[Updates & News] [Poetry & Stories] [A Buddhist Web-journal] [Theravada Writings] [Zen / Ch'an Writings] [Buddhist Webrings] [Buddhist Links] [About this Page] [Home]

Chapter Eight

Section Eight: Recognizing the Work of Demons

In Sanskrit, the term is "mara." In the language of the Ch'in, it is rendered as "killer." They plunder the practitioner's merit wealth and slay the wisdom life of the practitioner. As for its consequently being referred to as "the work of demons," just as the Buddha takes as his work the use of merit and wisdom to liberate beings that they might enter nirvana, the demons take as their work the continual destruction of being's roots of goodness that they might be caused to flow along and turn about in the realm of birth and death. If one is able to establish the mind in the correct Way, it therefore becomes a case of "where the way is lofty one knows then that the demons will flourish." Hence it is still necessary to be skillful in the recognition of the work of demons.

There are only four categories: First, the affliction demons; second, the demons of the [five] aggregates, [twelve] sense bases, and [eighteen] sense fields; third, the death demons; and fourth, the ghost-and-spirit demons. Three of them are normal worldly phenomena as well as products of a given individual's mind. One must get rid of them by rectifying one's own mind, thus exorcizing them. We will not describe them in detail just now.

As for the signs of the ghost-and-spirit demons, these matters must be understood. We shall now discuss them briefly. There are three categories of ghost-and-spirit demons: [First, the sprites, goblins, and creatures of the twelve {daily} horary time periods; second, "dwei-ti" demons; and third, demonic-affliction {demons}].

As for the first, the sprites, goblins, and creatures of the twelve [daily] horary time periods, they transform into all sorts of different shapes and forms, perhaps creating the form of a young girl or an old man and so on, including fearsome bodies and so forth not limited to any single type. They aggravate and deceive the practitioner. All of these sprites and goblins desire to afflict practitioners. Each of them comes at a time corresponding to its appointed hour. It is necessary to become skillful in distinguishing and recognizing them.

If they come during the yin time period [of 3 to 5 a.m.], they are certainly tigers or other such creatures. If they come during the mao period [of 5 to 7 a.m.], they are certainly rabbits, deer, and so forth. If they come during the chen period [of 7 to 9 a.m.], they are certainly dragons, turtles, and so forth. If they come during the ssu time period [of 9 to 11 a.m.], they are certainly snakes, pythons, and so forth. If they come during the wu period [of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m], they are certainly horses, mules, camels, and so forth. If they come during the wei time period [of 1 to 3 p.m], they are certainly sheep, and so forth. If they come during the shen time period [of 3 to 5 p.m], they are certainly monkeys, baboons, and so forth. If they come during the you time period [of 5 to 7 p.m], they are certainly chickens, crows, and so forth. If they come during the syu time period [of 7 to 9 p.m], they are certainly dogs, wolves, and so forth. If they come during the hai time period [of 9 to 11 p.m], they are certainly pigs and such. If they come during the dze time period [of 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.], they are certainly rats and such. If they come during the chou time period [of 1 to 3 a.m.], they are certainly oxen and such.

If the practitioner observes that they always come at this particular time, he may then know which creature goblin it is. He should then declare its name to scold and rebuke it whereupon it should retreat and disappear.

Second, the dwei-ti ghosts. They too engage in all sorts of aggravations which they visit upon practitioners. Sometimes they manifest like insects or scorpions which attack a person's head or face, producing a drilling and piercing sensation attended by intense bright light. Sometimes they strike or constrict a person's sides or perhaps suddenly clutch a person in their embrace, or sometimes they speak, make noises, howl, and even appear in the forms of beasts. These different signs which they manifest in coming to aggravate the practitioner are not limited to any single one. One should recognize them immediately and single-mindedly close the eyes, blocking them from view, and then scold them, saying these [or other such] words, "I now recognize you. You are a shr-hwo (this is the name of the cassowary bird), an evil-smelling ji-jr from Jambudvipa who steals one's purity in the precepts. You are under the sway of deviant views and delight in destroying the ranks of the precept-observers. I am now an upholder of the precepts and will never fear you."

