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  • The Monkey "God"

    Hello to all, especially Luo Lang

    I thought I would write a little about Sun Wukong 孙悟空, especially since i finished an exam on him a few weeks ago (the results came out yesterday - they were quite OK )

    First, is he a "god"? Well the offical terms for him in the book are: 弼马温, 美猴王, 齐天大圣. They translate as (loosely) Stable Official, Good-looking King of Monkeys, Great Sage of Heaven.Depending on you define a "god", you may reach different conclusions. In the novel, there are lesser gods, like god of earth, god
    of the mountain, which are localised beings, that is they guard that geographical
    territory around them.

    As is quite clear from Sifu's books and Q&A, there is a huge difference in the concept of "God" in Western culture and in Chinese and Indian culture. The whole concept of gods in our culture is quite sacrilegous to Christians (I should know - I am for the purposes of classification, a Christian). But they generally just mean divine beings, ie, beings not within our mortal realm.

    So, in my paper, I did not make a fuss of this. But in this forum, I want to explore this further. From the Christian point of view, God is omnipresent, omniscient, merciful, loving, and somewhere "up there". But the Chinese gods are not always so - they are not even always kind. And the kings of certain realms do not reside up there - they can be in the sea or down there in dark underground. Would a normal Chinese pray to Sun Wukong? Yes, why not? But a Christian may not. Because he is not the Christian idea of a God - he is destructive, violent, petty, boastful and to top it all, a monkey. I believe ancient European culture also has gods which do not seem to be role models - like the Greek gods.

    And the really weird thing is, Sun Wukong may not even have existed. You know, Guangong, the heroic character in the Three Kingdoms story. He was real but many of his exploits were exaggerated in the novel. Yet, Chinese do worship him as the gof of war, especially the Hong Kong police who pray to him before they go out on operations. So, why do people pray to an imaginary figure? One theory I have is that, Sun Wukong belongs to another world, a higher one, and praying to him represents praying to those in that realm.

    For the purposes of this post, I will not call him the Monkey "God". I will use "The Great Sage" because none of the official terms can translate as God.

    Second,is Sun Wukong a Buddhist?

    The short answer is "yes", but sometimes one can hardly believe it. His skills were all Taoist, taught by an immortal on earth, his title the Great Sage is not Buddhist, and he was rude to the Lord of all Buddhas. But there is really no doubt about it - he killed Taoist priests who oppressed monks in his journey, he was a monk's disciple and at the end of his journey, he was conferred a Buddhist title.

    One possible explanation for why Wukong does not always behave like a good Buddist monk is that he is fighting against the corruption in Buddhism from the inside, yet at the same time, defending it from the evil external enemies (of Taoism) (there is a delicious irony in how he uses his taoist skills to defeat the Taoist foes). Recall that at the end of the story, Rulai Buddha's disciples demanded bribes before they would hand over the scriptures. My analysis of this led me to think about Chinese history. So many times when good men are fighting for their country, they are betrayed by evil ministers in the Imperial court, and the reason why the invaders were succeeding was the corruption of the regime. And it is true the world over that good men are not always yes-men, they are often mavericks which the powers-that-be hate to the core.

    I think this is enough for now. I would like to see which other themes may be of interest. The responses to this post will help me to decide which themes to include.
    百德以孝为先
    Persevere in correct practice

  • #2
    I apologise for the typos. I was using a new Chinese software that impeded my editing functions. Now, I have switched it off.
    百德以孝为先
    Persevere in correct practice

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    • #3
      Nice idea for a thread. While I do not know much about Chinese legends I was a big fan of the Japanese TV show called MONKEY which was all about said monkey god. I also was a fan of Dragonball (before it got too amazingly exaggerated) and that is also loosely based on the monkey god story. so i have some kind of obsession that i dont even know about it seems
      from the ♥

      Comment


      • #4
        First off: Many thanks to Wuji for sharing his knowledge: and congratulations for finishing the exam so good

        "God" in Western culture and in Chinese and Indian culture
        I know the difference: I was born as a kthiloc Christian and know the term GOD all too good. But I could never really identify myself to this religion, allthough some things were quite acceptable.

