The Demons of Mortal Consciousness

demon of mortal consciousness

“Ananda, when that good person, in cultivating samadhi, has put an end to the formations skandha, the subtle, fleeting fluctuations – the deep, imperceptible, pivotal source and the common foundation from which all life in the world springs – are suddenly obliterated. In the submerged network of the retributive karma of the pudgala, the karmic resonances are interrupted.

Pudgala: means “that which continues through repeated reincarnations,” The Sentient, Karmic Body. As the 2009 translation of the Sutra says, “Then suddenly the tiny hidden knot that holds together the intricate net of karma of his individual being during his many lifetimes will burst open, and he will lose his connection to the vibrating resonances of that karmic net.” Upon fully transcending the first four skandhas, the samadhic-practitioner is now beginning to be fully aligned with the Undivided Spirit of Bodhi. When this occurs it is like untying that “tiny hidden knot that holds together the intricate net of [all] karma.” It is the Supreme junction wherein Mind awakens to IT’s own Primordial Stature as the Gordian-knot of the skandhic-ridden Samsara begins to dissolve away.

“There is about to be a great illumination in the sky of Nirvana. It is like gazing east at the cock’s final crow to see the light of dawn. The six sense faculties are empty and still; there is no further racing about. Inside and outside there is a profound brightness. He enters without entering. Fathoming the source of life of the twelve categories of beings throughout the ten directions, he can contemplate that source without being drawn into any of the categories. He has become identical with the realms of the ten directions. The light does not fade, and what was hidden before is now revealed. This is the region of the consciousness skandha.

“If he has become identical with the beckoning masses, he may obliterate the individuality of the six gates and succeed in uniting and opening them. Seeing and hearing become linked so that they function interchangeably and purely. The worlds of the ten directions and his own body and mind are as bright and transparent as Vaidurya. This is the end of the consciousness skandha. This person can then transcend the turbidity of life spans. Contemplating the cause of the consciousness skandha, one sees that the negation of existence and the negation of nonexistence are both unreal, and that upside-down false thoughts are its source.

There is about to be a great illumination in the sky of Nirvana: this is reminiscent of the Pure Luminous Light of the Dharmāta, which we thoroughly covered in The Lankavatarian Book of the Dead series.

He enters without entering: a heightened Mystical-Unitive-Junction, much akin to what St. John of the Cross wrote in his poem, “The Dark Night,” “I went out unseen, My house being now all stilled.” He writes further in his long commentary on this verse:

“Since the sensory part [the Skandhas/inclusion mine] of the soul is incapable of the goods of spirit, it remains deprived, dry, empty, and thus, while the spirit is tasting, the flesh tastes nothing at all and becomes weak in its work. But the spirit through this nourishment grows stronger and more alert…” (The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, Kieran Kavanuagh, Otilio Rodreguez, O.C. D.,ICS Publications, 1979)

It also needs to be alluded to at this junction in the Surangama Sutra, that all that has transpired when transcending these Five Skandhas in Deep Samadhis is precisely what Siddhartha Gautama underwent when he sat beneath that singular Bodhi-Tree—he conquered the effects of all the skandhas; the above passage is an awe-inspiring and moving narration that describes what it was like: a pure and undivided salvific Tathatic-Union with the Supra-Consciousness of All Tathagatas, the Amala-vijnana.

While Buddha Gautama successfully navigated all the skandhic seas, these “50 demon states” have been accounts when the unwary practitioner has failed in this endeavor. The last 10, the Demons of the Skandha of Mortal Consciousness, depicts what further booby-traps lay in store for such unfortunate Mind-adepts.

[1] “Ananda, you should know that the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty, and he must return consciousness to the source. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“He can cause the individual sense faculties of his body to unite and open. He also has a pervasive awareness of all the categories of beings in the ten directions. Since his awareness is pervasive, he can enter the perfect source. But if he regards what he is returning to as the cause of true permanence and interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall into the error of holding to that cause. Kapila the Sankhyan, with his theory of returning to the Truth of the Unmanifest, will become his companion. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the first state, in which he concludes that there is a place to which to return, based on the idea that there is something to attain. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds of externalism.

