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宣化上人講 Commentary by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua
國際譯經學院記錄 Translated by the International Translation Institut








Venerable Master: Monkey was only a demon, and there are many other cases which are similar. Monkey probably ran into trouble as he was cultivating at the level of the thinking skandha, and so as a result, he turned into a monkey that could ascend to the heavens and burrow into the earth. He is exactly what the Shurangama Sutra calls “a representative of the demons.” As for other demons, when they are tired of being demons, of course they will also take refuge in the Triple Jewel. With a single thought of reflecting within and awakening, they can become disciples of the Buddha. Before they awaken, they are still demons. The older demons get, the greater their spiritual powers become. The young ones aren’t that strong and their spiritual powers aren’t that great. The older ones have inconceivable strength and spiritual powers, which is why they are called demons. Demons are even more powerful than ghosts. The Chinese have the term “demonic ghost” because ghosts can turn into demons.

Have you heard about the “as-you-wish demon woman”? She had been a ghost in the Zhou Dynasty, but because she didn’t follow the rules, she was struck by lightning. However, the lightning didn’t destroy her completely, and she pulled herself back together with a concentrated effort. Then she cultivated and became a demon who went around taking people’s lives, because she wanted to increase her own power and the power of her retinue. Each time she caused a person’s death, the other demons would congratulate her: “You’re really powerful!” It’s similar to how other officials act toward an official who has just been promoted. A demon’s power increases with the number of people it kills, until even ghosts have to follow its orders.

Later, when the as-you-wish demon woman met me, she took refuge with the Triple Jewel. Thus she was a demon who took refuge with the Buddha. Everything in this world is wondrous and inconceivable. This Sutra describes only a small portion. If we were to go into detail, each skandha has myriads of different kinds of demons. The Sutra mentions one kind to give people a general idea, so that they know to avoid thoughts of greed and craving. If you have no desire, you need not fear any demon whatsoever. If you are devoid of greed or desire, no demon can trouble you. Demons will come in only when they see that you’ve opened yourself up to them. If you always keep the doors closed, they won’t come in.

Demons get born in the heavens because they have cultivated many blessings. The Sutras talk about demons from the heavens, but you shouldn’t think they are only in the heavens. They can go to the heavens, but they are not always there. Demons in the human realm that are endowed with spiritual powers can also be considered demons from the heavens. If the demons in the heavens need them to go there to cheer them on in battle and to increase their power, they can go at any time. Although they are born in the heavens, they still have desires and huge tempers and are incredibly stubborn. It’s just because of their belligerent character that they become demons. If they weren’t so aggressive and hot-tempered, then they would join the Buddhas’ retinue. Those with bad tempers and heavy ignorance join the demons’ retinue.

As for what kind of retribution they will receive in the future, that’s a very distant question that cannot be answered. If they encounter someone with great spiritual powers but are rather resistant to being taught and transformed, they may be pulverized into nothingness. Even if they aren’t pulverized, if they do a lot of evil and fail to reform, if they still turn away from enlightenment to unite with the worldly dust and continue to be confused, then they will have to undergo retribution and great suffering. They may fall among the animals and become foxes or weasels. It is the spirits of demons that cause them to turn into such creatures. They may become snakes or rats, or various other strange animals. These are all transformations of beings endowed with malicious demonic energy. Fierce beasts such as tigers are so powerful because they are aided by a bit of demonic power.

To be continued


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