“There are always two kinds of living beings in the creation—the divine and demonic. But a demon need not be a huge monster with ten heads and a thousand arms, nor a little red fiend with a pitchfork. In fact, the demons who live among us generally appear quite ordinary.”
Demons think everything in the world is a product of the random attraction of various material bodies. Abandoning logic and good sense, they say that order, by chance, arises from disorder, and that life springs spontaneously from matter.
By Jayadvaita dasa
Demons exist—millions of them. And they live among us, mostly unrecognized, wherever we go. Who are they? What are they like? How do they exhibit their powers, and how can we be safe from their influence? These are the questions we shall deal with in this article.
The answers will not be invented fictions, the products of fanciful philosophical speculations conjured up out of the mind. Nor shall we waste our time recounting tales of chain-clanking ghosts and spirits. The analysis you are about to read will be a scientific presentation based on the words of Lord Sri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, as spoken thousands of years ago and recorded in the Sanskrit language in the book known as the Bhagavad-gita. You may find this analysis enlightening, or, indeed, depending on your sympathies, you may find it offensive. You may accept it or reject it. Our only request is that you open the gates of your mind and allow these ancient ideas to enter for your thoughtful consideration.
The Divine and the Demonic
There are always two kinds of living beings in the creation—the divine and the demonic. Just as every state has two kinds of citizens—those who abide by the laws and those who do not—the state of the universe is filled with two kinds of living beings: those who abide by its natural laws and those who try to defy them. The former are called divine; the latter, demonic.
In other words, a demon need not be a huge monster with ten heads and a thousand arms, nor a little red fiend with a pitchfork. Of course, there may very well be demons with grotesque features and supernatural powers, but the demons who live among us generally appear quite ordinary. Your mailman might be a demon. So might your grocer, your congressman, or anyone else you know. For that matter, so might you.
How, then, can we tell whether a person is divine or demonic? By observing his qualities. The Bhagavad-gita clearly explains which qualities are divine and which demonic. The good qualities include truthfulness, fearlessness, charity, self-control, austerity, and simplicity. They also include nonviolence, cleanliness, gentleness, modesty, and steady determination. These are all spiritual qualities that anyone can appreciate. Other good qualities are compassion, tranquility, renunciation, vigor, forgiveness, and fortitude. A good person should also be free from anger, greed, envy, and the passion for honor. Purification of one’s existence, cultivation of spiritual knowledge, aversion to faultfinding, and study of the revealed scriptures are also good qualities. According to the Bhagavad-gita, these are the best human qualities. Anyone decorated with even a few of them could well be considered saintly or godly, therefore they are called divine qualities.
The demonic qualities are just the opposite. Arrogance, pride, anger, conceit, harshness, ignorance—these qualities indicate a demonic person. Such persons are averse to the principles of religion and to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. They are lustful, and they think that life’s only aim is to gratify the senses. They are unclean, dishonest, envious, and mischievous. Such are the qualities that degrade the demons.
The Killers of the Soul
The lsopanisad further explains the demon’s nature—and his fate—as follows:
asurya nama te loka
tams te pretyabhigacchanti
ye ke catma-hano janah
“The killer of the soul, whoever he may be, must enter into the planets known as the worlds of the faithless, full of darkness and ignorance” (Sri Isopanisad3).
This verse describes the demons as atma-hana, killers of the soul. How is that? According to the Bhagavad-gita, the soul is eternal and can never be killed. Even when the temporary body dies, the soul continues to exist (na hanyate hanyamane sarire). So how can anyone be a “killer of the soul”? The answer is also in the Bhagavad-gita: when the eternal soul identifies himself with the temporary body, he becomes subject to repeated birth and death. Therefore, when one does not cultivate spiritual understanding, when he does not try to free the eternal soul—himself—from the cycle of repeated birth and death, he becomes a killer of the soul. He is killing himself by refusing to accept spiritual instruction about the soul and how it can be liberated from material bondage.
Achieving liberation from birth and death is not difficult, but one must take guidance from a bona fide, self-realized spiritual master who has understood the Absolute Truth. This Truth is conveyed by the Supreme Personality of Godhead Himself in the Bhagavad-gita and other revealed Vedic scriptures, and the bona fide spiritual master presents this Truth without any change or interpretation. Any deviation from the literal meaning of the scriptures makes a so-called spiritual master disqualified. If one learns the science of spiritual understanding from the Vedic scriptures with the help of a bona fide, Krishna-conscious spiritual master, one can cease identifying himself with his material body and make swift progress on the path of self-realization.