If one is a monastic, he should recite the precept texts. If one is a householder, he should recite the three refuges, the five precepts, and so forth. The ghost will then be driven off and will crawl away. All sorts of other such appearances which present difficulties and which aggravate people as well as other techniques for cutting them off and getting rid of them are all just as extensively described in the sutras on dhyana meditation.

Third, afflictions inflicted by demons. Typically, these demons transformationally create three kinds of phenomenal states within the sphere of the five sense objects which they bring forth to demolish the wholesome mind:

In the case of the first type wherein they create disagreeable phenomena, these appear as fearsome manifestations of the five sense objects which cause a person to be filled with terror.

In the case of the second type wherein they create agreeable phenomena, these appear as desirable manifestations of the five sense objects which cause a person to become mentally attached.

In the case of the third type which involves phenomena which are neither agreeable nor disagreeable, these appear as neutral manifestations of the five sense objects which distract and confuse the practitioner. On account of this the demons are also referred to as "killers," are also referred to as "floral arrows," and are also referred to as "the five-fold arrows." This is on account of their "shooting" a person [where he is vulnerable] in the five sense faculties.

Within "name-and-form" they create all sorts of phenomenal states which deceive and confuse the practitioner. In a case where they create agreeable phenomenal states they may manifest in the form of parents, siblings, buddhas, attractive men or women, or as other desirable phenomena which cause a person to become mentally attached.

In a case where they create disagreeable phenomenal states they may manifest in the forms of tigers, lions, or rak.sas or in all sorts of other fearsome appearances by means of which they come forth to terrorize the practitioner.

In a case where they create phenomenal states which are neither disagreeable nor agreeable, they may [manifest] ordinary phenomena which they employ to distract and confuse the mind of the practitioner, thus causing the loss of dhyana absorption. Hence they are referred to as "demons."

They may also create all sorts of fine or terrible sounds, or may create all sorts of fragrant or stinking smells, or may create all sorts of fine or terrible tastes, or may create all sorts of anguishing or blissful phenomenal states which they bring forth to inflict upon a person's body. These are all the work of demons. Their signs are multifarious. We will not now describe them all.

To bring up and speak of that which is essential, wherever there is the creation of all sorts of phenomena among the five sense objects which aggravate and confuse a person, causing the loss of good dharmas and the arisal of affliction, these are all [the work of] the demon armies. They are able to employ them to destroy the normal state of the Buddha''s Dharma and to cause the arisal of all sorts of Way-blocking dharmas such as desire, worry, anger, sleepiness, and so forth. This is as described in a verse from a sutra:

Desire is the foremost of your armies.
Worry is the second.
Hunger and thirst are the third army.
Craving is the fourth.
Sleepiness is the fifth of your armies.
Fearfulness is the sixth.
Doubt and remorse are the seventh army.
Anger is the eighth.
Offering and empty praises are the ninth.
Pridefulness and arrogance are the tenth.
Numerous armies such as these
Subdue and bury the monastic.
Using the power of dhyana and wisdom, I
Smash all of these armies of yours,
And after achieving the Way of the Buddha,
Cross over all beings to liberation.

Once the practitioner has recognized the work of demons he should immediately drive them away. There are two methods for driving them away:

The first involves using stopping to drive them off. Whenever one observes any of the external evil demon states, knowing that they are false and deceptive, one refrains from becoming either worried or fearful. Nor does one grasp at them or retreat from them or indulge in any erroneous calculations or distinctions with regard to them. Placing the mind at rest so that it is quiescent, they should naturally disappear on their own accord.

The second involves using contemplation to drive them off. If one observes any of the different kinds of demon states similar to those discussed above and one finds that even though one employs stopping they nonetheless do not go away, one should then immediately turn back one's attention and contemplate the observing mind. One does not perceive any place [in which it abides]. What then is it that is being afflicted?

