by Jayaram V
Demonic qualities (asura sampada) are the tendencies (pravrittis) that are opposed to God and
liberation. They interfere with our spiritual practice by creating mental
afflictions (klesas) and disturbances (vrittis) and lead us in the wrong
direction (durgati). The demons are the dark
forces of the universe. They are forever in conflict with gods, the forces of
light. God is the balancing power. He makes sure that the demons stay in their
ordained sphere and do not upset the universal peace or spread chaos and terror,
which they love to do whenever they get an opportunity. The demons not only live
in the dark worlds (asurya lokas), they also live in various aspects of
manifestation, including our minds and bodies, as tendencies and impulses. When
they invade the bodies, men lose their discretion and indulge in senseless acts
of violence, anger, cruelty, delusion, greed, pride and lust.
According to our tradition, earth has a great significance in the creation of
God. Liberation and ascent into higher worlds is possible only through mortal
existence; so also the possibility of degradation and descent into the darkest
hells. Whoever from the higher worlds wants to attain liberation, that being has
to come here and take birth to move forward. Therefore, for the gods and demons,
the earth is a battleground. The gods need the human beings for their
nourishment; and the demons need them for increasing their strength. Both sides
are always looking for opportunities to increase their influence upon earth.
They do it mostly by influencing our thoughts and actions and guiding our lives
according to their grand designs.
We need to know how demonic nature arises and manifests in us and how it may
interfere with our lives and liberation. Such knowledge helps us remain on the
right side of things. By avoiding them and staying away from those who possess
them, we can minimize our chances of falling into degradation. If you know how
demonic people live and act, you can avoid their company and save yourself from
a great calamity, for calamity it is to fall into the company of demonic people
or become one like them. We need to know the distinction between the divine and
demonic qualities, so that we develop discernment and make right choices in
guiding our lives towards light and liberation and of those who depend upon us
or look to us for inspiration and guidance. By knowing the distinction between
the two, and cultivating proper discernment, we can lead righteous lives,
performing our obligatory duties in obedience to the will of God. At the same
time we can also avoid becoming vehicles of demonic forces and falling into
depravity and degradation.
Being deluded and ignorant by nature, human beings have the potential to be good
or wicked depending upon the choices they make and the attitude with which they
seek things and perform their actions. Since we are modeled in the manner of the
Cosmic Being (Purusha) we contain within ourselves all the essential aspects of
creation in the form of organs, components (tattvas) and energies. Depending
upon our purity and propensity, we may nurture either the gods or the demons
that reside in us. If we feed the divinities with sattvic food, and good
thoughts and actions,, we allow the divinities to grow in strength and help us in
our self-transformation and liberation. On the contrary, if we feed the demons,
they grow in strength and transform our minds and bodies into virtual hells.
What we do and what we sow within our consciousness, therefore, is of utmost
importance in our lives and our wellbeing. So also the food we eat. If we eat
sattvic food, we grow into gods. If we eat tamasic food, we grow
darkness in us.
The Bhagavadgita describes the demonic beings as
destructive, cruel and deluded beings, who do not
acknowledge God or His role as the Creator, Preserver and
Destroyer of the worlds. Because of their ignorance, they
do not worship Him or offer their respects. Instead, they
hate Him or envy Him. Even if they worship Him, they do so
out of egoism and vanity, to satisfy their personal
desires and show off their power and status. For them the
physical Self is the real Self and the material world is
the only reality. If it suits them, they worship God but
if they deem it necessary, they do not mind to oppose Him
and fight with Him.
Impurity is for the mind and the body. The Self is always pure and resplendent,
even in its embodied state. It is impervious to evil. However if one engages in
evil actions, it remain bound to the mortal world, enveloped in ignorance. The
physical Self and the inner Self, these are the two fundamental aspects of a
living being. By its actions and attachments, the physical self binds the
immortal Self to the cycle of births and deaths. Therefore, for the deluded and
ignorant, their demon, or the enemy, exists but within themselves as their own
being. Unless they purify their minds and bodies and surrender themselves to
God, they will remain deluded and distracted from the goal of liberation.
