Tripitaka’s Traveling Party and the Facets of Human Nature

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Last updated: March 29, 2019

In Monkey: Journey to the West, Guan Yin orders Tripitaka to go to India and retrieve the Holy Scriptures or the Buddhist sutras. In Tripitaka’s journey, he is accompanied by Pigsy, Monkey and Sandy. Each of the members of Tripitaka’s traveling party has distinctive qualities that represent various facets of human nature. Although their qualities may only represent several facets of human nature, they are revealing insofar as they provide a better understanding of how and why people act the way they do in real life.Pigsy is half-pig and half-human who usually puts Tripitaka’s traveling party into trouble due to his strong desire to eat, physical desire for beautiful women as well as his extreme laziness. Pigsy is someone who thinks of himself as a being with high value that he tends to overshadow his grisly appearance by his self-indulgence. Due to these characteristics, Tripitaka attempted to remind him of his Buddhist diet by calling him Bajie which translates to “eight commandments” or “eight restraints”.

These commandments serve as guidance for people like Pigsy to lead a more ascetic lifestyle and avoid behaviors that are immoral. These things being said, Pigsy represents the human facet of desiring worldly objects. Similarly, Pigsy’s nature—half-human and half-pig—suggests that he is still capable of leading a morally upright life despite the fact that he has the strong urge to do immoral habits.

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He resembles the lazy people that we know, and yet his character also provides a rough glimpse of the possibility of people changing for the better. At the end of the story, however, Pigsy fails to achieve enlightenment and remains a slave to his base desires.Sandy, on the other hand, is a man-eating sand demon who has a negative reputation for devouring human beings and throwing their bones into the river. But despite his reputation, Sandy is an obedient individual who possesses a kind heart. He is very loyal to Tripitaka and is also very logical and polite. The combination of his physical strength and intellect allowed him to quash the enemies that stood against the way of Tripitaka’s traveling party. Sandy’s character represents the typical human facet of having both the good and bad extremes.

On one hand, Sandy represents the human facet of kindness especially when one has sworn allegiance to another, presumably a master or a superior. On the other hand, he also represents the human facet of violence or the inclination to commit atrocious acts towards other people without even feeling any remorse or mercy. In short, Sandy resembles the league of people who, when good, are extremely good and, when bad, are incomparably bad. The types of people associated with Sandy are those who are capable of acquiring and exhibiting virtues and vices depending on the circumstance. Some people can become very kind towards others when the situation necessitates while some others can be very mean given the situation. In effect, it is very difficult to identify the moral capacities of these people due to their “flexible” tendencies to do either very good or extremely bad things in life.

Lastly, the Monkey King had a strong desire to attain immortality, proof of which is his realization that despite his authority over the clan of monkeys he remains tied to his own mortality, thereby pushing him to defy the attempt of Hell to collect his soul and erase his name from the Book of Life and Death. This point in Monkey’s life is important as it symbolizes the unending quest of human beings for the so-called “fountain of youth”. In a sense, people fear old-age and death, which is why they desperately try to extend their youthful qualities in the hopes of delaying their impending death. In today’s modern world, hundreds if not thousands of scientific and technological tools that seek to rejuvenate the youthful physical traits of people can be found in almost every part of the world. The human demand to acquire the things that can lengthen their youth to a lifetime is stronger than ever before. It is easy to see why the fears of death and old-age are typical facets of human nature; nobody wants to die and everybody desires a youthful life than one that is senile. Like the Monkey King, some people are willing to do and use everything just to remain young and avoid becoming old especially in physical terms.It is interesting to note that the three members in Tripitaka’s traveling party have what one may call as negative backgrounds in life.

Each of them once lived a life that was almost entirely devoted to vices. However, Tripitaka’s journey became a turning point in their lives since it gave them the opportunity to prove that they are nevertheless capable of acquiring the virtues that they once lacked. The same can also be said about ordinary individuals. It is in the nature of human beings to become entangled in habits of vice as they are weak in many ways, thereby making them succumb to some of life’s temptations. Yet it is also in the nature of human beings to strive for a better life that is morally upright. While some are able to reach their fullest potential of having a morally upright life, some others end up failing. These ideas keep in line with the basic Buddhist principle of “karma” which signifies the chains of cause and effect in the universe. Through our actions, we are able to change our karma because we can strive to change our own personal circumstances.

A bad person can become a good person if he so decides to change. A bad person can also remain as a bad person through choice which is still under the chain of cause and effect, the cause being the desire to remain “bad” and the effect being the actuality of remaining as a “bad” person.


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