        Monkey God: Was he always called Monkey God? Or just from the point one he was perfectly enlightened.? What I mean is: he was/is also called Monkey King. From which point on was he the Monkey God?

        he is destructive, violent, petty, boastful and to top it all, a monkey
        I agree. To my understanding he did some nasty things. The worst thing was when he was rude to Lord Buddha. But for this "sins" he suffered some hundret years in the Mountain. Somehow he got another chance: Somehow! And somehow his skills were quite effective to help to get the treassure back to China. I mean why would somebody need a nasty, petty, violent, boastful MONKEY to get the most worthful treassure back to China?

        Greetings

        Roland
        "From formless to form, from form to formless"

        26.08.17-28.08.17: Qi Gong Festival with 6 courses in Bern:
        Qiflow-Triple Stretch Method-12 Sinewmetamorphisis-Bone Marrow Cleansing-Zen Mind in Qi Gong

        Website: www.enerqi.ch

        Comment


        • #5
          Thanks

          Hey Zhang Wuji,
          I just wanted to say thank you sharing this on the forum. I am not much of scholar and it is great to see something of such High Calibre. Please share anything you can with us as I really like it.

          Thanks Mark
          Sifu Mark Appleford

          sigpic

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          • #6
            Zhang Wuji:

            And the really weird thing is, Sun Wukong may not even have existed
            Would you mind elaborating on this theme a little bit more? I am very interested in this one.

            Thanks

            Franciskus
            "Franciskus, Open Your Chest" Sifu Wong (Intensive Kungfu Course 11/23 -11/29/04)

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Zhang Wuji
              And the really weird thing is, Sun Wukong may not even have existed
              A very valid point, but one that is also offerred in regards to Jesus, Bodhidharma and many other key figures in many faiths, systems and arts.

              Good thread Wuji, I look forwards to participating when I have more time online .

              Comment


              • #8
                I just thought I would drop a very quick line after reading Sifu's latest Q&A. I didn't even know that Sun Wukong was an ancestor of our school.

                Just to clarify that my thread here is based on a study of the novel. I have absolutely no scholarly background on the historical Sun Wukong. I guess "Journey to the West" is to Sun Wukong what "The Da Vinci Code" is to Jesus Christ - a very unflattering portrayal.

                I am also renovating at home. so my materials are lost somewhere, but one of the few facts that can be verified in the novel is the journey by Tang Sanzang to the West. Scholars are divided as to whether he was accompanied by disciples, divine or otherwise. Most of my materials are published in post-1949, so you can imagine any reference to the supernatural is studiously avoided for fear of ridicule or persecution.
                百德以孝为先
                Persevere in correct practice

                Comment


                • #9
                  Has anyone here ever watched the Japanese tv show called 'Monkey!' which is about the Monkey God and his various fights with demons etc. That show was classic
                  from the ♥

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                  • #10
                    Hi Wuji,
                    Nive to hear from you!

                    I guess "Journey to the West" is to Sun Wukong what "The Da Vinci Code" is to Jesus Christ
                    Mmh, actually I don't know the Da Vinci Code, so I can't say anything about it. I just know the story of the Monkey God, which has highly impressed me. At the end, it is always difficult to compare two different religions. These two especially, as in Christian belief the Monkey God would be evil. There is no other God than the wholy One, the father of Jesus Christ. Beliefe me if I would start to talk about the Monkey God with my friend they would think I am crazy

                    But to come back to Sun Wukong: It would be interessting to hear more about him!

                    The worst thing was when he was rude to Lord Buddha. But for this "sins" he suffered some hundret years in the Mountain. Somehow he got another chance: Somehow! And somehow his skills were quite effective to help to get the treassure back to China. I mean why would somebody need a nasty, petty, violent, boastful MONKEY to get the most worthful treassure back to China?
                    I am still wondering about this question. Any comments?

                    Regards

                    Roland
                    "From formless to form, from form to formless"

                    26.08.17-28.08.17: Qi Gong Festival with 6 courses in Bern:
                    Qiflow-Triple Stretch Method-12 Sinewmetamorphisis-Bone Marrow Cleansing-Zen Mind in Qi Gong

                    Website: www.enerqi.ch

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hi there Roland

                      First, I need to disclaim that these comments are from a literary viewpoint, not religious.

