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Lui Yiming`s commentary on Journey to the West

Below is the complete Chinese commentary by Liu Yiming on Journey to the West, with the complete translation by Anthony Yu above, followed by the translation by Thomas Cleary of the first nine sections.


1. The book, The Journey to the West, is the great way transmitted from mouth to mouth and from mind to mind by the sages, generation by generation. What the ancients dared not speak of was spoken of by Patriarch Qiu Chuji (1148-1227); what the ancients dared not relate was related by Patriarch Qiu in this book. When the heavenly mysteries are revealed so abundantly, this is a matter of the utmost consequence. Wherever this book resides, there are heavenly deities standing guard over it. The reader should purify his hands and burn incense before reading it, and it should be read with the utmost reverence. If he becomes bored or tired, the reader should close the book and return it to its place on high so that it will not meet with disrespect. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

The book known as Journey to the West is about the universal Way that has been handed on by word of mouth from sage to sage, verified mind to mind. Chang-chun, the originator of the Journey to the West cycle, dared to say what the ancients did not dare to say, revealing the celestial mechanism. So what the book is about is what is most important. Wherever this book is, there are celestial spirits guarding it. If you are going to read it, you should clean your hands, light incense, and read it with sincere respect. When you feel fatigued, then close the book and put it away in a safe place. Don’t be careless. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

西游之书乃历圣口口相传,心心相印之大道。古人不敢言者,丘祖言之,古人不敢道者,丘祖道之,大露天机,所关最重。是书在处,有天神护守,读者须当净手焚香,诚敬开读。如觉闷倦,即合卷高供,不得亵慢。知此者方可读西游。

2. The rhetoric of The Journey to the West is quite similar to the mysteries of Zen. The real message completely transcends the actual words of the text. Sometimes it is hidden in vulgar or ordinary language, sometimes it is conveyed through (the description) of the terrain and the characters. Sometimes truth and perversity are distinguished from each other through a joke or jest; sometimes the real is set off from the false in the space of a word or a phrase. Sometimes the real is made manifest through the false; sometimes truth is upheld in order to vanquish perversity. There are countless variations, appearing and then vanishing like gods or demons, and it is most difficult to divine their depths. The student must undertake a regimen of profound reflection and research; to be satisfied with but the surface meaning of the text is like scratching an itch with your boots on. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

The use of words in Journey to the West is a lot like that of Zen devices; the points to notice are all outside the words. Sometimes they are concealed in ordinary folk sayings, sometimes they are represented in mountains, rivers or human characters. Sometimes false and true are distinguished by a laugh or a joke; sometimes real and artificial are differentiated by a single letter or word. Sometimes the artificial is used to bring out the real, sometimes the story follows the real to get rid of the false. There are a thousand changes, myriad transformations, all unpredictable, extremely difficult to fathom. People who study this book need to look very deeply into subtleties, and not “scratch the itch from outside the shoe” on the literary level. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

西游立言,与禅机颇同,其用意处,尽在言外,或藏於俗语常言中,或托於山川人物中,或在一笑一戏里分其邪正,或在一言一字上别其真假,或借假以发真,或从正以劈邪,千变万化,神出鬼没,最难测度,学者须要极深研几,莫在文字上隔靴搔痒,知此者方可读西游。

3. The Journey to the West is a book of gods and immortals, quite different from those "books by and for geniuses". "Books by and for geniuses" talk about the way of the world, and although they may seem true, they are actually false; the books of gods and immortals speak of the way of Heaven, and though they may seem false they are actually true. Since literary technique is what is valued in those "books by and for geniuses," the language is ornate but the meaning shallow. Since the meaning is what is valued in those books of gods and immortals, the style is plain but the ideas are profound. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

Journey to the West is a book of spiritual immortalists, not a book of intellectuals. The books of intellectuals talk about the ways of the world, appearing real but actually false; the books of spiritual immortalists talk about the celestial Way, appearing false but actually real. The books of intellectuals prize literary embellishment without making much of a statement; the books of spiritual immortalists prize verbal simplicity, using meaningful but simple statements of profound principles. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

西游神仙之书也,与才子之书不同。才子之书论世道,似真而实假;神仙之书谈天道,似假而实真。才子之书尚其文,词华而理浅;神仙之书尚其意,言淡而理深。知此者方可读西游。

4.The journey to the West is a book that is permeated through and through with the truth of the unity of the Three Teachings (Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism). This truth is found in the Diamond Sutra and the Lotus Sutra in Buddhism; in Confucianism it is found in the Ho Tu ! 河圖 (The Diagram of the Yellow River), the Lo shu 咯书 (The Book of the Lo River), and the I Ching 易经 (Book of Changes); and in Taoism it is found in the Cantong Qi 参同契 (The Kinship of the Three) and the Wuzhen Pian 悟真篇 ((Poetical Essay on the Primary Vitalities) Therefore the story of the acquiring of the scriptures in the Western Heaven is used to expound the mysteries of the Diamond and Lotus Sutras; the principle of Nine Times Nine to Return to the Real is used to explain the secret of the Cantong Qi and the Wuzhen Pian; and the Tang Monk and his disciples are used to expound the meaning of the I Ching, the Ho tu, and the Lo shu. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