…he must return consciousness to the source: having ascended the Mount of Spiritual Perfection in Deep Samadhis, the former skandhic-body consciousness is rendered mute as the practitioner breaks-through to the other side of Deathless Suchness; the Immaculate Consciousness, or Amala-vijnana, arises in all its Dharmameghic-Ecstasy.

Since his awareness is pervasive, he can enter the perfect source. But if he regards what he is returning to as the cause of true permanence and interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall into the error of holding to a cause: if the practitioner should conceive of some “Permanent-Source” that is in some kind of a “State”, then that cognitive act is in error. True Permanence is the Stateless State of Deathless Suchness. The samsaric-cycle of causation is really hallucinatory episodes in the clouded-mind. This was covered in our Lanka series:

“This is known as concatenation—essentially meaning the “linking together” of all discriminatory reality—meaning in this context that all phenomenal reality is linked together through the causal-chains of dependent origination.”

Hence, if one links the Recollection and Return to Source as a movement of skandhic-causal identification leading to some kind of transcendent-state, then one is still enraptured and dependent upon the demon-skandhic mind.

The Lankavatara Sutra is also filled with references to those who follow “false philosophers”; the source of this particular fallacy was the Kapila-philosophical school, one that speculated about returning to some form of ultimate-transcendent-state of awareness that believes “all things are born from the truth of the Unmanifest.” The Surangama Sutra also warns here that in following such erroneous philosophies (the Demon of False Knowledge), one is in danger of “never recognizing the Undivided Kingdom of Self”—this is a refrain that continues in forthcoming passages.

[2] “Further, Ananda, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“He may regard that to which he is returning as his own body and may see all beings in the twelve categories throughout space as flowing forth from his body. If he interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall into the error of maintaining that he has an ability which he does not really have. Maheshvara, who manifests his boundless body, will become his companion. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the second state, in which he draws conclusions about the workings of an ability based on idea that he has such an ability. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds for being born in the Heaven of Great Pride where the self is considered all-pervading and perfect.

One has not successfully ascended to the “Treasure House of the Tathagatas” without putting on and recognizing the Mantle of their Nirvanic-Nature. What is being conveyed here is that one has crowned oneself to be “God-like”—believing that their inflated body-consciousness is THE supreme-state and anything under its perception needs to be measured against it as such. Clearly the Demon of False-Pride is at rule here. Milton’s “Paradise Lost” is a prime metaphor for this state, as Satan creates his own heaven in hell.  Also, within the Buddhist pantheon of the God-Realms, the Maheshvara referenced here is “the Lord of the Heaven of Great Sovereignty”—the highest manifested in the Form Realm. What is transpiring is that the practitioner of samadhis has forfeited the Nirvanic Realm for the dominion of the Samsaric-Gods.

[3] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“If he regards what he is returning to as a refuge, he will suspect that his body and mind come forth from there, and that all things throughout space in the ten directions arise from there as well. He will explain that place from which all things issue forth is the truly permanent body, which is not subject to production and destruction. While still within production and destruction, he prematurely reckons that he abides in permanence. Since he is deluded about non-production, he is also confused about production and destruction. He is sunk in confusion. If he interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall into the error of taking what is not permanent to be permanent. He will speculate that the Sovereign God (Ishvaradeva) is his companion. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the third state, in which he makes a false speculation based on the idea that there is a refuge. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana thus sowing the seeds of an distorted view of perfection.