                      I would not read too much into the account of Wukong being rude to Rulai Buddha. As a novel, the characters were meant to be objects of satire. Contrary to popular belief, the Jade Emperor is not the only one representative of the mortal Emperor and the Imperial Court. Rulai Buddha can also be regarded as a representative of corrupt absolute power-holders, hence Wukong's comments at the end that "so all corruption begins from you" when Rulai defended his minions who tried to extort goodies from Tang Sanzang.

                      And being rude to Rulai is in itself not a real mortal sin, to use Catholic terms. Qijun fanshang (欺君犯上) may have been punishable in the mortal realm but not in heaven. In the novel, Heaven (and by implication the Imperial Court) is in such a mess that one can get away with anything.

                      On why a nasty monkey was chosen, I cannot help at this point but draw a parallel with the Catholic/Christian tradition. Why was the great sinner, paul the great persecutor chosen to bring the gospel to all mankind? It is never the holy that need affirmation, edification and reform. I am guessing from the novel that Sun Wukong represented some revolutionaries who were not angels but nonetheless were to be admired for their patriotism. But there is a flaw in this analysis since other commentaries suggest that unlike the other 2 disciples, Wukong makes an ideal Buddhist - as a monkey, he does not eat meat, he has never looked at women the way the Pig does, and he is one without any human family ties. He treats the world with levity (玩世不恭) and everyone without respect (目中无人) perhaps because the world is not a real place (phenomenal) anyway.
                      百德以孝为先
                      Persevere in correct practice

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        hi Zhang Wuji

                        Thanks for the post its really interesting.

                        By the way roland and shaolin mike, i have seen the monkey tv programme, and the quoate roland made sounded almost like the startng narrative to thats show first episode, classic programme.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          By the way roland and shaolin mike, i have seen the monkey tv programme, and the quoate roland made sounded almost like the startng narrative to thats show first episode, classic programme
                          that's funny. Actually, I have never seen this show.

                          as a monkey, he does not eat meat, he has never looked at women the way the Pig does
                          Interessting statement. Allthough I am not quite sure, if the Mokey God was a vegetarian and haven't looked at women, before he reached perfect enlightement. Does anyone know something more about that?

                          Regards

                          Roland
                          "From formless to form, from form to formless"

                          26.08.17-28.08.17: Qi Gong Festival with 6 courses in Bern:
                          Qiflow-Triple Stretch Method-12 Sinewmetamorphisis-Bone Marrow Cleansing-Zen Mind in Qi Gong

                          Website: www.enerqi.ch

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            why would somebody need a nasty, petty, violent, boastful MONKEY to get the most worthful treassure back to China?
                            It's a very easy answer - why not?

                            In this case, the best man for the job was a Monkey. He was obviously very good at his appointed task, he kept everyone else on track, he kept them motivated and safe, he brought them together and ultimately, his actions affected future generations of scholars, practitioners and watchers.

                            This may seem harsh, but if some of these future generations then start to question the validity and his suitability for the appointed task, then they are demonstrating the same traits that they criticise him for. Instead, we should all be thankfull for his actions, since they have directly affected our current position and the prosperity of the Arts that we practice. Personally, I am extremely thankfull for the service that he provided and while he may have initially been unwilling, that doesn't remove the fact that we all owe him a great debt. Sigung Ho was also unwilling when first contacted by the Monkey God, yet he also dedicated his life to preserving a Great Art. I do not know about Sifu, but initially I was unwilling to teach and this weekend, I formally apologised to Sifu for having waited as long as I did.

                            Personally I am extremely thankfull to my Sitaigung, as I am extremely thankfull to everyone who has come before me, to those who will come after me and to those who are currently around me. If some of them had performed questionable actions in their pasts, then this makes their achievements even more remarkable and worthy of note. After all, even Bodhisattva Guan Yin threw a vase from heaven, stunning the Monkey God and allowing him to be captured in the first place. In that example, Compassion succeeded where brute force could not and in other examples, Force succeeded when Reason failed.

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                            • #15
                              Nice words Darryl.

                              Andrew
                              Sifu Andrew Barnett
                              Shaolin Wahnam Switzerland - www.shaolin-wahnam.ch

                              Flowing Health GmbH www.flowing-health.ch (Facebook: www.facebook.com/sifuandrew)
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