Journey to the West is permeated with the principle of the unity of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. In terms of Buddhism, it corresponds to the Diamond Cutter and Lotus of Truth scriptures; in terms of Confucianism, it corresponds to the “River” and “Lo” diagrams and I Ching; in terms of Taoism, it corresponds to the Triplex Unity and Understanding Reality. The Journey to the West uses the theme of the journey to India to obtain Buddhist scriptures as a means of elucidating the secrets of the Diamond Cutter and Lotus of Truth. It uses the theme of alchemy to open up the mysteries of the Triplex Unity and Understanding Reality. It uses the Chinese monk and his companions to expound the meanings of the “River” and “Lo” diagrams and the I Ching. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

一西游贯通三教一家之理,在释则为金刚法华,在儒则为河洛周易,在道则为参同悟真,故以西天取经,发金刚法华之秘,以九九归真,阐参同悟真之幽,以唐僧师徒,演河洛周易之义。知此者方可读西游。

5. In The Journey to the West each episode has its own meaning, each chapter has its own meaning, and each word has its own meaning. The Adept (Qiu Chuji) never spoke without purpose or used a superfluous word. The reader must pay attention to every line and every phrase, not even a single word should be permitted to slip by. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

In Journey to the West, each topic has its meaning, each chapter has its meaning, each phrase has its meaning, each word has its meaning. Real people do not speak or write to no purpose. The reader must pay attention line to line, phrase to phrase, not letting a single word pass by lightly. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

一西游一案有一案之意,一回有一回之意,一句有一句之意,一字有一字之意,真人言不空发,字不虚下,读者须要行行着意,句句留心,一字不可轻放过去。知此者方可读西游。

6. In the Journey to the West is to be found an exhaustive treatment of the principles of the mundane world and of the Tao, of the seasons of Heaven and the affairs of men. As for such as the method of learning the Tao, the art of self-cultivation, and the proper way to conduct oneself in the world there is not one of these that is not dealt with completely• Among the various alchemical classics past and present, this is the number one extraordinary book. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

Journey to the West thoroughly explains both social realities and ultimate realities; it explains the times of nature and the affairs of humanity. When it comes to methods of learning Tao, self cultivation and dealing with society, Journey to the West explains them all. This is the most extraordinary Taoist book of all time. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

一西游世法道法说尽,天时人事说尽,至於学道之法,修行应世之法,无不说尽。乃古今丹经中第一部奇书,知此者方可读西游。

7. The journey to the West possesses the power to alter (the processes of) birth and death and appropriate the secrets of Creation. (Like the Great Man), when it precedes Heaven (先天), Heaven does not contradict it; when it follows after Heaven (后天) it never contradicts Heaven's timing. It is against complete immersion in one's own mind and thoughts and the mere playing with the concepts of vacuity and nirvana. The student must not become too preoccupied with the "monkey of the mind", the "horse of the will", "the transformed body", or the "bag of flesh". He ought rather to begin without any conception of form or image and from there work toward the apprehension of the real nature and pattern (of the cosmos); only then will he not labor in vain. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

In Journey to the West is to be found the method for overturning life and death, the way to take over Creation, which in the primal state is obeyed even by Nature, while in temporal manifestations serves the timing of Nature. This is not any sort of mental fixation, nor is it quietism. Those who would learn it should not fixate on the unruly mind or the physical body; they should find the real ineffable truth out from where there is no form or image. Only then can they avoid wasting effort. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

一西游有转生杀之法,窃造化之道,先天而天弗违,后天而奉天时,非一切执心着意、玩空寂灭之事。学者须要不着心猿意马、幻身肉囊,当从无形无象处,辨别出个真实妙理来,才不是枉费功夫。知此者方可读西游。

8. The great way of The journey to the West deals with the methods of prefiguring Heaven (先天) before it reveals itself in form; it has nothing to do with the various perverse manipulations of form and appearance after Heaven has revealed itself (后天). One must first discard such things as the making of internal elixirs of immortality through refinement by brazier and fire. Only then can one go on to investigate thoroughly the correct doctrines and obtain success. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

The Great Tao or Way of the Journey to the West is the learning of prenatal emptiness, it is not learning any postnatal or visible occult skill. First set aside interest in occult arts, and then study to find out what is really true. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

一西游大道,乃先天虚无之学,非一切后天色相之邪术。先将御女闺丹、炉火烧炼劈开,然后穷究正理,方有着落。知此者方可读西游。

9. As for the episodes of The journey to the West, some of them take up the space of one or two chapters, some take up three or four chapters, and some take up five or six chapters; the number of chapters is not equal. The central idea of each, however, is always to be found at the very beginning of each episode, where it is plainly and clearly pointed out. If one passes carelessly over these parts, the rest of the episode may seem completely without focus. Not only will the subtle meaning of the episode then be difficult (for the reader) to realize, but even the literal meaning of the sentences and phrases will be hard to construe. The reader will obtain results only by first distinguishing clearly the important points of connection to the rest of the novel and then going on to read carefully what follows in the episode. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

The main issues in the Journey to the West may span one or two chapters, three of four chapters, even five or six chapters. The main idea of what is being said is in the capping verse of each issue, presented clearly in a poem. If the main idea passes you by, it will be as if there were no head, no brain; not only will the subtle meanings be hard to penetrate, even the words will be difficult to read. The reader must clearly discern the context, the thread of the story, the vein of what is being said, and then read over again what follows, so that they can understand its proper place. Only those who know this are ready to read Journey to the West.

