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The Thinking Skandha
VOLUME 8, Chapter 4
J9 Greed for profound emptiness.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.
Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves to enter cessation, so he investigates the nature of transformations as he greedily seeks for profound emptiness.
He looks into how things in a state of existence can transform into nothingness, and how nothingness can transform into things which exist. He studies the way these transformations take place, hoping to experience a profound state of emptiness.
K2 A demon dispatches a deviant force to possess a person.
At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.
At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. The demon watches and waits, and when it sees a chance, its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma. The demon speaks through that person's mouth.
K3 The demon's words and deeds that mislead others.
This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks emptiness, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. In the midst of the great assembly, his physical form suddenly disappears, and no one in the assembly can see him.
Then out of nowhere, he abruptly reappears. He can appear and disappear at will, or he can make his body transparent like crystal. From his hands and feet he releases the fragrance of sandalwood, or his excrement and urine may be sweet as thick rock candy. He slanders the precepts and is contemptuous of those who have left the home life.
This person is unaware and does not realize that he is possessed by a demon from the heavens. He claims he has already reached the wonderful fruition of unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks the deep emptiness of cessation, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma. In the midst of the great assembly, his physical form suddenly disappears, and no one in the assembly can see him. The demon's spiritual powers cause the possessed person's body to suddenly vanish. He was there speaking the dharma, but suddenly no one can see him.
This is the "emptiness of people and dharmas." People and dharmas are both gone. Then, after a few minutes, from out of nowhere, he abruptly reappears. He can appear and disappear at will. If he wants to appear, he appears. If he wants to disappear, he disappears. He is in control and can do either with ease.
Or he can make his body appear transparent like crystal, so you can see right through it. From his hands and feet, at the flick of a wrist, he releases the fragrance of sandalwood, or his excrement and urine may be sweet as thick rock candy. He slanders the precepts. He says, "Don't bother about holding precepts. That is a small vehicle matter. Why should you hold them? There is no great meaning in it." And he is contemptuous of those who have left the home-life. He says, "Don't leave the home-life. If you want to cultivate, go ahead and cultivate. You don't have to leave home to do it. What difference is there between being a layperson and a left-home person anyway?" That's how he slanders left-home people.
He often says that there is no cause and no effect, that once we die, we are gone forever, that there is no afterlife, and that there are no ordinary people and no sages. Although he has obtained a state of empty stillness, he covertly indulges his greedy desires. Those who give in to his lust also adopt his views of emptiness and deny cause and effect.
He often says that there is no cause and effect. "Don't believe in the law of cause and effect," he says. "It's totally wrong. There is no such thing." He says that once we die we are gone forever. "Once you die, you are gone forever, just like a light that gets snuffed out." He says that there is no afterlife, and that there are no ordinary people and no sages. "There's no such thing as rebirth, nor are there common people or sages. Those are just figures of speech."
Although he has obtained a state of empty stillness, he covertly indulges his greedy desires. Although he's arrived at some sort of theory of emptiness, he indulges in lust on the sly. Those who give in to his lust adopt his views of emptiness. As victims of the demon's energy, the people who engage in lust with him also come to believe that everything is empty and deny cause and effect. They feel there is no need to believe in cause and effect.
K4 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.
This is an essence that was created during an eclipse of the sun or moon. Having fallen on gold, jade, a rare fungus, a unicorn, a phoenix, a tortoise, or a crane, the essence endowed it with life, so that it did not die for thousands or tens of thousands of years and eventually became a spirit. It was then born into this land and in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person. But when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. Then both the disciples and the teacher will get in trouble with the law.
What is this? This is an essence that was created during an eclipse of the sun or moon. When there is an interaction between the sun and moon, an eclipse of the sun and moon, an essence falls to the ground. Having fallen on gold, jade, a certain kind of rare fungus, a unicorn, a phoenix, a tortoise, or a crane, the essence endowed it with life, so that it did not die for thousands or tens of thousands of years and eventually became a spirit. It was then born into this land and in its old age has become a demon. It disturbs and confuses the good person who is cultivating samadhi.
But eventually, when it tires of doing so, it will leave the other person's body. It will cease to possess him. Then both the teacher and his disciples will get in trouble with the law. They will be restrained by the law.
