What Are Demons?

A demon – Mara in Sanskrit – is a troubled mind. 

Demonic attacks do not come from outside;
they’re a residue in our own mind.

When we stop our habitual patterning,
we stop feeding the habitual patterning of others.

Different cultures (groups) express phenomena in different ways. Just because a culture says, “It’s like this”, doesn’t mean it’s like that for us. It is tremendously important that we do not obscure our own mind by trying to force it into the ways of others.

What may be beneficial for a relaxed culture will not do for a speedy culture. Performing hundreds of thousands of prostrations may be good for Tibetans but, for westerners, it’s like going to the gym for a work out. Similarly, terms such as wind, channels and energies in one culture are just neurotransmitters in another. 

This bring us on to the subject of demons or Mara. Demons in history have had excellent propagandists who portray them as something out there that preys on the innocent in order to exert control over the masses … “The bogeyman will get you!” … What fun those propagators have had scaring us with this haunting theme which has become our entertainment. The truth is that we have been led astray by not noticing our actual experience of everyday demons.

Demons – or Mara in Sanskrit – are troubled, un-empathetic minds. A troubled mind is full of likes and dislikes, and waits in ambush to pounce and feed off others. Yes, it’s us. We want to create a reaction in others. You know what I mean! Even if we say nothing, there is still a reaction present because our thinking shows in our demeanour. 

Some cultures understand evil as an external force. In one practice, Tibetans go to a graveyard at night to face their fears, while we might just get bored. Better for us to go to a ‘spiritual’ centre to face our fears! 😀

That troubled mind is our self that creates dualistic fixations. Now, we see that these demons are closer to us than we thought – we are full of likes and dislikes.

Until we are fully enlightened, we will have Mara-ego attacks. It is said that, just before enlightenment, even the Buddha experienced attacks symbolised by fear and lust.

The more we become consciously aware, the more raw and sensitive we are, being aware of distractions. We pick up more, and some of it is challenging to deal with. Our path to enlightenment is clearing away our confusion and vulnerability. It’s not about following others. That is for the religious-minded.

So, we can see that the more our practice refines, the more we are aware of the attacks that trigger a residue from past experiences. As practitioners, we become a target. Many historical figures, as you know, received more than just threats.

Tsoknyi Rinpoche 1st

Don’t wander, don’t wander, place mindfulness on guard;
Along the road of distraction, Mara lies in ambush.

Mara is this mind, clinging to like and dislike;
So look into the essence of this magic, free from dualistic fixation.

Realise that your mind is unfabricated primal purity.
There is no buddha elsewhere; look at your own face.

There is nothing else to search for; rest in your own place.
Non-meditation is spontaneous perfection, so capture the royal seat.

Seeing demons at work:

Do we get a buzz from money, or from the power that it represents? We know what it’s like when someone is controlling us – it’s horrible and scary. Imagine now having the power to manipulate: Mara is like that, feeding off vulnerability. 

It is for this reason that being consciously aware is so important, because truly understanding this gives rise to compassion.

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