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Chapter 77

The Demon Host Mistreats the Fundamental Nature

The One Body Pays His Respects to the Buddha

We will tell now not of the sufferings of the venerable Tang Elder but of the three demon chiefs in strenuous combat with the Great Sage and his two brother disciples in the low hills to the East outside the city. It was indeed a good hard battle, like an iron brush against a copper pan:

Six types of body, six types of weapon,

Six physical forms, six feelings.

The six evils arise from the six sense organs and the six desires;

The six gates to nirvana and the six ways of rebirth are struggling for victory.

In the thirty-six divine palaces spring comes of itself;

The six times six forms do not want to be named.

This one holding a gold-banded cudgel

Performs a thousand movements;

That one wielding a heaven-square halberd

Is exceptional in every way.

Pig is even more ferocious with his rake;

The second demon's spear-play is superb and effective.

There is nothing commonplace about young Friar Sand's staff

As he tries to inflict a blow that is fatal;

Sharp is the senior demon's saber

Which he raises without mercy.

These three are the true priest's invincible escorts;

The other three are evil and rebellious spirits.

At first the fight is not so bad,

But later it becomes more murderous.

All six weapons rise up by magic

To twist and turn in the clouds above.

They belch out in an instant clouds that darken the sky,

And the only sounds to be heard are roars and bellows.

After the six of them had been fighting for a long time evening was drawing in, and as the wind was also bringing clouds it became dark very quickly. Pig was finding it harder and harder to see as his big ears were covering his eyelids. His hands and feet were besides too slow for him to be able to hold off his opponent, so he fled from the fight, dragging his rake behind him. The senior demon chief took a swing at him with his sword that almost killed him. Luckily Pig moved his head out of the way, so that the blade only cut off a few of his bristles. The monster then caught up with Pig, opened his jaws, picked Pig up by the collar, carried him into the city and threw him to the junior demons to tie up and take to the throne hall. The senior demon chief then rose back into the air by cloud to help the other two.

Seeing that things were going badly Friar Sand feinted with his staff and turned to flee only to be caught, hands and all, when the second demon unraveled his trunk and noisily wrapped it round him. The demon took him too into the city, ordering the junior demons to tie him up in the palace before rising up into the sky again to tell the others how to catch Monkey. Seeing that both his brother disciples had been captured Monkey realized that it was going to be impossible for him to hold out single-handed. Indeed:

A couple of fists can defeat a good hand,

But cannot a competent foursome withstand.

With a shout Brother Monkey pushed the three demons' weapons aside, set off his somersault cloud and fled. When the third demon chief saw Monkey ride off by somersault he shook himself, resumed his real form, spread his wings and caught up with the Great Sage. You may well ask how the demon could possibly catch up with him. When Monkey made havoc in heaven all that time ago a hundred thousand heavenly soldiers had failed to capture him. Because he could cover 36,000 miles in a single somersault of his cloud, none of the gods had been able to catch up with him. But this evil spirit could cover 30,000 miles with one beat of his wings, so that with two beats he caught up with Monkey and seized him. Monkey could not get out of the demon's talons no matter how hard he struggled or how desperately he longed to escape. Even when he used his transformation magic he still could not move. If he made himself grow the demon opened his grip but still held firmly to him; and if he shrank the demon tightened his clutch. The demon took him back inside the city, released his talons, dropped him into the dust, and told the fiendish hordes to tie him up and put him with Pig and Friar Sand. The senior and the second demon chiefs both came out to greet the third chief, who went back up into the throne hall with them. Alas! This time they were not tying Monkey up but sending him on his way.

It was now the second watch of the night, and after all the demons had exchanged greetings the Tang Priest was pushed out of the throne hall. When he suddenly caught sight in the lamplight of his three disciples all lying tied up on the ground the venerable master leaned down beside Brother Monkey and said through his tears, Disciple, when we meet with trouble you normally go off and use your magic powers to subdue the monsters causing it. Now that you too have been captured can I survive, poor monk that I am? As soon as Pig and Friar Sand heard their master's distress they too began to howl together.

