Chaps 3>7: Monkey runs amok

JW Chapters 3 & 4: Spiritual training incomplete, Monkey is arrogant.

Monkey returns to his kingdom and destroys the Monster King of Havoc who has taken over his kingdom in his absence. Fearful of another invasion he then begins training and organizing his monkeys to be an army. Not having any real weapons he uses his powers to steal all the weapons from a neighboring kingdom. Not having a proper weapon for himself he goes to the Dragon King and demands a weapon worthy of his powers. The Dragon King gives him weapon after weapon, which Monkey rejects as too light. Even though the Dragon King says he has nothing else Monkey refuses to leave. The Dragon King finally remembers a heavy iron rod that was stuck in the water to measure the height of the River. This is acceptable to Monkey, who then demands a marital outfit to go with it. The King says he has nothing of the sort, but again Monkey refuses to leave until he gets something. Worried by Monkey’s obnoxious behavior combined with his martial powers the Dragon King calls his brothers, who are able to supply Monkey with his outfit. At first his Brothers want to fight Monkey, but the Dragon King assures them that this will do no good because of Monkey’s abilities. They then decide to file a grievance with the Emperor of Heaven.

Monkey then forms an alliance with other kings in the area. They all get drunk and Monkey passes out. Two agents of the Underworld, where people go when they die, come to seize Monkey, saying it is his time. Still drunk Monkey accompanies them but then sobers up when confronted with what is happening. Death is calling him. He demands to see the Death register and then erases his name along with many other monkeys. The Kings of the Underworld sensing his martial prowess let him go unharmed but also file a grievance with Heaven.

Two elements of note: First Monkey’s aborted training produced an excellent martial artist but not a good person. In the martial tradition there were and are countless bullies who fall into this category. Indeed much martial literature focuses entirely on martial prowess with not even a nod to helping out those in distress or any kind of social responsibility. They cultivate jing-chi without the shźn. Despite their prowess the Fire consumes them rapidly. It is necessary to cultivate mind as well as body to be light and subtle enough to pass through the Flames.

Master Ni was completely aware of this. While cultivating our physical skills he was continually eroding out personal ego. Indeed his Tai Chi and Sword classes were merely a front for spiritual training. At one point he said that as you cultivate the Tao that two demons grow along with it. One is in the head and the other is in the crotch. The demon in the crotch leads the person to dissipate his vital energies in sexual exploits. The demon in the head leads to the excesses of pride. Monkey was overwhelmed by the second of the two. Instead of humbly concealing his powers until they were needed, he arrogantly demanded what he wanted because he could. This dangerous aspect of incomplete training is a recurring theme throughout the Journey. Regularly those who have studied for a short while with a Master threaten the Quest.

Second Journey presents a permeable vision of Heaven, Hell and Earth. Mortals can pass from one to the other. Further these supernatural worlds are organized into a giant bureaucracy with the Jade Emperor at the top. This reflects the Chinese imperial system. All the rulers of the different realms are subservient to the Jade Emperor, the ruler of Heaven, and apply to him with petitions for assistance in keeping and restoring order in the realm. However just like the head of any organization the Jade Emperor is not all powerful like the transcendent Biblical God of the West but instead is in charge of making decisions employing all the magnificent resources that he has available to him as ruler of the Universe. Reiterating the supernatural world of the Chinese is patterned after their political system rather than being otherworldly as are the Western conceptions of Heaven and Hell.

JW Chapters 5 & 6: Mind without Intent is Dangerous

Presented with petitions from both the Dragon Kings and from the Kings of the Underworld complaining of Monkey’s rude and disruptive behavior, the Jade Emperor asks for advice. Some suggest that they simply send an army to subdue Monkey. However Venus the planet suggests that they give him a position in Heaven to neutralize and tame his powers. The Jade Emperor agrees and invites Monkey to become the Imperial Horse Keeper. Honored Monkey takes the position and does a good job at it, even enjoying the work. But then some of the other divine inhabitants, when questioned by Monkey as to the status of the position, reveal to him that it is the lowest position in Heaven, but that he can work his way up with persistence.

