The 5 demons according to Yoga.

The concept of demons exists in Yoga as in any spiritual tradition. Some are subtle and others not so much, however their invisible fangs are always ready to bite if we are not prepared for them.

Confronting demons was an illusion of mine as a child. I always considered it a heroic and transcendental act. I grew up listening to the stories of my grandmother about the demonic and angelic realms. One time when hanging out with some of my childhood friends we saw a light approaching the river next to my grandfather’s house back in the 80s. It happened at midnight and more than once. It was a red light that jumped from stone to stone to then disappear. I later heard that the red light was said to be looking for the remains of a bible that had shattered under the possession of a demon and was buried underground. I always wanted to escape to the river at midnight with the illusions of confronting it in a heroic fashion like only a child could fathom. However the opportunity never arose which left a bad taste in me for many years.

Later in life as a teenager I saw from time to time several spirits in a friend’s house. Nothing serious just the random swaying of his late grandmother’s empty rocking chair in her old bedroom, and a stain on the wall that changed shape regularly, growing and shrinking like a dark cloud that would reappear no matter how many times you painted over it. Also, my neighbour back in Monterrey (where I grew up) told me about his brother who was possessed at times and required the local priest to carry out exorcisms. Back in Monterrey there were many places where one could (and still can) acquire a wide range of artefacts, incenses, oils, statues, stones, charms, herbs, etc. to prevent demonic energies entering a space… or to invite them in. My grandmother would take me to these places as she was adept of magic and spells, and regularly would cast healing and protective spells on me and performed rituals to keep dark energies at bay.

So I spent my childhood listening about these entities but not interacting with them directly. My closest contact was perhaps when I was in my 20s and suffered from what in allopathic medicine they refer as ‘sleep paralysis’. A phenomenon in which the person fails to wake up completely from sleep and is half conscious, able to open the eyes and look around but remains unable to move a single muscle for a while. It’s a terrifying experience as dreams and reality merge together and you are unable to move, talk, or escape. Your chest muscles become immobile and therefore you have a hard time breathing causing you to feel a deep panic sensation. In Mexican folklore this is believed to be caused by a demon called “El muerto” that sits on your chest preventing you to move and to breathe. This would happen to me perhaps twice per year for about 6-7 years. Thankfully I haven’t experienced one of these episodes in over 10 years now and I believe it’s a result of my involvement in Yoga, Meditation, and Healing since then.

When studying Yoga I came to several realizations about demons and Angels. Most importantly that the scariest demons often live inside us and that the practice of Yoga rather than giving us the strength to defeat and eliminate them, it teaches us to live above them. Light and Darkness are both essential parts of this Universe and equally important for this reality to exist. Learning to get to know our demons, to observe and to understand them is the first step to ascend to a higher level out of their reach. They will never go away or completely disappear, and this is perfectly fine and normal. To get to know them intimately is to dance with our darkness and to embrace it. This can be scary but also a powerful source of wisdom and spiritual strength.

My grandmother once told me: “To leave the mind blank is to invite Satan.”  And perhaps she was right because as soon as I began practicing mediation, is when I have come to learn and better understand about the five demons (5 Klesas in Yoga) within us: avidyā (avidya), asmitā (asmita), raga (raga),  dveṣa(dvesha), and abhiniveśa (abhinivesha).

To read and to know about these five afflictions as a mere academic exercise of the mind is like speaking of the wolf and not seeing it come. It’s what we do with this knowledge what can truly make a difference in our lives. Here they are:

Avidya (ignorance) is the fertile land where all evils are born. It is the force that makes us perceive reality in a distorted way. It’s to consider the perishable as eternal, and the eternal as perishable. What is pure as unclean, misery as happiness, and so on. It is the force that confuses our pure consciousness with a state of false perception.

Asmitā is egoism and the illusion of separation; Us Vs them. That is why we meditate, because we are one, because we want to erase the line between the meditator, the process of meditation and the object of meditation. The moment we achieve transcendental union of Oneness we manage to transcend Asmita.

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Rāga, or attachment. Attachment is the result of experiencing pleasure. This is a form of attachment mostly related to lust, greed, and passion. According to Buddhists, it is one of the most basic characteristics of human nature. Seeking and experiencing pleasure, often from materialism. But it also exists as attachment to more subtle pleasures at higher levels of spirituality. Strictly speaking these are not truly disposed of until Nirvana (enlightenment) is reached, therefore this is one of the hardest Demons to deal with during our Human experience.

Dveṣa, is attachment’s sister. She follows the footsteps of her brother Raga but in the opposite direction. Almost like Newton’s third law. It is the aversion that is created in the mind when the ego experiences pain. I say the ego, because pure consciousness (in its state outside human experience) does not perceive any pain. Therefore, this is a force of opposition that distances us from our luminous reality and constantly causes us to identify and believe that our BEING suffers.

Abhiniveśa, the fear of death. This is a demon that will only cease to exist in us when we can assimilate and trust that our BEING is eternal and immortal.

These are the five demons that have kept lurking around humans since the dawn of time. I now know I’m possessed when from time to time I do not know how to forgive myself. Or when I am afraid to be vulnerable and open my heart. I am possessed when I feel an aversion to seeing the reality of my current ignorance. When I do not just take responsibility for my actions and continue to blame others, and so on. Does it sound familiar to you?

To free oneself from these demons is a life’s work. Healing, Yoga, Mediation, Therapy, they are all tools to help us deal with them to not get so caught up in the evils of these forces. However there is no method or therapy that has absolute power over them during our human experience. The only thing that releases their claws of our backs is the return to the eternal consciousness through enlightenment or upon crossing over to the afterlife into pure Soul Energy form. However remember the forces of ignorance, ego, attachment, aversion and fear of death, are but sources of energy to achieve your life purpose. They can be teachers to help remind us that our nature is infinite.


Carlos Salazar ND

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  • admin

    June 6, 2017

    OMG I love this so much Carlos! Thank you for sharing your story and for the wisdom contained in this article. Love Carrie xx

  • Thank you so much this was a very illuminating read and I must read it again and again, it all makes good sense. Thanks for sharing.

  • Mishy

    June 6, 2017

    Thank you so much for the insightful article Carlos!

    Can you please describe in more detail the link between sleep paralysis and yoga/meditation/healing?

    If one works on their inner demons (those 5), will the external demons cease to bother? I mean, not just because we are wise and enlightened to a point where we are unaffected by their presence. Will they really really stop making an appearance?

    I could go on but just these questions for now 🙂

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