Don't worry, Master, said Monkey with a hint of a smile, and don't cry, brothers. No matter what they do they won't be able to hurt us. When the demon chiefs have settled and are asleep we can be on our way.

You're just making trouble again, brother, replied Pig. We're trussed up with hempen ropes. If we do manage to work them a bit loose they spurt water on them to shrink them again. You might be too skinny to notice, but fat old me's having a terrible time. If you don't believe me take a look at my arms. The rope's cut two inches deep into them. I'd never get away.

Never mind hempen ropes, said Monkey with a laugh, even if they were coconut cables as thick as a rice-bowl they'd be no more than an autumn breeze to me. What's there to make a fuss about?

As master and disciples were talking the senior demon could be heard saying, Third brother, you really are strong and wise. Your plan to capture the Tang Priest was brilliant and it worked.

Little ones, he called, Five of you carry water, seven scrub the pans, ten get the fire burning and twenty fetch the iron steamer. When we've steamed the four monks tender for my brothers and me to enjoy we'll give you juniors a piece so that you can all live for ever.

Brother, said Pig, trembling, when he this, listen. That evil spirit's planning to steam and eat us.

Don't be afraid, said Monkey. I'm going to find out whether he's an evil spirit still wet behind the ears or an old hand.

Brother, said Friar Sand, sobbing, don't talk so big. We're next door to the king of Hell. How can you talk about whether he's wet behind the ears or an old hand at a time like this? The words were not all out of his mouth before the second demon chief was heard to say, Pig won't steam well.

Amitabha Buddha! said Pig with delight. I wonder who's building up good karma by saying I won't steam well.

If he won't steam well, the third chief said, skin him before steaming him. This panicked Pig, who screamed at the top of his voice, Don't skin me. I may be coarse but I'll go tender if you boil me.

If he won't steam well, the senior demon chief said, put him on the bottom tray of the steamer.

Don't worry, Pig, said Monkey with a laugh, he's wet behind the ears. He's no old hand.

How can you tell? Friar Sand asked.

Generally speaking you should start from the top when steaming, Monkey replied. Whatever's hardest to steam should be put on the top tray. Add a bit of extra fuel to the fire, get up a good steam and it'll be done. But put it at the bottom and lower the steam and you won't get the steam up even if you cook it for six months. He must be wet behind the ears if he says that Pig should be put on the bottom tray because he's hard to cook.

Brother, Pig replied, if he followed your advice I'd be slaughtered alive. When he can't see the steam rising he'll take the lid off, turn me over and make the fire burn hotter. I'll be cooked on both sides and half done in the middle.

As they were talking a junior devil came in to report that the water was boiling. The senior chief ordered that the monks be carried in, and all the demons acted together to carry Pig to the lowest shelf of the steamer and Friar Sand to the second shelf.

Guessing that they would be coming for him next Brother Monkey freed himself and said, This lamplight is just right for some action. He then pulled out a hair, blew on it with magic breath, called, Change! and turned it into another Monkey he tied up with the hempen rope while extracting his real self in spirit form to spring into mid-air, look down and watch. Not realizing his deception, the crowd of demons picked up the false Monkey they saw and carried him to the third tray of the steamer, near the top. Only then did they drag the Tang Priest to the ground, tie him up, and put him into the fourth tray. As the dry firewood was stacked up a fierce fire blazed.

My Pig and Friar Sand can stand a couple of boilings, sighed the Great Sage up in the clouds, but that master of mine will be cooked tender as soon as the water boils. If I can't save him by magic he'll be dead in next to no time.

The splendid Great Sage made a hand-spell in mid-air, said the magic words Om the blue pure dharma world; true is the eternal beneficence of Heaven, and summoned the Dragon King of the Northern Ocean to him.

A black cloud appeared among the other clouds, and from it there came at once an answering shout, Ao Shun, the humble dragon of the Northern Ocean, kowtows in homage.

