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《Lessons for Elementary School (12)》__ Kong Shiu Loon (53)

Monkey King and Xuan Zang

“Grandpa, we have a riot of a time at school today.” Nancy is jolly when she gets home.

“Nothing bad, I hope.” Grandpa asks automatically, showing no alarm.

“Everyone was interested in the feat of Monkey King. Imagine one single summersault can take him from Toronto to Tokyo. And he was playful and naughty and wise when he faced danger and harm.”

“Ah, you must be talking about the famous novel 'Journey to the West'?” Grandpa settles down to hear what happened in Nancy’s class.

“Yes, Grandpa. There is so much the monkey could do when he escorted Xuan Zang the wise teacher to India. There was Pigsy too. I like him a lot.”

“Tell me what Mr. Shaw said, and may be I can tell you what I know. I have read the novel three times and still love it. It is one of the four great novels in the history of Chinese literature.”

“Mr. Shaw said that too. He said that great literature is the best spiritual food in life. Every time he reads the 'Journey to the West' he learns something new about life, such as faith, foresight, fortitude, fellowship, fairness, fantasy, freedom, flight, forgiveness, fulfillment and more. That is why he wanted us to know the many stories of this book.”

“I know what he meant. So, what was the riot you mentioned just now?”

“That came later in class. To begin with, Mr. Shaw told us that there was this great man Xuan Zang who lived more than a thousand years ago, and went to India and back, all on foot. He was a Buddhist monk, a very learned man in Confucian and Taoist wisdom. The Buddhist religion was first introduced to China long ago, by preaching words of mouth. There were so many different versions of it that no one knew what the true teaching of Buddha was. The truth was contained in hundreds of volumes of Sutras written in Sanskrit. Xuan Zang decided to travel to India to find them and translate them into Chinese for his people. The Pilgrimage was hard and dangerous, requiring him to take many years and to encounter many people of different cultures and habits. But he was undaunted and determined because he wanted to teach his people about the true enlightenment. He began his journey in the year 629 A.D. and returned home 14 years later. He had travelled across India, learning Sanskrit and the Sutras. He also debated with local scholars and monks on what really constituted Buhhda’s teachings, and gained their admiration. He became a teacher in India for 6 years. In the end, he brought back 634 Sutras to China and had them translated with the assistance of many scholars in the Emperor’s palace.”

“Wow, Mr. Shaw taught you so much more than Grandpa knows. I guess he also told you the immense difficulty of the pilgrimage, having to pass flaming deserts and frozen mountains, all on foot.”

“Yes, he did. He told us how the Monkey King escorted Xuan Zang safely through all dangers and difficulties. We were totally impressed and fascinated by his golden-beam stares to detect evil, and his 8-ton golden staff which he used with ease for all kinds of purposes. He also wore cloud-floating boots which enabled him to walk without effort. So he was never tired, but always alert in detecting demons and robbers before they could come near his master. There were many wars, such as the fight with the white-bone witch who transformed herself into a beautiful girl to charm the monk. He was always the winner. But he shared his victories with Pigsy and Sandy who were the other escorts in the pilgrimage. He was both humble and fair.”

“How did the Monkey King become Xuan Zang’s escort?”

“Grandpa, may be you like to know how the Monkey King became such a powerful and able animal first to begin with?”

“Yes, dear. I know he was born out of a rock, which had soaked in the essence of the sun and the moon from the beginning of the universe. Thus, he embodies the intelligence of the moon and the power of the sun from the very beginning of times. The rock sat on the east slope of Mount of Flowers and Fruits, a place of extraordinary beauty and fragrance. One day, the rock exploded, sending an egg rolling to the foot of the immortal peach tree. A peach dropped on the egg and it opened with a little monkey nestling on the shells. It ate the sweet golden peach and instantly became the grown up Monkey King.”

“Let me continue.” Nancy says. She is eager to show how well she remembers the story Mr. Shaw told. “The Monkey King can transform itself into 74 things, animals and appearances, depending on which could serve his master best. His hairs could become arrows to kill enemies, or swords in combat. We are most thrilled to see a short film in which the Monkey King transformed himself into a skunk when a ferocious lion chased him. It was duded with hundreds of smelly needles.”

“Do you know why the Monkey King was called Sun Wu Kung among many titles?” Grandpa wrote down the name in Chinese on a piece of paper.

“Of course I know. Mr. Shaw told us that the name means that he finally realized that for all his feats, playfulness, victories, and glories, there will come one day in life that he will return into his original self, nesting in a rock at Mount Flowers and Fruits, restful and at peace with the sun and the moon which revolve in eternity. He should be content that he had served Xuan Zang and Buddhism.”

“There is just one more story that you should remember.” Grandpa reminds.

“Tell me about it.” Nancy asks with her eyes open wide.

“Well, Buddha was not a god. He was just a wise and caring man who saw all the miseries, sufferings and hopelessness of people around him. He decided to derive wisdom through meditation and to share it with people all over the world. When he had attained enlightenment, he had many students and helpers to disseminate his teachings. Some of them were called Pusars, a kind of god with supernatural powers to do good. The most respected and benevolent was Guan Yin, Goddess of Mercy. It was she who assigned the Monkey King to accompany Xuan Zang for his pilgrimage to search for the original Sutras for China. Guan Yin sees not with her eyes. She listens with her heart, which is sort of omnipotent. She loves the Monkey King, for his playful and truthful and responsible and learning character. These have been shown in many stories and plays and songs in the Chinese heritage. I am so glad you have learned some of these stories and like them. They will help to shape your personality to be a good person.”

“Thank you, Grandpa. I will remember your words. They make you a true monk, which Mr. Shaw said is equal to a good teacher.”

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