Venerable Master: You must use dharma-selecting vision and wonderful-contemplative wisdom to regard this kind of state. When you contemplate, don't get attached and think, "I'm contemplating." Wonderful-contemplative wisdom functions like a mirror; it's similar to the great perfect mirror wisdom. However, while the great perfect mirror wisdom reveals the actual appearance of all dharmas effortlessly, wonderful-contemplative wisdom requires the power of contemplation in order to be clearly aware. If you can maintain an objective point of view, then you won't be ensnared by such improper views. If you recognize the state, then you won't be turned by it.
Disciple: I have a question. Monkey (in the book Journey to the West) was born from a rock. How did that rock give birth to a monkey? Can such phenomena occur after a rock has been exposed to the essence of the sun and moon over several tens of thousands of years? Is Monkey's case the same as that described in the sutra? That is, there is an essential energy created during an eclipse of the sun and the moon, and it is absorbed by such things as gold, jade, a rare fungus, a unicorn, a phoenix, a tortoise, or a crane, transforming them into demons.
From reading the book, it seems to me that Monkey had a few good roots. He knew that transmigration entailed a lot of suffering, and so after eight hundred years, he started on a quest for the Way. He mastered various spiritual arts and later became a Dharma protector in Buddhism.
Monkey was an example of a good being, but here the text is talking about spirits, sprites, ghosts, and monsters who turn into demons in their old age. Under what conditions do they turn into demons when they get old? It seems that these demons are like bandits because they do evil. Is it the case that some turn into demons while others don't, because some are good and others aren't?
Venerable Master: Monkey was only a demon, and there are many other cases which are similar. Monkey probably ran into trouble as he was cultivating at the level of the thinking skandha, and so as a result, he turned into a monkey that could ascend to the heavens and burrow into the earth. He is exactly what the Shurangama Sutra calls "a representative of the demons." As for other demons, when they are tired of being demons, of course they will also take refuge in the Triple Jewel. With a single thought of reflecting within and awakening, they can become disciples of the Buddha.
Before they awaken, they are still demons. The older demons get, the greater their spiritual powers become. The young ones aren't that strong and their spiritual powers aren't that great. The older ones have inconceivable strength and spiritual powers, which is why they are called demons. Demons are even more powerful than ghosts. The Chinese have the term "demonic ghost" because ghosts can turn into demons.
Have you heard about the "as-you-wish demon woman"? She had been a ghost in the Zhou dynasty, but because she didn't follow the rules, she was struck by lightning. However, the lightning didn't destroy her completely, and she pulled herself back together with a concentrated effort. Then she cultivated and became a demon who went around taking people's lives, because she wanted to increase her own power and the power of her retinue.
Each time she caused a person's death, the other demons would congratulate her: "You'rereally powerful!" It's similar to how other officials act toward an official who has just been promoted. A demon's power increases with the number of people it kills, until even ghosts have to follow its orders.
Later, when the as-you-wish demon woman met me, she took refuge with the Triple Jewel. Thus she was a demon who took refuge with the Buddha. Everything in this world is wondrous and inconceivable. This sutra describes only a small portion. If we were to go into detail, each skandha has myriads of different kinds of demons. The sutra mentions one kind to give people a general idea, so that they know to avoid thoughts of greed and craving.
If you have no desire, you need not fear any demon whatsoever. If you are devoid of greed or desire, no demon can trouble you. Demons will come in only when they see that you've opened yourself up to them. If you always keep the doors closed, they won't come in.
Demons get born in the heavens because they have cultivated many blessings. The sutras talk about demons from the heavens, but you shouldn't think they are only in the heavens. They can go to the heavens, but they are not always there. Demons in the human realm that are endowed with spiritual powers can also be considered demons from the heavens.
If the demons in the heavens need them to go there to cheer them on in battle and to increase their power, they can go at any time. Although they are born in the heavens, they still have desires and huge tempers and are incredibly stubborn. It's just because of their belligerent character that they become demons. If they weren't so aggressive and hot-tempered, then they would join the Buddhas' retinue. Those with bad tempers and heavy ignorance join the demons' retinue.