Arise, arise, said Monkey. I would not have ventured to trouble you for nothing. I've now got this far with my master the Tang Priest. He's been captured by vicious monsters and put into an iron steamer to be cooked. Go and protect him for me and don't let the steam harm him. The dragon king at once turned himself into a cold wind that blew underneath the cooking pot and coiled around to shield it from all the heat of the fire. Thus were the three of them saved from death.

As the third watch was drawing to an end the senior demon chief announced a decision. My men, he said, we have worn out brains and brawn to capture the Tang Priest and his three disciples. Because of the trouble we went to in escorting them we have not slept for four days and nights. I don't think that they'll be able to escape now that they're tied up and being steamed. You are all to guard them carefully. Ten of your junior devils are to take it in turns to keep the fires burning while we withdraw to our living quarters for a little rest. By the fifth watch, when it's about to get light, they're bound to be cooked tender. Have some garlic paste, salt and vinegar ready and wake us up; then we'll be able to eat them with a good appetite. The devils did as they had been ordered while the three demon chiefs returned to their sleeping chambers.

Up in the clouds Brother Monkey clearly heard these instructions being given, so he brought his cloud down. As there was no sound of voices from inside the steamer he thought, The fire is blazing away and they must be feeling hot. Why aren't they afraid? Why aren't they saying anything? Hmm Could they have been steamed to death? Let me go closer and listen. The splendid Great Sage shook himself as he stood on his cloud and turned into a black fly. As he alighted on the outside of the iron steamer's trays to listen he heard Pig saying inside, What lousy luck! What lousy luck! I wonder whether we're being closed-steamed or open-steamed.

What do you mean by 'closed' and 'open,' brother? Friar Sand asked.

Closed steaming is when they cover the steamer and open steaming is when they don't, Pig replied.

Disciples, said Sanzang from the top tray, the cover is off.

We're in luck! said Pig. We won't be killed tonight. We're being open-steamed. Having heard all three of them talking Monkey realized that they were still alive, so he flew away, fetched the iron steamer lid and placed it lightly on the steamer.

Disciples, exclaimed Sanzang in alarm, they've covered us up.

That's done it, said Pig.

That means closed steaming. We're bound to die tonight. Friar Sand and the venerable elder started to sob.

Don't cry, said Pig. A new shift of cooks has come on duty.

How can you tell? Friar Sand asked.

I was delighted at first when they carried me here, Pig replied. I've got a bit of a feverish chill and I wanted warming up. But all we're getting at the moment is cold air. Hey! Mr. Cook, sir! What are you making such a fuss about putting more firewood on for? Am I asking for what's yours?

When Monkey heard this he could not help laughing to himself. Stupid clod, he thought. Being cold is bearable. If it got hot you'd be dead. The secret will get out if he goes on talking. I'd better rescue him No! I'd have to turn back into myself to rescue them, and if I did that the ten cooks would see me and start shouting. That would disturb the old monsters and I'd be put to a lot more trouble. I'll have to use some magic on the cooks first. Then a memory came back to him.

When I was the Great Sage in the old days I once played a guessing game with the Heavenly King Lokapala at the Northern Gate of Heaven and won some of his sleep insects off him. I've got a few left I can use on them. He felt around his waist inside his belt and found that he had twelve of them left.

I'll give them ten and keep two to breed from, Monkey thought. Then he threw the insects into the ten junior devils' faces, where the insects went up their nostrils, so that they all started feeling drowsy, lay down and went to sleep. One of them, however, who was holding a fire-fork slept very fitfully, kept rubbing his head and face, pinching his nose and continuously sneezing. That so-and-so knows a trick or two, thought Monkey. I'll have to give him a double dose. He threw one of his remaining insects into the demon's face.

With two insects the left one can go in when the right one comes out and vice versa, Monkey thought. That should keep him quiet. With that the junior demon gave two or three big yawns, stretched himself, dropped the fork and slumped down, fast asleep. He did not get up again.