一西游每宗公案,或一二回,或三四回,或五六回,多寡不等,其立言主意,皆在公案冠首已明明题说出了,若大意过去,未免无头无脑,不特妙义难参,即文辞亦难读看。阅者须要辨清来脉再看下文,方有着落。知此者方可读西游。

10. The subtle meaning of each chapter of The Journey to the West is to be found in the titular couplet, and the crucial words of the titular couplet are never more than one or two. Take for example the titular couplet for the first chapter: "When the spiritual root is nourished and brought to term, the origin emerges; Once the moral nature is cultivated and maintained, the great Tao is born." The crucial words of the first line are "spiritual root"; in the second line the crucial words are "moral nature". We can see that the spiritual root is the spiritual root and the moral nature is the moral nature, but the spiritual root is used to cultivate the moral nature — it is not the case that the cultivation of the moral nature is (the same as) the cultivation of the spiritual root. How clear, how plain is the meaning! Again, take the couplet for the second chapter: "Thoroughly comprehend the true and wondrous doctrine of the Boddhi; Destroy mara, return to the root and unify the soul. " "Thoroughly comprehend" would be the crucial words of the first line, "destroy mara would be the crucial words of the second line. One must comprehend a principle thoroughly before one can act, for it is comprehension that unifies action, while it is action that verifies comprehension. When knowledge and action are seen to be mutually reliant, then one can return to the origin and unify the soul. Within the chapter, there may be thousands of words and countless transformations, but they are always contained within the central idea of the titular couplet. It is the same with all of the chapters, and the reader should pay strict attentton (to the titular couplets). Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游每回妙义全在题纲二句上。题纲要紧字眼,不过一二字。如首回:灵根育孕源流出,心性修持大道生。灵根即上句字眼,心性即下句字眼,可见灵根是灵根,心性是心性,特用心性修灵根,非修心性即修灵根,何等清亮?何等分明?如次回悟彻菩提真妙理,断魔归本合元神。悟彻即上句字眼,断魔即下句字眼,先悟后行,悟以通行,行以验悟,知行相需,可以归本合元神矣。篇中千言万语,变化离合,总不外此提纲之意,回回如此,须要着眼,知此者方可读西游。

11. The acquisition of the true scriptures by means of the Journey to the West actually means the acquisition of the true scripture of The Journey to the West. Apart from The Journey to the West there are no other true scriptures to be acquired. The Journey to the West is transmitted through the story of the transmission of the scriptures by the Tathagata Buddha, that is all. If one can truly understand The journey to the West, then the three baskets of the true scripture will be found within it. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游取真经即取西游之真经,非西游之外别有真经可取,是不过借如来传经以传西游耳。能明西游,则如来三藏真经即在是矣。知此者方可读西游。

12. At the conclusion of every episode in The Journey to the West, there are two lines of summary which provide, as it were, the skeletal structure of the entire episode. Countless subtle meanings are to be found in these pairs of lines. They must not be lightly skimmed over. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游取真经即取西游之真经,非西游之外别有真经可取,是不过借如来传经以传西游耳。能明西游,则如来三藏真经即在是矣。知此者方可读西游。

13. The Journey to the West treats the truth of the union of (the) Three and (the) Five and that of "after firmness arises origination”. This is why the Tang Monk begins his journey in the thirteenth year of the Chen-kuan reign period (A.D. 639), why he takes on three disciples during the journey, and why he returns to the East after fourteen years. One must scrutinize such passages carefully. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游乃三五合一,贞下起元之理,故唐僧贞观十三年登程,路收三徒,十四年回东,此处最要着眼。知此者方可读西游。

14. The official rescript that serves as a passport (for Tripitaka) in The Journey to the West is in effect the certificate or license of one who practices the Tao. It is a key item in the entire book. This is why it has stamped on it precious seals of the various nations and why it was obtained (from the emperor) at the beginning of the Journey to the West and returned (to the emperor) when the pilgrims returned to the East. From beginning to end, it has been handled with care and reverence, never leaving (its owner) for a single moment. One must think carefully and discriminate clearly before one can apprehend the truth behind this. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游通关牒文乃行道者之执照凭信,为全部之大关目,所以有各国宝印,上西而领,回东而交,始终郑重,须臾不离,大要慎思明辨,方能得真。知此者方可读西游。

15. There are many inconsistencies in The journey to the West, but those are the very places where secret formulas are likely to be found. For it is only by means of inconsistencies that the suspicion of later readers may be aroused. Without such suspicion, the reader will not ponder (the meaning hidden in the text). These are places on which the Adept (Chiu Chuji) expended a lot of thought and where he employed his most subtle brushstrokes. Take, for example, the fact that Sun Wukong, the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, is refined in the Brazier of the Eight Trigrams and attains an indestructible, diamond-hard body. How then could he be imprisoned beneath the Mountain of the Five Phases (by the Tathigata Buddha)? Sanzang was born in the thirteenth year of the Chen-kuan reign period. By the time he avenges his father's murder eighteen years later it would already be the thirty-first year of the Chen-kuan reign period. How could it be that it is still the thirteenth year of the Chen-kuan reign period when he begins his journey to acquire the scriptures? In the Lotus Flower Cave (episode), the fact that Sun Wukong has already killed Mountain climbing Tiger and Sea-reclining Dragon was already known to the old fiends (the Gold-Horn and Silver-Horn Demons). Why then does Sun Wukong change into (the form) of Sea-reclining Dragon when he tries to steal the magic gourd later? One must pay special attention to such places in the text. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游大有破绽处,正是大有口诀处。惟有破绽,然后可以起后人之疑。心不疑,不能用心思,此是真人用意深处,下笔妙处。如悟空齐天大圣,曾经八卦炉煅炼,已成金刚不坏之躯,何以又被五行山压住?元奘生於贞观十三年,经十八年报雠,已是贞观三十一年,何以取经时又是贞观十三年?莲花洞悟空已将巴山虎倚海龙打死,老妖已经识破,何以盗葫芦时又变倚海龙?此等处大要着意。知此者方可读西游。

