The Great Sage Escapes from the Eight Trigrams Furnace, The Mind-Ape Is Fixed Beneath the Five Elements Mountain
To the ape’s immortal body is matched a human mind:
That the mind is an ape is deeply meaningful.
It was quite true that the Great Sage equaled Heaven:
The appointment as Protector of the Horse showed no discernment.
Horse and ape together make mind and thought;
Bind them tightly together, and do not seek elsewhere.
When all phenomena are reduced to truth they follow a single pattern;
Like the Tathagatha reaching nirvana under the two trees.
It is decided to put the Great Sage in Lao Zi`s Eight Trigrams Furnace, to refine out the elixir of the immortal pills that he stole and reduce him to ashes at the same time. After forty-nine, days Lord Lao Zi’s fire has reached the required temperature and burned for long enough so the furnace is opened. Since Monkey is of the element fire himself, fire cannot harm him and he leaps out of the Furnace unharmed and escapes.
The Jade Emperor then asks Buddha to help subdue Monkey and Buddha has a wager with Monkey. If Monkey is clever enough to get out Buddha`s right hand with a single somersault, he is the winner, and there will be no more need for weapons or fighting and the Jade Emperor will abdicate the Heavenly Palace to Monkey. But if he cannot get out of the palm of his hand he will have to go down to the world below as a devil and train himself for several more kalpas before coming to argue about it again. Since Monkey can cover one hundred and eight thousand miles with a somersault he thinks that Buddha is a complete idiot to suggest the wager. The Buddha, who is watching him with his wise eyes, sees the Monkey King whirling forward like a windmill and not stopping until he sees five flesh-pink pillars topped by dark vapors. “This is the end of the road,” he says, “so now I’ll go back. The Buddha will be witness, and the Hall of Miraculous Mist will be mine.” Then he thinks again, “Wait a moment. I’ll leave my mark here to prove my case when I talk to the Buddha.” He writes THE GREAT SAGE EQUALING HEAVEN WAS HERE in big letters on the middle Pillar and makes a pool of monkey piss at the foot of the pillar. Then he turns his somersault round and goes back to where he has started from. “I went, and now I’m back. Tell the Jade Emperor to hand the Heavenly Palace over to me,” he says, standing in the Buddha’s palm. “I’ve got you, you piss-spirit of a monkey,” roars the Buddha at him. “You never left the palm of my hand. ” “You’re wrong there,” the Great Sage replies. “I went to the farthest point of Heaven, where I saw five flesh-pink pillars topped by dark vapors. I left my mark there: do you dare come and see it with me?” “There’s no need to go. Just look down.” The Great Sage looks down with his fire eyes with golden pupils to see the words “The Great Sage Equaling Heaven Was Here” written on the middle finger of the Buddha’s right hand.
The stink of monkey-piss rose from the fold at the bottom of the finger. “What a thing to happen,” exclaims the Great Sage in astonishment. “I wrote this on one of the pillars supporting the sky, so how can it be on his finger now? He must have used divination to know what I was going to do. I don’t believe it. I refuse to believe it! I’ll go there and come back again.” The dear Great Sage hurriedly braces himself to jump, but the Buddha turns his hand over and pushes the Monkey King out through the Western Gate of Heaven. He turns his five fingers into a mountain chain belonging to the elements Metal, Wood, Water, Fire, and Earth, renames them the Five Elements Mountain, and gently held him down. Monkey will have to stay under the mountain for five hundred years as punishment.
Check back next week for Journey to the West Abridged: Chapter 8!
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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