One can become endangered by lingering too long in meditation upon the mortal-consciousness aggregate. What happens is that one imagines their body consciousness to be immortal and that everything in the ten directions really emanates from there. One does not realize that in reality, they are still very much subject to samsaric birth and death. Foolishly, one listens to the Evil One whisper in the ear that the body-consciousness alone is permanent and that everything else is impermanent. This is a false-refuge. One can even become enraptured with the Sovereign Hindu-God Īśvara. The refrain “confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas” appears once again, and with very good reason—because the Bodhipower of the Buddhas far transcends any samsaric-realms and influences of the Gods. Only the Tathagatas have and confer bodhipower.

[4] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“Based on his idea that there is universal awareness, he formulates a theory that all the plants in the ten directions are sentient, not different from human beings. He claims that plants can become people, and that when people die they again become plants in the ten directions. If he considers this idea of unrestricted, universal awareness to be supreme, he will fall into the error of maintaining that what is not aware has awareness. Vasishtha and Sainika, who maintained the idea of comprehensive awareness, will become his companions. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the fourth state, in which he draws an erroneous conclusion based on the idea that there is a universal awareness. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds of a distorted view of awareness.

Trapped within the diseased anamnetic-haze of their body-consciousness and believing it to be all-pervasive, one absurdly even begins to imagine that the vegetative-state is of equal measure with sentient-hood.  This is also an incredibly naive assumption that everything is somehow endowed with Bodhipower, which is completely anathematic in scope since the heightened awareness (Bodhi) is strictly in the domain of Bodhisattavahood and Buddhahood. Vasishtha and Sainika are Sanskrit characters in Vedic Literature who essentially believed they knew everything with a “comprehensive awareness.” Once again, all this is antithetical to bona-fide Bodhipower, wherein the Anti-Bodhi Demon holds full sway.

[5] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“If he has attained versatility in the perfect fusion and interchangeable functioning of the sense faculties, he may speculate that all things arise from these perfect transformations. He then seeks the light of fire, delights in the purity of water, loves the wind’s circuitous flow, and contemplates the accomplishments of the earth. He reveres and serves them all. He takes these mundane elements to be a fundamental cause and considers them to be everlasting. He will then fall into the error of taking what is not production to be production. Kashyapa and the Brahmans who seek to transcend birth and death by diligently serving fire and worshipping water will become his companions. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the fifth state, in which he confusedly pursues the elements, setting up a false cause that leads to false aspirations based on speculations about his attachment to worship. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds of a distorted view of transformation.

One has clearly fallen into the belief that the primary elements, as well as all the elemental powers contained therein, are somehow interfused with one’s own sensual faculties. One even begins to worship, as the Brahmins mentioned here, the elementals themselves, believing that they could attain immortality; this is akin to worshiping the Demon of Metamorphosis.

[6] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“He may speculate that there is an emptiness within the perfect brightness, and based on that he denies the myriad transformations, taking their eternal cessation as his refuge. If he interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall into the error of taking what is not a refuge to be a refuge. Those abiding in the shunyata of the Heaven of [Neither Thought nor] Non-Thought will become his companions. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the sixth state, in which he realizes a state of voidness based on the idea of emptiness within the perfect brightness. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds of annihilationism.

Another form of nihilism wherein one interprets the center of the Supreme Nirvanic Consciousness to be a dark-void—likened to a black-hole from which the cessation of all phenomenal outflows is a place of refuge, again a “state” where neither thought nor no-thoughts become like demon companions.

[7] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“In the state of what seems to be perfect permanence, he may bolster his body, hoping to live for a long time in that subtle and perfect condition without dying. If he interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall into the error of being greedy for something unattainable. Asita and those who seek long life will become his companions. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the seventh state, in which he sets up the false cause of bolstering and aspires to permanent worldly existence, based on his attachment to the life-source. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds for false thoughts of lengthening life.

A demonic heresy rooted in the karmic outflows of Asita’s philosophy. Although Asita predicted “upon the birth of Prince Siddhārtha that he would blossom one day into a great sage or Buddha”, he believed that a state of immortality could be conferred upon his own mortal carcass. Anyone caught up in the flow of this particular mindset doom themselves to perpetual yearning for permanence in the bodily state.

