Chasing Demons

Chasing Demons

I ran into this quote online:
“Buddhist teacher Pema Chödrön… describes how Milarepa reacted when he came home to find his cave filled with demons.

First Milarepa tried reasoning with the demons. But they ignored him. Then he became angry and attacked them. They laughed at him. So he sat down on the floor of his cave and surrendered to them. They all left. Demons only leave when you let go of your resistance.”

This does not mean we give ourselves personally to them. It means surrendering our resistance within, allowing them to be as they are.

To explain, we can use the model of the 3 gunas. The 3 gunas are the fundamental qualities of nature. Their interplay is what gives rise to the qualities of all the forms and phenomena we experience.

If we approach tamasic and rajasic demons with the same energy, we basically feed them. We amplify those qualities of inertia and fire.

If instead we come to them with clarity, sattva, they are repelled. I can add demons are not big fans of pure love either.

I’ve spoken of this prior in how we relate to others. If we put up resistance to someone’s energy, we reflect it back, amplifying it. If instead we allow it to be, it flows on through and dissipates. We defuse conflict. (not a skill most people know)

For background, Milarepa was a famous Yogi in Tibet from the 11th century. In a family feud, his mother urged him to study sorcery and use black magic to bring revenge. He then regretted doing evil and sought a dharma lama. Before teaching him, the lama had him build and demolish a succession of towers. The last one still stands.

from The Complete Book of Yogic Flying by Craig Pearson, PhD
from The Complete Book of Yogic Flying by Craig Pearson, PhD

Only then was he taught. After obtaining complete enlightenment, he lived in a now-famous cave (that the demons visited) and is said to have subsisted on nettle tea, leading his skin to have a green tint. There is also a statute of him made during his lifetime that was destroyed but rebuilt. The direct line of the Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism survives.

He was famous for his writing, poetry and songs, but also for his legendary abilities.

He is said to have sung his instructions with a beautiful voice. There are many stories and his biography was recorded by a direct disciple. This included stories of flight, even sleeping in the air, being in 2 remote places at once, or transforming his body. He taught a number of demons, raising them to guardian angels and helped many people and other beings to enlightenment. Celestial phenomena were often observed around him. Just before death, he is said to have appeared to all his disciples simultaneously in many places.

If you think this odd, all of these abilities are described in the Yoga Sutra, including the formula for achieving them. It is only that most people are not grounded enough in samadhi and pure enough to get the full result. But history is full of stories of people from around the world who have done similar, even in western faiths. And I’ve seen many smaller examples myself.

Last Updated on July 8, 2021 by Davidya

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  1. I found some other depictions of him flying online, but most portrayed him looking a little crazed. He was said to have spent much of his life with little clothing even in winter and it was typically white. So the above image probably isn’t too accurate either.

    The book itself has depictions of a number of histories fliers, including women.

  2. celeste

    Thanks for alluding to the Siddhis and giving your explanation of why they aren’t occurring. I believe MMY may have also said that there is too much stress in the system for them to occur. You use the term purity which I like better. This makes me want to purify which then makes me want to withdraw. Thanks so much for supporting the householder way of life. I know way too many people who have gotten into trouble by focusing on purifying.

  3. Milarepa lived as a monk for a good part of his life. But he also lived much closer to the peak of the dark age and it was clearly his dharma.

    A number of the more illustrious sages of near time have been monks because of the group consciousness. But if you go further back, most of the more illustrious sages where householders.

  4. Hi Celeste
    It’s a combination of things. Stress or energetic crud in the physiology. But some of them also require a refinement of that same physiology so that those aspects can function better more subtly. Good integration. And group consciousness can create resistance too, so there has to be still greater purity or clarity to be able to overcome that.

    Further, the specific laws of nature that are active in a given physiology will determine which are more prominent. Some are much more inclined to know past lives or the movement and arrangement of stars, for example. Others to have healing related abilities. etc.

    And then theres the dominant guna. On purity, the word I’m alluding to is sattva. There really isn’t a corresponding English word, so I use purity and clarity somewhat interchangeably. Even if the stress is relatively clear, if rajas is dominant, we’re going to experience the world as illusory and some siddhis will be less possible.

    Also, keep in mind this really isn’t directly about physical purity (diet and lifestyle, etc). It’s about inner purity, being a clear vessel. We’re composed of several layers.

    And yes, on householder – if we try to live as a monk when it’s not our dharma, we will succeed at neither. Living our proper life is the best way to evolve and to integrate what developed.

  5. Gayanee

    Great article David! And your answer to Celeste is an article in its self. I used to ask questions about siddhis from monks in Sri Lanka, try to read Pali translations in Sinhalese to understand these things and would never get clarity. You have so much clarity and simple way of putting it down that I appriciate much!

  6. zen pig

    when I was about 4 and my brother 5, we shared a room with two beds. we were in bed but awake and facing each other across the isle, and I was raised up on my elbow talking to him. the room was dark, but we could see ok because the light from the hallway was coming into our room, and the bedroom door was open.

    all at once, all I can say, is a “Monster” hand appeared on my bed, right next to me. long claws, creepy dark skin with what looked like pock marks all over it. really scary. well, needless to say, both me and my brother screamed our heads off at the same time. my dad came running into our room and flicked on the lights, and the hand just vanished. to this day, (and we are in our 60’s), we agree that we saw this hand. my parents said, that we were just dreaming, or that it did not happen. I knew that moment that the world was much more strange than most people know, and this monster hand started me down the path of wanting to know. so in a way, it made me what I am today, for better or worst! LOL. cheers. zp

  7. Hi ZP
    Not having been there, I can’t say for sure but I’d agree you did see it. What you saw however was most likely an astral projection. In other words, an astral being projected something to scare you, probably as an amusement. At that age, we’re still pretty “porous” (aka open).

    Your fathers advice was actually good. When I was young, I began seeing “ghosts”. I was told it was just my imagination. While this wasn’t true, it did help shut that off and avoid it until I had better skills.

    There certainly are demons but it would be extremely unlikely they’d show up in any way in a family home. The feeling environment would be too inhospitable.

    Another key thing to note – what you put your attention on grows stronger. So be careful what you feed with your attention.

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