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The relationship between Sanzang, Monkey and Pig.

The most important roles in the story are played by the heart — the desire to be present, symbolized by Sanzang — and the mind, ruling faculty or steward, the knowledge and skills of Monkey. Pig also plays an important role because he symbolizes the instinctive centre. The instinctive centre is not really interested in presence, it is always looking out for its own interests and tries to find ways to quit the journey to the present. Pig is basically interested in food, sleep and women. He constantly clashes with Monkey and tries to make Monkey look bad in Sanzangs eyes.

The splendid evil spirit stopped its negative wind in a hollow and changed itself into a girl with aface as round as the moon and as pretty as a flower. In her left hand she held a blue earthenware pot and in her right a green porcelain jar. She headed East towards the Tang Priest. "Where are you going, Bodhisattva," he said,"and what's that you're holding?" Although she was obviously an evil fiend he could not realize it. “Venerable sir,” the girl replied at once, "this blue pot is full of tasty rice, and the green jar contains fried wheat-balls." "That girl in front of you is no good", said Brother Monkey, "she’s an evil spirit trying to make a fool of you”, and struck at the evil spirit’s face. The fiend used a magic trick of abandoning it’s body and fled, leaving a false corps lying dead on the ground. Sanzang shook with terror and said to himself, “That monkey is utterly outrageous. Despite all my good advice he will kill people for no reason at all.”“Don't be angry, master,” said Monkey. “Come and see what’s in her pot”. The priest saw that so far from containing tasty rice it was full of centipedes with long tails. The jar had not held wheat-balls but frogs and toads, which were now jumping around on the ground. Sanzang was now beginning to believe Monkey. This was not enough, however, to prevent a furious Pig from deliberately making trouble by saying, “Master, that girl was a local countrywoman who happened to meet us while she was taking some food to the fields. There's no reason to think that she was an evil spirit. My elder brother was trying his club out on her, and he killed her by mistake. He's deliberately trying to trick us by magicking the food into those things because he's afraid you'll recite the Band-tightening spell. He's fooled you into not saying it. This brought the blindness back on Sanzang, who believed these trouble-making remarks and made the magic with his hand as he recited the spell. “My head's aching, my head's aching,” Monkey said. “Stop, please stop. Tell me off if you like. " -- Journey to the West, chapter 27

The Tempter - Cathedral of Strasbourg, 13th C.

Monkey, the steward, is doing it’s job of protecting the desire to be present, but Pig, the instinctive centre, intentionally creates trouble for monkey, with the aim of sabotaging the journey. The instinctive centre prefers a comfortable life, over a journey to presence that is fraught with suffering and hardship.

The statue on the left, from the Strassbourg cathedral shows the tempter. The Bible story of the tempter symbolizes the same idea as conveyed in the quote above. The lower self is offering some interesting I`s, symbolized by the apple, and by the blue earthenware pot and the green pocelain pot in the Journey to the West, to take one away from the effort to be present. The reptiles on the back of the tempter and in the demon's pot are symbols for the lower self, and show that the lower self is behind the trick.



The Tang Priest was shaking with terror on the back of his horse, unable to speak. Pig stood beside him and said with a laugh, “That Monkey's marvellous, isn't he! He's gone mad. He's killed three people in a few hours' journey.”The Tang Priest was just going to say the spell when Monkey threw himself in front of his horse and called out, “Don't say it, master, don't say it. Come and have a look at it.” It was now just a pile of dusty bones. “He's only just been killed, Wukong,” Sanzang said in astonishment, “so why has he turned into a skeleton?” “It was a demon corpse with magic powers that used to deceive people and destroy them. Now that I've killed it, it's reverted to its original form. The writing on her backbone says that she's called 'Lady White Bone.' “ Sanzang was convinced, but Pig had to make trouble again. “Master,” he said, “he's afraid that you'll say those words because he killed him with a vicious blow from his cudgel, and so he's made him look like this to fool you.” The Tang Priest, who really was gullible, now believed Pig, and he started to recite the spell. Monkey, unable to stop the pain, knelt beside the path and cried, "Stop, stop. Say whatever it is you have to say." -- Journey to the West, chapter 27
Tarot card XIII Death


Sanzang represents a cultivated heart, completely dedicated to being present. However, he is also very naïve and soft-hearted and can`t see through the disguise of the demons. Justice is very important for him, and because he can`t see the truth and can only act from what he understands, he is often discontented with Monkey, because Monkey seemingly does something unjust. The inner meaning of this is, that when we make efforts to be present, we have to let go of all our worries, even if they concern things that we feel are unjust, because the lower self will send out very interesting thoughts to make us more interested in these thoughts than in being present. Justice doesn`t exist on the level of every day life, it only exists on a higher level. To awaken, one needs to learn to accept all the friction in one`s life and use it to transform it into presence. When one is successful the friction one experienced becomes unimportant and one simply becomes grateful for experiencing the miracle of being present to one`s life. Sanzang doesn`t want awakening to be a war, but it is. However, through experience he learns to trust Monkey more and more, and also learns to see Pig for what he is.




The Dance of Death, The Munster of Bern, Switzerland, 15th C.



There is a war that opens the doors of heaven. Happy the warriors whose fate is to fight such war.
-- Bhagavad-Gita (Hindu text)

The skeleton in the left image and in the Tarot death card symbolizes the lower self, trying to get rid of the effort to be present, similar to the demon corpse in the Journey to the West.





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