16. That the official rescript in The journey to the West has been stamped with the precious seals of the various nations is the subtle message of the book. It makes the book a place where a person who practices self-cultivation may bring peace to his life and establish himself. It is, in effect, a formula for immortality when abroad. Concerning suchplaces (in the text) one must tenaciously seek out the true reason for them. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一通关牒文有各国宝印,乃西游之妙旨,为修行人安身立命之处,即他家不死之方,此等处须要追究出个真正原由来。知此者方可读西游。

17. Every time the pilgrims pass through an ordeal in The Journey to the West, the author invariably records the year and the month first before continuing the narration. The hidden allegorical meaning found in the compression of years into months, months into days, and days into hours is similar to the device of relating how the official rescript issued in the thirteenth year of the Chen-kuan reign period is returned after the pilgrims return to the East with the scriptures. This is the so-called "after firmness arises origination". Within ,a single hour, the elixir of immortality is complete. Only he who knows this can read The Journey to the West.

一西游每过一难,则必先编年记月,而后叙事,隐寓攒年至月,攒月至日,攒日至时之意,其与取经回东,交还贞观十三年牒文同一机关,所谓贞下起元,一时辰内管丹成也。知此者方可读西游。

18. Among the crucial and climactic episodes in The Journey to the West, there are none that surpass the episodes of the Plantain Cave (59-61), the Heaven-reaching River (47-49) and the Scarlet-Purple Kingdom. The way in which the "temperature , timing, and sequences" of alchemical refinement are treated in (the episode of) the Plantain Cave, the way that the "weighing out of medicinal substances" I treated (in the episode of) the Heaven-reaching River, the way that the process of "summoning and integrating the soul" is treated in (the episode of) the Scarlet-Purple Kingdom may be said to be profound and exhaustive indeed. If the student will delve deeply into such places, he may be assured that he will come to understand a large part of the Great Way of the Golden Elixir. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游有着紧合尖处,莫如巴蕉洞、通天河、朱紫国三案。巴蕉洞言火候次序,至矣尽矣;通天河辨药物斤两,至矣尽矣;朱紫国写招摄作用,至矣尽矣。学者若於此处参入,则金丹大道可得其大半矣。知此者方可读西游。

19. There is both unified narration and separate narration in The Journey to the West. The first seven chapter are (an example of) unified narration. They move from action to nonactivity; and from the cultivation of life (性) they proceed to the cultivation of essence (命) The sequence of elixir formation and the labor of refinement by heat — none of this is not completely covered there. The rest of the ninety-three chapters treat either wat is correct or what is incorrect, essence or life; or they speak of essence along with life or life along with essence; or they relate the true fire-times or point out the errors in the fire-times (of the alchemical refinement of the elixir of Immortality). They amount to nothing more than making analyses by means of single incidents and do not depart from the subtle truths (embodied) in the first seven chapters. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游有合说者,有分说者。首七回,合说也,自有为而入无为,由修命而至修性,丹法次序、火候工程无不具备。其下九十三回,或言正,或言邪,或言性,或言命,或言性而兼命,或言命而兼性,或言火候之真,或撥火候之差,不过就一事而分晰之,总不出首七回之妙义。知此者方可读西游。

20. (The heart of) The journey to the West is the same as the teachings of Confucius on the exhaustive investigation of truth, the perfection of nature, and the fulfillment of one's life-store. When the Monkey King learns the Tao at the West Aparagodaniya Continent, this is illustrative of the exhaustive investigation of truth; when he thoroughly comprehends the wondrous doctrine of Boddhi, this also illustrates the exhaustive investigation of truth; when he destroys mara and returns to the origin, this is illustrative of the perfection of nature. His acquisition of the gold-hooped rod and full battle dress and his erasure of his name from the Register of Life and Death, his becoming Great Sage Equal to Heaven and his entering the Brazier of the Eight Trigrams to be refined are illustrative of the fulfillment of life. Guan-yin's redemption of the three disciples and her search for the scripture pilgrim are illustrative of the exhaustive investigation of the truth. Again, the Tang Monk's passing the Double Fork Ridge and arriving at the Mountain of the Two Frontiers are illustrative of the perfection of essence, while the taking of the three disciples and the crossing of the Flowing-Sand River exemplify the fulfillment of life. Similarly, the episodes that relate the pilgrims' passing through countless foreign regions, traversing a thousand mountains and ten thousand waters, their arrival at Cloud-transcending Stream, and (their sailing in) the bottomless boat are all illustrative of such teachings. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游即孔子穷理尽性至命之学。猴王西牛贺洲学道,穷理也;悟彻菩提妙理,穷理也。断魔归本,尽性也。取金篐棒、全身披挂,销生死簿,作齐天大圣,入八卦炉煅炼,至命也。观音度三徒,访取经人,穷理也。唐僧过双叉岭,至两界山,尽性也。收三徒,过流沙河,至命也。以至群历异邦、千山万水,至凌云渡、无底船,无非穷理尽性至之学。知此者方可读西游。

