The Demons of Sensation

demon of sensation

 

“Ananda, when the good person who is cultivating samadhi and shamatha has put an end to the form skandha, he can see the mind of all Buddhas as if seeing an image reflected in a clear mirror.

“He seems to have obtained something, but he cannot use it. In this he resembles a paralyzed person. His hands and feet are intact, his seeing and hearings are not distorted, and yet his mind has come under a deviant influence, so that he is unable to move. This is the region of the feeling skandha.

“Once the problem of paralysis subsides, his mind can then leave his body and look back upon his face. It can go or stay as it pleases without further hindrance. This is the end of the feeling skandha. This person can then transcend the turbidity of views. Contemplating the cause of the feeling skandha, one sees that false thoughts of illusory clarity are its source.

This reveals a successful encounter with the Skandha of Sensation. The section relays that when one, in Deep Samadhis, can successfully navigate through the turbid seas of Skandhic Sensation (whether in thought, feeling, and body). It’s within this samadhic-graced encounter when one realizes just how powerful the effects of the demon of the feeling skandha can be: it’s like being a paraplegic, unable to move in the face of passing phenomena. Yet, once this is transcended one looks at the Real as the Real as the demons effects fade away.

What follows next is what happens when one does not navigate successfully; when, as the Lankavatara Sutra states, “Because the various projections of people’s minds appear to them as [real], they become attached to the existence of these projections.” It’s interesting to note how in the previous post, avidya itself is the main culprit that darkens one’s mind to the light of truth, whereas here we shall see that it’s primarily “pride”—an excessive arrogance as one goes roaming around with a weighty haughtiness in their stride.

[1] “Ananda, in this situation the good person experiences a brilliant light. As a result of the excessive internal pressure in his mind, he is suddenly overwhelmed with such boundless sadness that he looks upon even mosquitoes and gadflies as newborn children. He is filled with pity and unconsciously bursts into tears.

“This is called `overexertion in suppressing the mind in the course of cultivation.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sage-hood. If he realizes that and remains unconfused, then after a time it will disappear.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of sadness will enter his mind. Then, as soon as he sees someone, he will feel sad and cry uncontrollably. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

This is reminiscent of the “vale of tears” syndrome. When struck by the White Light of Purity one can sense the sacredness that is innately “within” all of creation—one suddenly “feels” great waves of “connected-sadness” that seems to “pour-out-of” the inherent “brokenness” of all created things; one enters into great “empathy” with them. This realization is all well and good, but if one becomes too focused on this state, then it’s like being “sucked-down” a drain of endless sorrow. Indeed, the Demon of Sorrow begins to hold dominion over such an unfortunate mind. I remember back in my seminary days how one of the priests—when it was his turn to celebrate the daily mass—would always have this kind of “weepy countenance”; it really became too much to take. My priest buddy, who later left the priesthood to get married, oftentimes reminisces about this character; although he states that the priest’s one saving grace is that he could cook a great dish of fettuccini alfredo!  <g>

2] “Further, Ananda, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. At that time he has a sublime vision and is overwhelmed with gratitude. In this situation, he suddenly evinces tremendous courage. His mind is bold and keen. He resolves to equal all Buddhas and says he can transcend three asamkhyeyas of eons in a single thought.

“This is called `being too anxious to excel in cultivation.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“If he realizes that and remains unconfused, then after a time it will disappear. But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of insanity will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will boast about himself. He will become extraordinarily haughty, to the point that he recognizes no Buddha above him and no people below him. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

This is what can happen when one, while in a state of deep self-realization, becomes overtly attached to this recognition. One begins to become possessed by a Demon of Arrogance. This is in reference to those who think they can become “instant Buddhas” without cultivating their Samadhi for a long time. Once again, this is an intellectual-pride, a most sensual pride. Without wearing the Mane of Noble Wisdom, one will eventually, when self-possessed as such, succumb to insanity itself.

[3] “Further, in this state of samadhi the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. With no new realization immediately ahead of him, and having lost his former status as well, his power of wisdom weakens, and he enters an impasse in which he sees nothing to anticipate. Suddenly a feeling of tremendous monotony and thirst arises in his mind. At all times he is fixated in memories that do not disperse. He mistakes this for a sign of diligence and vigor.

