HE WHO SUBJUGATES SATAN
Satan, Mara, Angra Mainyu, or the devil by whatever name, who
holds sway over the world and over the inner desires of human beings, is
the final obstacle which must be overcome if the founder is to realize the
ultimate victory. The devil is only a spiritual creature who improperly
lords it over human beings, and hence he inevitably comes into conflict
with those exceptional souls who dare to take their rightful place as true
human beings, the Lords of creation: see Lord of Spirits, pp. 309-15.
Every religious founder must gain the qualification to reveal the truth
through winning a contest with the devil. In more mythological texts, the
founder may be represented as battling a many-headed serpent or
dragon--surely an appropriate symbol for the irrational power of evil. In
psychological terms, the founder engages in an internal struggle to
overcome the selfish elements that cling to the heart. Thus in various
forms, the scriptures of many faiths depict their founder as vanquishing a
spiritual foe and showing the way for ordinary people to do the same.
In all the texts here, with the possible exception of the episode
from the boyhood of Krishna, the founder's struggle with the devil is a
purely human one. Although there are traditions, especially in Hinduism,
where the battle between the gods and the demons can be decided by the
power of deity alone, it is a recognized spiritual principle that it is
for human beings to subjugate Satan. God's grace does not obviate man's
responsibility to deal with the temptations of his environment and the
struggle within his own soul. In this struggle, the founders lead the
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by
the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was
hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God,
command these stones to become loaves of bread." But he answered, "It is
written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that
proceeds from the mouth of God.'" Then the devil took him to the holy
city, and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, "If you
are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, 'He will give
his angels charge of you,' and 'On their hands they will bear you up, lest
you strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus said to him, "Again it is
written, 'You shall not tempt the Lord your God.'" Again, the devil took
him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world
and the glory of them, and he said to him, "All these I will give you, if
you will fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Begone
Satan! for it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and Him
only shall you serve.'" Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came
and ministered to him.
Christianity. Bible, Matthew 4.1-11
Never did We send an apostle or a prophet before you, but, when he framed
a desire, Satan threw some vanity into his desire. But God will cancel
anything vain that Satan throws in, and God will confirm His signs--for
God is full of knowledge and wisdom: that He may make the suggestions
thrown in by Satan but a trial for those in whose hearts is a disease and
who are hardened of heart.
Islam. Qur'an 22.52-53
On their way to Mount Moriah, Abraham and Isaac met Satan disguised as an
old man. "Where are you going, Abraham?" asked Satan.
"I'm on my way to pray," answered Abraham.
"Why then the wood and the fire and the sacrificial knife?"
"We shall be on top of Mount Moriah several days and will use them
to prepare our food."
"You are an old man and you have only one son with your wife Sarah,
yet you are willing to sacrifice him," mocked Satan.
"As God told me to do, so shall it be," answered Abraham.
Satan then addressed Isaac, "Where are you going, Isaac?"
"To study God's wisdom," said Isaac.
"Do you intend to study after you are dead? For your father
intends to sacrifice you."
"If God wishes to accept me as a sacrifice, I am glad to do His
Satan ran ahead to the foot of Mount Moriah and caused the stream
to rise and overflow. Abraham and Isaac tried to wade across but the
water reached over their heads.
"You have asked me to sacrifice my son," Abraham prayed, "but I
shall not be able to fulfill Your will if I drown."
The waters at once receded and father and son proceeded to the top
of the mountain.
Judaism. Midrash, Genesis Rabbah 56
Matthew 4.1-11: Cf. Luke 10.19-20, pp. 314f.; Psalm 91.11-13, pp. 561f.;
Matthew 12.22-24, p. 379; Deuteronomy 8.3, p. 1084. Qur'an 22.52-53: This
passage may refer to the so-called "satanic verses" which were allegedly
uttered as Muhammad struggled with the temptation to compromise with the
polytheists of Mecca. Muhammad overcame this temptation; hence the
revelation in the Qur'an is a pure expression of truth.
From the region of the north, from the regions of hell, forth
rushed Angra Mainyu, the deadly, the arch-devil. And thus spoke the
guileful one, the evil-doer Angra Mainyu, the deadly, "Demon, rush down
upon him! destroy the holy Zarathustra!" The demon came rushing along,
the demon Buiti, the unseen death, the hell-born.
