‘Onmyoji’ On The Origins Of Demons

A man suppresses jealousy that grows insidously over time, somewhat pretending in bad faith to himself and others that it does not exist, as if life is a bed of roses. One night, when tending flowers in a garden, he hears a voice urging him to attack the one jealous of. He looks at the flowers, wondering if there is a flower demon somewhere. Nothing seemed unusual, but he catches a reflection of the demon’s face in a stream talking to him. He backs off in fear and tries to tell off the voice.

Eventually, he sprouts a horn filled with the three poisons of desire (greed), hatred (rage) and ignorance (delusion), as if the demon has half-possessed him. There was the belief that if one sprouts two horns, that person would have become a demon. He becomes as if split in personality, speaking in two voices, as the harsh demon and as his mild normal self. The two versions contradict each other, but with the demon becoming increasingly assertive, the human side decreased in certainty.

He then does the truly demonic, by killing the one jealous of. His horns double, as if having lost his humanity. But he regrets and repents. The horns disappear when he realises the demon was inner, born in him. It was not outer, as a possessing entity. With deeper reflection and taking responsibility in good faith, he exorcises his inner demon and his outer form humanises again. Indeed, even if possessed by another, one has to be aligned first. Those who do not demonise do not become demons too.

If only it is so easy, to know if one is ‘demonising’, by seeing if there are horns growing, and to sever them should they arise. The real dehorning has to be internal, genuinely done. Actually, it is indeed possible to check with one’s reflection, provided that one is sufficiently mindful and honest, unlike the man at first. Look at your face in the mirror every night for a few seconds, as a form of reflection at the end of each day. Look deep into your eyes especially, without strain, naturally. Are they shimmering with greed, burning with hatred, and/or dulling with delusion?

As ‘our facial appearances due to our mindstates arise’ (相由心生), how we look outside does reflect how we are inside to some extent. The catch though, is that subtle thoughts can shape our appearances very subtly, taking some time to be more obvious. Thus, the nightly reflection makes sense. Has the day transpired made you more evil or good? Were experiences of the day interpreted for better or worse? Is your physical reflection not your mental reflection too? Catch your inner demons before they take form fully!

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