“Another good reason why the Hindus should not worship the “Devil” is that they have no word to convey such a meaning. They call these spirits “puttam”, which answers rather to our “spook”, or malicious imp; another expression they use is “pey” and the Sanscrit pesasu, both meaning ghosts or “returning ones” – perhaps goblins, in some cases.
The puttam are the most terrible, for they are literally “haunting spooks”, who return on earth to torment the living. They are believed to visit generally the places where their bodies were burnt. The “fire” or “Siva-spirits” are identical with the Rosicrucian gnomes and salamanders; for they are pictured as dwarfs of a fiery appearance, living in earth and fire. The Ceylonese demon called Dewel is a stout smiling female figure with a white Elizabethan frill around the neck and a red jacket.
As Dr. Warton observes: “There is no character more strictly Oriental than the dragons of romance and fiction; they are intermixed with every tradition of early date and of themselves confer a species of illustrative evidence of origin.”
In no writings are these characters more marked, than in the details of Buddhism; these record particulars of the Nagas, or kingly snakes, inhabiting the cavities under the earth, corresponding with the abodes of Tiresias and the Greek seers, a region of mystery and darkness, wherein revolves much of the system of divination and oracular response, connected with inflation, or a sort of possession, designating the spirit of Python himself, the dragon-serpent slain by Apollo.
But the Buddhists no more believe in the devil of the Christian system – that is, an entity as distinct from humanity as the Deity itself – than the Hindus. Buddhists teach that there are inferior gods who have been men either on this or another planet, but still who were men. They believe in the Nagas, who had been sorcerers on earth, bad people, and who give the power to other bad and yet living men to blight all the fruit they look upon, and even human lives. When a Cinghalese has the reputation that if he looks on a tree or on a person both will wither and die, he is said to have the Naga-Raja, or king-serpent on him.
The whole endless catalogue of bad spirits are not devils in the sense the Christian clergy wants us to understand, but merely spiritually incarnated sins, crimes, and human thoughts, if we may so express it. The blue, green, yellow, and purple god-demons, like the inferior gods of Jugandere, are more of the kind of presiding genii, and many are as good and beneficent as the Nat deities themselves, although the Nats reckon in their numbers, giants, evil genii, and the like which inhabit the desert of Mount Jugandere.”
H. P. Blavatsky