Personages In "The Journey To The West"
Spoken By Supreme Master Ching Hai, Retreat In Hong Kong October 1, 1993 (Originally In Chinese)
"The Journey to the West" is a book about experiences and pitfalls in spiritual practice. The more I read it, the more I admire the writer. He has given very vivid descriptions about our lives and inner qualities and uses all kinds of metaphors to depict the obstacles in spiritual practice and ways to overcome them. The more we practice, the more we will understand the meaning of this book, and the more strongly we will feel that this is not just a fairy tale. Truly, there are very good teachings in the book. After you have started to practice the Quan Yin Method, you will understand it better; you will see your true self and become enlightened!
In "The Journey to the West," Xuan Zang (also known as Tripitaka) is a very kind and solemn master. But what about his three disciples? They look ugly, and they kill. Ordinary people are scared to death just from seeing them. But Xuan Zang is not afraid. He accepts them as disciples. And they wholeheartedly support him in his successful quest in search of the scriptures. Without these three ferocious disciples, Xuan Zang might not have been able to reach the West. Therefore, everything has its use. If we understand the laws of the universe and the secret of Creation, we'll be able to make use of everything. There is nothing that's not useful.
Don't ever think that the Monkey King, Pigsy and Sandy don't exist. They represent our very inner nature and the struggle that Xuan Zang goes through in his journey to get the scriptures. The Monkey King represents his intelligence and wisdom, and the almighty power. He seeks help from the Buddha and gets his problems solved each time. Pigsy stands for his laziness and fondness for women. Sometimes he finds a beautiful woman alluring and becomes greedy when he sees good food. Sandy represents the time when he is peaceful, balanced and in a state where neither good nor bad exists.
The Monkey King described in the book is very, very smart. He has the power to transform himself into seventy-two different forms. Before he attains enlightenment, he causes tumult in the heavenly court and calls himself the Great Sage Equal To Heaven. That represents our inner struggling quality. If he were as high as the Lord of Heaven, he wouldn't have had to stir up anything! He's just like us. We know we have the qualities of God inside, which are the highest. But since we haven't attained that level, we can't believe in ourselves. Or we have faith in ourselves today but not tomorrow, then again the day after tomorrow, and then lose faith in ourselves the day after that. If it happens that we are enlightened and know who we are, we feel very noble and one with Heaven and Earth and everything.
But there are many difficulties in this world. When we run into obstacles and a lot of trouble, we fall down to the level of a mortal. We doubt ourselves, and feel we are very weak, helpless and powerless. Then we feel very frustrated. No matter how people may tell us that we are Gods or Saints, we don't want to listen. We lose our confidence. All Quan Yin practitioners go through the experiences of the Monkey King. That's why we struggle and cause a lot of trouble. One day we want to become God, and the next day we don't. Today we are God and tomorrow we are not. One day we are God, the next we are Maya and run around. This is Xuan Zang's inner conflict. The writer uses the monkey as a metaphor for our unsettled minds. But the mind is very smart and powerful. It can have whatever it wants and go wherever it wants. But no matter where it goes, it's still within the realm of the mind and can't go beyond the Three Worlds.
You have read in "The Journey to the West" about the Monkey King accompanying Xuan Zang on a westward journey in search of scriptures for the sake of saving sentient beings. But God keeps sending demons and spirits to harm them. The eighty-one sufferings are all created by God. What does this mean? It means that without trials and tribulations, we can't grow up, just like a soldier cannot become good without training and a child won't study hard without tests. Therefore, tests are good for us so we know whether we've made any progress and whether our faith has wavered.
You have seen in the novel how both master and disciples are hurt by trees, shackled by flowers or hurt by mountain deities, et cetera. That's just like what I've told you: The outside world is sometimes unsafe and dangerous for us. If we look too long we'll get lost there and forget our original nature. Then it's easy for us to be bound there. Just like when we are used to living in one place, we don't want to go anywhere else or can't sleep when we go to a different place. It's the same with a spiritual practitioner. Sometimes he passes through some places and wants to stay there. His original goal is to find the scriptures and attain Godhood. When he arrives in some places and sees the beautiful scenic landscape, pretty trees, blooming flowers and bountiful fruits, he just wants to stay there rather than move on. He thinks, "Okay, why do I want to become God? I'll stay here to enjoy the flowers and trees, and then write and recite poems!"