[8] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“As he contemplates the interconnection of all lives, he wants to hang on to worldly enjoyments and is afraid they will come to an end. Caught up in this thought, he will, by the power of transformation, seat himself in a lotus flower palace, conjure up an abundance of the seven precious things, increase his retinue of beautiful women, and indulge his mind. If he interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall into the error of taking what is not the truth to be the truth. Vignakara will become his companion. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the eighth state, in which he decides to indulge in worldly enjoyments, based on his wrong thinking. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds for becoming a demon of the heavens.

Reflective of someone becoming so-lost in their meditation that it becomes a deep-samadhic haze which yearns for perpetual union with all past karmic-outflows on the diurnal spin of the 12 transmigrations; in this wild phantasmagoria one creates with their own spiritual resources a false nirvanic-state that is populated with all of one’s lustful desires. When followed to the extreme, one ends up being reborn as a celestial demon.

[9] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“In his understanding of life, he distinguishes the subtle and the coarse and determines the true and the false. But he only seeks a response in the mutual repayment of cause and effect, and he turns his back on the Way of Purity. In the practice of seeing suffering, eliminating accumulation, realizing cessation, and cultivating the Way, he dwells in cessation and stops there, making no further progress. If he interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall and become a fixed-nature Hearer. Unlearned Sanghans and those of overweening pride will become his companions. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the ninth state, in which he aspires toward the fruition of cessation, based on perfecting the mind that seeks responses. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds for becoming enmeshed in emptiness.

Essentially, this is the state of an “Arhat” who has chosen to go no further than being freed from the chains of karmic-confinement. While not evil in itself, the state of Arhathood is considered to be insufficient and incapable of union with the Nirvanic-Mind. Implied in this passage is that one chooses to remain an ordinary-Arhat by adhering to the demon of pride, i.e., believing that since samsara is now cessated why go any further—like in full Bodhisattvic development.

[10] “Further, the good person has thoroughly seen the formations skandha as empty. He has ended production and destruction, but he has not yet perfected the subtle wonder of ultimate serenity.

“In that perfectly fused, pure, bright enlightenment, as he investigates the profound wonder, he may take it to be Nirvana and fail to make further progress. If he interprets this as a supreme state, he will fall and become a fixed-nature Pratyeka. Those Enlightened by Conditions and Solitarily Enlightened Ones who do not turn their minds to the Great Vehicle will become his companions. Confused about the Bodhi of the Buddhas, he will lose his knowledge and understanding.

“This is the tenth state, in which he realizes a profound brightness based on fusing the mind with perfect enlightenment. He strays far from perfect penetration and turns his back on the City of Nirvana, thus sowing the seeds for being unable to surpass his attachment to the brightness of perfect enlightenment.

One entrapped in the Illumination of their own awakening—believing it to be the final nirvana. This is the Solitary-Sage syndrome; someone who prefers to remain captivated within their own limited understood notion of self-awakening, which in no way is linked to the final-awakening of Nirvanic Union with the Unborn Mind. Once again, it is not evil in itself but is indeed perpetually limiting; it’s like one making the strenuous effort to climb Everest but at the last moment, so near the peak, desires to stop dead in one’s tracks—just contemplating the vast efforts made so far, somehow believing them to be sufficient. One can indeed sense Mara’s influence here—preventing one from that final effort as one falls victim to the last-great temptation.

“Ananda, these ten states of dhyana are due to crazy explanations on the path of cultivation. Relying on them, the cultivator becomes confused and claims to have attained complete realization before actually having done so. All these states are the result of interactions between the consciousness skandha and his mental efforts.

“Dull and confused living beings do not evaluate themselves. Encountering such situations, their minds are confused by their individual likings and past habits, so they stop to rest in what they take to be the ultimate refuge. They claim to have perfected unsurpassed Bodhi, thus uttering a great lie. After their karmic retribution as externalists and deviant demons comes to an end, they will fall into the Relentless Hells. The Hearers and Those Enlightened by Conditions cannot make further progress.