Zarathustra chanted aloud the [prayer] Ahuna-Vaira, "The will of
the Lord is the Law of holiness; the riches of good thought shall be given
to him who works in this world for Mazda, and wields according to the will
of the Lord the power He gave him to relieve the poor... profess the Law
of the worshippers of Mazda!" The demon, dismayed, rushed away, the demon
Buiti, the unseen death, the hell-born.
And the demon, the guileful one, said unto Angra Mainyu, "O baneful
Angra Mainyu! I see no way to kill him, so great is the glory of the holy
Zarathustra saw all this from within his soul, "The evil-doing
devils and fiends take counsel together for my death."
Up started Zarathustra, forward went Zarathustra, unshaken by the
evil spirit, by the hardness of his malignant riddles, swinging stones in
his hand, stones as big as a house, which he obtained from the Maker, Lord
Mazda, he the holy Zarathustra.
[Said Angra Mainyu,] "At what on this wide, round earth, whose ends
lie afar, at what do you swing those stones, you who stand by the river
Darega, upon the mountains, in the mansion of Pourusaspa?"
Thus Zarathustra answered Angra Mainyu, "O evil-doer, Angra Mainyu!
I will smite the creation of the devil!"...
Again to him said the guileful one, the Maker of the evil world,
Angra Mainyu, "Do not destroy my creatures, O holy Zarathustra! You are
the son of Pourusaspa [whom I know], born of your mother [who invoked me].
Renounce the good Law of the worshippers of Mazda, and you will gain such
a boon as the murderer [King Zohak] gained, the ruler of the nations."
Thus in answer to him said Zarathustra Spitama , "No! never will I
renounce the good law of the worshippers of Mazda, though my body, my
life, my soul should burst!"
Zoroastrianism. Videvdad 19.1-7
Genesis Rabbah 56: See the story of the sacrifice of Isaac in Genesis 22,
pp. 613f. Isaac is quite aware that he is about to be sacrificed, and his
faith is tested as much as is Abraham's. Similar stories of demons
testing a person's faith are common in Buddhism: see Samyutta Nikaya v.2,
pp. 283f.; Mahaparinirvana Sutra 424-33, p. 753; Lotus Sutra 3, pp. 441f.
When the future Buddha sat down at the foot of the Bodhi tree with
his soul fully resolved to obtain the highest knowledge, the whole world
rejoiced; but Mara, the enemy of good law, was afraid. He whom they call
the God of Pleasure, the owner of various weapons, the flower-arrowed, the
lord of the course of desire--it is he whom they also style Mara, the
enemy of liberation. His three sons, Confusion, Gaiety, and Pride, and his
three daughters, Lust, Delight, and Craving, asked him the reason for his
despondency, and thus he answered them,
"This sage, wearing the armor of resolution, and having drawn the
arrow of wisdom with the barb of truth, sits yonder intending to conquer
my realms--hence my mind is despondent. If he succeeds in overcoming me
and proclaims to the world the path of final bliss, all this my realm will
today become empty... While, therefore, he stands within my reach and
while his spiritual eyesight is not yet attained, I will assail him to
break his vow as the might of a swollen river assails a dam."
Then, seizing his flower-made bow and his five arrows of
infatuation, the Great Disturber of the minds of living beings, together
with his children, approached the root of the Bodhi tree. Placing his
left hand on the end of the barb and playing with the arrow, Mara
addressed the calm seer as he sat on his seat preparing to cross to the
further side of the ocean of existence,
"Up, up, O Kshatriya, afraid of death! Follow your own duty [as
member of the warrior caste] and abandon this path of liberation. Conquer
the lower worlds by force of arms, and gain the higher worlds as well!
That is a glorious path to travel, which has been followed by leaders of
men for generations. This mendicant life is ill-suited for one born of
royalty to follow. But if you will stubbornly refuse to rise, then be
firm, if you will... When pierced by this weapon, even the son of Ida,
the grandson of the moon, became mad; and Samtanu also lost his
self-control. How much more then will one of feebler powers succumb, now
that the age has become degenerate? Therefore quickly rise and come to
your senses, for this arrow is ready, darting out its tongue."