Although he has enjoyed his work, Monkey is furious and feels insulted. Having only cultivated his physical powers with no real spiritual development Monkey is attached to his idea of status, not realizing that it is just another mental construct. In a huff Monkey left Heaven to return to his kingdom. After hearing from Monkey how he was showed such disrespect a demon suggests that he call himself ‘The Great Sage, Equal to Heaven’. Monkey immediately has a banner made proclaiming his new title.

The Pride of Mind is unequaled. Monkey’s wisdom and compassion for the mortal creatures of this realm was almost nonexistent. So call himself a Sage was ludicrous. Further to refer to himself as Equal to Heaven was an insult to the entire supernatural order. This is the normal condition of unbridled Mind, thinking himself superior to all with his logic faculties, when instead he is quite ignorant of the subtleties of Being. Mind is meant to be the Servant of Being rather than the Master. This also reflects the arrogance of the scientific community with all their precise equations, when the rest of us exist between the cracks.

In the meantime the Jade Emperor has decided to send some of his best warriors to subdue Monkey before he causes more trouble. But Monkey soundly defeats them. Because of his superior martial abilities Venus suggests that Monkey be given a meaningless position in Heaven with the title he has given himself - again to neutralize his great powers and prevent him from causing more mischief. Again Monkey is pleased with himself and his position.

However after a few more years the Jade Emperor decides to give Monkey a position guarding the Peaches of Immortality to give him something to do to channel his boundless energies. Monkey sees the luscious peaches and immediately begins eating them. When the Empress’ Maidens come to gather some peaches for the Grand Festival of Heavenly Peaches they discover that the best fruit have already been eaten. Simultaneously Monkey finds that he has not been invited to this festival because his position has only a name with no status and no salary. Again he is furious because Mind has confused concepts for reality. Like most humans everywhere his happiness and peace is disturbed by ideas, not actual conditions.

Monkey then uses his powers to disguise himself as a god so that he can go to the festival, even though he wasn’t invited. Once there he can’t restrain himself, gorging himself on the food and getting drunk on the wine. After this orgy of consumption he realizes that he is going to get in big trouble. He steals some more wine and fights his way out of Heaven, returning home to his kingdom.

When he receives petitions from multiple sources complaining about Monkey’s disgraceful behavior, the Jade Emperor sends his entire force down to capture Monkey. As he is consuming the heavenly wine with his friends, his minions come to warn him of the arrival of the heavenly forces. Unperturbed Monkey responds, “Nothing should interrupt the glow from a good glass of wine.” His subjects return again with more warnings. Monkey again says, “Don’t bother me when I’m enjoying my wine.” The third time they say that the heavenly forces are breaking down the doors. Monkey responds angrily, “Have they no breeding, interrupting my drinking like this? Now I’m mad.”

Monkey enters into battle, defeats everything that Heaven throws at him. The unfocused Mind is a powerful opponent. At last Kuan-yin, the Buddhist Bodhisattva, arrives and sends one of her disciples down to subdue Monkey. The two are about equal but then the heavenly armies defeat the Monkey’s army. Discouraged Monkey retreats and goes through multiple transformations to avoid capture. Lao Tzu, the original Taoist Immortal, then arrives at the battleground to throw a net over Monkey to prevent his escape. Monkey is captured at last through the combined powers of Buddhism and Taoism. It is not easy to subdue the mischievous Monkey-mind. “The impish monkey in rebellion disturbs heaven and earth.” But now …


“Fraud and impudence, now punished by the Law:

Heroics grand will fade in the briefest of time.” JW I, p165

JW Chapter 7: Buddha Tames the Monkey-Mind

Now that Heaven has Monkey they don’t know what to do with him. Agitated by his mental illusions he challenged heaven and the underworld, but became an Immortal in the process after eating the Peaches of Immortality. Lao Tzu says that he will reduce Monkey to just his pure essence by cooking him in his brazier of the eight trigrams of Yin Yang theory. This doesn’t work at all. Even after cooking him for hours Monkey escapes, knocking over the brazier with its coals, toughened and unharmed. The Yin Yang theory while applying to many things is not comprehensive. It can’t contain the immensity of the mind in its constructs. Science while powerful can’t explain everything, nor will it ever.