21. The Journey to the West has passages that have the power to strike a blow at a perverse doctrine and there are passage that have the power to verify sound doctrine in order to strike a blow at a perverse doctrine. For example, the episodes of the marriage in the Land of women and of becoming an imperial son-in-law in India, you have the attacking of perversity in the midst of the verification of sound doctrine. In the episode of subduing the three fiends at the Lion-Camel Kingdom, the submission of Yellow Brows at the Little Western Heaven and the elimination of the leopard at Mist-concealing Mountain you have attacking perverse doctrine in order to bring the reader back to sound doctrine. The reason why the Adept (Qiu Chuji) used such a double-edged style and expended an immeasurable amount of compassionate care on this was surely his desire that every person might become an immortal or a Buddha. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游有劈邪归正,有证正劈邪之笔,如女人国配夫妻,天竺国招附马,证正中劈邪也;狮驼国降三妖,小西天收黄眉,隐雾山除豹子,劈邪归正也。真人一意双关,费尽多少老婆心,盖欲人人成仙,个个作佛耳。知此者方可读西游。

22. In The Journey to the West there are passages that expound the correct way (正道), and there are those that attack the side Ways (旁门). The passages that portray the various monsters in different mountains are attacks on the side Ways, whereas those treating the kings and rulers of various lands expound correct way. This is the fundamental significance of the entire book. Only he who knows this can read The Journey to the West

一西游有写正道处,有劈旁门处。诸山洞妖精,劈旁门也;诸国土君王,写正道也;此全部本义,知此者方可读西游。

23. The so-called monsters in The Journey to the West are of two kinds: they are either monsters of the correct way (正道) or the monsters of the false ways (邪道). Monsters like those of Little Western Heaven and Lion-Camel Cave belong to the side ways and false ways (旁门邪道). Monsters like the Bull Monster King and the Raksa Woman, the King of Miraculous Power, Jupiter’s Rival and the Jade Hare are unenlightened monsters who nonetheless belong to the correct way (正道) and are thus different from other monsters. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游所称妖精,有正道中妖精,有邪道中妖精。如小西天狮驼洞等妖,旁门邪道妖也;如牛魔王、罗刹女、灵感大王、赛太岁、玉兔儿,乃正道中未化之妖,与别的妖不同,知此者方可读西游。

24. Among the hexagrams and their images from the I Ching expounded in The Journey to the West, some are used more than once but, since each is used because of a particular incident, although the hexagram might be the same, the meaning is not the same. Therefore it does not matter that some are used more than once. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游演卦象有重复者,特因一事而发之,虽卦同而意别,各有所指,故不妨重复出之。知此者方可读西游。

25. In The Journey to the West , there is a method of striking down the false when one wants to show forth the true. For example, when the author wishes to describe the true tiger (nature) of Pilgrim (Ch 14) at the Mountain of the Two Frontiers, he first uses the ordinary tiger of Double-Fork Ridge to lead into the topic. (Ch 13) When he wishes to describe the true dragon (nature) of the Dragon King of the Eastern Ocean (Ch14), he first uses the serpents and snakes of Double-Fork Ridge to lead into the topic (Ch13). When he wishes to describe the true yin and yang of Pilgrim and Bajie, he first uses the false yin and yang of Guan-yin Hall to lead into the topic (Ch 16-18). When he wishes to describe the dragon horse of the Serpent-coiled Mountain, he first uses the ordinary horse given by the T'ang emperor to lead into the topic. (Ch 15) When he wishes to describe the true earth (nature) of Sha Monk, he first uses the false earth (nature) of the Yellow Wind Monster (Ch 20-22). Such a device is used extensively throughout the work. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游有欲示真而先劈假之法。如欲写两界山行者之真虎,而先以双蚁岭之凡虎引之;欲写东海龙王之真龙,而先以双蚁岭蛇虫引之;欲写行者八戒之真阴真阳,而先以观音院之假阴假阳引之;欲写蛇盘山之龙马,而先以唐王之凡马引之;欲写沙僧之真土,而先以黄风妖之假土引之。通部多用此意。知此者方可读西游。

26. In The Journey to the West, there are some passages that are very difficult to understand, but are nevertheless really very easy to understand. Take, for example, the fact that Sanzang`s three disciples have attained immortality. How, then, could Sun Wukong end up pressed beneath the Mountain of the Five Phases? How could Zhu Wuneng (Bajie) get reincarnated into the wrong womb and Sha Wuching (Friar Sand) be banished to the Flowing-Sand River? Why did they have to embrace Buddhism before they could truly attain ultimate fruition? That the three disciples must still embrace Buddhism points to the fact that they have perfected ‘life’ but not ‘essence’. Moreover, the episodes of the Mountain of the Five Phases, the Cloudy Paths Cave, and the Flowing-Sand River point to the fact that the Tang Monk has not perfected ‘life’ though he has perfected ‘essence’. This use of the same pen to treat two sides of a problem at once shows the truth that there can be no cultivation of ‘essence’ without the cultivation of ‘life’ and no cultivation of ‘life’ without the cultivation of ‘essence’. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游有最难解而极易解者,如三徒已到长生不老之地,何以悟空又被五行山压住?悟能又有错投胎,悟净又贬流沙河,必须皈依佛教,方得正果乎?盖三徒皈依佛教,是就三徒了命不了性者言;五行山、云栈洞、流沙河,是就唐僧了性未了命者言。一笔双写,示修性者不可不修命,修命者不可不修性之义。知此者方可读西游。