Therefore, in "The Journey to the West" some tree and flower deities come to tempt Xuan Zang. And he almost falls in love with them. That's because he is beginning to become fond of the scenery, not because there is a real tree deity to trap him. He is attached, which is the same as being bound by trees and flowers. Moreover, the trees and flowers have their own spirits too. If we come to like them, they will communicate with us. Then the more we like them, the more they will bind us there. And our level will stop there. We should keep moving ahead in our spiritual practice and not stop anywhere. That's why we say that it's dangerous to look at the outside world. That's all it means.
The Monkey King represents our more mature wisdom. Therefore, if he's not careful and complies with the worldly habits of Xuan Zang, he will get stuck in disasters too. But because he is the Monkey King, he escapes sooner or later and is not stuck for too long. But Pigsy is! (Master laughs.) Therefore, at one time, God manifests as three beautiful girls. Pigsy, not knowing about it, is deluded by lust and is caught in the net. Even though he is not hurt, he is bound for a while. What is the bondage? Even if a person is truly beautiful and is a true transformation of God, and you fall in love with her, you are tied down by your feelings. Your initial intention is to go to the West to get scriptures. But you stop there because of your love for her. This delays your spiritual journey. Therefore, even if the person is God's manifestation, we shouldn't mind! Be careful not to be bound by so-called good and beautiful women, or the good things of this world.
Once, Xuan Zang is trapped in a spider's cave. He is bound by beautiful women and many children, who are transformations of spiders. This is the idea of the family. Maybe at that time he wanted to have a family, wondering why he should go through so much hardship to get the scriptures. Why not marry, and then have a few lovely karmas? Wouldn't that be nice? (Laughter) As soon as you have that kind of thought, you are tied there! Even if you don't have a real wife or children right next to you to bind you, when you think of it, you are already bound and your level changes! Then, if you let that idea stay with you for a long time, you are tied there during that whole period of time. Therefore, it is not that there are real spider spirits or little spider spirits to tie him down. These are his own thoughts. He ties himself to that situation. Sometimes because of the length of the spiritual path, we inevitably change our minds every now and then. The writer uses these stories to describe X uan Zang's mind and his spirit in overcoming all kinds of inner obstacles.
There is also a white-bone spirit that can transform itself into a beautiful woman to entice people and then suck their blood. What is this white-bone spirit? It's the spirit within us, or our quality of wanting to entice other people sexually. Therefore, spiritual practitioners from the old times used the method of white-bone visualizing to control their lust. They practiced until they could visualize everyone as white bones. That's also correct. If you see through a beautiful woman or a handsome man, what they have within them is nothing more than white bones or a skeleton!
When we see the Monkey King tricked into wearing a golden ring on his head by the Quan Yin Bodhisattva, we may think, "Why is it that the Bodhisattva has no mercy?" But if she didn't do this, there would be no way to control him. The Quan Yin Bodhisattva wanted to teach him and help him. So she had to give him this golden ring. Otherwise, there would be no way to change his personality. And he wouldn't be able to attain any level. Therefore, God and Saints don't always smile and give you candy. That would spoil you. It would be like buying you a ticket to hell!
Do you understand the metaphors in this story now? We all have the qualities of pigs and monkeys within us. Animals also eat, bear children, and take care of them. They are not much different than us. Therefore, if we don't practice, we are not much different than animals. Thank God we practice meditation and develop our wisdom. Animals can't know as much as we know. Therefore, you need to take good care of your Xuan Zang spot (Master points to the wisdom eye) and your corner of compassion. Don't let your pig and monkey qualities control your everyday life and dirty your precious "home".