What marvellous magic; it really works, said Monkey, turning back into himself. Then he went close to the steamer and called, Master.

Rescue me, Wukong, said the Tang Priest when he heard him.

Is that you calling to us from outside? Friar Sand asked.

If I weren't out here would you prefer me to be suffering in there with you? Monkey replied.

Brother, said Pig, you slipped off and left us to carry the can. We're being closed-steamed in here.

Stop yelling, idiot, said Monkey with a laugh. I'm here to rescue you.

Brother, said Pig, if you're going to rescue us do it properly. Don't get us put back in here for another steaming. Monkey then took the lid off, freed the master, shook the hair of his that he had turned into an imitation Monkey and put it back on his body, then released Friar Sand and Pig, taking one tray at a time. As soon as he was untied, the idiot wanted to run away.

Don't be in such a hurry! said Monkey, who recited the words of a spell that released the dragon before going on to say to Pig, We've still got high mountains and steep ridges ahead of us on our way to the Western Heaven. The going's too heavy for the master-he isn't a strong walker. Wait till I've fetched the horse.

Watch him as with light step he goes to the throne hall, where he saw that all the demons young and old were asleep. He undid the rope attached to the horse's reins, being even more careful not to alarm him. Now the horse was a dragon horse, so had Monkey been a stranger he would have given him a couple of flying kicks and whinnied. But Monkey had kept horses and held the office of Protector of the Horses, and this horse was besides their own. That was why the animal neither reared nor whinnied. Monkey led the horse very quietly over, tightened the girth and got everything ready before inviting his master to mount. Trembling and shaking, the Tang Priest did so. He too wanted to go.

Don't you be in such a hurry either, Monkey said. There'll be plenty more kings along our journey West and we'll need our passport if we're to get there. What other identity papers do we have? I'm going back to find the luggage.

I remember that when we came in the monsters put the luggage to the left of the throne hall, said the Tang Priest. The loads must still be there.

Understood, said Monkey, who sprang off at once to search for it by the throne hall. When he suddenly saw shimmering lights of many colours Brother Monkey knew that they came from the luggage. How did he know? Because the light came from the night-shining pearl on the Tang Priest's cassock. He rushed towards it and found that their load was unopened, so he took it out and gave it to Friar Sand to carry. While Pig guided the horse, the Great Sage took the lead.

They were hurrying to go straight out through the main Southern gate when they heard the noise of watchmen's clappers and bells. They found the gates locked and paper seals over the locks.

How are we going to get out if the place is so closely guarded? Monkey wondered.

Let's get out the back door, said Pig. With Monkey leading the way they rushed straight to the back gates.

I can hear clappers and bells outside the back gates as well, and they're sealed too, Monkey said. What are we to do? If it weren't for the Tang Priest's mortal body it wouldn't bother us three: we could get away by cloud and wind. But the Tang Priest hasn't escaped from the Three Worlds and is still confined within the Five Elements. All his bones are the unclean ones he got from his mother and father. He can't lift himself into the air and he'll never get away.

No time for talking now, brother, said Pig: Let's go somewhere where there aren't any bells, clappers or guards, lift the master up and climb over the wall.

That won't do, said Monkey. We could lift him over now because we've got to, but you've got such a big mouth you'd tell people everywhere when we're taking the scriptures back that we're the sort of monks who sneak over people's walls.

But we can't bother about behaving properly now, replied Pig. We've got to save our skins. Monkey had no choice but to do as he suggested, so they went up to wall and worked out how to climb over.

Oh dear! Things would have to work out this way: Sanzang was not yet free of his unlucky star. The three demon chiefs who had been fast asleep in their living quarters suddenly awoke and, fearing that the Tang Priest had escaped, got up, threw on their clothes and hurried to the throne hall of the palace.

How many times has the Tang Priest been steamed? they asked. The junior devils who were looking after the fires were all so soundly asleep because the sleep insects were in them that not even blows could wake them up.