Identifying oneself (the soul) with the body is the great mistake of modern civilization, and it represents the grossest ignorance—ignorance of one’s real identity as a spiritual being. The root cause of this ignorance is the demonic mentality—or, in other words, the refusal to accept the principles of spiritual consciousness found in the revealed Vedic scriptures. These scriptures explain that the spirit soul receives the gift of a human body only after passing through 8,400,000 species of life in the evolutionary cycle. In lower forms of life, our consciousness is undeveloped, and we are therefore unable to inquire about spiritual realization. In the human form, however, we have sufficient intelligence to understand our spiritual identity, and this is our primary responsibility. But one who adamantly refuses to accept this responsibility must be termed a killer of the soul and a demon.
The Blind Leaders
Unfortunately, our modern materialistic civilization is filled with so-called leaders who are devoid of spiritual knowledge and who refuse to take guidance from genuine spiritual authorities. Such leaders are blind in the truest sense, and therefore both they and their blind followers waste their time in a hopeless, meaningless struggle to be happy by gratifying the senses of the temporary material body. In defiance of God’s laws for spiritual life in harmony with the laws of nature, such leaders encourage all sorts of sinful activities, such as gambling, intoxication, meat eating, and illicit sex. As a result they make civilization hellish, and in their next lives both they and their followers are thrown into hellish planets. Such leaders should certainly be known as demons.
The Bhagavad-gita further explains:
pravrttim ca nivrttim ca
jana na vidur asurah
na saucam napi cacaro
na satyam tesu vidyate
“Those who are demonic do not know what is to be done and what is not to be done. Neither cleanliness nor proper behavior nor truth is found in them” (Bhagavad-gita 16.7).
Because demons do not know what to do and what not to do, they become involved in unclean dealings. For example, the highest elected official in the world’s most influential country was recently implicated in all sorts of dirty dealings intended to increase his own wealth and power. And even after his dirty tricks were brought to light, he refused to admit the truth. As clearly indicated in the Bhagavad-gita, these are classic symptoms of a demonic personality. As long as such demons falsely occupy responsible government posts, the people in general will not be peaceful, prosperous, or happy.
Cleanliness and truthfulness are basic principles of proper behavior. Unless one is clean and truthful, how can he qualify as a political, religious, or intellectual leader? And this purity must be more than just skin deep. Anyone who bathes regularly with soap and water may be considered superficially clean, but one must also be clean within. In other words, one’s heart must be free from the dirt of lust, greed, envy, false pride, anger, and so on. Because of these material contaminations, one thinks that his body is his self and that temporary material possessions and arrangements for bodily comfort will actually satisfy him. This spiritual blindness disqualifies one for leadership of any kind.
To cleanse the heart of all misconceptions, the Vedic authorities recommend that one chant the holy names of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, especially as found in the maha-mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/ Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Also, one should live in accordance with Lord Krishna’s instructions in the Bhagavad-gita. Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, is the Absolute Truth, and therefore one who follows His instructions is truthful in the deepest sense. Thus, by avoiding the four great sins (meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling), by chanting God’s names, and by following the Bhagavad-gita’s instructions, a God conscious leader can fulfill his responsibility to the general mass of people, who are his wards.
The real duty of a government leader is to govern in such a way that everyone has both proper employment and the opportunity to advance spiritually. Without favoring one religious sect over another, the government must nevertheless foster God consciousness as vigorously as possible. That will make for a happy and contented citizenry, free from the degrading activities of meat eating, illicit sex, intoxication, and gambling. Unfortunately, because demonic leaders reject the principles of God consciousness put forth in the revealed scriptures, the world must bear the burden of corrupt governments in which self-interested politicians exploit the populace.
The Godless Scientists
Demons oppose God consciousness in all respects—even to the extent of concocting their own atheistic philosophies. The Bhagavad-gita explains:
asatyam apratistham te
jagad ahur anisvaram
kim anyat kama-haitukam
“The demons say that this world is unreal, that there is no foundation, and that there is no God in control. They believe it is produced of sex desire, and has no cause other than lust” (Bg. 16.8).
This material world, with all its complex details, is itself irrefutable evidence of the existence of God. From the grand arrangement of the stars and planets down to the intricate workings of the atom, the affairs of the material world are so perfectly planned that they couldn’t possibly exist without the supervision of a higher intelligence. Unwilling to acknowledge that supreme intelligence, however, the demons conjure up various philosophical theories to deny the obvious.
