Chaps 18 & 19: Piggy leaves the Home
The true medicines emerge
Understanding the Nature of the Beast
Riding the White Horse and accompanied by Monkey Tripitaka seeks out shelter and food at the Kao Village. However it seems that the Kao family is trying to rid themselves of an ugly monstrous son-in-law without success. Pilgrim volunteers for the task, as an act of merit. He rescues the daughter of Kao, wife of the monster, then impersonates her. He talks to the monster to find out his nature.
“This monster is quite honest. …With his name and location clearly known, he will certainly be caught.” JW I p378
Many times throughout the novel, Monkey attempts to discover the nature of the monster because as soon as he knows, he can balance and neutralize the energy. He is searching out the nature of things. Once the underlying pattern is known, then a permanent solution can be found. Conversely eradicating symptoms only solves the problem temporarily.
A Fallen Immortal, the God of Water
While sitting on the pot ‘dropping a load’ Monkey, disguised as his wife, reveals to the monster that her parents have hired Sun, Great Sage Equal to Heaven, to exorcise him from their family, which includes the marriage. Upon discovering this, the monster immediately dissolves the marriage. Although the monster has formidable powers he is afraid of Monkey. He is acquainted with Monkey’s reputation from his time is Heaven and is aware that Monkey can dominate him.
At his point Monkey reveals himself and the fight begins. Pilgrim questions the monster, who is quite open. It turns out that the monster ‘always had loved indolence and sloth’, until he met an immortal, who converted him. His ‘work incessant went on night and day’, learning ‘the secrets of Heaven and Earth’. His ‘work finished’ he ‘ascended on high’. He was ‘made a marshal of the River of Heaven.’ He ‘got drunk’. His ‘carnal itch of old could not be stopped!’ He tried to force himself upon Miss Ch’ang-o, the lady of the Moon. He ‘roared with passion boundless as the sky’. He was ‘bound and taken to see the Jade Emperor.’ He ‘should by law have been executed’ but ‘Venus … left the ranks and knelt to beg for’ him. He ‘was banished from Heaven’s gate’. His ‘sins led him to an erroneous womb’ and he was born as a hog, which gave rise to his nickname, Piggy. So this is no common monster but a fallen Immortal, ‘the Water God of the Heavenly Reeds’. He is one whose ‘spiritual nature has not been extinguished.’
Instead of identifying himself or his mission Monkey attacks with his rod. Piggy responds with a nine-pronged muck rake, saying that he will ‘rake till your soul melts and your spirit leaks!’ Piggy’s rake is devastating to most because it opens up the nine orifices of humans, i.e. eyes, ears, mouth, etc., with desire, which allows the spirit to leak out - draining vitality. This jeopardizes the casting process as there is not enough energy to reach the threshold of heat necessary to create the diamond body. Having cultivated and conserved his energies Monkey is immune to these attacks.
After fighting some more, Piggy asks why Monkey has come to torture him. Monkey tells him that he ‘left the Taoist to follow the Buddhist’. The Taoist taught him to cultivate amazing powers, but no sense of social responsibility. Lead had not yet been arrested by true earth. Then Pilgrim mentions his quest with Tripitaka. Piggy immediately stops fighting and asks to meet the monk. He is none other than one of the disciples that Kuan-yin had planted upon Tripitaka’s Way. He berates Monkey for not telling him sooner and causing all this unnecessary fighting. Monkey is still filled with pride - loving to fight - showing his martial prowess. He hasn’t yet learned to avoid difficulty by identifying his mission. Again each of us in our lives must constantly guard against fighting for the sake of fighting rather than attempting to resolve difficulties by identifying the real issues.
The Five Phase Theory or Metal vanquishes Wood
Monkey then drags Piggy to see Tripitaka. We then are given a poem to commemorate the joining of the three, which reveals the underlying alchemical message of the episode.
“Strong is metal’s nature to vanquish wood:
Mind Monkey has the Wood Dragon subdued.
With metal and wood both obedient as one.
All their love and virtue will grow and show.
One guest and one host there’s nothing between;
Three mixes, three unions - there’s mystery great!
Nature and feelings gladly fused as chen and yuan,
It’s sure that they’ll both be enlightened in the West.” JW I p388
Let’s examine this text in some detail to elucidate the meaning.
Strong is metal’s nature to vanquish wood: Mind Monkey has the Wood Dragon subdued. This passage refers to the Five Phase Theory. Remember that Buddha pinned Monkey under his fingers, which turned into the Five Phase Mountain. The five phases are water, earth, wood, fire, and metal. The phases continually transform from one to another. For instance water turns earth into wood, which is consumed by fire, which purifies metal, which is rusted by water, turning into earth. While Lao Tzu’s static yin yang boxes could not contain Monkey, he was pinned down by the dynamic nature of the five phases.
Because of the power of the 5 phases each must be contained in our quest for it to have the dynamic energy to survive the coming ordeals. In terms of consolidating the base, each must be part of the package for the quest to have enough strength.