“This is called `cultivating the mind but losing oneself due to a lack of wisdom.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of memory will enter his mind. Day and night it will hold his mind suspended in one place. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

This is when one can go “only so-far” in their spiritual discipline and no further. Indeed, this is a lack of proper discernment, somehow thinking that they have arrived when in fact, they are only in the early initiation-stages of their spiritual journey and development. They can easily fall prey to the Demon of Mental-Impasse, a demon who can devour the planted gotra-seed of the Bodhichild—much like in Jesus’ Parable of the Sower, when seed, planted on good (Dharma) soil never takes root and just withers-away through various intellectual meanderings and is later gobbled-up by a passing predator.

[4] “Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. His wisdom becomes stronger than his samadhi, and he mistakenly becomes impetuous. Cherishing the supremacy of his nature, he imagines that he is a Nishyanda (Buddha) and rests content with his minor achievement.

“This is called `applying the mind, but straying away from constant examination and becoming preoccupied with ideas and opinions.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a lowly demon that is easily satisfied will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will announce, `I have realized the unsurpassed absolute truth.’ Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

This reveals the ultimate-arrogance—believing that one has already attained Undivided Anuttara-Samyak-Sambodhi. The truth is that such a one rests only in minor-achievements and desires to fool others to the contrary. The Demon of Satisfaction holds full-sway over such a mind. Being sufficiently satisfied with “where one is at” spiritually, foolhardily believing that further study and exploring the deeper-depths of a well-disciplined and ongoing cultivated Samadhi is unnecessary. Such a one is a fool indeed and can only lead others down the garden-path to sure stagnation of spirit.

[5] “Further, in this state of samadhi the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He has not yet obtained any results, and his prior state of mind has already disappeared. Surveying the two extremes, he feels that he is in great danger. Suddenly he becomes greatly distraught, as if he were seated on the Iron Bed, or as if he has taken poison. He has no wish to go on living, and he is always asking people to take his life so he can be released sooner.

“This is called `cultivating, but not understanding expedients.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of chronic depression will enter his mind. He may take up knives and swords and cut his own flesh, happily giving up his life. Or else, driven by constant anxiety, he may flee into the wilderness and be unwilling to see people. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

This can oftentimes occur when, mid-way through the spiritual-journey one senses that they are stuck and cannot go any further—an utter aridity of spirit results, they just cannot bear this sensation any longer and they become possessed by the Demon of Worrisome Depression who takes command of their spirit; eventually they even become suicidal. This is a form of arrogance as well—thinking that no spiritual agency can come to their aid and free them because their angst is just bigger than life itself.

[6] “Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. As he dwells in this purity, his mind is tranquil and at ease. Suddenly a feeling of boundless joy wells up in him. There is such bliss in his mind that he cannot contain it.

“This is called, `experiencing lightness and ease, but lacking the wisdom to control it.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon that likes happiness will enter his mind. As soon as he sees someone, he will laugh. He will sing and dance in the streets. He will say that he has already attained unobstructed liberation. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

This is indicative of one who becomes lost in a persistent stupor of joyfulness. In an earlier blog reference was made concerning a young seminarian who always went-about with a stupefied euphoric expression and demeanor; he would always be about “love and happiness” and insisted that many of us accompany him to downtown Newark where the Sisters of Charity were ministering. He became deeply “spiritually” attached to these young novices of Mother Teresa’s Order. Yet, one night following a drunken stupor he just wandered around the seminary exclaiming how he “wanted to make a baby with one of those young Sisters!” Indeed, the Demon of Stupefied Euphoria had enraptured this poor young man.

[7] “Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He says he is already satisfied. Suddenly, a feeling of unreasonable, intense self-satisfaction may arise in him. It may include pride, outrageous pride, haughty pride, overweening pride, and pride based on inferiority, all of which occur at once. In his mind, he even looks down on the Tathagatas of the ten directions, how much the more so on the lesser positions of Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions.

“This is called `viewing oneself as supreme, but lacking the wisdom to save oneself.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of intense arrogance will enter his mind. He will not bow to stupas or in temples. He will destroy Sutras and images. He will say to the Danapatis, `These are gold, bronze, clay, or wood. The Sutras are just leaves or cloth. The flesh body is what is real and eternal, but you don’t revere it; instead you venerate clay and wood. That is totally absurd.’ Those who have deep faith in him will follow him to destroy the images or bury them. He will mislead living beings so that they fall into the Relentless Hells. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

It’s interesting how some of these demonic-states play themselves out in various zen forums. For instance, this one “describes to a tee” those who from time to time post the most stupefied arrogant replies on the Zennist’s forum—believing that their insufficient dharma-development can somehow “pin the well Dharma-seasoned Zennist down”. They reek of Pseudo-Intellectual Arrogance. They cannot get beyond their shallow mind-decrees to just follow their own obtuse spirit. They even can misguide others to fall into their own “Relentless Hells”.

