? about Tripitaka from Journey to the West


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Hey everyone,

I'm writing a paper for my World Lit class and had a couple questions about Tripitaka from Journey to the West (or Monkey). I'm planning on writing the paper based around the idea that Tripitaka is not an enlightened Buddhist based on his incidents of failing to follow the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism throughout the story, as shown by his incidents of gluttony, lying, and emotional baggage. For support, I'm going to mention that he (as well as his companions) usually desire food and drink everywhere they go - a form of gluttony. In terms of lying, Tripitaka lies to Monkey about the coat and cap that has a spell on it, thus allowing Tripitaka to almost control Monkey. I understand that this was given to Tripitaka by a higher power, but even that makes his actions and deed more questionable. The last idea is a shaky one... that's the one I need help on. I know that there are incidents in the story where Tripitaka is not clear headed, and is even confronted by Monkey about it.
In your opinion, is this thesis able to be proven? Does it make sense? Is there anything weak about it that could cause me problems, and if so, would you have any suggestions?

Thanks so much for your help in advance!
Namaste swezwakov,

thank you for the post and welcome to the forum.

i've not read that particular book... though, if one of the characters is called Tripitaka, i can see how it could be confusing.

as you know, the Buddhist canon is called the Tipitaka, the Three Baskets, as it were.

hopefully, someone that has read the book will be able to help you out.
Dear swezwakov,

I'm also a bit confused about Tripitaka being one of the characters of the Hsi Yu Chi. If you are referring to the companions of Sun Wukong (孫悟空), these are called the pig-monster Zhu Wuneng (豬悟能), and the river monster Sha Wujing (沙悟淨). The latter is associated with a robe in the story.

Sha Wujing (沙悟凈 WG: Sha Wu-ching) is one of the three helpers of Xuanzang in the classic Chinese novel Journey to the West. In the novels, his background is the least developed of the pilgrims.

Like Zhu Bajie, Wujing was originally a general in Heaven. Once, he became very furious and destroyed a valuable vase. Other sources mention that he did this unintentionally. Nevertheless, he was punished by the Jade Emperor, who had him stroked 800 times with a rod and exiled to earth, where he was to be reincarnated as a terrible man-eating Sand Demon. There he lived in a river with sandy waters. Every seven days a sword would be sent from heaven to stab him 100 times in the chest before flying off.

Sha Wujing's appearance was rather grisly; he had a red beard and his head was partially bald; a necklace consisting of skulls made him even more terrible. Still, he used the weapon he had in heaven, namely a staff with blades (one crescent-shaped, the other like that of a shovel) on either end. There is an interesting story about the necklace of skulls. An earlier group of nine monks on a pilgrimage West to fetch the scriptures met their end at the hands of Wujing. Despite their pleas for mercy, he devoured them, sucked the marrow from their bones, and threw their skulls into the river. However, unlike his other victims who found their way to the river bottom, the skulls of the monks floated. This fascinated and delighted Wujing, who strung them on a rope and played with them whenever he was bored.

Later, Guanyin, the bodhisattva of compassion, and her disciple Prince Moksa came searching for powerful bodyguards in preparation of Sanzang's journey west. She recruited Wujing in exchange for some relief from his suffering. She then converted him and gave him his current name, Sha Wujing. His surname "Sha" means "Sand", while his Buddhist name Wujing means "Awakened to Purity" or "Aware of Purity". Finally, he was instructed to wait for a monk who would call for him. When Wujing does meet Sanzang, the demon is mistaken for an enemy and attacked by Sun Wukong and Zhu Bajie. Guanyin was forced to intervene for the sake of the journey.

After everything was cleared up, Sha Wujing became the third disciple of Sanzang. Now, he was clad in a Buddhist pilgrim's robe and his skull-necklace was turned into a monk's one. His appearance also changed; from now on he looked more like a human, yet still ugly. During the Journey to the West, his swimming ability was quite useful. Sha Wujing was actually a kind-hearted and obedient person and was very loyal to his master, among the three he was likely the most polite and the most logical. At the journey's end, Lord Buddha transformed him into an arhat or luohan.

As the third disciple, even though his fighting skills are not as great as that of Wukong or Bajie, he is still a great warrior protecting Sanzang and can incorporate a little brain to beat the enemy rather than by pure brute strength. He knows 18 transformations.

In Japan he was seen as a kappa, another fearsome kind of water demon.

hope this helps,

Thanks for the reply, Hyozan, and welcome to CR. :)
Thanks for the reply! The character Monkey is actually Bajie, and he wound up being the focus of my paper rather than Tripitaka. I sat at my screen with my notes for about two and a half hours, trying to figure out what to write abuot Tripitaka, and then suddenly just like that, it clicked that I should write about Bajie instead.

It turned out to be an interesting paper - I'll find out next week what I earned for a grade. It focused on how Bajie didn't actually attain enlightenment because he was forced into a non-violent demeanor by Tripitaka due to the magical coat and cap that Tripitaka was given by a god (I believe it was a god) to try to stop Monkey (Bajie) from acting out violently. I connected this to Pavlov's operant conditioning and wrote about how Monkey didn't actually learn to be non-violent. Instead, he learned to avoid the punishment from Tripitaka by doing other things rather than violence... where the focus is still on himself rather than the effect of his actions on others. Makes sense, right? The paper also contained a portion that discussed how Monkey was a constant trickster throughout the story, deceiving others in order to get what he wants or to quickly get to the bottom of a problem.

Thanks again for the help!
swezwakov said:
I connected this to Pavlov's operant conditioning and wrote about how Monkey didn't actually learn to be non-violent. Instead, he learned to avoid the punishment from Tripitaka by doing other things rather than violence.
That's not a bad idea. :)

< thats Tripitaka on the left :D