The Puranas — the ancient books of Sanatana Dharma, the Hindu religion — are replete with legends of devasur sangrama, battles between the gods and the demons. In unmistakable terms, they also shed light on the secrets of the inner world – body, mind, soul, and cosmos, they are full of stories of devotion and resolve, of fervor and faith, of good and bad.
Most religions entertain the notion of gods and demons. Even Buddhism, the quintessential path of meditation, where Buddha tried to explain everything as a manifestation of the mind, is not without the concept of Mara, the demon. Various Buddhist schools acknowledge the concept of wrathful deities like Yidam and protector deities like Tara.
The demon may be called shaitana in Islam, Satan in Abrahamic religions, daitya in Hindusim, or by any other name elsewhere. A wise question would be, do they exist? Why do they become more powerful in the night? Why do they feed on the opposite of goodness? Have you ever seen a demon as religious texts sketch them? In broad daylight? Allow me to shed some light on this.
Gods and demons represent the elements of your inner world; the gods are positive emotions and the demons are negative emotions.
Gods represent truth, and demons represent falsehood; the former signify compassion, goodness, and the latter indicate everything opposite of that. The demons may win some battles, even if temporarily, but the war is ultimately won by the gods.
Similarly, in most people’s inner universe, a constant battle goes on between positives and negatives, rights and wrongs, between good and bad. Sometimes, their positive side overpowers the negative one, and at other times it is vice-versa. At times they are able to overcome their anger and other negative emotions, and sometimes such emotions overpower them.
Going back to the puranic legends, Indra is the king of the gods, and the Sanskrit word indri means an organ. It could mean either jnana indriya, the organs of sense — eyes, nose, ears, tongue, skin — or karma indriya, organs of action — limbs, mouth, genitalia, rectum. Indra is not up there in heaven somewhere; he is your mind. Your mind is the king of your body. It alone allows you to perceive and perform actions. Whenever your inner world is in turmoil, if your positivity outmaneuvers your negativity, your god wins, otherwise the demon wins.
The demon within you impels you to do evil, and the god in you prompts you to do good. They are not two separate entities. They are simply two aspects of the same mind, like two sides of the same coin. Next time you find yourself getting angry, when you find yourself getting lured to do the wrong thing, remind yourself that the god in you is losing the battle to the demon. That reminder, that awareness, immediately weakens the demon.
Meditationally speaking, gods and demons draw their power from the same source — your mind, it is a shared resource. So, if you strengthen your positive side, the negative one wanes automatically.
A sage asked his disciples, “I have two bulls in my mind. One is eternally calm and happy. The other one is always restless and indisposed. If the two go to fight, who will win?”
Some voted for the calm bull and others for the restless.
“It depends,” the master said. “The one I feed more will win! Their victory depends on their strength. It is not necessary that one will always defeat the other. However, if you constantly feed the calm bull more than the angry one, it will grow stronger, its chances of winning every time go up.”
If you ask me, it is truly as simple as that. If you feed the demons, they become stronger and emerge triumphant. When you boost the negativity in you, it will win over the positive you. Whatever you feed gains strength, and the stronger tends to win.
Your method of feeding your positive side may not be meditation; it may be dancing, cooking, charity, chanting, praying, playing, anything, something you love. If you spend time analyzing yourself, you will discover your own method. In any case, though, practice compassion and gratitude, they feed the calm bull. You will experience peace and strength.