English 中文 日本語


The character Pig is the easiest to understand of all the characters in the Journey to the West, because we all recognize his greed and laziness. We laugh about him, so that we don`t become too aware that we have a Pig in ourselves. Pig represents the instinctive centre (For an explanation on the instinctive centre see: the plurality of a man`s being). It cannot help but go along on the Journey, but it is really not interested in it at all. He is also called the idiot. The instinctive centre is much more interested in food:

A youth came in with food, which he put on the table with the words, “Please eat.” Sanzang put his hands together and started to recite the grace. By then Pig had already swallowed a bowlful, and the moron finished three more before the short prayer was over.“What a chaff-guzzler,” said Monkey. “We do seem to have run into a hungry ghost ”(one of the six states of being in Buddhism representing strong desires and habits). Old Wang, however, found the speed at which Pig ate very amusing, and said, “This reverend gentleman must be very hungry. Give him more rice at once.” The stupid creature indeed had a large stomach. Look at him, keeping his head down as he devours at least a dozen bowls. Sanzang and Monkey had not been able to finish two bowls, but the idiot would not stop and was still eating. -- Journey to the West, chapter 20

The instinctive centre is also very interested in comfort:

Pig preparing to take a nap - by Chen Huiguan

If I go back now and tell the old monk that there's nowhere I can beg food, he may not believe I've come this far. I'd better hang around here for another hour or two before reporting back. Oh well, I may as well take a snooze in that grass.” With that the idiot pillowed his head in the grass and went to sleep.
-- Journey to the West, chapter 28

At the slightest difficulty it wants to quit the journey and go back to the comfortable life it had before it started the journey:

The idiot rushed straight back up the mountain shouting. “Friar Sand, bring the luggage here at once. We're dividing it up.” “Why, brother?” Friar Sand asked. “When we've divided it up you can go back to man-eating in the Flowing Sands River,” Pig replied, “I'll return to Gao Village to see my wife, Big Brother can play the sage on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, and the white dragon can be a dragon in the ocean again. The master's getting married in this evil spirits cave. Let's all go and settle down.”“You're talking nonsense again, you idiot,” replied Brother Monkey.“I bloody well am not,” Pig retorted. “Those two evil spirits who were carrying water said a moment ago that a vegetarian wedding feast is being laid on for the master.” “How can you say things like that when the evil spirits are holding the master prisoner in the cave and he's longing for us to go in and rescue him?” said Monkey.
-- Journey to the West, chapter 82

The instinctive centre also easily gets deviated from the journey to the present when meeting the opposite sex:

Pig flirting with Boddhisattvas disguised as girls
- by Chen Huiguan
The woman and the girls last night were some Bodhisattvas or other appearing to us in disguise,” replied Monkey with a grin, “and I suppose they went away in the middle of the night. I'm afraid Pig is being punished.” On hearing this, Sanzang put his hands together and worshipped, and then they saw a piece of paper hanging from a cypress tree and fluttering in the breeze. Friar Sand hurried over to fetch it and show it to their master, who saw that there were eight lines of verse on it:
The Old Woman of Mount Li had no yearning for the world,
But the Bodhisattva Guanyin persuaded her to come.
Samantabhadra and Manjusri were both present
Disguised as pretty girls among the trees.
The holy monk was too virtuous to return to lay life,
But the unreligious Pig was worse than worldly.
From now on he must calm his mind and reform.
If he misbehaves again, the journey will be hard.
-- Journey to the West, chapter 23

In the last chapter of the novel called The five immortals achieve Nirvana, all of Pig's fellow pilgrims achieve enlightenment and become buddhas or arhats, but he does not; he is still too much a creature of his base desires. He is instead rewarded for his part in the pilgrimage's success with a job as Cleanser of the Altars which means he can eat leftovers of the altar offerings. This symbolizes that the best the instinctive centre can do is not obstruct efforts to be present, it cannot engage presence itself.