But even when thus addressed, the Shakya saint, unheeding, did not
change his posture. Mara then discharged his arrow of love at him and set
in front of him his daughters Lust, Delight, and Craving, and his sons
Confusion, Gaiety, and Pride. Still he gave no heed and swerved not from
his firmness. Mara, beholding him thus, sank down, and slowly pondered,
"He does not even notice the arrow, the very one by which the god
Sambhu was pierced with love for the daughter of the mountain and shaken
from his vow. Can he be devoid of all feeling? He is not worthy of my
flower-shaft, nor my arrow Gladdener, nor even my sending my daughter Rati
to tempt him. He deserves the terrors, attacks, and blows from all the
gathered hosts of the demons."
Then Mara called to mind his own army, mustering them for the
overthrow the Shakya saint. His followers swarmed around, wearing
different forms and carrying arrows, trees, darts, clubs, and swords in
their hands; with faces of boars, fishes, horses, asses, and camels, of
tigers, bears, lions, and elephants--one-eyed, many-faced, three-headed,
with protuberant bellies and speckled bellies; blended with goats, with
knees swollen like pots, armed with tusks and claws, carrying headless
trunks in their hands, assuming many forms, with half-mutilated faces and
monstrous mouths.... Before these dreadful monsters, the great sage
remained untroubled, sporting with them as if they were only rude
children. Then one of them, his eyes rolling wildly, lifted a club
against him; but his arm was instantly paralyzed, like Indra's of old with
its thunderbolt. Some, having lifted up stones and trees, found them-
selves unable to throw them against the sage.... Another hurled upon him
a mass of blazing straw as big as a mountain peak.... Despite all these
various scorching assaults on his body and his mind, and all these
missiles showered down upon him, the Shakya saint did not in the least
degree move from his posture nor deviate from his firm resolution....
Then some being of invisible shape, but of preeminent glory,
standing in the heavens and beholding Mara thus malevolent against the
seer, addressed him in a loud voice unruffled by enmity, "Take not on
yourself, O Mara, this vain labor; throw aside your malevolence and retire
to your home; this sage cannot be shaken by you any more than the mighty
mountain Meru by the wind.... Let not your greatness, O Mara, be mixed
with pride. It is not well to be confident--fortune is unstable. Why do
you accept a position whose base is tottering?"
Having listened to his words, and having seen the unshaken firmness
of the great saint, Mara departed dispirited and broken in purpose with
those very arrows of desire by which, O world, you are smitten in your
heart. With their strength at an end, their labor all fruitless, and all
their stones, straw, and trees thrown away, that host fled in all
directions, like some hostile army when its camp has been destroyed by the
When the flower-armed god thus fled away vanquished with his
hostile forces, and the passionless sage remained victorious, having
conquered all the power of darkness, the heavens shone out with the moon
like a maiden with a smile, and a sweet-smelling shower of flowers fell
down wet with dew. With the wicked one thus vanquished, the different
regions of the sky grew clear, the moon shone forth, showers of flowers
fell down from the sky upon the earth, and the night gleamed out like a
Buddhism. Ashvaghosha, Buddhacarita 13
Fargard 19.1-7: Cf. Yasna 32.9, p. 436. Buddhacarita 13: In this account
Mara is depicted as a Cupid-like figure similar to Kama, the Hindu god of
desire. But while in the Hindu myths of the battle between Kama and
Shiva, Shiva revives Kama because he is a necessary part of creation (see
Skanda Purana 126.96.36.199-99, p. 364), in Buddhism Mara is entirely evil.
For another version of this encounter, cf. Sutta Nipata 436-39, p. 379.
On Mara's argument that Buddha should abandon his asceticism and follow
his duty (svadharma) as a member of the Kshatriya caste, see Bhagavad Gita
18.44-48, pp. 705f.; Matsya Purana 18.5-7, p. 710.
And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking
of the day. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he
touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob's thigh was put out of joint as
he wrestled with him. Then he said, "Let me go, for the day is breaking."
But Jacob said, "I will not let you go, unless you bless me." And he said
to him, "What is your name?" "Jacob." "Your name shall no more be called
Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have
prevailed." Then Jacob asked him, "Tell me, I pray, your name." But he
said, "Why is it that you ask my name?" And there he blessed him. So
Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, saying, "For I have seen God
face to face, and yet my life is preserved."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Genesis 32.24-30
[The hosts of celestial beings address Brahma], "O Blessed Lord,
having been favored by thee, the rakshasa Ravana perpetually troubles us
since thou hast granted a boon to him, and we are helpless and forced to
endure his fearful oppression! The Lord of the demons has inspired terror
in the Three Worlds. Provoking the sages, brahmins, and other beings, he
tramples them underfoot, he who has become insufferable through pride,
being under thy protection. In his presence, the sun ceases to shine, the
wind fails to blow, and, before him, the ocean, garlanded with waves, is
still. O Blessed One, be pleased to devise some means for his
Brahma reflected awhile and answered, "Here is a way of bringing
about the end of that perverse being! 'May I not be destroyed by
gandharvas, yakshas, gods or demons,' was Ravana's request, but thinking
man to be of no account, he did not ask to be made invulnerable in regard
to him; therefore, none but man can destroy him."