27. There are many passages in The Journey to the West that seem to deal with different incidents, but ultimately refer to the same thing. The Journey to the West, for example, takes its name from the story of the Tang Monk's journey to acquire scriptures in the Western Heaven. Why, then, does the story of Sun Wukong appear in the beginning? What the reader overlooks is the fact that Sun Wukong's birth in the Piirvavideha Continent is analogous to the Tang Monk's birth in Great Tang of the Land of the East; that Sun Wukong's learning the Way in the West Aparagodaniya Continent is analogous to the Tang Monk's acquisition of the scriptures in the Thunderclap Temple of the Western Heaven; that Sun Wukong's return to his mountain after attaining enlightenment is analogous to the Tang Monk's return to his country after the acquisition of the true scriptures; and that Sun Wukong's being caught in Buddha's palm after getting out of the Brazier is analogous to the Tang Monk's return to the Western Heaven after the transmission of the scriptures. Though the incidents are different, the meaning is the same, for they are all summed up and unified in the (idea of a) journey to the West. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游有不同而大同者。如西游记本为唐僧西天取经而名之,何以将悟空公案著之於前乎?殊不知悟空生身於东胜神洲,如唐僧生身於东土大唐;悟空学道於西牛贺洲,如唐僧取经於西天雷音;悟空明大道而回山,如唐僧得真经而回国;悟空出炉后而入於佛掌,如唐僧传经后而归於西天。事不同而理同,总一西游也。知此者方可读西游。

28. Whenever a most difficult or perilous situation occurs during journey to the West, Pilgrim seeks assistance from Guan-yin. This is a most important feature of The Journey to the West, for it embodies the most crucial lesson for the person practicing self-cultivation. Success in the cultivation of ‘life’ and ‘essence’ is entirely dependent on the assistance of the superintending gods and spirits. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游每到极难处,行者即求救於观音,为西游之大关目,即为修行人之最要着。盖以性命之学,全在神明觉察之功也。知此者方可读西游。

29. The first seven chapters of The Journey to the West proceed from ‘life’ to ‘essence’, from activity to nonactivity. The remaining ninety-three chapters proceed from ‘essence’ to ‘life’ s and return from nonactivity to activity. The profound truth of the entire work is nothingmore than this. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游前七回,由命以及性,自有为而入无为也;后九十三回,由性以及命,自无为而归有为也。通部大义不过如是。知此者方可读西游。

30. In the Journey to the West Sanzang represents the substance of the Supreme Ultimate, while the three disciples represent the energies of the five phases. Sanzang`s acceptance of the three disciples thus refers to the control of the five phase by the Supreme Ulitmate, while the fact that the three disciples make their submission to Sanzang means that the five phases are what constitutes the Supreme Ultimate. Only he who knows this can read The ]ourney to the West.

一西游三藏喻太极之体,三徒喻五行之气。三藏收三徒,太极而统五行也;三徒归三藏,五行而成太极也。知此者方可读西游。

31. When the Journey to the West speaks of the Tang monk and his disciples, two different sets of names are used and they ought not to be thought of in the same breath. For example (the names) Sanzang (唐三藏), Sun Wukong (孙悟空), Zhu Wuneng (豬悟能) and Sha Wujing (沙悟净) refer to the substance of the Tao, whereas (the names) Xuanzhang (玄奘),brother Monkey (行者), Bajie (豬八戒) and Friar Sand(沙僧) refer to the function of the Tao. Since function does not exist apart from substance nor does substance exist aprat from function, therefor there are two names for each of them. Only he who knows this can read the ]ourney to the West.

一西游言唐僧师徒处,名讳有二,不可一概而论。如元奘、悟空、悟能、悟净,言道之体也;三藏、行者、八戒、和尚,言道之用也。体不离用,用不离体,所以一人有二名。知此者方可读西游。

32. The references in the Journey to the West to the Tang monk and his disciples have both primary and auxiliary functions. Take for example the names Xuanzhang (玄奘), Tang Sanzang (Tripitaka Tang - 唐三藏), Sun Wukong (孙悟空), brother Monkey (the Pilgrim Sun - 行者), Zhu Bajie (豬八戒), Zhu Wuneng (豬悟能) and Sha Wujing (沙悟净), Friar Sand(沙僧)— these are made to serve the primary functions. The names Tang Monk, Pilgrim, Idot and Monk are made to serve the auxiliary functions. The primary function serve solely to explicate the substantive truths of ‘life’ and ‘essence’, whereas the auxiliary function serves simultaneous to give form to the meanings of the ordinary world. People should not regard them as if they were all the same. Only he who knows this can read the ]ourney to the West.

一西游写唐僧师徒,有正用,有借用。如称陈元奘唐三藏,孙悟空孙行者,猪八戒猪悟能,沙悟净沙和尚,正用也;称唐僧、行者、呆子、和尚,借用也。正用专言性命之实理,借用兼形世间之学人。不得一列混看。知此者方可读西游。

33. The Journey to the West uses the three disciples to represent the great medicine outside of the five phases. This belongs to the category of prenatal endowment (先天) and is not to be compared with perverse five phases that belong to the postnatal condition (后天), where they posses shape and form. One must dearly distinguish the true source of things and not try to locate it on the bag of flesh or skin ( the body). Only he who knows this can read the ]ourney to the West.

