‘The Darkness’ is based on a ‘myth’ that Anasazi Indians bound demons to rocks hidden in underground caves. If removed, they will take the shape of a crow, snake, coyote, wolf and buffalo, before tricking and dragging children into their world, triggering ‘The Darkness’, a hellishly disastrous event. For this to happen, they will try to bring out the darkness in humans, to destroy themselves and each other, ending in madness and painful death. Shamans were said to had communed with, to keep powerful demons and animal spirits at bay, to prevent them from entering this world to wreck havoc.
Demons were said to first appear in more subtle forms, but gradually, as they take hold in a place or person, gain more shape to be their real forms to act physically. (Intense odours of decay are said to herald beginnings of infestation, with disturbances such as the opening of doors and windows to unnerve and destabilise people.) To be banished, the rocks have to be returned, by someone fearless, thus closing their portal of entry. In the mean time, when present in our world, these five demons’ names are deemed too evil to be uttered. Now, whether true or not, what is the Buddhist take on such takes on ‘demons’?
The primary darkness is not an event without. It begins within, with the darkening of the heart and mind, of any human or nun-human being. In the core of the Bhavacakra or ‘Wheel Of Life’, is representation of the Three Poisons of greed, hatred and delusion by three animals – respectively a rooster, snake and pig. As expanded from delusion, there are also the two poisons of arrogance and doubt. There are no animals in Buddhist culture to represent them though. These Five Poisons are the five ‘real’ demons, hidden in the ‘caves’ of the mind, unseen by the unmindful. They are the original sources of all disasters that bring about suffering, even possibly leading to hell.
The demonic should not be trapped in the first place, but transformed, with greater compassion and wisdom. This would require ‘un-demonisation’, to recognise the Buddha-nature of all beings, while also noting subtle manifestations of the poisons in the mind, before they take shape in word and deed. Mere banishment of demons is not the long-term solution, which only resets a time-bomb. As to trap and kill makes one demonic too, the only solution is transformation of the demonic to truly vanquish the demonic. This closes not just a physical portal, but its mental source. Where there is fearless light of mindfulness in naming the demons, darkness will never arise there.