At that time, the immortal Vishnu, Lord of the World, attired in
yellow, bearing the conch, discus, and mace in his hands, appeared mounted
on Garuda, like unto the sun above the clouds. All the celestial beings
prostrated themselves before him and said, "O Lord, for the good of all
creatures, we address this prayer to thee! The monarch Dasaratha who
reigns in Ayodhya, a virtuous and liberal prince, has three consorts,
distinguished by chastity and good qualities. O Vishnu, do thou incarnate
in them by dividing thyself into four parts! Become a mortal and the
vanquisher in combat of Ravana, the powerful tormentor of the worlds, who
cannot be slain by the gods."
Vishnu replied, "Have no fear, from now on be happy; Ravana, that
cruel and insufferable monster, the terror of the gods and rishis, with
his sons and grandsons, his ministers, relations, and allies, for the good
of all, will be slain by me, and during eleven thousand years, I shall
dwell in the world of men and protect the earth."
Hinduism. Ramayana, Bala Kanda 15
Genesis 32.24-30: The struggle of Jacob is usually interpreted as not
against a demon, but against an angel whom God was using to test Jacob.
The result is nevertheless the same--Jacob is victorious in the spiritual
struggle. Cf. Pearl of Great Price, Joseph Smith 2.11-20, pp. 598f.;
Mahaparinirvana Sutra 424-33, pp. 753f. Ramayana, Bala Kanda 15: The
demon Ravana can only be conquered by man; hence Vishnu agrees to
incarnate himself as Rama, son of King Dasaratha, and then as a man to
defeat Ravana in combat. On the doctrine of avatars, see Bhagavad Gita
4.7-8, p. 662n.
Susa-no-o... descended to the upper reaches of the Pi river in the land of
Idumo. There he found an old man and an old woman, with a maiden between
them, crying.... "Why are you crying?" he asked. The old man replied,
"We originally had eight daughters. But the eight-tailed dragon of Kosi
has come every year and eaten them one by one. We are crying because it
is now time for him to come again." He asked, "What is its appearance?"
He replied, "His eyes are like red ground-cherries; his one body has eight
heads and eight tails. On his body grow moss and cypress and cryptomeria
trees. His length is such that he spans eight valleys and eight mountain
peaks. If you look at his belly, you see that blood is oozing out all
over it." Then Susa-no-o said to the old man, "Will you give me your
daughter?" He answered, "Awed as I am, I do not know your name." Then he
replied, "I am the brother of the Sun Goddess and have just descended from
heaven." Then the old parents said, "If that is so, then we will with
fearful reverence present her to you." Then Susa-no-o transformed the
maiden into a hair-comb, which he inserted into his hair-bunch and said to
them, "Distill thick sake of eight-fold brewings; build a fence, and make
eight doors in the fence. At each door, tie together eight platforms, and
on each of these platforms place a wine barrel. Fill each barrel with the
thick wine, and wait." They made the preparations as he had instructed,
and as they waited, the eight-tailed dragon came indeed, as predicted.
Putting one head into each of the barrels, he drank the wine; then,
becoming drunk, he lay down and slept. Then Susa-no-o unsheathed the
sword ten hands long which he was wearing at his side, and hacked the
dragon to pieces, so that the Pi river ran with blood. When he cut the
dragon's middle tail, the blade of his sword broke. Thinking this
strange, he thrust deeper with the stub of his sword, until a great sharp
sword appeared. He took this sword out and, thinking it an extraordinary
thing, presented the sword to Amaterasu. This is the sword Kusa-nagi.
Shinto. Kojiki 19
Kojiki 19: Susa-no-o is chiefly worshipped in the shrine at Izumo. Izumo
was headquarters of an ancient Japanese clan and was the rival of the
shrine at Ise, where the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-omi-kami is worshipped.
