Demons and their Buddha-nature

Buddha nature is a term thrown around a lot, particularly by Zen people and new-agers. But what does it refer to? Buddha nature is supposed to be the inherently primordial, stainless substance that all things have as their original being. Even the worst people and things, the ugliest humans or fungus, are originally stainless and pure of mind. Or something like that.

This builds up to the concept that Ch’an and Zen people throw around (I don’t recall where it originates from) that “you’re already enlightened, you just don’t realize it yet!” which sounds a lot more like new-age blabber than a useful tool for waking up. Realizing buddha-nature means you realize the primordial root of all things. You understand with your entire body and mind (really your mind, since your body is a portion of your mind) that all beings are built upon a base of a primordial crystalline essence.

See, when we say some crap like “even Hitler has Buddha-nature” it doesn’t mean that secretly Hitler was a nice guy and just didn’t know it. It means that Hitler’s causal chain of existence, the potential of his form and being, was superimposed on top of the primordial empty and stainless essence of all phenomena. He could only exist as a result of, and in contrast to, this source. Even nasty or confusing or complicated people are ultimately just complex and knotted manifestations of the fundamental source. When a person can unravel the entanglements that create these manifestations and see it for what it is, they take major steps toward enlightenment or full realization.

The extreme manifestation of this is a demon. A demon is a large manifestation in the mindstream, in the fabric of pure essence that refuses to acknowledge the fundamental source and return to it. A demon creates a stasis, like an iceberg, in the fabric of the mind. A demon is the ultimate manifestation of personal will, desire and potentiality. The reason a demon requires such fervent desire, is because the fabric of existence is always switching between dualities; the gravity of karma is always pulling us apart. But a demon desires to maintain a consistent existence within an extreme duality. Thus it requires immense desire and self-belief, self-love and a horrific threshold for pain.

In classical Greek numerology, 9 is the number furthest from the source of phenomena (the source is represented by 0). 9 is the strongest manifestation in the world of forms and identity. 9 appears in religious connotations as well, for related reasons. 9 symbolizes potent worldly presence and perhaps infinite exponential potential (since 9 is the result of adding together the digits of any multiplied product of 9). So, 9 symbolizes the ultimate in desire and belief.

I don’t know what the popular consensus on the meaning of the term “Buddha nature” is, and I’d wager that my own explanation would make some of the more fundamentalist, dogmatic Buddhists say that I’m going to hell or some such nonsense. But I rarely see this stuff explained very thoroughly. A buddha is the eye of the cosmic mind, the unclouded understanding of all things. A demon is the “hand” or active spring of energy and desire.

Ah, who am I fooling? This post doesn’t get at these ideas nearly as well as Blake did (unsurprisingly) all those years ago:

I heard an Angel Singing
When the day was springing:
“Mercy, pity, and peace,
Are the world’s release.”

So he sang all day
Over the new-mown hay,
Till the sun went down,
And the haycocks looked brown.

I heard a devil curse
Over the heath and the furse:
“Mercy vould be no more
If there were nobody poor,
And pity no more could be
If all were happy as ye:
And mutual fear brings peace,
Misery’s increase
Are mercy, pity, and peace.”

At his curse the sun went down,
And the heavens gave a frown.
–William Blake, The Two Songs

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