The secret of all demons

- through Francois Leclercq

Published on

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I should start by saying that gods and demons doing exist. We know very well when one or the other is whispering in our ear. They have taken up residence in our minds, that infinite universe of vast spaces – wormholes, black holes, mysterious worlds and corners – through which the “I” travels: our minds may not be limited to our brains alone; instead, they encompass the entire universe.

Besides what all demons do – whisper interesting questions in our ears – they find it their job to question everything the gods within us seek to assert:

" Why do you do that? "Wouldn't it be better if." . . ? " " And if you. . . ? » “Did you dare to imagine. . . ? » “Are you brave enough?” » “Are you good enough?” » “Are you as spiritual as you present yourself?” Don't you really want anything else?

All of these questions can make us doubt ourselves, our goodness, our choices and our faith. If our faith remains unshakeable after being challenged in this way, we acquire a “godly” sense of superiority and conquest. But it makes me think: what would probably become of us? Would we have gained faith? What would courage be without fear? What would kindness be without witnessing all the suffering in the world? These are questions that are asked from a neutral point of view, without judgment of "good" or "bad", it is simply about how we flow between the polarities of thought created by our mind. This makes me wonder about the role of demons. Would creation be wrong to allow such extremes of light and darkness in our existential lives if it did not support our spiritual evolution?

There is no culture that I know of that has not spoken of "good" in terms of god or gods and goddesses, and "bad" in terms of demons, and has not created a fantastical pantheon of archetypes from all possible “faces”. embody. It's fascinating, but more importantly, they are creations of our own minds, which exist nowhere other than inside us.

The realms of gods and demons – heaven, purgatory, hell – are made of the stuff of dreams. From this point of view, the myth is the dream of the world. —Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)

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So often we confront gods and demons as external forces, viewing any conflicts and problems we encounter as being there to harm us, and seeking salvation elsewhere – from heaven perhaps? A Polynesian expression cited by American author Joseph Campbell says: we are "standing on a whale, fishing for minnows", meaning that we are riding the source of our activity, which is the foundation of our being; we look outward and see problems around us, but we don't realize that we are the source of it all. This perspective has caused great unrest throughout the world and has permanently shaped cultures and belief systems.

Consider, for example, how a man's desire to possess a woman's body compelled him to conceal the female body. The imposition of restrictions on women even led to the persecution by fire of thousands of wise women during the time of the Inquisition. This externalization of desire is caused by the belief that by exterminating an external factor, one can exterminate internal desire. But is this really the case? Or do men's attempts to silence the voice of desire simply result in amplifying the voice of fear, thereby transforming men into the demons they seek to suppress?

By refusing to feed a demon, we open a portal to another hungry demon. By strongly desiring something or someone, we become subject to the influence of the chorus of voices in our head, the pantheon of gods and demons. Yet by stopping to listen, observe and analyze mindfully, we have the opportunity to explore all phenomena as they arise in our perception, we have the opportunity to understand and the ability to navigate our internal realms without favor or preference. By confronting the questioning demon and recognizing desire in the intimate silence of consciousness, we have the rare opportunity to experience love, beyond the experience of fear and attachment. When we overcome the fear of losing ourselves in the experience of desire, we can give in to the dissolution of the identity we were so busy defending.

But we cannot transcend mystical divine union without confronting our innermost demons. Like the guardians of the gate of paradise, of the inner paradise, one must pass its tests to be worthy of entering. The world we see is a reflection of who we are. If I am in conflict with my inner gods and demons, then I see the whole world as a battlefield. If I am able to sit in contemplative dialogue, silencing the cacophony of inner voices and images, then I have the opportunity to find peace with the world and with others.

There is an Indian fable according to which three beings drank from a river: one was a god and he drank ambrosia; one was a man and he was drinking water; and one of them was a demon, and he drank filth. What you get is a function of your own awareness. —Joseph Campbell

How can one achieve peace when the demon is simply locked away in the hidden recesses of the unconscious – unheard of, untamed; not transmuted or integrated?

Two stories, one from Bhutan and the other from Greek mythology, can illustrate this process of transformation.

In the 13th century, Tibet was a military force under the great king Songtsen Gampo. He wanted to enter the neighboring kingdom of Bhutan, but every time he tried, natural disasters occurred. Observing the shapes of the mountains and lakes, the king realized that the entire country was covered with the body of a demoness. Songtsen Gampo did not want to kill her, as it went against Buddhist morality, but he grounded her by building 108 temples (some stories say XNUMX temples) across Bhutan on part of her body in order to transform his anger, which was pure. energy, in the protection of Dharma. The energy would be the same, but directed toward subtracting the harm it caused and allowing it to help all living beings practice good.

