Episode 122: Journey To The West 4 – Awoke To The Truth

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Today we will keep talking about stories from the book Journey to the West 西游记. Last time in Episode 120, we talked about the Monkey King didn’t want to learn anything that his master Patriarch Subodhi suggested and the reason he came all the way here was to learn the way to immortality. His master Subodhi seemed to get annoyed by him and struck the monkey over the head three times. Then he left the room dismissing the whole room of audience and lock the door behind him.

What would you do now if you are the monkey king? Keep trying to persuade the master to teach the way to immortality that you wishful or leave the place you traveled for and stayed for years and figure out other ways. Or…

The other pupils turned upon the monkey king after the master slapped the door, “do you think that is the way to behave? The master offered to teach you and you were arguing with him instead of being thankful. ” They all got angry and scolded him. But the monkey was not upset at all. The reason is that he was smart enough to understand the secret signs from the master.

What are the signs? The master struck his head for three times meaning the monkey king was given an appointment at the third time 三更. In ancient China, the time system is different from today using hours and minutes. The three time was between the 11: 00 pm to 1:00 am. By leaving the room with his hands folded back meaning he was wanted in the inner apartments. By locking the door meant he was to come round by the back door. I know these sound a little confusing to you. Actually you can find many similar scenarios in ancient Chinese literature about subtle signs. It is part of the Chinese culture and even today people believe in sometimes it is the best way not to express too obvious in many aspects and that’s the beauty of the communication.


The monkey waited and waited for the rest of the day. As the dusk came, he went to his sleeping place and pretended to be sleeping. There was no watchman and the monkey counted his breaths to estimate the time. When it was about the time, he got up quietly and went around the back door. It was half open and the monkey said to himself, “the master certainly will give me instructions. ”

So he crept into his master’s room and went straight to his bed and bowed without making any sound until the master Subodhi woke up and stretched his legs saying, “Hard, very hard! The Way is most secret. Never handle the golden elixir like a toy. He who to unworthy ears entrusts the dark truths. To no purpose works his jaws and talks his tongue try. ”

“Master I have been keeling here for a while. ” The master heard the sound in the darkness and shouted, “you wretched monkey! What are you doing here? Go back to sleep in your quarter. ” The monkey replied, “at the lecture today, you promised me to give me instructions .That’s why I am here.” The Patriarch was really glad to hear that and thought, “this creature is no doubt born by the pure essences of Heaven and Earth. Otherwise he would never understand my secret signs.” The monkey kept saying, “we are alone here and nobody could here us. Take pity upon me and teach me the way of immortality. I shall never forget your kindness. ” The Patriarch said, “come here and listen carefully.

To spare and tend the vital powers,this and nothing else

Is sum and total of all magic, secret and profane.

All is comprised in these three, spirit, breath and soul

Guard them closely, screen them well, let there be no leak.

Store them within the frame.

That is all that can be learnt, and all that can be taught

I would have you mark the tortoise and snake, locked in tight embrace.

Locked in tight embrace, the vital powers are strong;

Even in the midst of fierce flames the golden lotus may be planted

The Five Elements compounded and transposed, and put to new use.

When that is done, be which you please, Buddha or Immortal.”

The monkey carefully committed them to memory and humbly thanked the Patriarch and left the back door. A pale light was just coming into the sky. He returned quietly to his sleeping place.



西游记 Journey to the West

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