Dealing WIth Angels (Devas) on the Spiritual Path
This information is excerpted from the book, Meditation Case Studies:
The Buddhist sutras say that within a Bodhisattva’s body even a single pore can contain innumerable other sentient beings cultivating to enlightenment, which is simply to prepare you for the truth that other sentient beings must enter your body to transform its Qi channels at the advanced stages of the spiritual path. Obviously, most people aren’t mature enough for these teachings which is why they are provided through stories and analogies. Nevertheless, Taoism also says that our internal body is like its own little world of denizens, and inhabited by spirits or “worms” that reside within the channels. The Indian tantric yoga paths also show pictures of male and female devas (Bodhisattvas) residing at each of the chakras to either open or regulate the Qi flow within the human body. They usually hold various instruments in their hands symbolizing that they help open the Qi channels using various techniques, the process producing warmth.
Most individuals are entirely oblivious to the actualities of the process going on (the deva involvement) until their body is finally totally transformed by Qi and they finally can generate an independent yin shen, subtle body, impure illusory body, deva body or deity body. At that time there is a big party involving all the devas and Buddhas who helped you, and you are taught the reasons why for many events and sufferings you underwent.
This was excerpted from Meditation Case Studies:
As the Qi channels are being opened, practitioners will often see all sorts of unusual illusory experiences through waking visions, during meditation or through dreams that are provided by such beings to symbolically indicate what is going on. Those beings (devas) are usually practicing their mental projection skills such that many of the visions carry no real meaning at all.
While the illusory visions follow no set pattern, some types of symbolic commonly appear across different traditions due to having shared concepts. However the symbolic representations are not necessarily consistent from one school, tradition, country or generation to the next. Thus a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner will usually experience different visions than a Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu or Taoist because of the different mental material available within the practitioner’s memories. Many types of the aspirant’s memories are also brought to the surface during this process in order to help the practitioner make progress.
Most individuals are too immature to handle the truth behind these events, which is that beings with bodies of subtle Qi will enter your own body (especially the brain, known as Vimalakirti’s room) to help you open up Qi channels, so this true esoteric explanation is not taught to the immature or mentally unstable. Such teachings are considered “secret,” which only means most people don’t know them. They are not taught to cultivation practitioners who lack wisdom, maturity, merit and adequate preparation. However, cultivation artwork and stories across the world helps prepare students for this truth.
This information is also the secret basis of the heavenly dan (medicine) method described by Taoism where devas are asked to help you to transform your physical body quickly, and is the meaning of spiritual “blessings” within other religions.
During advanced stages of Qi transformation, such as the kundalini awakening that opens all the major meridians described in Taoism, Vajrayana or Nath Yoga, one will also experience many “Deva Mara” emotional testings. Bodhisattva devas will provoke particular emotional responses in practitioners, or produce false visions, to show other devas how this is done, especially how to create thoughts. They also want your Yin Qi or Yang Qi to arise. In this way they will see which Qi channels are open or blocked (so they can help clear obstructions).
These types of mental experience are called a “trial” or “tribulation” (sometimes even “torture” or “trickery”) and the process can last for years as practitioners work to open up all their Qi channels. The process is usually overseen by the unseen masters of your tradition and other saints and sages, but it is still difficult at best because the devas cannot control themselves at times due to their joy at being able to play with your mind and test themselves against each other. Buddhism simply calls this a stage of cleansing and harmonization of the four elements of the body, which also means the opening the body’s Qi channels and chakras.
This troublesome process of breaking away from attachment to the form and sensation skandhas to generate a subtle deva body (cultivating all your Qi channels to create an etheric body double of Qi called the subtle body) takes years to complete after the major Qi channels are first opened during a multi-day kundalini awakening (which usually lasts about three months or “100 days”). A person going through this, which happens past the initial kundalini awakening, will then be tested over and over again on many types of experiences (greed, lust, power, anger, fame, self-preservation, etc.) over this time to see whether they still cling to them in consciousness and to see which Qi channel circulations must still be opened to generate a deity body; different emotions give rise to different types of Qi flow within the body that must be observed.
Practitioners at these levels are often put through various visionary and auditory experiences that they will often mistakenly attribute to devils and demons (ex. common in Christianity) while they are actually helpful devas and masters in disguise. You usually need to go through this process for twelve years before a subtle body can emerge after the true kundalini awakening is first experienced, and masters never speak about the process in order not to frighten practitioners.