The chiefs woke up some others who were not on duty, who answered rashly, Ssssseven times. Then they rushed over to the steamer to see the steamer trays lying scattered on the floor and the cooks still asleep.

In their alarm they rushed back to report, Your Majesties, thththey've escaped.

The three demon chiefs came out of the throne hall to take a close look around the cauldron. They saw that the steamer trays were indeed scattered on the floor, the water was stonecold and the fire completely out. The cooks supposed to be tending the fire were still so fast asleep that they were snoring noisily.

The fiends were all so shocked that they all shouted, Catch the Tang Priest! At once! Catch the Tang Priest! Their yells woke up the demons senior and junior all around. They rushed in a crowd to the main front gates carrying their swords and spears.

Seeing that the sealed locks had not been touched and that the night watchmen were still sounding their clappers and bells they asked the watchman, Which way did the Tang Priest go?

Nobody's come out, the watchmen all replied. They hurried to the back gates of the palace, only to find that the seals, locks, clappers and bells were the same as at the front. With a great commotion they grabbed lanterns and torches, making the sky red and the place as bright as day. The four of them were clearly lit up as they climbed over the wall.

Where do you think you're going? the senior demon chief shouted, running towards them and so terrifying the reverend gentleman that the muscles in his legs turned soft and numb and he fell off the wall to be captured by the senior demon. The second demon chief seized Friar Sand and the third knocked Pig over and captured him. The other demons took the luggage and the white horse. Only Monkey escaped.

May Heaven kill him, Pig grumbled under his breath about Monkey. I said that if he was going to rescue us he ought to do a thorough job of it. As it is we're going to be put back in the steamer for another steaming.

The monsters took the Tang Priest into the throne hall but did not steam him again. The second demon chief ordered that Pig was to be tied to one of the columns supporting the eaves in front of the hall and the third chief had Friar Sand tied to one of the columns holding up the eaves at the back. The senior chief clung to the Tang Priest and would not let go of him.

What are you holding him for, elder brother? the third demon asked. Surely you're not going to eat him alive. That wouldn't be at all interesting. He's no ordinary idiot to be gobbled up just to fill your stomach. He's a rare delicacy from a superior country. We should keep him till we have some free time one rainy day, then bring him out to be carefully cooked and enjoyed with drinking games and fine music.

A very good suggestion, brother, replied the senior demon with a smile, but Sun the Novice would come and steal him again.

In our palace we have a Brocade Fragrance Pavilion, said the third demon, and in the pavilion is an iron chest. I think we should put the Tang Priest into the chest, shut up the pavilion, put out a rumour that we have already eaten him half raw and get all the junior devils in the city talking about it. That Sun the Novice is bound to come back to find out what's happening, and when he hears this he'll be so miserably disappointed that he'll go away. If he doesn't come to make trouble for another four or five days we can bring the Tang Priest out to enjoy at our leisure. What do you think?

The senior and second demon chiefs were both delighted. Yes, yes, you're right, brother, they said. That very night the poor Tang Priest was taken inside the palace, put into the chest and locked up in the pavilion. We will not tell how the rumour was spread and became the talk of the town.

Instead the story tells how Monkey escaped that night by cloud, unable to look after the Tang Priest. He went straight to Lion Cave where he wiped out all the tens of thousands of junior demons with his cudgel to his complete satisfaction. By the time he had hurried back to the city the sun was rising in the East. He did not dare challenge the demons to battle because

No thread can be spun from a single strand;

Nobody can clap with a single hand.

So he brought his cloud down, shook himself, turned himself into a junior demon and slipped in through the gates to collect news in the streets and back alleys. The Tang Priest was eaten raw by the senior king during the night, was what all the people in the city were saying wherever he went. This made Brother Monkey really anxious. When he went to look at the throne hall in the palace he saw that there were many spirits constantly coming and going. They were wearing leather and metal helmets and yellow cotton tunics. In their hands they held red lacquered staves, and ivory passes hung at their waists.

These must be evil spirits who are allowed in the inner quarters of the palace, thought Monkey. I'll turn myself into one, go in and see what I can find out.