As for what kind of retribution they will receive in the future, that's a very distant question that cannot be answered. If they encounter someone with great spiritual powers but are rather resistant to being taught and transformed, they may be pulverized into nothingness. Even if they aren't pulverized, if they do a lot of evil and fail to reform, if they still turn away from enlightenment to unite with the worldly dust and continue to be confused, then they will have to undergo retribution and great suffering.
They may fall among the animals and become foxes or weasels. It is the spirits of demons that cause them to turn into such creatures. They may become snakes or rats, or various other strange animals. These are all transformations of beings endowed with malicious demonic energy. Fierce beasts such as tigers are so powerful because they are aided by a bit of demonic power.
K5 Instructions to be aware and not become confused.
You should be aware of this in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration. If you are confused and do not understand, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.
You should be aware of this well in advance and not get caught up in the cycle of transmigration of the demon king. If you are confused and do not understand, if you do not wake up, you will fall into the Relentless Hells.
J10 Greed for immortality.
K1 Samadhi leads to craving and seeking.
Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, this good person is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within samadhi, his mind craves long life, so he toils at investigating its subtleties as he greedily seeks for immortality. He wishes to cast aside the birth and death of the body, and suddenly he hopes to end the birth and death of thoughts as well, so that he can abide forever in a subtle form.
Further, in the unhindered clarity and wonder that ensues after the feeling skandha is gone, now that the skandha of feeling has become empty, dear, and subtle, this good person who is cultivating samadhi is untroubled by any deviant mental state and experiences perfect, bright concentration. Within that perfect, subtle samadhi, a change suddenly occurs. What is it? His mind craves long life. All of a sudden he thinks, "It would be most wonderful to live forever and not have to die." So he toils at investigating its subtleties. He painstakingly searches into its most esoteric and subtle aspects as he greedily seeks for immortality. He wants to live forever and never grow old.
He wishes to cast aside and renounce the birth and death of the body, literally "share-and-section birth and death." This refers to each individual's birth and death. Each person has a share, and each person has a section. What is meant by "share"? You have a body, and I have a body, too. You are a person, and I am also a person. You have your share, and I have my share. What about "section"? It is the life span, the interval from birth to death. "Section" can also refer to the physical stature, from head to toe. And he suddenly hopes to end the birth and death of thoughts as well.
Ordinary people undergo the physical birth and death of the body. A fourth stage Arhat has ended that kind of birth and death, but still has to undergo the birth and death of thoughts. This refers to thought process in which one thought is produced and another perishes in an endless flow. When he no longer undergoes physical birth and death, he suddenly hopes to end the birth and death of thoughts as well, so he can abide forever in a subtle form, a very refined and attentuated form. To abide forever means to obtain eternal life.
K2 A demon dispatches a deviant spirit to possess a person.
At that time a demon from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma.
Right when he entertains a thought of greed for long life, at that time a demon king from the heavens seizes the opportunity it has been watching and waiting for. Its spirit possesses another person. The demon king sends one of its followers to possess a person and uses him as a mouthpiece to expound the sutras and the dharma for the cultivator.
K3 The demon?s words and deeds that mislead others.
This person, unaware that he is possessed by a demon, claims he has reached unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks long life, he arranges a seat and speaks the dharma.
He is fond of saying that he can go places and come back without hindrance, perhaps traveling ten thousand miles and returning in the twinkling of an eye. He can also bring things back from wherever he goes.
Or he may tell someone to walk from one end of the room to the other, a distance of just a few paces. Then even if the person walked fast for years, he could not reach the wall. Therefore people believe in the possessed person and mistake him for a Buddha.
Since this person's mind is totally controlled by the demon from the heavens, he himself is unaware that he is possessed by a demon. He claims that he has reached the wondrous fruition of unsurpassed nirvana. When he comes to see that good person who seeks long life, he arranges a dharma-seat and speaks the dharma.
He is fond of saying that he can go places and come back without hindrance. What does this demon like to say? He says, "In this very moment I can go some place a thousand or even ten thousand miles away, and return in the same moment. I can go to Japan without taking a plane, buy merchandise and bring it back with me. If you don't believe it, I'll give you a demonstration."
He is always showing off his spiritual powers. He wants people to see the inconceivable feats he can perform. He says, "I can go and come freely, in no time at all, perhaps traveling ten thousand miles and returning in the twinkling of an eye. I can go and return in the time it takes you to inhale and exhale."
