Exploring the Journey to the West: The 81 Tribulations Endured by the Tang Monk

Chuan Jiang

PureInsight | September 26, 2007

[PureInsight.org] The 81 tribulations endured by the Tang Monk actually started at the time he was demoted, instead of at the start of his journey to the West
to acquire the  Buddhist Sutras. (Translator's note: the Tang Monk
is a famous Buddhist monk of the Tang dynasty who is the main character
of the novel Journey to the West.
It is a classic novel about gods, being considered one of the "famous
four Chinese classical novels." The story narrates the many evils
experienced by Master Tang Xuan Zang and his companions on their way to
the west to obtain Buddha sutras. It was written in the Ming dynasty
during the sixteenth century.)

One must endure many arduous suffering in order to cultivate, to get
out of the sea of woes, and to reach consummation. That is why it takes
perseverance and will to be a cultivator. A cultivator will not waver
when he faces various tests. People seeking ease and a comfortable life
can never become cultivators.     

People try hard and make every effort for fame, wealth, and love in
this world. They pay no attention to their agonies, but what they
pursue is an illusion. They will harm others in their struggling and
create even more karma. People who see through the vanity of life
realize the true meaning of life and don't get lost in the illusion.
They cultivate diligently for the true purpose in life. The purpose for
living as a human being is not to be a human, but to return to one's
original self so that one can return to where he or she came from. The
real purpose is to forever get out of samsara.

From the viewpoint of cultivators, the Journey to the West
is a cultivation process to reach consummation. The author used many
metaphors to relate different tribulations in cultivation and reveal
the true situations, which exist objectively in cultivation groups.

The existence of gods can not be determined by human cognitive
ability. The so-called natural phenomena are actually nonexistent. Gods
make all the arrangements, which people then call celestial phenomena.


Humans come into being and develop according to the rules of the cosmos
development arranged by gods. The Theory of Evolution is a sheer
nonsense. But it is accepted as an important theory. This is a
disgrace humans bring onto themselves. Gods make humans based on their
own images. They are the earliest beings in the universe.

Human science and technology is related to their moral standards and
can never reach the ability of gods. Human science and technology
cannot even explain their own bodies clearly. If humans confine
themselves to the current means and conclusions, it will be hard for
humans to really advance. The real reason for human existence is to give
humans another chance to return to their true selves. It is because
only human are permitted to cultivate and reach consummation and to
jump out of the Three Realms.

Let me end my discussion by quoting a phrase from the Journey to the West
for the readers: "A human body is hard to obtain, but you have it.
China is a place hard to be born in, but you are born there. Righteous
belief is hard to come by, but now it is before you. You should not let
this opportunity pass you by."

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