Chapters 13&14: Monkey joins the Quest

The rest of the chapters, all 88 of them, have to do with Tripitaka’s journey to the West to acquire the holy sutras and his return to the East. It is broken into a series of episodes.

Let us not confuse Metaphor with Reality

Before proceeding on, let us take some advice from Chang Po-Tuan in his Four Hundred Words on the Gold Elixir in order to not fall into some big holes.

“13. The Firing Process does not call for set times;

The Winter Solstice is not in December.

As for the rules for Bathing, Spring and Autumn

Are also Metaphors without Reality.”

In explication Liu I-ming says:

“When our author says that the winter equinox is not in December, and that spring and autumn are also empty metaphors, he gets rid of the misapprehensions of all those who have gone off on tangents, and tells students to make a careful distinction based on the real pattern.” Inner Teachings p. 22

The point is here is that we don’t want to confuse the metaphor for the reality. No matter how many connections are found, we don’t want to force the book or stories into unnatural patterns to prove our point. We don’t want to force our story into a Buddhist, Taoist, or Confucian box. Instead we want it to stand freely. The metaphors point in directions and can greatly explicate meaning, but the Tao is nameless, after all.

We want the story to stand first as story and second as metaphor. Sometimes the story can’t be fully understood without the metaphor. Sometimes the metaphor distorts the story. We must distinguish metaphor and story. The metaphor is an aid to the understanding the story and should not be allowed to dominate the story itself.

The Path of Restoration begins with True Intent

With these few thoughts of allegorical relativity in mind, let the journey begin. However, in alchemical terminology, the base must first be consolidated for the quest to be successful. The carpenter begins with a foundation when building a house. In our case the foundation is based upon the re-integration of earth, mercury, and lead. All three elements are crucial to the process. In the beginning they were unified, but then they became separated. The first stage to re-integration is the identification of true intent, because the other elements naturally align themselves behind the Mission. As Liu I-ming says, “The path of restoration starts with knowing the original true intent.” In our last section true intent was identified, so the restoration may begin.

In the restoration, the many become one. In this case, Tripitaka’s mission is the true intent, true earth. But Tripitaka needs to be joined with true mercury, spiritual essence, and true lead, true sense, to achieve restoration. However because cultural conditioning has polluted each of the elements they need to be purified of the false to re-integrate. This purification is begun individually but needs the more intense heat of interpersonal interaction combined with the challenge of surmounting challenges to complete the purification. A knife can’t sharpen itself, but needs a whetting stone. A yogi begins with meditation upon the mountaintop to regain balance, but then must enter the market place of humanity to test the strength of his balance. Tripitaka has practiced meditation as true intent emerges from intense quietude. He has also cultivated personal purity on the highest levels and has studied and become a Master of the Law. But now he must test his quietude, purity and wisdom in real life circumstances. Almost immediately reality exploits Tripitaka’s weaknesses .

JW Chapter 13: Tripitaka must rely on his Heart, not his Brain

Tripitaka leaves on his Quest with a horse and some servants. At the first monastery, they warn him of the dangers to come. Tripitaka kept silent, pointing to his heart and nodding his head instead. When asked what he means, he responds,

“When the mind is active, all kinds of mara come into existence; when the mind is extinguished, all kinds of mara will be extinguished. This disciple has already made an important vow before Buddha in the Temple of Transformation, and he has no alternative but to fulfill it with his whole heart. … But my fleshy eyes are dim and unperceptive and do not recognize the true form of the living Buddha.” V1, p 283.

Tripitaka here identifies three themes that are to plague him throughout the entire Quest. Although he understands the issues intellectually, he has not incorporated them into his being. Although he knows that the mind needs to be kept silent, throughout he is plagued by fears and longings. His brain is too active, constantly worrying. He knows that his Mission must be pursued with the whole heart, yet he frequently gets distracted from his Mission by praise and comfort. He knows his eyes are weak, i.e. his perceptions are poor, and yet he trusts his eyes and is frequently tricked by appearances. These three degradations constantly plague Tripitaka and threaten his Journey. He understands the Law - is constantly referred to as the Master of the Law, but knowledge is not enough. He needs to be alchemically cooked through experience in order to incorporate his mental understanding into his core being. In many ways, the meaning of the Quest for Tripitaka is to incorporate his mental understanding into his whole body. He swore his oath at the Temple of Transformation. These are the conditions under which transformation will be achieved.

Too much enthusiasm brings on the First Ordeal

Although Tripitaka is the Master of the Law, he does understand that he must follow his Heart, which is filled with a passion for enlightenment rather than his Brain, which will fill him full of fears. Yet his Heart is the first one to unbalance the Journey. His enthusiasm for enlightenment gets him into big trouble. Tripitaka is impatient to get going and leaves ‘a trifle too early’. He loses his way and monsters eat his servants. This is his first ordeal.

