Cultivate and Fear No Demons

Master Hsuan Hua

Cultivate and Fear No Demons

When I was young, I heard someone say, “As soon as you cultivate the spiritual path, demons will appear.” I did not believe it and arrogantly said, “I am not afraid of demons at all! Witches, ghosts, and goblins do not frighten me in the least.” I thought that it did not matter what I said. Who could have guessed that soon after my boast, a demon would show up? What kind of demon was it? It was a demon of sickness, which made me so ill that I lost consciousness for seven or eight days. I lapsed into a total coma. Only then did I realize that my skill was far from the mark and that I had failed my test.

Maybe I was not afraid of witches, ghosts or goblins, or even celestial demons and heretics. But I was afraid, as it turned out, of sickness demons. I could not subdue them. I could not handle them. I could not endure their attack. So we cultivators of the spiritual path cannot claim proudly that we fear nothing. As soon as we become self-satisfied and arrogant, troubles come seeking for us.

Demons bring cultivators to accomplishment. This is just like a knife being honed on a whetstone, so that it becomes very sharp. When a cultivator realizes the light of wisdom, it is with the help of the demons. Thus, we can look upon demons as Dharma-protectors who help us in reverse.

Cultivators of the spiritual path with samadhi power need not fear demons.. We need only fear that our own concentration power will be insufficient to withstand them. We should realize that demons can help us along. They test us to see whether or not our spiritual skill is genuine and to see whether or not our samadhi power can endure them. If we have skill and samadhi, then no matter what demon comes, it will not be able to shake us.

We should maintain a humble and circumspect attitude, and be as cautious as if we were treading on the brink of a deep abyss, or as if we were standing on thin ice. At all times, we should be prudent and careful. We should pay attention and stay alert. Only then can we really cultivate the spiritual path.

This reflection by Master Hua is from the book, The Chan Handbook, pdf link pp. 101-104.