On the Names of the Characters in Journey from the West

PureInsight | October 26, 2006

[PureInsight.org] Everyday people consider Journey to the West
to be a book of myths.  In their minds, it is a made-up story.
Although many people like to read the book, they think that the book is
a novel that is romantic, theatrical, and filled with fantasies.

In fact, the book Journey to the West
is based on the story of Monk Xuanzang in the Tang dynasty who went to
India to obtain Buddhist scriptures. The book reflects the author's
deep understanding of cultivation and is a story about cultivation.


The three disciples of the Buddhist Monk are Sun Wukong, Sha Wujing,
and Zhu Wuneng. All their names have one word in common, "Wu," which
means "enlightenment" in Chinese. "Kong" means "emptiness." "Jing"
means "clean." Neng means "abilities."

As a cultivator, "Enlightenment" is the most important thing. Since the
human world is a maze, we can't see things like "Heaven", "Hell", and
"Buddha" with our own eyes. We rely on our own "Enlightenment" to enter
the door of the cultivation. It is very difficult for a person who does
not believe in the existence of gods to enter the door of the

After one becomes a cultivator, the word "Enlightenment" contains even
more meanings. It includes understanding what Master has said,
understanding the troubles we encounter as we interact with people in
the society, in our workplaces, and in our families, understanding
sickness karma and other hardships we experience. In other words,
"Enlightenment" means whether one can look at everything from a
cultivator's perspective and do what Master says.

Let's look at the words "Emptiness", "Clean", and "Abilities." They
represent the different cultivation standards that determine the
different Fruit Status the three disciples would obtain.

The word "Emptiness" means to eliminate all attachments and desires.

Sun Wukong was born from a stone. He didn't have a human body and
reincarnated into a monkey. He did not have any human experiences and
did not have many human notions. He was a quick learner. Before he
became a disciple of the Tang Monk, he studied the Dao from the Puti
Master, where he learned the seventy-two kinds of transformations and
developed supernormal power. He then cultivated in the Eight Triagrams
furnace of Senior Lord Li in Heaven, where he acquired penetrating
vision. In fact, he developed eyes of wisdom. He could see through any
evil with his eyes. Sun Wukong killed many demons and protected his
master on their way to the West to obtain the Buddhist scriptures. He
was always very determined and never had any doubts about their
journey. He did not feel sorry for himself when his master was deceived
by the evil and blamed him erroneously, when his fellow disciple Zhu
Wuneng told lies about him to their Master, or even when his master
forced him to leave.  After he returned to his cave, he was still
worried about his master. He didn't have attachments to fame, profit,
or sentimentalities. Finally he obtained the Fruit Status of "Buddha of

The word "Clean" refers to having a pure and clean heart. This also
means eliminating human attachments. After he became the Tang Monk's
disciple, Sha Wujing turned his back on the demonic behaviors of his
past. He led the horse, carried the luggage, worked very hard and was
not upset by any criticism. He followed his master firmly all the way
to their destination. Since his contribution wasn't as big as Sun
Wukong's, he became a golden Arhat.

The word "Abilities" refers to the Supernormal abilities which are only
the by-products of one's cultivation process. Cultivation is to
cultivate one's heart and to eliminate all human attachments. Zhu
Wuneng had the most human attachments among the three disciples. He had
once been a general in the heaven. Because he developed lustful
thoughts toward the beautiful heavenly maiden Chang E in heaven, he was
forced to leave heaven. He came to human world, and was reincarnated as
a pig. But his lustful mind was not cleaned after he came to the human
world. On their journey to the west,
he wanted to abandon the journey and marry a beautiful lady at the Gao
Lao village. When they arrived at the Kingdom of Women, he didn't want
to leave and even tried to persuade his Master to stay there. Several
times he even suggested everyone should give up the journey and go
home. In addition, he had attachments to greed, gluttony, sleeping, and
jealousy. He often said bad things about Wukong in front of their
master. He had too many human attachments. In the end, he didn't
receive a true Fruit Status. He only became a Messenger at the Clean
Altar responsible for eating the food at the altar.  He complained
to the Buddha, "They all became Buddhas, why is that I have only become
a Messenger at the Clean Altar?" The Buddha said it was because he was
too gluttonous.  

As a cultivator, any human attachment will stop one from going back to the heaven.

Translated from: http://www.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2006/10/10/40401.html

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