Not only that, he can also bring things back from wherever he goes. He can buy things and bring them back. "You don't believe me?" he'll say. "See this item? It came from such and such a company in Japan, their exclusive model, only available for purchase on site." Then he shows them a radio or a tape recorder of Japanese make, which has not passed through customs or been imported, and which actually was manufactured by the company in Japan.
Or he may tell someone to walk from one end of the room to the other, a distance of just a few, maybe seven or eight, paces. Then even if the person walked fast for years, he could not reach the wall. He couldn't cover that small floor-space at a dead run even in a year's time. Seeing such displays, therefore people believe in the possessed person and mistake him for a Buddha. They think, "Oh! This is a Buddha coming to teat us the dharma."
He often says, "All beings in the ten directions are my children. I gave birth to all Buddhas. I created the world. I am the original Buddha. I created this world naturally, not due to cultivation."
He often says, "You know, all beings in the ten directions are my children. I gave birth to all Buddhas. Do you know whose sons the Buddhas are? They are my sons." He shamelessly boasts that he gave birth to all Buddhas. "I created the world. I am the original Buddha. I was the first Buddha. There weren't any Buddhas before me. I created this world naturally, not due to cultivation. I created this world spontaneously. And I was already a Buddha when I came into the world. I didn't have to cultivate to become a Buddha."
K4 Giving the name and pointing out the harm.
This may be a chamunda sent from the retinue of the demon in the Heaven of Sovereignty, or a youthful pishacha from the Heaven of the Four Kings that has not yet brought forth the resolve. It takes advantage of the person's luminous clarity and devours his essence and energy.
Or perhaps without having to rely on a teacher, the cultivator personally sees a being that tells him, "I am a vajra spirit who has come to give you long life." Or the being transforms itself into a beautiful woman and engages him in frenzied lust, so that within a year his vitality is exhausted. He talks to himself; and to anyone listening he sounds like a goblin.
The people around him do not realize what is happening. In most cases such a person will get in trouble with the law. But before he is punished, he will die from depletion. The demon disturbs and confuses the person to the point of death.
This may be a chamunda sent from the retinue of the demon in the Heaven of Sovereignty. Chamunda is a Sanskrit word that means "slave ghost," a ghost that does the work of a slave. It also means "jealous ghost" because it is always jealous of anything good that anyone else has. It tries to thwart people who want to study the Buddhadharma. If someone wants to be good, it drags him in a bad direction. It's a bad ghost.
The demon in the Heaven of Sovereignty sends this kind of ghost to disturb the cultivator of samadhi. Or it may send a youthful pishacha from the Heaven of the Four Kings. Pishacha ghosts specialize in devouring essence. They eat the essence of various grains and plants and of humans as well. When men and women engage in sexual conduct a kind of essence flows forth, and that's what they eat. Whenever people engage in sexual conduct, there are lots of ghosts waiting on the sidelines to eat the essence. It's very dangerous.
This is a pishacha ghost that has not yet brought forth the resolve. It takes advantage of the person's luminous clarity and devours his essence. Those who have not brought forth the resolve, such as the youthful pishacha and others, crave the cultivator's bright clarity and his soul. They consume his essence, but he remains unaware of it.
Or perhaps without having to rely on a teacher, the cultivator personally sees a being that tells him, "I am a vajrawielding dharma-protecting spirit who has come to give you long life. Now I've come to give you longevity. You'll be able to live a long time." Or after saying that, the being transforms itself into a beautiful woman and engages him in frenzied lust. "Frenzied" means that they engage in this activity of lust over and over again, nonstop, so that within a year his vitality is exhausted. Under the strain, his vitality is depleted before a year is up. His essence, energy, and spirit all "dry up," because this is too excessive.
The key word here is "frenzied." It's not describing any ordinary occurrence. It's not referring to the usual manner in which such activities are performed. It's certain that the beautiful woman says, "The more you indulge in lust, the longer your life will be. You will attain long life." In his greed for long life, he fails to realize his life is getting shorter by the minute. He's totally spent before a year is up.
At that time he talks to himself. Actually he's not talking to himself, he's conversing with the demon. And while he's doing so, to anyone listening he sounds like a goblin. He's conversing with the demon, but the people around him don't see it. I've encountered this kind of demon before.