The other story concerns Persephone, the beautiful daughter of the Greek fertility goddess, Demeter. One sunny day, while Persephone was picking flowers, Hades, lord of the underworld, saw her and, falling madly in love, took her to the realm of hell. At first, Persephone fought, then cried, then almost starved herself in protest. Eventually, she was tricked into eating six pomegranate seeds, and in doing so, part of Persephone became Queen of the Underworld. Her mother Demeter was desperate for her daughter's return, but she could only visit her during certain months of the year. These visits would make Demeter very happy and spring would blossom in its lush splendor. But as soon as Persephone returned to the underworld, Demeter neglected the ground, bringing the gray embrace of winter.

Map of Bhutan depicted as a female demon. At highpeakspureearth.com

It is fascinating that in both stories evil does not die but is transformed, and that the environment is also transformed by a change in perspective.

While we are in hell, we feel that our inner demons have taken over: they consume us from within and the voices of guilt, attachment or anger resonate loudly, robbing us of respite. Our first instinct is to flee, but because our torment is within us, it follows us wherever we go. We might idealize meditating in a cave like a holy yogi, but samsara is found at the very center of our being, where we sit.

Faced with this uncomfortable reality, some of us feel compelled to craft a new narrative for our troubled lives, or seek new distractions to avoid confronting the howling demon. Looking into our own shadow is no easy task, especially when there is no guarantee of emerging unscathed. It could take years, and even then the outcome is uncertain. At such times the gods seem silent and a feeling of isolation prevails.

However, when the memory of the presence of the gods persists, even in the dark silence, we turn to fervent prayer. I have never prayed to the goddesses with such intensity as during my dark years, finding within myself the energy and power of a star driven by a visceral need to be closer to the divinity within me. The darkness one can endure is proportional to the happiness one is willing to experience. Without the night, we could never appreciate the day; without fear, one could never discover courage. It is the fight that makes heroes, and inner battles create silent heroes. Of course, I do not advocate that wars give rise to victory, but I recognize their inevitability.

The beauty of balance in the universe is the true meaning of harmony: of spring and winter; day and night; demons and temples; hell and sacred wisdom; life and death.

For thousands of years, the Hindu trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva have personified creation, penetration and destruction. This same holy Trinity is reflected in us. Hinduism also refers to the polarity of dualism, Shiva and Shakti, which we experience within and in our perception of our world. We are faced with decisions and struggles between “good” and “bad”. We make our life decisions based on what we believe will bring less suffering and more happiness, that is our simple compass.

Meanwhile, alchemists have long emphasized the gold contained in heavy metals and the deep, mystical journey of spiritual combustion, fusion, distillation – from deathless transmutation, until the alchemical process culminates in the legendary philosopher's stone, the immortal soul.

Machig Labdron. From wikipedia.org

We need to think about what happens to us if we choose to run away from or attempt to suppress our demons. However, there remains the question of how to to approach them, because they still possess the power of profound destruction.

A practical and profound practice, similar to the Tibetan Buddhist practice of crashcalled “feeding your demons” was created in the 11th century yogi Machig Labdron and was a contemporary of the American Dharma teacher Lama Tsultrim Allione.

Machig Labdron's teacher, Dampa Sangye, tells him: “Confess all your hidden faults! Get closer to what repels you! Anyone you think you can't help, help them! Whatever you are attached to, let go! Go to places that scare you, like cemeteries! Sentient beings are unlimited like the sky, be aware of that! Find the Buddha within you. In the future, your teaching will be as bright as the sun shining in the sky!

The practice of feeding your demons begins with recognizing your feelings of anger, hatred, fear, or sadness (whatever is tormenting you) and identifying where they are stored in the body. With this first step, to try to make the energy more concrete, we imagine its size, its color, its texture, its sound, its smell and all the details of its appearance. At this stage, we are able to draw the demon. Now that we have given him a face, we begin to question the demon: “What do you want? really to want? » Whatever the answer, you visualize feeding this demon whatever it craves – often warm, sweet nectar from the most devotional heart, cascading down and enveloping this demon.

With this image, foster a deep understanding of the grief and anger that sustained this demon and accept it with boundless love and fearlessness. During this process the demon will transform into what is called the ally, you can then allow it to make a solemn vow of guidance and protection to you.

You can find complete details on doing this practice in Lama Allion's books and YouTube videos. But above all, let yourself be guided by the guiding force of intuition, that shimmering light behind the dark storm clouds that we gain through the practice of silent meditation and nonjudgmental contemplation. Recognize the place that all things occupy in the universe, honor it, acknowledge it, allow it and move with grace like a dancer between the waves and the portals that life, sovereign above all things, can present to your experience.

Image courtesy of the author
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Francois Leclercq

François Leclercq is the founder of Buddhist News, a website which aims to disseminate information and practical advice on Buddhism and spirituality. François Leclercq was born and raised in Paris. He studied Buddhism at the University of Paris-Sorbonne, where he graduated in social sciences and psychology. After graduating, he devoted himself to his passion for Buddhism and traveled the world to study and learn about different practices. He notably visited Tibet, Nepal, Thailand, Japan and China.

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