Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Anger-Eating Demon

Seth Auberon, CC Liu, Wisdom Quarterly; Ven. Nyanaponika Thera, retelling of ancient Buddhist story from the Sakka Samyutta (SN 22)
The hot demon Kim Kardashian absorbs our hate and grows stronger (
Once there lived a demon who had a peculiar diet: He fed on the anger of others. And as his feeding ground was the human world, there was no lack of food. He found it quite easy to provoke a family quarrel, or national and racial hatred, fanning the fire of racist hatred.
Even to stir up a war was not very difficult for him. And whenever he succeeded in bringing about a war, he could gorge himself. After all, once a war starts, hate multiplies exponentially by its own momentum and affects even normally kind, compassionate, and friendly people.
The demon!
The demon's food supply became so rich that he sometimes had to keep himself from overeating, being content with nibbling just a small piece of resentment found close by.
But as often happens with successful people, he became overbearing. One day, feeling bored, he thought, "Shouldn't I try it with the devas?" On reflection he chose the space world of the Thirty-Three, ruled by Sakka, King of the Devas (literally, "shining ones").

He knew that only a few of these devas had entirely eliminated the fetters of ill-will and aversion and fear, even though they were far above petty and selfish quarrels. So by magic power he transferred himself from Earth to that nearby celestial realm. He was lucky enough to arrive at a time when Sakka the divine king was absent.

There was none in the large audience hall, and soon the demon seated himself on Sakka's empty throne, waiting quietly for things to happen, which he hoped would bring him a tasty feast.

Soon some of the devas came to the hall. First they could hardly believe their divine eyes when they saw the ugly demon sitting on the throne, squat and grinning. Having recovered from their shock, they started to shout and lament: "Oh, ugly demon, how can you dare sit on the throne of our king? What gall! What disrespect! What a crime! You should be thrown headlong into some hell, straight into a boiling cauldron of oil! You should be quartered alive! Get out! Get out!"
While the devas grew more and more angry and incensed, the demon was pleased: From moment to moment he grew in size, in strength, and in power -- gorging on their hate. The anger he absorbed into his system started to ooze from his body as a smoky red-glowing mist. And this evil aura kept the devas at a distance, and due to their own anger, their own natural radiance dimmed.
Suddenly a bright glow appeared at the other end of the hall, and it grew into a dazzling light from which Sakka, the King of Devas, emerged. As a stream enterer (one entered upon the first stage of enlightenment), the undeflectible stream that leads to nirvana, was unshaken by what he saw.

The smoke-screen created by the devas' anger parted when Sakka slowly and politely approached the demon on his throne. "Welcome, friend! Please, stay seated. I can use another seat. May I offer you a drink of hospitality? Our Amrita nectar is good. Or do you prefer a stronger brew, some Soma perhaps?"
While Sakka spoke these kind and friendly words, the demon rapidly began to shrink to a diminutive size and finally disappeared, trailing behind a whiff of malodorous smoke which soon dissolved.

The New Hate (Goldwag)
The gist of this story dates back to the discourses of the Buddha. But even now over 2,600 years later, our world looks as if large hordes of Anger-Eating Demons were haunting it. And we are keeping them well nourished all over the Earth. Fires of hatred, greed, delusion, intolerance, and wide-traveling waves of violence threaten to engulf humankind. 

The grass roots of society are poisoned by conflict and discord, manifesting in angry thoughts and words and in violent deeds. There was a time to end our self-destructive slavery to our habitual impulses of hate and aggression. They better serve demonic forces than us.

The story reveals how these demons of hate can be exorcised -- not by more hate but by the power of gentleness and love, compassion and equanimity. If this power of loving-kindness can be developed and displayed at a grass-root level, in the widely spread net of our personal relationships, nations at large, and world at large, we will all be benefited by it.

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