The Planet Venus saves Tripitaka from harm. He goes on with just his horse, which buckles in fear when surrounded by tigers and snakes. ‘As he was all by himself, Tripitaka had little alternative but to submit to the will of Heaven.’ A wild man, Po-ch’in, Guardian of the Mountain saves Tripitaka. When offered meat because he is hungry, he maintains his vegetarian diet. Tripitaka chants some sutras saving Po-ch’in’s father from the Region of Darkness, allowing him to reincarnate. This poem was given.


“There is, in all things, a solemn purpose:

To save the dead from perdition and pain.” JW I, p 294.


This section points out six more elements of the Quest. First because Tripitaka is in a rush to acquire the scriptures, he leaves too soon. The alchemical process cannot be rushed. Hurrying things will only ruin the mixture. This is a common problem. Over anxious to achieve our goals, we rush the process, thereby endangering the result. My Author, anxious for publication, submits an unedited copy and is rejected. A man, anxious for marriage, proposes too soon, aborting the relationship. The waiter, anxious to please, rushes the Guest, which diminishes his tip. The farmer, anxious for fruit, picks the oranges before they’ve ripened. Instead patiently waiting for the fruit to ripen, the orange falls of its own accord. Mmmm! So sweet. The nectar of the gods.

Second because Tripitaka is attempting to fulfill a divine Mission, he is given divine protection. The third element is the converse. Because he is fulfilling this divine Mission he must trust and submit to the will of Heaven. This is difficult because of our innate fears. There are so many discouragements along the path that is frequently tempting to abandon the quest returning to the safety of normality rather than continuing the pursuit of the exceptional - which can be quite lonely.

The fourth is the necessity of maintaining purity. In kindness Tripitaka is offered meat. Although he is hungry, Tripitaka refuses. It is difficult to refuse kindness especially when hungry. Similarly many well-meaning souls offer corrupted assistance, which might impede the personal quest. A friend might invite the student to a party when he should be studying. Work-mates might tempt the father with drunkenness when he should be taking care of his children or tending his wife. There are many temptations which are offered in good faith, which still must refused if the serious disciple is to achieve his goal.

The fifth is that good deeds are repaid in kind. The sixth is that of the entire book, which is to save the dead, the unenlightened, from perdition and pain, i.e. ignorance. Tripitaka’s journey is to bring back wisdom that will enlighten the land of the East, China. This Chapter lays out some of the major themes of the book.

JW Chapter 14, Tripitaka’s gains his first Disciple, Monkey

Up to this point, Tripitaka, true intent, is traveling by himself. However in this chapter he passes the Mountain of Two Frontiers - from the civilized country of the T’ang China to the uncivilized world of the Tartars. It is quite apparent that he needs some allies or he’s not going to get very far on this Mission Impossible. Because he is standing behind true intent Kuan-yin, our compassionate Bodhisattva, provides him with powerful disciples to help him on his journey. Each of them is very difficult to recognize as they are coming to eat him, attack him or challenge him, but they are necessary for the quest. Not creatures that he would choose for friends, he is nevertheless stuck with these unruly, uncivilized, crude, and ugly disciples on this 14 year journey. These dangerous, but necessary allies, need to be controlled at all times.

First Tripitaka, true intent, needs true sense behind him to distinguish truth from falsehood. Thus the first ally he picks up is the Monkey-Mind. True intent rescues the Monkey mind from the 5 phases mountain. Monkey is rescued from the meaninglessness of cause-effect reality by the Meaning of a divine Mission.

As Chang Po-tuan says in the first line of his first verse,

“True earth arrests true lead.”

In explication Liu I-ming says, “When consciousness of reality [of true intent] is constantly present, arbitrary feelings evaporate and true sense emerges, always responsive yet always calm, like true earth grabbing true lead so that the lead does not sink.”

Tripitaka has the consciousness of reality. Monkey has already gone through his arbitrary feelings, running amok in Heaven. Also he has submitted to the compassion of Kuan-yin, her excruciating mission of following the scripture pilgrim, Tripitaka, as a disciple. True earth, Tripitaka, grabs true lead, Monkey, so that he is does not sink beneath his mountain.

Combined but contaminated

Although earth and lead are combined now, both are still quite contaminated. The true lead, true sense, is the use of the discriminating mind to pursue true intent. Monkey is to help Tripitaka acquire the scriptures. Unfortunately As Liu I-ming points out, “Once the real divides, the false comes forth. … true intent becomes adulterated with artificial intentions, true sense becomes adulterated with arbitrary feelings.” Monkey is still plagued by arbitrary feelings, while Tripitaka is still deceived by artificial intentions. Hence both, while understanding the Mission intellectually, must be purified of the false. Hence mere understanding is not enough. Tripitaka and Monkey must go through purification by being alchemically cooked together.

