At this point in the Journey Tripitaka has finally accumulated his 4 disciples. Now that Sandy, a.k.a. Sha Monk, has joined the Quest, all the elements are present. However while the base has been consolidated, it has not been refined. Many of the upcoming episodes have to do with the refinement of the false from the real through direct experience. No member of the Journey is exempt.
The focus of this episode is PiggyŐs refinement. In fact PiggyŐs weaknesses are at the center of the next 3 episodes. In the first episode (Chapter 23) Piggy is corrupted by his cravings for the security of home. In the next episode (Chapters 24->26) Piggy corrupts Monkey to follow his desires. Then in the final episode of this series (Chapters 27->31) Piggy corrupts Tripitaka into excluding Monkey. If youŐre interested in the details of how our travelers are refined read on.
Our cantankerous band of travelers arrives at a beautiful estate. They are greeted by a widow with three daughters. They are rich, beautiful, and in need of husbands to protect them and tend the estate. Almost immediately the widow proposes, implying that it is HeavenŐs design and meant to be in that there are four of each. ŇYou will be most comfortable, having all these riches to enjoy. Will that not be better than the toil of the journey to the West. É Are not the silk and brocade that you will wear infinitely better than the porcelain alms bowl and black robes, the straw sandals and grass hats.Ó JW I p450
Although Tripitaka seems to be tempted in that he almost falls off his horse and remains dead still, not moving or saying a word. Neither Monkey nor Sandy are tempted in the slightest. However Piggy is overwhelmed with desire - an unbearable itch in his heart. He pretends to go along with the rest, while negotiating in secret to take all 4 women as his wives - saying that he has plenty of energy for all of them. The widow says he must choose one as his main wife, but he must catch her first. She blindfolds Piggy and like a game of blind manŐs bluff he attempts to seize his bride to be but only gets dizzy and confused in the process. The widow suggests that each of them wants him but are each deferring to the rest. She then suggests that Piggy try on shirts they have made to see which one fits and the maker by heavenly design will become his bride. As he tries on the shirts they turn into ropes that bind him. The travelers wake up to discover that the widowŐs estate and all in it have vanished. A note floats down from the sky. In it Kuan-yin states that she and her divine friends had disguised themselves as the four women to test the intent of the travelers. While the others passed this divine test, Piggy loving things profane É must repent with quiet heart, for if heŐs slothful, the way will be hard. Although Monkey suggests that they leave Piggy behind, Tripitaka insists that he is a necessary part of the Journey as ordained by Kuan-yin. The others then cut the ropes from a repentant Piggy and proceed on their way together.
On the surface this episode and many others appear to be bashing sex, marriage and wealth - implying that the highest stages canŐt be reached without a commitment to celibacy and poverty. However these are just metaphors, which shouldnŐt be mistaken for reality.
Here are a few testimonials that reveal the underlying meaning of this episode.
ŇThe fool knows not the true causes of things.
BeautyŐs sword can in secret the self destroy.Ó JW I p457
The most important goal for all of us is to align ourselves with HeavenŐs directives, the Divine Will, which in this case is obtaining the scriptures from the West. There are many temptations on the path - one of which is beauty combined with sex. If any of us allow our Piggy side to take over we lose sight of our divine purpose, whatever it may be, and let our desires undermine our Mission.
ŇYou must take care in the pursuit of truth
To purge desires, and youŐll enter the Real.Ó JW I p460
Because of the destructive nature of desires it is necessary to purge ourselves of their influence to enter the Real. Again this is only a metaphor for out of balance desires. The desire is not the problem. It is the destructive pursuit of them that leads to disaster. Tripitaka has desires, just like Piggy, but maintains focus on the goal rather than getting swept away from his divine intent.
ŇYou have but one principal sum
You canŐt add profit to your purse
Guard and keep well your precious capital
Which you must not squander and waste.Ó JW I p461
Of course this Balance is not easy to maintain. One of the dangers is that we have a finite life with a finite amount of energy to achieve our goal. If we take too many little detours into the little pleasures of life, we might not have enough time or energy to accomplish our Mission. Thus it is of utmost importance to Guard and keep well your precious capital which you must not squander and waste.
Note again that each of us has a unique divine purpose, which could be raising a family as well as becoming a Buddhist monk. Our divine purpose, whatever it might be, is of the utmost importance. Nothing should risk it. The message of this episode is that the pursuit of desires is one of the most basic threats to our Divine Quest.
Note also that Kuan-yin herself is the one to present an obstacle to the Journey. More later.