More powerful than ever Monkey goes on a rampage, wanting to conquer heaven itself and proclaim himself ruler. We can see that the pursuit of power is also associated with Monkey. Mind combined with Body without Spirit to provide guidance. He rampages recklessly, creating great disturbances for any who are unfortunate enough to get in his path. Unfortunately this destructive category of human being include many of our leaders, who wreak havoc on our planet through their unbalanced behavior. Well-developed military - Body, and well developed intellect with scientific technology - Mind, but no spiritual intent to channel and guide this irresponsible power.

Monkey causes such disruptions that Buddha is called in to help. Monkey appeals to Buddha saying that he deserves to be ruler of all because he is so powerful. The countries with the most powerful armies feel that they deserve to be in charge because of their earthly power, not realizing how limited their vision is. Buddha responds: “If you can leave my realm I will bow to you as ruler of Heaven and Earth.” Monkey immediately dashes off to the furthest corner of the Universe, where he finds five pillars. He urinates on the pillars and signs one of the pillars saying ‘Monkey was here.’ He speeds back to the Buddha ready to claim his prize. The Buddha holds up his hand and says, “Take a whiff.” It smells of monkey urine. Monkey hasn’t even escaped Buddha’s hand. Buddha then turns over his hand with Monkey underneath. Buddha’s hand turns into a mountain, with Monkey locked underneath to keep him out of trouble for the time being. Monkey has finally submitted.

“From the Brazier of 8 Trigrams the Great Sage escapes.
Beneath the Five Phases Mountain the Monkey of the Mind is stilled.” JW I, p166

Summarizing: the beginning section of Journey began with Monkey attaining marvelous powers, including immortality, through self-cultivation. But his training was incomplete. Monkey as sense, or the discriminating mind, has no sense of moral or social responsibility because he has not become focused behind true intent, true earth. Hence he is motivated by pride and anger, with no real sense of purpose behind his desire to become ruler of heaven. Monkey because of intense purification has great powers and the ability to distinguish truth from falsehood. Unfortunately because these powers have not been yoked to true intent, they are used irresponsibly and wreak havoc upon Heaven above, the Underworld below, and the Earth in-between. However Lao Tzu with his alchemical practices aren’t enough to subdue the Mind. It takes Buddha Tathataga, to tame Monkey. He pins him under the 5 phases mountain, where he remains for 500 years. Without a real sense of direction, true intent, the discriminating mind is useless, if not dangerous. The down side of being an academic is the tendency to subjugate true intent to the accumulation of information in the pursuit of pride of knowledge.

We need Monkey to vanquish evil

The subjugation of Mind is the yogic side of Buddhism. But this is just a stage, not the destination. Although Monkey, the discriminating mind, is pinned beneath the mountain, this is not good or balanced. The world doesn’t get to have his great powers of seeing through falsehood and fighting for justice. Although pride and anger are neutralized when the monkey mind is imprisoned, desire runs rampant with nothing to control it. Without true sense to control desire, true intent is corrupted by desire, false mercury. Without an engaged and subdued Mind, desire leads the individual through existence, dissipating his energy, leading to a premature death. This becomes the normal course of life. Only through Monkey can we ‘steal a march on heaven[i]’ and reverse the natural order of things.

[i]We’ve mentioned the phrase ‘stealing a march on Heaven’ a few times, but what does it mean?

When two armies are fighting, each hopes to seize the strategic advantage. This could be anything from positioning. i.e. seizing the higher ground, to a surprise attack. To achieve this advantage one of the armies marches all night or takes a surprising but excruciating route. This is known as ‘stealing a march’ to gain an advantage which could mean the difference between victory or defeat.

A weaker army must use this techniques to avoid destruction. An attacking army might use this technique to surprise a well defended opponent. There are many celebrated examples of this throughout military history. Hannibal takes his elephants over the Alps. Bohemond sneaks into a Middle Eastern city at night to open the gates allowing the Crusaders to conquer the city and eventually the region. During World War II an American General inspires his troops to take a forced march over a perilous course to surprise the Japanese and turn the course of the war Southeast Asia.

So stealing a march has to do with a supreme effort to change the normal course of events. In like manner stealing a march on heaven has to do with a superhuman effort to change one’s life course towards their normal fate. Perhaps an individual is fated to die anonymously without acclaim. If this same person can steal a march on heaven he can escape this fate and achieve his Destiny. My author hopes that his persistently superhuman effort to write me might allow him to attain Immortal status.


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