When one contemplates in this manner, as one continues on with [the process] they should disappear. If they are slow to respond and thus do not go away one should rectify one's own mind and refrain from generating thoughts of terror. One should not even fear for the loss of one's own physical life. One should rectify one's thought so that it does not move. One should recognize that the suchness of the demon realm is just the suchness of the buddha realm and [should thus recognize] that if the suchness of the demon realm and the suchness of the buddha realm are a single suchness, there cannot be two [different] suchnesses.

If one understands completely in this way, [one will understand that] there is nothing in the demon realm to be relinquished and nothing in the buddha realm to be seized upon. Of its own accord, the Dharma of the Buddha should then naturally manifest before one, whereupon the demon state should naturally dissolve and disappear.

Additionally, if one observes that a demon state does not disappear, one need not give rise to distress. If one observes that it does disappear, one must not become joyful, either. Why is this? We have not yet observed a case of a person sitting in dhyana absorption who has seen the demon transform into a tiger or a wolf which has then [actually] come forth and eaten the person. Nor have we yet observed a case of a demon transforming into a man or woman which has [actually] come forth and acted as a husband or a wife. It is through the the taking on of a particular illusory transformation on the part of a foolish person who fails to completely understand it that the mind consequently becomes alarmed or even goes so far as to give rise to desirous attachment. On account of this, the mind becomes confused, one loses one's meditative absorption and one may even become insane.

One brings about one's own calamity. In every case, it is a matter of the practitioner bringing on a calamity through the absence of wisdom. It is not a case of something actually brought about by the demon. If demon states occur which aggravate and disturb the practitioner and which don't go away even after months and years have passed, one must simply make one's own mind upright so that the rectitude of one's own thoughts is solid. [In doing this] one should not spare even one's own physical life. One must not be filled with distress or fearfulness.

One should recite the demon-countering mantras found within the Great Vehicle Vaipulya (fang-deng) sutras. One should recite them silently and abide in mindfulness of the Triple Jewel. Even when one has emerged from dhyana absorption one should still recite the mantras as a self-protective measure. One should perform repentances, should maintain a sense of shame and a sense of blame, and should also recite the praatimok.sa. The deviant is unable to interfere with whatsoever is [actually] orthodox. After a time it will fade away on its own accord. The work of demons is of many different sorts. A [complete] discussion of it would be endless. One must be skillful in recognizing it.

Hence the novice practitioner must draw near to a good and knowledgeable advisor specifically because there can occur difficult situations such as these. These demons may enter into a person's mind whereupon they become able to cause the practitioner's mind and spirit to become crazy and disturbed so that he becomes overcome with joyfulness or distress. On account of this, a calamity can occur which could even lead to one's death. At times they may cause one to gain deviant dhyana absorptions, wisdom, spiritual powers, dhaara.niis, or even cause one to speak Dharma and engage in teaching and conversion whereby others all have faith and submit. In the end one may do damage to other people's wholesome, world-transcending endeavors and may even destroy the correct Dharma.

The various strange phenomena of this sort are not of a single type. In describing them, they are endless. Now, we only briefly explain their essential features for the sake of causing the practitioner to avoid erroneously taking on phenomenal states [which arise] when sitting in dhyana absorption. To speak of it in a way which grasps what is essential, if one desires to drive away the deviant and return to the orthodox one should contemplate the reality mark of all dharmas. If one skillfully cultivates stopping and contemplation, there is no deviant phenomenon which will not be demolished. Hence The Treatise [on the Great Perfection of Wisdom] states: "Aside from the reality mark of all dharmas, everything else is demonic phenomena." This is as described in a verse:

If one engages in discriminating recollective thought,
This is just the net of the maaras.
If one does not move and refrains from discriminations,
This then is the seal of Dharma.

[End of Section Eight]