He Becomes Aware of the Wonderful Truth of Enlightenment,
By Killing the Demon He Realizes His Spirit-Nature
After a ten-year search, Monkey finds a teacher who gives him the name `Sun Wukong`, which means `Monkey Awakened to Emptiness’. Monkey studies language and deportment under his spiritual elder brothers, expounds the scriptures, discusses the Way, practices calligraphy, and burns incense. Thus six or seven years slip by without his noticing them. One day the Patriarch takes his seat on the dais, calls all the Immortals together, and begins to explain the Great Way. Monkey learns spells, magic and a somersault with which he can cover one hundred eight thousand miles from his teacher.
“It’s hard, hard, hard. The Way is very mysterious,
Don’t make light of the Golden Pill (Elixir).
If you don`t meet a sage who can teach you miraculous spells,
One is just tiring the voice with meaningless words and drying the tongue in vain.
True spells, revealing secrets and all powerful,
Are the only sure way of protecting one’s life.
Grasp all the Five Elements and turn them upside down,
And when you are successful you can become a Buddha, or an Immortal.
On a day when spring is giving way to summer, and all the students are sitting under some pine trees listening to lectures for a long time, they say, “Sun Wukong, in what life did you earn your present destiny? The other day our teacher whispers to you how to do the transformations to avoid the Three Disasters. Can you do them all yet?” “It’s true, brothers,” says Sun Wukong with a grin, “I can do them all.” “This would be a good time for you to give us a demonstration.” At this suggestion Sun Wukong braces his spirit to show off his skill. “What’s it to be, brothers? Tell me what you’d like me to turn myself into.” “Turn into a pine tree,” they all say. Sun Wukong clenches his fist, says the magic words, shakes himself, and changes into a pine tree. When the students see it they clap their hands and chuckle aloud, saying, “Good old monkey, good old monkey.” They do not realize that the row they are making disturbs the Patriarch, who rushes out through the door, dragging his stick behind him. “Who’s making a row out here?” he asks. The students hurriedly pull themselves together, straighten their clothes and go over to him. Sun Wukong, who has now resumed his real appearance, says from the forest, “Master, we were holding a discussion here, and there were no outsiders making a din.” “Yelling and shouting like that,” the Patriarch angrily roars, “is no way for those cultivating their conduct to behave. If you are cultivating your conduct, the subtle vapors escape when you open your mouth, and when you wag your tongue, trouble starts. What was all the laughing and shouting about?” “Just now Sun Wukong did a transformation for fun. We told him to turn himself into a pine tree, and he did. We all praised and applauded him, which was why we disturbed you with the noise, master. We beg you to forgive us.” The Patriarch sends them all away except for Sun Wukong, to whom he says, “Come here. Is that a way to use your spirit? To change into a pine tree? Is this a skill you should be showing off in front of people? If you saw somebody else doing that, wouldn’t you ask him to teach you? If other people see you doing it, they’re bound to ask you to teach them, and if you want to keep out of trouble you’ll have to do so; otherwise they may do you harm, and then your life will be in danger. ”Sun Wukong kowtows and says, “Please forgive me, master.” “I shan’t punish you,” the Patriarch replies, “but you’ll have to go.” Sun Wukong’s eyes fills with tears. “Master, where am I to go?” “Go back to where you came from.” Sun Wukong has a sudden awakening, and he says, “I came from the Water Curtain Cave on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit in the country of Aolai in the Eastern Continent of Superior Body. “If you hurry back there,” the Patriarch replies, “you will be able to preserve your life. If you stay here it will be absolutely impossible to do so.” Sun Wukong accepts his punishment.
Wukong goes back to the water curtain cave to live with the other monkeys again. Because a monster had been making life difficult for them, Wukong goes to fight him. He pulls out one of his hairs, pops it in his mouth, chews it up, and blows it out into the air, shouting, “Change!” It turns into two or three hundred little monkeys, who all crowd aroung him. Sun Wukong now has an immortal body, and there is no magic transformation of which he is not capable. Since he has followed the Way he can change each of the eighty-four thousand hairs on his body into anything he wants. The little monkeys are too quick and nimble for sword or spear. Look at them, leaping forwards and jumping backwards, rushing up and surrounding the demon king, grabbing him, seizing him, poking him in the backside, pulling at his feet, punching him, kicking him, tearing his hair out, scratching at his eyes, twisting his nose, all picking him up together and throwing him to the ground.
They go on until they have beaten him to a pulp. Sun Wukong snatches his sword from him, tells the little monkeys to get out of the way, and brings it down on the crown of his head, splitting it into two. “Where did you learn such arts, Your Majesty?” the monkeys ask insistently. “When I left you,” Sun Wukong replies, “I followed the waves and the currents, and drifted across the Eastern Ocean to the Southern Jambu Continent. Here I taught myself to take human form and to wear these clothes and boots. I swaggered around for eight or nine years, but I never found the Way, so I sailed across the Western Ocean to the Western Continent of Cattle-gift. After long enquiries I was lucky enough to meet a venerable Immortal, who taught me the True Result, which makes me as immortal as heaven, and the great Dharma Gate to eternal youth.”
Check back next week for Journey to the West Abridged: Chapter 3!
Journey to the West is one of the most famous novels in Chinese history. It was produced in the 16th century during the Ming dynasty. It has influenced countless other stories, works of art even in to the modern day, such as the anime Dragonball and the film The Forbidden Kingdom drawing inspiration from this classic.
The story follows the Tang Monk on his journey to India to obtain sacred Buddhist scriptures. Along the way he is joined by the magical Monkey King, a foolish Pig man, and the mighty Sand Monk. This article is part of a series by Walther Sell, summarizing the Chinese epic.
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