The Kojiki sees the two kami as rivals, with Amaterasu winning out. Her
victory symbolizes the all-conquering imperial family, which is seen as
descending from Amaterasu. Thus Susa-no-o, as patron kami of a losing
clan, is given an ambiguous role in the mythology, at once a primal
culture hero of Japan and yet an impetuous character who offends the gods
of heaven. This story represents his heroic aspect. It represents the
myth of the hero defeating the demonic forces that is widespread among
many cultures: e.g., St. George and the dragon, or Perseus and Andromeda.
Kusa-nagi is one of the three symbols of Shinto in the possession of the
emperor; cf. Kojiki 39.2-3, p. 851.
The serpent Kaliya, who was full of pride because of the virulence of his
poison... entered a pool in the river Kalindi.... When Krishna, who had
become incarnate to restrain the wicked, perceived that the river had been
polluted by that serpent whose poison was so virulent and swiftly active,
he climbed a very high Kadamba tree, clapped his hands, girded his loins
tightly, and plunged into the poisoned water. The mass of water in that
pool of serpents was swelled by the poison emitted by serpents who were
shaken by the blast caused by the vigorous dive of the Man, and it
overflowed for a hundred bow lengths on all sides with terrible waves
tawny with poison, but this did nothing to him of infinite thought.
When Kaliya heard the noise of the whirling of the club-like arms
of Krishna, who was playing in the pool like a rogue elephant, and saw his
own residence overwhelmed, he was unable to bear the sight and sound, and
he slithered out. He enveloped angrily with his coils and bit in his
vital spots that Boy whose feet were like the inside of a lotus, beautiful
to see in his youth, adorned with the Shivatsa, wearing yellow garments,
with a beautiful smile on his face, playing fearlessly. When Krishna's
dear friends the cattle-tenders saw him caught up in the coils of the
serpent, apparently motionless, they were greatly distressed... the cows
and bulls and calves lowed in their misery... and the cow-herds' wives...
were burnt by great sorrow and saw the triple world as empty, for it was
devoid of their Beloved.
Krishna, seeing that his own village, with its women and children,
was so miserable because of him, and knowing that it had no refuge other
than him, conformed to the way of mortals and, staying for a moment, rose
up from the serpent's grip. The serpent's hoods were tortured by the
expanding body of Krishna, and he released him; he raised his hoods
angrily and stood spitting venom through his hissing nostrils; he stared
at Hari with his unblinking eyes that were like frying pans, and he licked
the two corners of his mouth with his forked tongue, and his very gaze was
full of fire and virulent poison. Playfully, Krishna circled about him,
like Garuda, the lord of birds, and Kaliya also moved about, watching for
an opportunity. When the serpent's strength was exhausted by moving about
in this way, the First bent down the snake's raised shoulder and mounted
upon his broad heads. Then the Master of all musical arts danced, his
lotus feet made bright red by their contact with the multitude of rubies
on the serpent's head. When the wives of the gandharvas, siddhas,
celestial players, and gods saw that he was preparing to dance, they
approached him joyfully with offerings of drums and musical instruments
and songs and flowers and praises.
He who bears a cruel rod of punishment trampled with his feet
whatever head of the hundred-headed one was yet unbent, and the serpent,
his life span spent but still writhing, vomited clotted blood from his
mouth and fell, suffering horribly. The Ancient Man danced on the
serpent, who still spewed poison from his eyes and hissed loudly in his
anger, and he trampled down with his feet whatever head the serpent
raised, subduing him calmly as if he were being worshipped with flowers.
Kaliya, his umbrella of hoods shattered by the gay dance of death, his
limbs broken, vomiting blood copiously from his mouths, remembered the
Guru of all who move and are still, the Ancient Man, Narayana, and he
surrendered to him in his heart.
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 10.16
Srimad Bhagavatam 10.16: This passage is as much an expression of
Krishna's compassion to His devotees and their utter dependence on Him as
it is an account of His vanquishing a demon. By surrendering to Krishna,
even the serpent Kaliya, in death, attains liberation. In the Bible, the
motif of divine punishment of the wicked being meted out in a festal dance
is found in Isaiah 30.29-33 and 1 Chronicles 20.20-23. On the submission
of the serpent to the Buddha, see Udana 10, p. 314. On the Christian's
power over serpents and evil powers, see Luke 10:19-20, pp. 314f.