[8] “Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. In his refined understanding, he awakens completely to subtle principles. Everything is in accord with his wishes. He may suddenly experience limitless lightness and ease in his mind. He may say that he has become a sage and attained great self-mastery. Giving the name and instructions to awaken.

“This is called `attaining lightness and clarity due to wisdom.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon that likes lightness and clarity will enter his mind. Claiming that he is already satisfied, he will not strive to make further progress. For the most part, such cultivators will become like the Unlearned Bhikshu. He will mislead living beings so that they will fall into the Avichi Hell. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

This is eerily reminiscent of what transpired in Tozen’s School way back in the early days, circa 2001. After being bestowed with a Dharma-name, some of these adepts became so totally smug in their assurance that they had already achieved enlightenment that they left just after two months. They arrogantly believed that they had gained self-mastery and didn’t need to cultivate anything more. Truly the Demon of Self-Satisfaction had won the day.

[9] “Further in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. In that clear awakening, he experiences an illusory clarity. Within that, suddenly he may veer towards the view of eternal extinction, deny cause and effect, and take everything as empty. The thought of emptiness so predominates that he comes to believe that there is eternal extinction after death. Giving its name and instructions to awaken.

“[This is called `the mental state of samadhi dissolving so that one loses sight of what is right.’] If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of emptiness will enter his mind. He will slander the holding of precepts, calling it a `Small Vehicle Dharma.’ He will say, `Since Bodhisattvas have awakened to emptiness, what is there to hold or violate?’ This person, in the presence of his faithful danapatis, will often drink wine, eat meat, and engage in wanton lust. The power of the demon will keep his followers from doubting or denouncing him. After the ghost has possessed him for a long time, he may consume excrement and urine, or meat and wine, claiming that all such things are empty. He will break the Buddha’s moral precepts and mislead people into committing offenses. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

[10]“Further, in this state of samadhi, the good person sees the disintegration of the form skandha and understands the feeling skandha. He savors the state of illusory clarity, and it deeply enters his mind and bones. Boundless love may suddenly well forth from his mind. When that love becomes extreme, he goes insane with greed and lust.

“This is called `when an agreeable state of samadhi enters one’s mind, lacking the wisdom to control oneself and mistakenly engaging in lustful behavior.’ If he understands, then there is no error. This experience does not indicate sagehood.

“But if he considers himself a sage, then a demon of desire will enter his mind. He will become an outspoken advocate of lust, calling it the Way to Bodhi. He will teach his lay followers to indiscriminately engage in acts of lust, calling those who commit acts of lust his Dharma heirs. The power of spirits and ghosts in the Ending Age will enable him to attract a following of ordinary, naive people numbering one hundred, two hundred, five or six hundred, or as many as one thousand or ten thousand. When the demon becomes bored, it will leave the person’s body. Once the person’s charisma is gone, he will run afoul of the law. He will mislead living beings, so that they fall into the Relentless Hells. Lacking proper samadhi, he will certainly fall.

Both of these states are akin to one another. The first reflects those who have fallen under the influence of the Demon of Nihilism. They believe that nothing exists after death…that nirvana just equals extinction. Materialistic desires become paramount to such an arrogant mind. The second is its evil twin and reflects the Demon of Lust and Unholy Desires. They become crazed with sensate-desires and control. Those nefarious spirits, like Osho and Rasputin from the last century, are prime examples of such demonic influences. Before falling under their particular-forms of evil aggression, one best reflect upon this passage often.

“Ananda, all ten of these states may occur in dhyana as one’s mental effort interacts with the feeling skandha.

“Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Encountering such situations, in their confusion they fail to recognize them and say that they have become sages, thereby uttering a great lie. They will fall into the Relentless Hells.

“In the Dharma-ending Age, after my Nirvana, all of you should pass on the Tathagata’s teachings, so that all living beings can awaken to their meaning. Do not let the demons of the heavens have their way. Offer protection so that all can realize the unsurpassed Way.

The Tathagata states that constant cultivation and evaluation of one’s spiritual progress is crucial, otherwise one runs the great risk of regression and irrevocable harm from these wily demons of the Sensate Skandha.

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