Monkey immediately submits to Tripitaka as his master, saying, “I’m willing to protect you in your quest of scriptures and become your disciple.” (JW I p 299). People will say anything to get free. Monkey identifies himself as one who can subdue dragons and tame tigers, discern character, discover the truth, and do countless transformations. Tripitaka is happy. The honeymoon.

The problem of arbitrary feelings,

They almost immediately have problems. Monkey, to protect Tripitaka, kills the 6 senses, who come as bandits. They say about themselves:

“One of us is named Eye that Sees and Delights; another, Ear that Hears and Rages; another, Nose that Smells and Loves; another, Tongue that Tastes and Desires; another, Mind that Perceives and Covets; and another, Body that Bears and Suffers.” JW I p. 307

Thus Monkey does the Buddhist thing by killing the senses. But Tripitaka doesn’t believe in killing anything and begins to criticize Monkey.

“Now this monkey had never in all his life been able to tolerate scolding. When he heard Tripitaka’s persistent reprimand, he could not suppress the flames leaping up in his heart.” JW I p308

Monkey as false sense-lead gets mad and leaves. Commenting about Chang Po-tuan’s 4th verse, Liu I-Ming says:

“When the discriminating spirit sees objects and encounters things, it flies up; the senses become active all at once, and the feelings and emotions arise, like a gang of bandits stealing valuables.”

Monkey is the discriminating spirit that flies up. His feelings and emotions arise causing him to want to flee, leaving the quest behind, like a gang of bandits stealing valuables. Ironically Monkey has just killed a gang of Buddhist bandits, the six senses. While Tripitaka is Buddhist, he reprimands Monkey for killing the senses. The Taoist way is to See without attaching to Delight, to Hear without Raging, etc. Monkey hears and rages. Thus Tripitaka is telling Monkey to do the Taoist thing. He says that Monkey should have ‘chased them away’ instead of killing them. Furthermore he tells Monkey ‘because you had neither scruples or self-control …that you had to undergo this ordeal of 500 years.’ Tripitaka is pointing out the nature of Monkey’s Quest, i.e. to develop scruples and self-control.

So Monkey in a Rage has left the Quest. Because Tripitaka was behaving properly and has true intent, Kuan-yin comes to his assistance. She gives Tripitaka a chant and cap to control Monkey and prevent him from leaving. She says, “I have a spell which is called the True Words for controlling the Mind, or the Tight-Fillet Spell.” p. 309. The image here is that the Mind itself is convulsed with pain, depression, despair, or anguish, once it leaves the Mission. This doesn’t leave the Mind much choice. First there was the emptiness of boredom, next the hard Mission, now the excruciating pain if the Mission is abandoned. There is only one choice.

The Dragon King convinces Monkey to return to the Quest with these words,

“Great Sage, if you do not accompany the T’ang monk, if you are unwilling to exercise diligence or to accept instruction, you will remain a bogus immortal after all. Don’t think that you’ll ever acquire the Fruits of Truth. … It’s unwise to allow momentary comfort to jeopardize your future.” JW I p. 311

The Dragon King is pointing out that Lead monkey still needs to be refined to become true lead. Thus Monkey returns and is tricked into putting on the fillet cap and is now bound by pain to Tripitaka’s Quest. Monkey-Pilgrim says, “Master, this is her method of controlling me, allowing me no alternative but to follow you to the West.” The first stage in the alchemical process has taken place. True earth, Tripitaka, now dominates lead-mind, Monkey.

Although Monkey has joined the Quest voluntarily, Tripitaka is given the power to cause Monkey excruciating pain to keep him from acting up. Later on a demon takes Tripitaka’s form. The only difference between the two masters is that the real Tripitaka is able to give Monkey pain. Hence just as Kuan-yin’s compassion is this painful journey on the planet Earth, the true Master gives pain and consequences to enforce the Law. Hard Love. True Earth binds True Lead.

One more thing, in the beginning of the chapter was a poem.

“The Mind is the Buddha and the Buddha is Mind;

Both Mind and Buddha are important things.

If you perceive there’s neither Mind nor Thing,

Yours is the dharmakaya of True Mind. …

To know this you must grasp the No-mind Spell.” JW I p297

True Mind is associated with the Buddha. The No-mind Spell referred to here is the spell that will allow Monkey to remove his fillet cap. Conversely until he reaches the state of No-Mind the cap with the attendant pain remains. Again simple intellectual understanding is not sufficient, it must be integrated into the soul through the many ordeals of the journey. Thus Monkey’s quest is to purify his Mind to a state of No-Mind. This means to apprehend reality independent of the Duality. However it is not just Monkey, but Tripitaka also who must reach the state of Direct Experience, unobstructed my Mind’s dogma. However Mind isn’t capable of grasping this concept independently but must go through bitter travail to break down the mental barriers so that the psyche can be restored to the state of primordial unity.

So now that earth has arrested lead, what happens next? You must read on to find out the next element that is added to the Journey to consolidate the base.

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