一西游以三徒喻外五行之大药,属於先天,非后天有形有象之五行可比,须要辨明源头,不得在肉皮囊上找寻。知此者方可读西游。

34. The Journey to the West describes all three disciples as having hideous features. Hideous features are, in fact, distinguished features and distinguished features are marvelous features. They may be said to be hideous but what they do is marvelous. Moreover they posses neither ‘egoistical’ features nor ‘popular’ features, neither the features of the moral multitudes nor those of the long-lived ones. That is why, wherever the three disciples go, people fail to recognize them (for what they really are) and become afraid or amazed at the sight of them. In such places (in the text), one must take careful note of this feature. Only he who knows this can read the Journey to the West.

一西游写三徒皆具丑相。丑相者,异相也。异相即妙相。正说着丑,行着妙,无我相、人相、众生相、寿者相,所以三徒到处,人多不识,见之惊疑。此等处须要细心辨别。知此者方可读西游。

35. The Journey to the West describes all three disciples as having different abilities. Friar Sand is not capable of transformations at all, Pig knows thirty-six transformations, while Monkey knows seventy two transformations. Though his number of transformations is said to be seventy-two, Monkey is actually capable of countless transformations. Why is this? He is the Metal within Water, the true yang principle external to one's self. Belonging to the category of life, lord of hardness and motion, he signifies the primal breath of all living creatures and unites the strategic nodes of the seventy-two time periods of the year. There is nothing that is not included in him, nothing that is not perfected by him. A perfect substance having a great function, he is an all-pervading principle of unity. That is why he is capable of boundless transformations, unimaginably wonderful and mysterious. Pig happens to be the Wood within the Fire, the true yin principle internal to one's self. Belonging to the category of essence, lord of pliancy and quiescence, he holds the handle by which the illusory body is controlled, but he can only change into substance that is posterior to Heaven and not the true treasure that is anterior to Heaven. His transformations are incomplete, and that’s why, of the seventy-two transformations, he is capable of only thirty-six. As for Friar Sand, he is the true Earth, and he lives to guard the Central Quarter and to harmonize the yin and yang. He is incapable of any transformations. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游写三徒本事不一。沙僧不变,八戒三十六变,行者七十二变。虽说七十二变,其实千变万化,不可以数计。何则?行者为水中金,乃他家之真阳,属命,主刚,主动,为生物之祖气,统七十二候之要津;无物不包,无物不成,全体大用,一以贯之,所以变化万有,神妙不测。八戒为火中木,乃我家之真阴,属性,主柔,主静,为幻身之把柄,只能变化后天气质,不能变化先天真宝,变化不全,所以七十二变之中,仅得三十六变也。至於沙僧者,为真土,镇位中宫,调合阴阳,所以不变。知此者方可读西游。

36. There is great significance in the Journey to the West's description of the divine weapons belonging to the three disciples. Both Bajie and Friar Sand carry their divine weapons along with them in their hands. The gold-hooped rod of Monkey, however, can be transformed into the size of an embroidery needle; it is then stored in his ear and taken out only when needed. Why is this so? The rake and the priestly staff, you see, though treasures in themselves, represent the practice of the perfection of form by means of the Tao. Once the matter has been pointed out by the teacher, the person himself can attain its realization. The gold-hooped rod, on the other hand, is actually the secret truth that has been transmitted from mouth to mouth by sages through succeeding generations, a secret that was whispered from ear to ear. It is the technique of prolonging one's life through magic, fabricated out of nothingness. It is so huge that it has no circumference, so small that it has no interior. It roams at will between Heaven and Earth, with nothing to withstand it, and that is why it must be stored in the ear. These mysterious and marvelous functions [of the gold-hooped rod] are as different as night and day from those of the rake and priestly staff. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游写三徒神兵大有分晓。八戒、沙僧神兵,随身而带,惟行者金篐棒变绣花针,藏在耳内,用时方可取出。此何以故?夫钉钯宝杖虽是法宝,乃以道全形之事,一经师指,自己现成,若金篐棒,乃历圣口口相传,附耳低言之旨,系以术延命之法,自虚无中结就,其大无外,其小无内,纵横天地莫遮栏,所以藏在耳内。这些子机秘妙用,与钉钯宝杖天地悬远。知此者方可读西游。

37. In the Journey to the West, the three disciples represent the substance of the five phases, while the three weapons represent the function of the five phases. When the five phases are compressed together, then both substance and function are perfectly present. This is why they can successfully escort the Tang Monk to fetch the true scriptures and meet the real Buddha. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游以三徒喻五行之体,以三兵喻五行之用。五行攒簇,体用俱备,所以能宝唐僧,取真经,见真佛。知此者方可读西游。

38. There are many accounts in The journey to the West of how Sun Wukong triumphs over the most difficult of obstacles by pulling off pieces of hair from his body and transforming them. The pieces of hair, however, are not all the same nor are the transformations. Sometimes he pulls off pieces of hair from behind his head. or from either his left or right arm, sometimes he pulls off pieces of hair from both arms or from his tail. There are great differences here, and one must not be careless in distinguishing between them. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游写悟空每到极难处,拔毫毛变化得胜。但毛不一,变化亦不一。或拔脑后毛,或拔左臂毛,或拔右臂毛,或拔两臂毛,或拔尾上毛,大有分别,不可不细心辨别。知此者方可读西游。