“All of you should cherish the resolve to sustain the Way of the Tathagata. After my Nirvana, transmit this Dharma-door to those in the Dharma-ending Age, universally causing living beings to awaken to its meaning. Do not let the demons of views cause them to create their own grave offenses and fall. Protect, comfort, and compassionately rescue them and dispel evil conditions. Enable them to enter the Buddhas’ knowledge and understanding with body and mind so that from the beginning to the final accomplishment they never go astray.

The Tathagata reinforces the direct element that is essential for advancement along the path of union with the Unborn: constant evaluation through proper Dharma-study and refinement of one’s meditation is the requirement for the final awakening of the Nirvanic Mind. This passage warns that just resting on one’s past laurels is never enough; the journey to the other shore of Nirvanic Suchness must be won at the price of great discomfort (even pain). As we can see in this final overview of the ten-demonic states of the Mortal Consciousness Aggregate, the demons will never give up in their evil intent to forestall and ruin one’s advancement to the Nirvanic Kingdom. It can be clearly discerned through all this that even in the most advanced positions of Deep Samadhis, one can be forever tempted by the Evil One and so one is very dependent upon the Dharma Protectors to help forestall such demonic advances. Yes, the approach to the Great Dharma-door of Nirvanic Enlightenment is riddled with demonic ambushes at every turn. Hence, turning to the Shining Ones themselves is a vitally necessary step in self-protection lest one succumb to those “powers and principalities” of the air who desire nothing more than to destroy you. There are Dharma-tools at hand that can also help protect you from the evil dominions; a subsequent blog will focus on these, like the beautifully protective Surangama Mantra. For now, the following timeless words (the concluding gathas on the Skandha of Mortal Consciousness) from the Tathagata serve as a wonderful protective shield:

“It is by relying on this Dharma-door that the Tathagatas of the past, as many as fine motes of dust in eons as many as the Ganges’ sands, have enlightened their minds and attained the Unsurpassed Way.

“When the consciousness skandha ends, your present sense faculties will function interchangeably. Within that interchangeable functioning, you will be able to enter the Bodhisattvas’ Vajra Dry Wisdom. In your perfect, bright, pure mind, there will be a transformation.

“It will be like pure Vaidurya that contains a precious moon, and in that way you will transcend the Ten Faiths, the Ten Dwellings, the Ten Practices, the Ten Transferences, the Four Additional Practices, the Vajra-like Ten Grounds of a Bodhisattva’s practice, and the perfect brightness of Equal Enlightenment.

“You will enter the Tathagata’s sea of wondrous adornments, perfect the cultivation of Bodhi, and return to the state of non-attainment.

“These are subtle demonic states that all Buddhas, World Honored Ones, of the past, discerned with their enlightened clarity while in the state of shamatha and vipashyana.

“If you can recognize a demonic state when it appears and wash away the filth in your mind, you will not develop wrong views.

“The demons of the skandhas will melt away, and the demons from the heavens will be destroyed. The mighty ghosts and spirits will lose their wits and flee. And the li, mei, and wang liang will not dare to show themselves again.

“You will directly arrive at Bodhi without the slightest weariness, progressing from lower positions to Great Nirvana without becoming confused or discouraged.

“If there are beings in the Dharma-ending Age who delight in cultivating samadhi, but who are stupid and dull, who fail to recognize the importance of dhyana, or who have not heard the Dharma spoken, you should be concerned lest they get caught up in deviant ways. You should single-mindedly exhort them to uphold the Dharani Mantra of the Buddha’s Summit. If they cannot recite it from memory, they should have it written out and place it in the meditation hall or wear it on their person. Then none of the demons will be able to disturb them.

“You should revere this final paradigm of ultimate cultivation and progress of the Tathagatas of the ten directions.”

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