Except for his impatience in the beginning Tripitaka hasn’t really been at fault in all the trials he has been through so far in the Journey. Accumulating his disciples created the necessary ordeals to tame Monkey’s pride and anger, but Tripitaka was a somewhat innocent victim of the consequences. Even the episode that he is captured by the tiger spirits is mostly meant to illustrate how important Sha Monk is to the Quest, in his function of protecting Tripitaka. But this all changes in this episode and in many to come.
As Monkey searches for food a Cadaver Demon spies Tripitaka. Having heard about his reputation from other demons she has been waiting for him to arrive so that she can eat his purified flesh, which confers longevity. Observing Piggy and Sandy guarding Tripitaka she decides to take the soft approach and appears as a young girl bearing food. Both Tripitaka and Piggy are immediately tricked by her innocent appearance. Luckily Monkey returns before they eat her poisoned food. Immediately recognizing the false he flattens her with his club. Although her food turns into maggots, Tripitaka and Piggy are horrified at Monkey’s callous behavior. In the meantime the demon has escaped, but not given up. She appears twice more as relatives of the slain girl and still bearing food. Despite Tripitaka’s and Piggy’s protests Monkey slays the disguised demon. Piggy convinces Tripitaka that Monkey is acting irresponsibly and Tripitaka bans Monkey from the Quest, much to his chagrin.
On the meta-level the discriminating mind has been rooting out evil, but desires connected with intent want to have a good time. Popping bubbles is always unpopular; hence conscience is vilified and ignored. “Tripitaka listens to Crafty Nature and Banishes Mind.” Without mind to balance and control desires, we can just imagine the trouble that is about to ensue. Without reason to mitigate, the pursuit of desires is sure to lead to disaster. An alcoholic, drug addict or a glutton go on a binge. The credit card is maxed out without restraint. A destructive war is pursued to fulfill the desire of exacting revenge.
Without Monkey to help out Piggy is asked to search for food. Lazy as always he gives up and takes a nap. Sandy goes in search of him. ‘To dispel his boredom in the first place and find Pa-chieh and Sha Monk in the second,’ Tripitaka wandered off and lost his way. Confused he began going in circles. He eventually left his Horse of the Will behind and stumbled into the beautiful house of a monster. “Dinner has arrived at my doorstep. What good fortune! God is good. You are ordained to be the food of my mouth.” The demon, Old Monster Yellow Robe, was delighted and began preparing Tripitaka for consumption.
In the meantime Sha Monk found Piggy. Finding Tripitaka missing they went to look for him and discovered the cave he was located in. As soon as he saw the title - Current-Moon Cave on Casserole Mountain Sandy knew Tripitaka was in trouble. They challenged the demon to combat but were unable to defeat him. Luckily the wife of the demon begged him to let Tripitaka go on the secret condition that Tripitaka bear a note to her father, the king of a nearby kingdom, saying that the Yellow Robe Monster had kidnapped her. Relieved and free Tripitaka moved out of frying pan into the fire.
Before we reveal the troubles that almost thwart the Divine Quest let us examine a testimonial poem that begins the next chapter.
“Vain thoughts can not be destroyed by force.
Why must you seek or hope for suchness?
Cultivate before Buddha the self-existent mind -
Are not illusion and enlightenment the same?
Enlightened, you reach the Right in an instant:
Deluded you sink into 10,000 kalpas.
If you can cultivate one thought joined with Truth,
Sins as vast as Ganges’ sand are stamped out.” JW V2 p48
Instead of working with the material at hand, Tripitaka used force, which was to backfire on him. Imagining what he thought to be proper behavior he attempted to rid himself of aggravation. Craving to be more than he was, he was fated to sink into the abyss. Instead of seeking the Suchness of Things as they are, the real Buddha nature, he hoped for the Buddha created by Thought. Impatient to reach the Right in an instant he instead veered onto a Side Path. Deluded he encountered unimagined troubles. Where is the ‘one thought joined with Truth,’ going to come from that will stamp out ‘sins as vast as Ganges’ sand’? Certainly an unexpected source. Read on to find out.