The Bodhisattva devas and dharma protectors helping you to attain the deva body in this way, which is the first step towards the purified sambhogakaya Reward body that is the fifth body in a series, are non-sectarian by nature. They equally help practitioners of all schools and religions accomplish the task of Qi channel transformations by dissolving Qi blockages and opening channels. This process is symbolized by poking instruments held in the hands of deities, such as axes, that can physically cut away at Qi channel restrictions.
As more and more Qi channels open and better Qi flow circulation through more body sections becomes established, a practitioner can achieve higher stages of mental emptiness during meditation since thoughts and Qi flow are connected. The net result of transforming the inner subtle (Qi) and physical bodies is greater mental clarity, but only if the practitioner learns to transcend any clinging identification with the coarse physical body by centering themselves in a transcending, more subtle or emptier consciousness that we refer to as emptiness. If you center yourself in an overarching bodiless consciousness like space, instead of clinging to the material body, this is one way to quickly detach from the physical body and start mastering the subtle body.
Without the helpful interventions by devas going inside you to open your Qi channels, the next best way to accomplish this progress is through advanced pranayama, Nyasa, nei-gong, visualization and yogic practices. Basically, any form of intensive nei-gong or internal energy work will help, including special forms of sexual cultivation to excite and then move your internal energies that will open Qi channels, but those methods are considered secret or restricted because of the potential for abuse.
The Bodhisattva devas who help in these efforts often masquerade as many types of beings when working on your channels. For instance, the battles of St. Anthony of the Desert with the “devil,” the struggles of St. Seraphim of Sarov (Russian Orthodox Church), or the visions of Padre Pio where “the devil” appeared to him as young girls who danced naked, as a guardian angel, as the pope or young friend of the monks, and so on all belong to this type of deva assistance. The testing of Abraham, and the visions Master Papaji had of playing with Krishna (and Namdev playing with the Deity Vithoba) also belong to this type of interaction, as do the internal voices heard by Socrates.
The Vajrayana Buddhism visions that correspond to the opening of the chakras and channels are also fictitious illusions provided by heavenly beings too, as were all of the visions reported in the Old Testament. Practitioners rarely pause to realize that, lacking superpowers, they cannot actually “see” these visions from their own capabilities, but are being given the illusory (untrue) visions by the Bodhisattva devas (angels, dakinis, guardian spirits, dharma protectors, etc.) who are playfully testing out their powers or using them to guide and encourage people along the path. There are all sorts of reasons to give people visions. The methodology that Bodhisattvas chose to help you depends upon how much cultivation work you have done, what you have studied, what exists within your memories, your karma and your degree of merit and wisdom.
Only when someone is put through these strong emotional experiences and temptations (sensation skandha experiences which strongly move the inner subtle body of Qi) posed through various forms of testing trickery—such as being told to pluck out your eye or sacrifice your son on an altar to God (Abraham)—can heavenly beings cause your Yin Qi and Yang Qi to arise so that they can more easily go about opening your Qi channels. They often make mistakes, but the general attempt is to help practitioners open the channels in their subtle Qi body that Hindus also call the pranayama kosha.
When all the channels in the subtle body open this can finally result in a yin shen or deity body achievement where the astral spirit, or subtle body, can freely leave the physical body at will. Hence Buddhism calls it a “will-born” body as well as an “illusory body” since humans cannot see this body composed of Qi and it still isn’t your true nature. This is the first initial fruit of the spiritual path, and makes you an individual with two bodies tied together – an earthly and heavenly Qi body. In Taoism the individual has become an “Immortal” while in Christianity they have now become a saint. In eastern schools they have now become a master, guru or “Arhat” at the very lowest (first) stage of spiritual attainment.
This entire channel purification process, which is only experienced by advanced kundalini practitioners, typically starts with the strongest emotional responses that are connected with survival issues, and then proceeds to more subtle emotional states. If someone has done enough bodywork or yoga such that their many muscle Qi channels have already been opened, it is much easier to attain the yin shen deity body when you perform spiritual energy practices on top of that. That is why yoga, Pilates and other full body stretching exercises are extremely helpful to spiritual cultivation. Even so, you must still work hard at cultivation practices to open up all your Qi channels.