We find a reference to these two selves in the Mundaka Upanishad as the two birds
perched on the tree of life; one eats and enjoys the sweet and bitter fruit of
the tree, while the other bird, the Self, calmly watches. The tree is a
reference to the body; the enjoying bird is the physical self and the witnessing
bird is the immortal Self. If they are in harmony, peace prevails. If they are
not, chaos and disorder reign.
Due to the presence of impurities in our consciousness, we tend to indulge in
actions that lead to our suffering and bondage. We live with the belief and the
illusion that somehow the laws of life do not apply to us and somehow we remain
untouched by the consequences of our own actions and the transience of life.
With that assumption, we live as if Nature is going to make an exception out of
us and keep us alive for long, free from the process of aging and dying. If this
were not so, a majority of people upon earth would live their lives responsibly
and work for their salvation. Since this is not happening, most of us remain
wedded to our egoistic thinking and selfish actions. Some would even go to the
extreme and become demonic. They give themselves over completely to demonic nature
and bring upon themselves great misery.
Practice of virtue is necessary for our liberation. The rules and restraints
prescribed on the path of yoga are necessary to bring about a transformation in
our selves. Studying scriptures like the Bhagavadgita and assimilating their
teachings helps us greatly to cultivate right conduct and lead god-centric lives
on the path of righteousness. Knowledge comes in two ways and both are essential
to overcome our ignorance and suppress the latent demonic tendencies inherent in
our nature. One is the intellectual knowledge, which arises from study (svadhyaya),
and the other arises from personal experiences arising from regular practice (abhyasa).
Both lead to the refinement of character and discerning wisdom whereby we know
what leads to liberation and what contributes to bondage.
In the 16th chapter of the Bhagavadgita, we find a very
detailed description of the demonic qualities of the
wicked people and the consequences arising from them. Lord
Krishna explains that there are two types of beings in the
world, the divine and the demonic. Divine tendencies lead
to liberation and demonic ones to bondage and suffering.
The scripture declares that those who fall deeply into
evil ways are the lowest of the humanity. Because of their
demonic nature, they are cast forever into unclean and
demonic wombs. Born thus in evil wombs, birth after birth,
they sink into the lowest hell (16.19 & 20). What leads to
such vile nature? Lord Krishna says that lust (kama),
anger (krodha) and greed (lobha) are the triple gates of
hell. They lead to one’s downfall. Those who are liberated from them work
for their spiritual welfare; but those who disobey the scriptural injunctions
and act under the influence of their lustful passions attain neither perfection,
nor happiness nor the Highest Goal.
The Bhagavadgita (16.06) says that there are two types
of beings in the world, the divine and the demonic.
According to the Upanishads, in the beginning of creation
Brahma created demons, gods and humans in the same order.
The humans share the qualities of both and also support
them both by nourishing them. The demonic beings prefer
darkness because of their tamasic quality; the divine
beings prefer light because of their sattvic nature. The
demonic beings perform actions selfishly out of vanity and
egoism; the divine beings perform actions selflessly as an
offering to God. By nature the demonic beings are cruel
and prefer pain to pleasure; the divine beings are
pleasure oriented and prefer happiness and personal
comfort. The demonic beings are opposed to God; the divine
beings obey His commands and follow His percepts. The
demonic people love to spread chaos, confusion and
disorder; the light beings love to spread peace, happiness
and orderliness. The demonic people regard the mind and
the body as the real Self, while the divine beings
consider it a mere temporary construct prone to death,
disease and destruction. The demonic people live as if
there is no life beyond death. The gods are immortals and
last till the end of creation. The following list of
demonic qualities is based on the teachings of the
scripture. They suggest why it is important to tread the
path of gods rather than that of demons.
Lack of discrimination: Demonic people lack discrimination
since their intelligence
is deluded by ignorance and impurities. Therefore, they do not know what actions
should be performed and what should be avoided (16.7). They consider enjoyment
of desires as the highest goal instead of liberation (16.11).
Lack of balance: Demonic people lack balance. The
go to extremes in performing their actions or voicing their
opinions, with little consideration for their strengths and weakness
and in disproportion to their wealth or power.
Lack of virtue: Demonic people do not believe in virtuous conduct. They do not
know about cleanliness; nor do they know about traditions and customs (acharam).