Arriving at the Precious Image Kingdom - looks like the real thing, but is just a replica of the truth - they relay their message to the king, who immediately requests their assistance in freeing his daughter, the princess, from the monster. Overestimating their talents Piggy and Sandy volunteer for the mission and are easily defeated. Piggy retreats and Sha Monk is captured. The only reason they fought to a draw before was because Tripitaka’s guardian spirits were helping out. This time they had no divine protection.
Disguising himself as a handsome prince the Yellow Robe Monster entered the kingdom and gained the confidence of the court due to his appearance. ‘When all the officials saw how handsome he was, they dared not consider him a monster spirit; being of fleshy eyes and mortal stock, the regarded him as a good man instead.’ Instead of being a warning of danger, good looks constantly deceive those without perception.
The bogus prince then accused Tripitaka of being the real monster and turned him into a tiger, which was immediately imprisoned. This is quite ironic. Remember that Tripitaka is the Firm Tiger riding the Flexible Dragon to the West. In this case he is the false tiger as the Yellow Robe Monster claims. By banishing Monkey with the false firmness of a bogus tiger, it was he who endangered their Divine Mission. His sense of self-righteousness was the real threat.
All of the disciples dispersed and Tripitaka captured, the Quest seemed doomed. However the Horse of the Will didn’t give up, but provided the one thought joined with Truth, which was to provide salvation. Committed to the Journey he changed back into a dragon and discovered that the false prince had enchanted his master. He disguised himself as a dancing girl and attempted to slay the Yellow Robe Monster to save Tripitaka. Although he didn’t succeed and lost the battle, he escaped. By this time Piggy revived and went looking for Tripitaka, but instead found the Horse. After the Dragon-Horse told him what had happened Piggy wanted to abandon the Quest and go home. Hearing this the Horse ‘clamped his mouth onto Pa-chieh’s shirt and refused to let go.’ Weeping he pleaded with Piggy to continue. Piggy: “No use. Monster too strong.” Horse: “Must ask Monkey’s assistance.” Piggy: “But he’s mad at me.” Horse: “You must, if you or any of us are to achieve merit and escape our fate.” Piggy: “OK. Your dedication is catching.”
Will reawakens Passion to plead with Reason to return. The recovering alcoholic must realize that there is a problem and then must desire discipline to control the excess. External intervention is rarely successful. Piggy had to plead with Monkey to return. If he didn’t wish his return, it wouldn’t have worked.
Piggy approaches Monkey carefully. Initially Monkey refuses, but Piggy tricks him by saying that the monster has insulted him by belittling his talents. Enraged Monkey returns and discovers Sha Monk as a prisoner. A resentful Monkey first chastises Sandy saying: “When Master recited the Tight-Fillet Spell were you willing to say a word for me? You were just as much of a braggart.” Sha Monk apologizes saying: “A gentle man forgives and forgets. We are commanders of a defeated army, hardly worthy to speak of courage. Please save us.” This is the last episode in which Sandy goes along with Piggy. Instead he regularly stands up for Monkey to Tripitaka, who tends to favor Piggy.
Monkey frees Sandy and joins forces with Piggy. Unable to defeat him in open battle, Monkey investigates the nature of the monster and finds that he is one of the Heavenly constellations who has incarnated as a mortal to have an affair with the princess. Understanding the nature of his enemy he calls upon the Jade Emperor’s assistance in subduing the monster. This is a common theme throughout the Journey. Unable to defeat the many supernatural monsters that block the Journey with his brute force, Monkey investigates and discovers their true nature. Then and only then is he able to defeat them. Instead of dominating with brute force, investigate the nature of things to gain control of them. Sounds almost scientific.
Although the monster has been defeated, Tripitaka is still a tiger.
Monkey then chides Piggy: “You pick on me in everything and you are his favorite disciple. Why don’t you save him? Why do you ask old Monkey instead?” Monkey is still bitter and threatens to return to his Kingdom. Sha Monk knelt down, saying. “Elder Brother, the ancients said ‘if you don’t regard the priest, do regard the Buddha.’ If you are here, I beseech you to save him. If we could do so, we wouldn’t have traveled all that to plead with you.” Appeased Monkey finally relents and changes Tripitaka into his true form and rejoins the Quest with Tripitaka’s blessing.
All of the members have been gratefully reunited and proceed on their way to West to acquire the true scriptures at Buddha’s Thunderclap Mountain. This humble chapter doesn’t know what will happen next. You must read on to discover what new travails beset our travelers.