The chief offenders in this respect are the materialistic scientists, who misuse their God-given intelligence to contend that there is no God in control of the cosmic manifestation. They have many theories about the creation of the universe—all of them fantastic, and all of them foolish and implausible. According to one such theory, everything began from a concentrated mass of gases. According to another, everything began from atomic interactions. Other theories postulate that vast clouds of cosmic dust coagulated to form planets. But where have the gases, the atoms, or the cosmic dust come from? The demons cannot answer. And no wonder! As the Encyclopedia Britannica admits, “It should be emphasized that no theory of the origin of the solar system has as yet won general acceptance. All involve highly improbable assumptions. But the difficulty is in trying to find a theory with any degree of probability at all.” Thus, with such “highly improbable” theories the demons try to deny God as the origin and controller of the universe.
The Bhagavad-gita emphasizes not only that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krishna, has generated the material elements, but also that He controls the material nature in all phases of creation, maintenance, and dissolution. But despite their sharp, inquisitive minds, the materialistic scientists cannot understand this fact, because their so-called intelligence has been stolen by illusion. As Krishna says in the Bhagavad-gita, “The foolish demons, who are the lowest among men, do not surrender to Me, for their intelligence has been plundered by My illusory energy” (Bg. 7.15).
Having failed to concoct any plausible theory to discredit the Supreme Personality of Godhead as the origin of the universe, the demonic scientists (as if to add insult to injury) also put forward godless propaganda about the origin of life. Abandoning logic and good sense, the demons say that order, by chance, arises from disorder, and that life springs spontaneously from matter. For example, according to one scenario for the creation of life, billions of years ago the earth spun off from the sun. Over many millions of years, the earth gradually cooled, and various elements interacted to create the earth’s atmosphere and oceans. By chance some of these elements formed a “primordial chemical broth” of amino acids. Then, again by chance, various kinds of radiation stimulated this broth to give rise to organic chemicals, such as proteins. As a result of further coincidences too complicated to explain here, these proteins (with a little help from some accidental thunderbolts, or some other unknown cause) finally changed into living organisms.
This is supposed to be a highly evolved, sophisticated theory—made possible by the latest advances in scientific knowledge—but in fact it is the same demonic philosophy described in the Bhagavad-gita five thousand years ago: aparaspara-sambhutam kim anyat kama-haitukam: “The demons believe that everything in this world is a product of the random attraction of various material bodies” (Bg. 16.8). Foolish demons, although sometimes honored as great scientists and philosophers, do not properly understand the workings of the material world because they do not know the difference between matter and spirit. They try to explain everything in terms of matter, and therefore they are materialists of the most blatant sort.
Even an ordinary person, however, if he uses his common sense, can see the difference between matter and spirit. For example, he need only consider the difference between a living body and a dead body. Once our spiritual master, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, addressed a meeting of students and faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He began by saying, “This is a great university, and you have many different departments for study and research—engineering, chemistry, and so on. But do you know the difference between a living body and a dead body?” No answer. That was something their technology hadn’t gotten around to. They had only the haziest notions: in a dead body the heart isn’t beating, the dead body has stopped breathing, and so on. Huge buildings, thousands of students, millions of dollars—but no common sense.
The difference between a living body and a dead body, His Divine Grace explained, is that the living body has consciousness. When a child is born dead, what’s missing? All the organs are intact. All the necessary organic chemicals are present in abundance. Nothing has been ruptured or destroyed. The cells have not yet begun to deteriorate. Why, then, can’t the dead child be brought back to life? The answer is that consciousness is not a product of matter and is therefore beyond the purview of material science.
This consciousness, which is the essential, nonmaterial element within the body, can never be understood by a demon. A doctor may artificially make the heart beat or the lungs pump air, but he cannot artificially create consciousness. There is no way that he can inject consciousness into a body which has died. Consciousness is spiritual, and no one can ever create it by any combination of material elements.
Of course, the demons may boast that they are “just on the verge” of creating life, but theseare empty words, like the promise of a bankrupt man to pay a huge sum of money with a post-dated check. Suppose someone says, “Right now I have no money, but in a few days I’ll be rich, so let me pay you with a post-dated check.” Will any intelligent person accept it? Of course not. First get the money, then come back and purchase what you want. Similarly, why should we believe the so-called scientists who boast that they can create life? So far, they haven’t been able to create even an ant or a tiny germ, nor can they point to even a single instance in which a living organism has been spontaneously created from matter. Yet they are proud of their hypothetical explanations of how life came from matter, and they have the unscientific brashness to boast that they can create life in their laboratories. It’s time for us to stop accepting these sophisticated braggarts as scientists and recognize them for what they are—demonic rascals who are squandering their God-given intelligence and public-given funds to fight God consciousness and promote utter materialism as the Absolute Truth.