39. When The journey to the West describes Sun Wukong as changing into someone else, the accounts vary: sometimes he himself is transformed, sometimes he uses his rod, and sometimes he uses pieces of hair. The transformations of himself and his rod are true transformations, whereas the transformations of the pieces of hair are false transformations. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游写悟空变人物,有自变者,有以棒变者,有以毫毛变者。自变棒变,真变也;毫毛变,假变也。知此者方可读西游。

40. In The journey to the West, Sun Wukong is called the Great Sage and Pilgrim. These two names are vastly different from each other and they ought not to be thought of in the same breath. One must look to the source. If the source is real, then everything is real; but if the source is false, then everything is false. Never confuse the real with the false or the false with the real. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游称悟空,称大圣,称行者,大有分别,不可一概而论,须要看来脉如何。来脉真则为真,来脉假则为假,万勿以真者作假,假者作真,知此者方可读西游。

41. Sun Wukong calls himself Sun Waigong (孙外公–Maternal Grandfather Sun) everywhere he goes and always mentions "that bit of business five hundred years ago." Now, Sun Waigong actually refers to the emptiness within, while "five hundred years ago" actually refers to that which is anterior to Heaven (先天). One must realize that the vital force anterior to Heaven originates from nothingness. It is the formula for immortality external to oneself and not something that one can produce within oneself. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一悟空到处自称孙外公,又题五百年前公案。孙外公者,内无也;五百年前者,先天也。可知先天之气,自虚无中来,乃他家不死之方,非一己所产之物。知此者方可读西游。

42. After Sun Wukong attains the Tao on his journey to the West, he can neither be drowned in water nor burned by fire. When he caused a great uproar in Heaven, even the divine warriors of the various Heavens could not prevail against him. Why, then, is he repeatedly overcome by monsters when he is accompanying the Tang Monk to acquire scriptures in the Western Heaven? The reader must take such problems and carefully distinguish the issues involved; only then can he discover their true meaning. If he just muddles through his reading, he will never gain any insight. Remember that the name Pilgrim is a nickname given by the Tang Monk to Sun Wukong. Now this nickname may be explained as referring to someone who has understood the truth but who must still engage in action or as a name for any person practicing self-cultivation. The Pilgrim who is overcome by monsters refers, in fact, to any pilgrim practicing self-cultivation. Do not confuse one with the other. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游孙悟空成道以后,入水不溺,入火不焚,大闹天宫,诸天神将皆不能胜,何以保唐僧西天取经,每为妖精所困?读者须将此等处先辨分明,方能寻得出实义,若糊涂看去,终无会心处。盖行者之名,系唐僧所起之混名也。混名之名,有以悟的必须行的说者,有以一概修行说者。妖精所困之行者,是就修行人说,莫得指鹿为马。知此者方可读西游。

43• Whenever the Tang Monk and his disciples pass through a country in the Journey to the West, the official rescript must first be examined and stamped with the precious seals (of the country) before they are permitted to proceed. This is a matter of primary importance in the whole enterprise of acquiring scriptures. One must seek out the true meaning of this matter. Only he who knows this can read the journey to the West.

一西游唐僧师徒每过一国,必要先验过牒文,用过宝印,才肯放行。此是取经第一件要紧大事,须要将这个实义追究出来。知此者方可读西游。

44• The Journey to the West has been annotated countless times. As for quality explanations, there is not one per hundred. The Zhenchuan –真诠 (True Explication) of Wuyizi (悟一子) may be considered the foremost set of annotations for this book, but it is unavoidable that even it overlooks certain things. The reader should not read only the annotations and neglect the text itself. He should rather read the annotations only from the perspective of the text. In this way he may avoid the mistake of compounding the errors of others. Only he who knows this can read Journey to the West.

一西游经人注解者不可胜数,其中佳解,百中无一。虽悟一子真诠为西游注解第一家,未免亦有见不到处。读者不可专看注解而略正文,须要在正文上看注解,庶不至有以讹传讹之差。知此者方可读西游。

45. The reader of the Journey to the West should first exert great effort on the text itself. He should again and again strive to comprehend its meaning, and he should not rest until he has savored its true flavor and truly gained insight (into its real meaning). If he has indeed gained some insight, he can then read annotations done by others in order to enlarge his understanding. This will enable him to distinguish between that which should be accepted or rejected in the other interpretations, and he can also find out the validity or speciousness of his own perceptions. If he persists in such efforts for a long time, he will certainly arrive at an advanced state of understanding. But even then he must not consider himself always in the right. He should seek out teachers for further illumination. Only then will he be able to see the bright flame of real knowledge and avoid the mistake of regarding the semblance of truth as truth itself. The foregoing forty-five items constitute the essentials of how to read the Journey to the West. I have carefully recorded them at the beginning of this volume as an act of friendship extended to the appreciative reader.

一读西游当先在正文上用功夫,翻来覆去,极力参悟,不到尝出滋味,实有会心处,不肯休歇。如有所会,再看他人注解,扩充自己识见,则他人所解之臧否可辨,而我所悟之是非亦可知。如此用功,久必深造自得。然亦不可自以为是,尤当求师印证,方能真知灼见,不至有似是而非之差。


The Fourth Way and Esoteric Traditions⎟ Living Presence ⎟ The Secret of the Golden Flower ⎟


Japanese symbols of Presence⎟ The taoist I Ching ⎟ Being Presence First