right speech, action, and livelihood; concentration (samādhi), right effort, mindfulness, and concentration; and wisdom (paññā), right view and right intention. Māra is called the End-maker (antaka) because he binds beings to death.