Chapters 54&55: Women Problems

Episode 12: A Queen and a Scorpion - Unwanted Brides

As our pilgrims had reached the Nation of Women Tripitaka insisted that they have their travel rescript certified to give them official status and safe passage. However as they passed through the streets the women began chanting “Human seeds!” after they saw Tripitaka, which terrified him, of course. The Queen, as to be expected, wanted to marry Tripitaka, offering him half her kingdom and luxury as a dowry. Although our warriors could easily fight their way through this jungle of women with their rampant desires, Monkey came up with a plan that would cause no loss of life. Tripitaka would pretend to cooperate with the marriage ceremony to get their rescript certified and then at the last moment before he consummated our warriors would spirit him away. This is similar to the first episode except that the women are much more aggressive this time. Further only Tripitaka will do. So once again they are being tempted by the comforts and security of wealth.

Neurotic, but on the Path

When he hears the proposal of marriage Chu Pa-chieh shouts out:

“My master happens to be an arhat who has attained the Way after a long period of cultivation. He will never fall in love with the dowry of a nation’s wealth, nor will he be enamored with even beauty that can topple an empire.” JW 3 p57

Obviously Piggy learned something from his earlier lesson.

Note that even though he is filled with fears, desires, distractions and anxieties Tripitaka has attained the Way - the Tao. Despite his many failings at least he is on the Path. I point this out merely to affirm the Chinese definition of the Tao, which is not enlightenment or god, heaven or any other such thing. In our introductory section we mentioned that the ideogram for tao was initially used to designate a mother lode of metallic ore, which was discovered by magnetism. This is the sense that it is used here. By magnetizing himself through refinement Tripitaka has found the trailhead to the mother lode of Buddhist wisdom. This is not the perfection of perfect understanding, but the perfection of being where you should be.

Further just because he has attained the Tao doesn’t mean that it is easy to stay on the path, or that there won’t be any roadblocks. Temptations arise naturally and continuously to draw him, and anyone else who has attained the Way, on to destructive Side Paths that separate us from the Tao, the only place to be. One aspect of the instant enlightenment of Zen is that anyone at any time in any place can immediately attain the Tao by merely turning from the normal path that most humans take onto the path of Heaven.

Beware of taking the crow for the phoenix

So once again the womanly temptations of sex, the home and family are used as a metaphor for the traditional securities that tempt one from the rugged Tao. As always there is a tendency to mistake the metaphor for reality. As Liu I-ming states:

“Seeing talk of gold elixir, lead, mercury, cauldron, and furnace, they thought it referred to the preparation of potions to ingest and they took to chemistry. … These and other schools arose, all taking a deer to be a horse, taking a crow for a phoenix, not only without benefit to essence and life, but even to the detriment of essence and life. Could this have been the intention of the ancient teachers in using symbolic language?” Inner Teachings p52

Although sex is used as a symbol for dissipating desires, many schools, including Buddhism, take this literally and instruct their disciples to be celibate if they are to reach enlightenment or self-realization. They take a crow [celibacy] for a phoenix [subduing desires]. As the expression goes ‘If abstinence was the key then all eunuchs would be enlightened’.

Similarly with leaving the family. Many schools of thought east and west bid the serious disciples to abandon family life for the life of the monastery - so that they can concentrate all their energies on attaining the God head, Tao, the Buddha, whatever. Again they have mistaken symbol for reality - thinking it is real gold when it is only plated. While the solitary calling is valid for some, the family calling is just as valid for most. The point is not to lose touch with essence and life in the pursuit pleasure and comfort.

In like manner money is not bad in and of itself, but an excess of wealth can easily lead to a life of dissipation - not just in terms of drinking, sex and drugs, but also in terms of the accumulation of things, combined with excessive travel and other amusements, just because you can. Because of this temptation many schools of thought East and West bid their serious students to take the vow of poverty - again missing the point of the symbol - confusing the sparkle for the gem. So leaving the home and money like sex are just metaphors, and shouldn’t be mistaken for reality. The point is that the trials and tribulations of Tripitaka’s journey apply to us all, no matter if we have wealth, a wife and family, and participate regularly in sexual activities. The only point is not to lose sight of the Way.

Out of balance Passions

Monkey’s plan is going as expected when Tripitaka is suddenly abducted by a female fiend who is intent upon consuming his vital yang essence, cultivated over ten lifetimes. Monkey sneaks into her cave and enters into combat with her.

“Yin and yang at odds now clashed together. …

Quiet yin, to nourish being, quickened in lust;

Tranquil yang purged desires to guard its health.” JW 3 p73

This little poem just reaffirms what has been said. The female essence, yin, which is essential to nourish being, has gotten out of balance - quickening into lust. Yin just needs to be contained and cultivated, not consumed in sex.

Empty. See no evil. Here no evil.

Monkey is stung on the head and retreats in pain. The demon retreats to her cave and attempts to seduce Tripitaka. But he resists.

“His eyes saw no evil form;

His ears heard no lustful sound;

He regarded as dirt and dung this coy, silken face.

This pear-like beauty as ashes and dust.

His one love in life was to practice Zen.” JW 3 p76

The point here is that Tripitaka was in a state of Empty Mind. Despite the external temptations he was unmoved. He remained still - neither acting nor reacting. This passage affirms the idea of wu wei, non-action in the midst of action, and the balance of tai chi, the middle way. Tripitaka comments at one point that this female demon might even harm him, if he doesn’t cooperate on small levels, rather than completely rebelling. Despite her advances,

“The elder T’ang showed no sign whatever that he had been aroused. Though the female fiend tugged and pulled at him and refused to let go, our master doggedly rejected her advances.” JW 3 p77

It seems that Tripitaka has not resisted the advances of the demoness, but that she can’t stimulate an erection.

Similarly with wealth, beauty, things, fame, happiness or sadness. Rejection or avoidance of emotional states is a sign that there are residual attachments, which can come back to sting one - perhaps in sublimated form. Better to focus on the one true love - alignment with the Universe. The purity of this desire will overwhelm the others like nutritious food overwhelms poison. It is not necessary to criticize the negative as much as it is to embrace the positive. Having tasted the best, substandard is no longer appealing. We give up our childish pleasures - naturally - without force. They just no longer appeal to us. This is the ideal state. Dead ashes. There is no more wood to be burned. Cultivate the higher pleasures of God union and the mortal pleasures lose their hook.

Draining the golden sea

Eventually the fiend stings Piggy. The disciples are disabled and wondering what to do to save Tripitaka, when Kuan-yin arrives. She says: “Stung by this demonness after she listened to one of his lectures even Buddha couldn’t capture her and neither can I. You need to seek the assistance of Lord Orion, a constellation associated with the rooster, a natural enemy of the scorpion, which is the real nature of the fiend.” Summoned by Monkey and sympathetic to the Divine Quest Orion arrives and kills the scorpion demon. Again this has to do with natural affinities. Just as Monkey as metal is unable to conquer watery demons, evidently the concepts of Buddhism are equally unable to deal with residual desires. Because they won’t disappear residual desires are those that must be experienced for better or worse. This is why Buddhism is ineffective.

A testimonial poem at the end of this episode states:

“They cut worldly ties to leave beauty and form;

The golden sea they drained to enter the mind of Zen.” JW 3 p85

The golden sea is the worldly sperm that seeks release. If this golden sea hasn’t been drained the concepts of Buddhism are ineffective. However if we are able to empty ourselves of these desires attached to beauty and form then and only then are we ready to enter the mind of Zen. In other words the pursuit of desires will afflict our quietude. These are the monsters that consume our peace.

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