Demon of Eclipses & Illusions – Part 5/9

smoking_demonBack to Theo and his encounter with the tulku. Tai Situ Rinpoche had made a critical point — that those on the path to moksha become the targets of dark powers. After Gautama had slipped permanently out of his slimy grasp, Tai Situ Rinpoche added, Mara appointed certain ferocious demons to focus on hindering those who’d set their sights on freedom.

One such was the demon of smoking; the tulku described this demon as a wizened imp with frizzy hair the color of straw. He could actually see this imp, hovering a few inches above Theo’s left shoulder. The Rinpoche ended by advising Theo on how to get rid of the demon, warning him to keep the instructions private, for they applied specifically to him. (All of this I report from memories of old conversations; I hope there are no serious inaccuracies.)

Unlike the thousands of sceptics who roam this earth rejecting all that conflicts with their system of rationality, I didn’t laugh when Theo related this fascinating experience. It’s always struck me as bizarre that “rationalists” so easily accept that a six-foot-six bodybuilder can be felled by an invisible flu virus, but will banish outright all notions of invisible entities — positive and negative — hovering around us. I myself had never had such credibility problems; ever since I was a child, I had had my brushes with both angelic and demonic forces. Continue reading

Demon of Eclipses & Illusions – Part 4/9

buddha_maraI got a report of their encounter with the tulku a couple of days later. Interestingly enough, Tai Situ Rinpoche had begun his interview by recounting how Mara — lord of death and sensual pleasure — had tempted Gautama Buddha on the eve of his enlightenment.

Being ultra quick on the mark, Mara was aware that this time Gautama was going to escape his oily clutches and permanently transcend samsara. What really messed with his wicked head was knowing that in so doing, Gautama would be throwing open the portals of enlightenment to countless others. In a terrible funk at the potential loss of his power over gazillions of lost and befuddled souls, Mara unleashed his army of demons on the brilliant meditator, seated calmly beneath the spreading bodhi tree.

Like Satan, Mara is a seasoned antagonist who has plumbed the essence of the human heart and devised an arsenal of lethal tactics to crumble the defenses of even the most committed spiritual warrior. Mara began his assault by promising Gautama prominence and pleasure if he gave up his quest for enlightenment. Mixed in with these enticements were dire warnings about the consequences of Gautama shying away from his duties as a prince. Continue reading

Demon of Eclipses & Illusions – Part 3/9

dharamsalaDuring my post-millennium residence in the magical foothills of the Himalayas, specifically in the picturesque town of Dharamsala, home-in-exile of the Dalai Lama and a thriving Tibetan community, I made friends with a charming American couple who lived a few houses down the way from me on winding Jogiwara Road.

Theo’s father had been one of those eccentric inventors whose patents had made him rich. He’d left his only son with a trust fund large enough for him to do as he pleased. Theo was a recent though fervent convert to Buddhism, intent on achieving Nirvana at the earliest instant. Dana, his social-worker wife, was a svelte beauty with a beatific disposition who made no bones about adoring her scatterbrained husband.

One evening the three of us sat drinking ginger chai on my balcony, watching the sun set over snow-capped peaks and commiserating over a mutual acquaintance who’d recently gone into treatment in New York for severe alcohol poisoning — his skin had actually turned yellow with toxicity, we’d just heard, and his mind was rapidly disintegrating. Ever since he’d left India several years ago, Bert had gone through numerous such crises. I said I honestly didn’t think he’d make it through this time. Continue reading