I once met a man who was visited by a woman every night. She didn't come to him in the daytime, but every evening as soon as she came, everyone in the household could hear the clack-clack of a woman's high heels on the floor boards. Although they could hear the sound, they could not see her. Whenever the woman came, the man would strip, hop in bed, and have at it, not caring whether anyone was around or not. That was an instance of this type of ghost. Later on, a shaman in the area went to his home to exorcise the ghost. That night, when the demon came, she conversed with the shaman.
"Fine," she said. "You want to cure this man? All right, from today on he'll be fine. But from this point, I'm going to start coming to your household. We'll have a little contest of dharmas." After that, she actually went to the shaman's home, and his older brother engaged in this sort of improper activity from morning to night with the demon. I'll tell you, this demon is really powerful. The people around him do not realize what is happening.
They are not aware of this situation. In most cases such a person will get in trouble with the law, and his activities will be curtailed by the law. But before he is punished, before he is brought to trial, he will die from depletion. While still in prison, he dies from the total depletion of his essence, energy, and spirit. The demon disturbs and confuses the person to the point of death. The demon destroys the person's samadhi-power to the extent that he perishes.
When I was young, I liked to fight with demons. I fought with them until all the demon armies in the universe wanted to gang up on me. I nearly lost my life on many occasions. Because of this, later on, no matter how much I have wished to fight with demons again, I haven't dared to use any dharma against them. Many demons come to bully me, but I always practice forbearance and don't offer any opposition. I gather them in and influence them with kindness and compassion instead of subduing them with the dharma of subduing.
I remember that at the Virtue Society in Manchuria, the dean of the training school was called Xu Guilan. There were fifty or sixty students in the Virtue Society, and one of them became possessed by a demon. Xu Guilan, thinking that she had some authority as the dean of the training school, tried to get rid of the demon. She spat a mouthful of cold water at the possessed girl, but the demon didn't leave.
It said, "Okay, you want to get rid of me? Then I'll possess you instead, and see what you do about that!"
Thereupon, the possessed girl got better, and Xu Guilan herself was possessed by the demon. Earlier, Guo Hong said he had used this method of reciting a mantra and then spitting on the possessed person, and the person had run off. Probably the demon who possessed him didn't have enough power, and so it left. But the demon that possessed Xu Guilan wasn't afraid of being spat on with cold water, and it didn't go away. Then Xu Guilan started acting demonic. She could no longer live at the Virtue Society and had to move back home. The demon came to disturb her every day at her home, throwing her family into a turmoil.
What demon was this? It was a gibbon spirit, a very large one. When it came, it engaged in sexual intercourse with Xu Guilan. It would possess her body and torture her. Sometimes it would confuse her to the point that she would utter how much she loved it, and so on. Then they would have sex, and after it was over, Xu Guilan would be bleeding from her eyes, ears, nostrils, and mouth. The gibbon spirit sucked away all her energy and essence, leaving her paralyzed and near death.
The Virtue Society sent someone to see our monastery's abbot who was known throughout Manchuria as the Filial Son Wang. They had heard that he had great virtue and could subdue the demon, so they sought him out. However, the abbot would always ask me to take care of such matters. He never dealt with them himself, but always sent me to resolve whatever problems there were. This happened many times, such as when the family of Gao Defu in Danangou village was in trouble.
This time the abbot also asked me to go, and so I went. When they informed the gibbon spirit of my coming, guess what it said? "Ah! You wasted your efforts asking him to come. It won't work. Even if you asked Ji Gong to come, it wouldn't scare me." It was not afraid of anything. When I went there, the gibbon spirit came, and we had a real fight! After two days of nonstop fighting, I finally subdued it. The woman recovered. I have been through many experiences such as this.
I'm not willing to interfere in other people's business anymore. For example, although I see that a certain person has an eagle spirit on her, and it is causing her head to shake involuntarily, I'm not going to do anything about it. I act as if I didn't see it. Why? Because I'm cultivating forbearance! Even if someone were to defecate on my head, I would bear it and not get angry. My motto now is that I will not contend with anyone. Guo Hong, you'd better be careful not to stir up trouble in the future. You must have a few good roots, or else that demon would easily have possessed you. This is no laughing matter.