Dussehra 2021, is the tenth day after the Nine Nights of the Goddess, Navaratri, when light has overcome the forces of darkness.
It has various other names such as Vijayadashami (‘victorious tenth day’) and is the ultimate moment in the Hindu calendar of light defeating darkness and goodness winning over evil. It is the victory of Durga Ma over the Buffalo demon, as well as the moment Rāma slays the demon Ravana, saving his beloved Sīta.
These myths and legends tell tales of the base aspects of our being. And demons! how many books and films are still telling us about demonic entities!? It is clearly something that fascinates us.
Everyday Demon Slaying
I am interested in the idea of demon-slaying, and I’m not talking Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Twilight, but confronting our demons that play with us on a daily basis.
Those parts of us, some call our shadow, that toy with our minds. Rather than being separate demonic entities, they can be aspects of us. We all have different urges and weaknesses, we succumb to different things at different moments. And I wonder if this is where the majority of our suffering and strife comes from. The not meeting and slaying our blind spots and weaknesses, rather, just playing them out on the daily, pretending we don’t know any better.
In Ayurveda there is this brilliant word – prajnaparadha – it literally means ‘crimes against wisdom’, and is said to be one for the greatest causes for disease. We know we shouldn’t eat ice cream after fish, but can’t help it. We know we shouldn’t eat another huge helping of food at 10pm, but do it anyway.
So what is our inner wisdom, and how can we harness it further?
Ravana: the Ultimate Demon
Ravana is the demon in the Rāmāyana who captures Sīta, leading to a desperate search by Rāma. He eventually finds him and slays him, meaning his consort Sīta is rescued. Ravana has ten heads, each head symbolising a negative aspect of the mind, from lust, anger and pride, to envy and delusion.
Virtue as Our Protection
CS Lewis, in his brilliant book The Screwtape Letters, sets out the ways a mind can be corrupted. It tells of how to keep a mind free from suffering. Not to give it all away, but it’s by upholding our virtue.
In Buddhism, there are 5 sīla, or precepts, that every lay-person is advised to uphold in order to protect themselves from future strife. I will headline them here, but they’re worth looking at in more detail: don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t be adulterous, and don’t completely intoxicate yourself. These precepts are repeated in some form across every major religion. It is not for the sake of being rigid with rules, rather it is how we protect our minds and beings from further negative karma and strife.
And how do we uphold these things? With courage, knowing that we will be protected on levels we cannot perceive if we keep our conduct. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it (Matthew, ch.7 v.14). Because yes, it is sometimes easier to do whatever we want. Succumbing to the urges and temptations of our mind and being. What if we worked a little harder, met the demons, overcame them and didn’t just give into them, repeating the same patterns day upon day, lifetime upon lifetime. If we could all lift ourselves, and that was then mirrored in our communities and countries? I wonder what the world would look like.
“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality” (CS Lewis from The Screwtape Letters, 1942)
By Selina Van Orden