They lack truthfulness. Filled with lust, vanity, pride and arrogance, pursuing
illusory things because of delusion, they engage in unclean actions. They are
self-centered, selfish, egoistic, and narrow-minded and indulge immediate
gratification without worrying about the consequences (16.14).
Lack of knowledge: They hold perverted opinions about the nature of the world
and creation, thinking that the world is unreal, without foundation, and exists
solely because of sexual activity (16.08). Deluged by ignorance, not knowing the
true nature of their essential nature, they take pride in their birth, family
lineage, wealth and religiosity (16.15).
Lack of compassion: Since they cannot discern the truth of our existence, they
engage in hostile and cruel actions seeking the destruction of the world
Lack of stability: Demonic people suffer from countless worries until their death,
as they give themselves completely to enjoyment of worldly pleasures (16.11)
Lack of respect for truth and justice: Driven by expectations and given over to
thoughts of lust and anger, they try to amass wealth by unjust and unlawful
means for the fulfillment of desires.
Lack of respect for tradition: Conceited, arrogant, proud, and intoxicated by
wealth, they perform sacrifices for namesake only out of vanity and against
Lack of devotion to God: Given over to egoism, vanity, strength, lust and anger,
they hate God and envy Him, who abides in them as well as in others (16.18).
Carried away by delusion, they not recognize Him as the supreme and Imperishable
(7.13) and worship Him (7.15).
Lack of respect for the inner Self: Lacking in knowledge and intelligence, and
not knowing His Supreme State as the Supreme Lord, they disrespect the Self that
lives in the human body (9.11). Instead of taking refuge in the Self, they take
refuge in the demonic nature (9.12)
Demonic people of the Age of Kali
In this age of Kali, the world will increasingly become vulnerable
to demonic nature, whereby people lose their sense of right and
wrong and become materialistic and excessively evil. As one saintly person once remarked, in the
beginning the demons used to live in far away worlds of total darkness. Later
they began living in remote places upon earth, where light could not enter. Then
they began entering our thoughts, as our minds became polluted with unclean
thoughts. Nowadays they live very much inside us as we have given ourselves
completely to the dominance of rajas and tamas. They are now not only ruling us
from inside but also from outside as our leaders and role models.
The demons have conquered the world, at least temporarily, until
another incarnation comes. All
religions are completely under their sway. Hence we have so much
hatred and ill will arising from our religious beliefs and
practices. In the Mahanirvana Tantra,
Goddess Parvathi speaks about the evil nature of the present age, which is
- It will be a sinful age, full
of evil customs and deceit, as Dharma will be destroyed, and people will pursue
- The Vedas will lose their
power and Smritis (sacred books of revelations) will be forgotten. Many of the
Puranas, which contain stories of the past, and describe the ways of liberation,
will be destroyed.
- Men will become averse to
religious rites. They will lose morality and virtue, and give themselves over to
evil actions. They will become without restraint, maddened with pride, lustful,
gluttonous, cruel... addicted to mean habits... thievish, calumnious, malicious,
quarrelsome...devoid of all sense of shame and sin and of fear to seduce the
wives of others.
- The priests will live like the
working class. Neglecting their own daily sacrifices, they will officiate at the
sacrifices of the low. They will become greedy, given over to wicked and sinful
acts... Eating unclean food and following evil customs, they will...lust after
low women, and will be wicked and ready to barter for money even their own wives
to the low. In short, the only sign that they are Brahmanas will be the thread
they wear. Observing no rule in eating or drinking or in other matters, scoffing
at the Dharma Scriptures, no thought of pious speech ever so much as entering
their minds, they will be but bent upon the injury of the good.
- Since people of this age are
full of greed, lust, and gluttony, by that they will neglect their sadhana
(spiritual practice) and will fall into sin. Having drunk much wine for the sake
of the pleasure of the senses, they will become mad with intoxication, and
bereft of all notion of right and wrong
- Some will violate the wives of
others, others will become rogues, and some, in the indiscriminating rage of
lust, will go (whoever she be) with any woman.
- Overeating and drinking will
disease many and deprive them of strength and sense. Disordered by madness, they
will meet death, falling into lakes, pits, or in impenetrable forests, or from
hills or housetops.
- While some will be as mute as
corpses, others will be forever on the chatter, and yet others will quarrel with
their relatives and elders. They will be evil-doers, cruel, and the destroyers