The splendid Great Sage then made himself identical to the demons and slipped in through the inner gates of the palace. As he was walking along he saw Pig tied to one of the columns of the throne hall, groaning.

Wuneng, Monkey said, going up to him.

Is that you, brother? asked the idiot, recognizing his voice. Save me!

I'll save you, said Monkey. Do you know where the master is?

He's done for, Pig replied. The evil spirits ate him raw last night. At this Monkey burst into sobs and the tears gushed out like water from a spring.

Don't cry, brother, said Pig. I've only heard the junior devils gossiping. I didn't see it with my own eyes. Don't waste any more time. Go on and find out more. Only then did Monkey dry his tears and go to search in the inner part of the palace.

Noticing Friar Sand tied to a column at the back of the palace he went up to him, felt his chest and said, Wujing.

Friar Sand also recognized his voice and said, Brother, is that you here in disguise? Save me! Save me!

Saving you will be easy, said Monkey, but do you know where the master is?

Brother! said Friar Sand in tears. The evil spirits couldn't even wait to steam the master. They've eaten him raw.

Now that both of them had told him the same story the Great Sage was cut to the heart. Instead of rescuing Pig and Friar Sand he sprang straight up into the sky and went to the mountain East of the city, where he landed his cloud and let himself weep aloud.

Poor Master, he said:

I fought against heaven, was caught in its net,

Till you came along and delivered me, Master.

It became my ambition to worship the Buddha;

I strove to eliminate fiendish disaster.

I never imagined that now you'd be murdered

And I would have failed on your journey to keep you.

The lands of the West were too good for your fate.

Your life's at an end: in what way can I help you?

Deep in misery, Monkey said to himself, It's all the fault of our Buddha, the Tathagata, who had nothing better to do in his paradise than make the three stores of scriptures. If he really wanted to convert people to be good he ought to have sent them to the East himself. Then they would have been passed on for ever. But he couldn't bring himself to part with them. He had to make us go to fetch them. Who'd ever have thought that after all the trouble of crossing a thousand mountains the master would lose his life here today? Oh well! I'll ride my somersault cloud to see the Tathagata Buddha and tell him what's happened. If he's willing to give me the scriptures to deliver to the East then the good achievement will be propagated and we'll be able to fulfil our vow. If he won't give me them I'll get him to recite the Band-loosening Spell. Then I can take the band off, return it to him and go back to my own cave to play the king and enjoy myself again.

The splendid Great Sage jumped to his feet and went straight to India on his somersault cloud. In less than a couple of hours he could see the Vulture Peak in the near distance, and an instant later he had landed his cloud and was heading straight for the foot of the peak. He looked up and saw the four vajrapanis blocking his way and asking him where he was going.

There's something I want to see the Tathagata about, Monkey replied with a bow.

Next he was faced by the Vajrapani Yongzhu, the indestructible king of Golden Glow Ridge on Mount Kunlun, who shouted, Macaque, you're an outrage! When the Bull Demon King was giving you such terrible trouble we all helped you, but now you've come to see us today you're showing no manners at all. If you're here on business you should submit a memorial first and wait till you're summoned before going any further. This isn't like the Southern Gate of Heaven, where you can come and go as you please. Clear off! Out of the way!

Being told off like this when he was feeling so depressed drove Monkey into thundering roars of fury, and his uncontrollable shouts and yells soon disturbed the Tathagata.

The Tathagata Buddha was sitting on his nine-level lotus throne expounding the sutras to his eighteen arhats when he said, Sun Wukong is here. You must all go out to receive him. In obedience to the Buddha's command the arhats went out in two columns with their banners and canopies.

Great Sage Sun, they said in greeting, the Tathagata has commanded us to summon you to his presence. Only then did the four vajrapanis at the monastery gates step aside to let Monkey enter. The arhats led him to the foot of the lotus throne, where he went down to kowtow on seeing the Tathagata. He was sobbing and weeping.