Only by practicing mantra and meditation can you even begin to open your Qi channels. Holding onto a state of concentration, such as by cultivating the four bodiless immeasurables (a mind of infinite love, compassion, joy or equanimity) that cause you to transcend the normal attachments you make to your physical body, is another method taught in a variety of spiritual schools to help in this accomplishment, as is mantra recitation.
Devas are usually trying to help human beings open up their channels all the time, such as by helping those who are sick, but the greatest assistance is usually given to spiritual practitioners. Such assistance goes by a different name in each tradition, and the help you receive depends upon your merit, wisdom, stage of progress and your degree of practice effort.
In the fifteenth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, Shakyamuni Buddha even revealed countless Bodhisattvas who had been cultivating within the earth, unbeknownst to others, which symbolizes the unrecognized help devas gives us internally to open the Qi channels within our physical bodies (symbolized by the Earth). The symbol of Bodhisattvas living within the earth only becomes clear to people who are working on cultivating their internal Qi channels and who start receiving this assistance, which people pray for in various traditions.
Not much is ever explained about this topic except in the Vajrayana (Esoteric), Taoist or Nath/tantric yoga schools that focus on transforming the physical body (its chakras and Qi channels) in the quickest ways possible. What people don’t normally realize is that if you only focus on transforming the body and its chakras/channels - which is the common mindset of Taoist, Nath, Kaula, Vajrayana, yoga, martial arts and other form-emphasis practitioners - then your cultivation results will be limited. However, if you focus on cultivating emptiness along with your Qi life force and physical body – by centering yourself in a transcending witnessing state that detaches from your body and sees thoughts without attaching to them - then you can eventually quickly clear all the obstructed Qi channels in your body and become able to attain samadhi and the Tao.
At the lower stages of the path, mind (consciousness) and Qi are linked, so the Qi energy channels have to open for you to be able to attain samadhi. At the level of the Tao (enlightenment), however, you become independent of the vibrations of the Qi energies within the channels and how they interact with thoughts. It is so hard to cultivate enlightenment that many devas, dharma protectors and Bodhisattvas have undertaken the vow to help human practitioners along these lines so that they can finally achieve enlightenment. Those are the ones normally helping you.
If you have wisdom, many of the mara states of delusion can be tests to see what you still desire within your deepest mind. As long as you do not indulge in the temptations thrust upon you, the testing can help you make progress if you transcend everything via a transcending detachment. Or, the testing can defeat you. It is good to have an enlightened master during this process - seek one so that you have someone to protect you and don’t run into trouble.
It is only after enlightenment (attaining the Supra-Causal body that transcends the physical, subtle and Mental bodies) that the deva maras can trouble you no more. In other words, if you attain the Supra-Causal body, Dharma body or Clear Light body of enlightenment you can transcend all the machinations of the lower-level devas as they play with your thoughts, open your Qi channels and go about their training practices in your body. Before that accomplishment you cannot be free of their influences. You can talk about this in terms of consciousness or skandhas and bodies with the point being that you are not free of the lower skandhas or bodies until you attain the volition skandha and Supra-Causal body, which means enlightenment.
The states of illusion Buddha mentioned within the Surangama Sutra not only accompany the opening up of your Qi channels, but represent tests that help you to learn how to transcend your lusts and desires (predispositions). Do not drop into them with indulgence despite the provocation of devas. The stories of Jesus, Buddha, Yeshe Tsogyel and many others provide examples of the trials and tribulations (temptations caused by devas) people go through when freeing themselves from the form, sensation and conception skandhas (meaning when they are generating the subtle and Causal bodies) and subject to the influence of devas.
The Biblical story of Abraham almost sacrificing his son due to heavenly instructions, and the twelve hardships of Naropa, both illustrate the types of emotional testing experiences you might be put through during the channel purification process. During such events you don’t know what’s going on (a miar) and will actually believe in the illusions presented to you. What you go through only has relevance for you and nobody else, but unfortunately people interpret these experiences wrongly and some of these incorrect explanations have been made into the basis of religion and culture.
Inner deva denizens, as Indian tantric kundalini pictures illustrate, will always provide auditory and visual illusions to test practitioners while training and working on opening their Qi channels. The illusions/delusions they put you through are connected to the “testing phase” you often read about regarding the great founders of religions. They are often the reason people experience strong emotional trials, “eruptions” and temptations, or hear internal voices such as in the stories of Socrates, Huike, Yeshe Tsogyel, and Abraham.