In the 5 phases metaphor employed here, Monkey is metal and Piggy is wood. Metal is used to carve wood. Thus Monkey vanquishes Piggy. Or more precisely Mind Monkey has the Wood Dragon subdued. Piggy is referred to as Wood Dragon because as we shall see he also stands mercury, essence. As Liu I-ming states:
“Essence is associated with wood; dwelling in the east, it is the property of the self, and because of its unfathomable fluidity it is likened to a dragon.” Inner Teachings p26
When these elements, Monkey and Piggy, are obedient as one, i.e. united behind Tripitaka’s Mission, their love and virtue will grow.
Mixing metaphors or True Lead Dominates True Mercury
‘Three mixes, three unions- there’s mystery great!’ The rest of this stanza returns us to our earth/lead/mercury metaphor. Note that this other metaphor is a complementary way of looking at the same phenomenon. It is not a simplification, but another perspective on spiritual growth. It is like looking at a garden from different angles. Same garden - different views. Or it is like going up the same mountain on different paths.
In the three mixes, Monkey is lead, Piggy is mercury, and Tripitaka is earth. But what do these connections mean? Without Meaning these are empty circles - useless correspondences - an autistic exercise - spinning our fingers endlessly before our eyes.
The True Meaning
As mentioned, in the beginning all was one. Then came yin, yang and the 10,000 things. With the separation came the adulteration. The normal way is for the false to grow, squeezing out the true, with death and dissipation the result. The normal way is for perception to lead to desire. Then intent becomes the fulfillment of desire. Then sense or mind, with its incredible power, is drafted to serve the false intent, the fulfillment of desire. Because the sea of desires have no natural boundaries, the life force dissipates in the endless fulfillment of desire. This normal way is called the cultivation of desires and leads to death by dissolution. Alchemically false earth follows false mercury with false lead as their servant.
Those with vision and insight realize the need for returning to the One to cultivate vitality in order to achieve the Mission Impossible. Here all align behind true intent, the Mission. Hence once the true intent is established from a position of quietude, true mind becomes the servant, using its incredible powers in the service of true intent. Additionally true mind yokes true desire to the accomplishment of true intent. The three become one. ‘Three mixes, three unions- there’s mystery great!’ Thus ‘true earth arrests true lead; true lead controls true mercury.’ Further true earth emerges quietly from the emptiness between yin and yang. Hence ‘one guest and one host there’s nothing between.’
Attachment to the Home
However joining these diverse elements together is just the beginning of the journey. They must now be combined as one. The ingredients are in the stew, but must now be cooked. This is not an easy task. Both Piggy and Monkey still retain much residual pollution. Monkey is still filled with pride and anger, while Piggy still has many desires, which both threaten the Journey on many occasions. As Liu I-ming says,
“What is difficult to accomplish in alchemy is the combination of essence and sense.” Inner Teachings, p.6
Part of Piggy’s adulteration has to do with his attachments to the comfort of the home. After he’s joined the pilgrimage, speaking to his father-in-law he says,
“Father, do take care of my better half. If we fail in our quest for scriptures, I’ll return to secular life and live with you again as your son-in-law. Sometimes I fear that things may go wrong, and then I could end up unable either to be a monk or to take a wife, losing out on both counts.”
A constant theme throughout is Piggy’s willingness to give up the Quest and return home. I will take Home to be the normal, comfortable way of popular culture. Home is celebrities, newspaper current events, TV sitcoms, endless sports, magazines, traveling and vacations. The latest fads, a good job, with plenty of benefits to protect your safe life. A nice retirement package, perhaps church on Sunday. There is nothing wrong with this. Those of us who have left the home have let go of Popular Culture in pursuit of the Quest. We’ve been pinned under the 5 phases mountain for 500 years and have become bored with popular culture. We have left the home of this emptiness of things, to pursue the Emptiness of the Void, the white wall meditation. We each of us have a Piggy inside yearning to go home to popular culture, but we’ve lost our taste for it.
Yet another Metaphor or the Refinement Begins
Returning to our previous metaphor Tripitaka, as yang or Heaven, is riding the White Horse, as yin or Earth. Thus Heaven and Earth came together and the true medicines spontaneously appeared upon the way - the partnership of Monkey and Piggy - feelings and nature.
Unfortunately the medicines have been adulterated and so need to be refined, so that the sprouts will grow and not be killed by weeds. The only way is to cook out the pollution by a process of refinement. The Journey to the West is the baking of these elements through ordeals to attain purification from the dust of time. It takes 81 ordeals to bring them together. Bringing them together is true intent joining essence and sense as one unified field. How are these elements baked? We do not know. You must read the next section in order to find out.
But first a message from our sponsor. In our lives we form a relationship, achieve entrance to a college, begin a career, have children, embark on a work of art. This is true intent - the trailhead. If we are on the right path many medicines naturally arise to assist us to our destination. Also due to cultural conditioning there are many monsters, which also arise to discourage us from the achievement of our goals. The course of our lives, if lived consciously rather than reactively, naturally gives rise to these medicines, which we can use to eradicate these monsters that have infected our soul. Read on to discover the nature of the threatening monsters and the healing medicines.