Wukong, said the Buddha, what makes you weep so miserably?

Your disciple has often received the grace of your instruction, Brother Monkey replied, and has committed himself to the school of Lord Buddha. Since being converted to the true achievement I have taken the Tang Priest as my master and been protecting him on our journey. No words could describe what we have suffered. We have now reached the city of Leonia near Lion Cave on Lion Mountain where three vicious monsters, the Lion King, the Elephant King and the Great Roc, seized my master. All of us disciples of his were in a very bad way too, tied up and put in a steamer to suffer the agony of fire and boiling water. Fortunately I was able to get away and summon a dragon king to save the others. But we could not escape our evil star: the master and the others were recaptured when I was trying to sneak them out last night. When I went back into the city this morning to find out what had happened I learned that those utterly evil and ferocious monsters ate my master raw during the night. Nothing is left of his flesh and bones. On top of that my fellow-disciples Wuneng and Wujing are tied up there and will soon be dead too. I'm desperate. That's why your disciple has come to visit the Tathagata. I beg you in your great compassion to recite the Band-loosening Spell so that I can take the band off my head and give it back to you. Let your disciple go back to the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit and enjoy himself. Before he had finished saying this the tears welled up again. There was no end to his howls of misery.

Don't upset yourself so, Wukong, said the Tathagata with a smile. You can't beat those evil spirits. Their magical powers are more than you can handle. That is why you are so unhappy.

Monkey knelt below the Buddha and beat his breast as he replied, Truly, Tathagata, I made havoc in Heaven all those years ago and was called Great Sage. Never in all my life had I been beaten before I met these vicious monsters.

Stop being so sorry for yourself, said the Tathagata. I know those evil spirits.

Tathagata! Monkey suddenly blurted out. They say those evil spirits are relations of yours.

Wicked macaque! said the Tathagata. How could an evil spirit be any relation of mine?

If they're not relations of yours how come you know them? retorted Monkey with a grin.

I know them because I see them with my all-seeing eyes, the Buddha replied. The senior demon and the second demon have masters. Ananda, Kasyapa, come here. One of you is to take a cloud to Mount Wutai and the other to Mount Emei. Summon Manjusri and Samantabhadra to come and see me. The two arhats left at once as they had been commanded. They are the masters of the senior and the second demon chiefs. But the third demon does have some connection with me.

On his mother's or his father's side? Monkey asked.

When the primal chaos was first separated the heavens opened up in the hour of the rat and the earth at the hour of the ox, the Buddha replied. Mankind was born at the tiger hour. Then heaven and earth came together again and all living creatures were born, including beasts that walk and birds that fly. The unicorn is the most senior of the beasts that walk and the phoenix is the most senior of the birds that fly. When the phoenixes combined their essential spirit they gave birth to the peafowl and the Great Roc. When the peafowl came into the world she was the most evil of creatures and a man-eater. She could devour all the people for fifteen miles around in a single mouthful. When I was cultivating my sixteen-foot golden body on the peak of the snowy mountain she swallowed me as well. I went down into her belly. I wanted to escape through her backside, but for fear of soiling my body I cut my way out through her backbone and climbed Vulture Peak. I would have killed her, but all the Buddha host dissuaded me: to kill the peahen would have been like killing my own mother. So I kept her at my assembly on Vulture Peak and appointed her as the Buddha-mother, the Great Illustrious Peahen Queen Bodhisattva. The Great Roc was born of the same mother as she was. That is why we are relations of a kind.

When Monkey heard this he said with a smile, By that line of argument, Tathagata, you're the evil spirit's nephew.

I shall have to go and subdue that demon in person, the Tathagata said. Monkey kowtowed as he respectfully replied, I beg you to condescend to grant us your illustrious presence.

The Tathagata then came down from his lotus throne and went out through the monastery gates with all the Buddha host just as Ananda and Kasyapa arrived bringing Manjusri and Samantabhadra. These two Bodhisattvas bowed to the Tathagata, who asked them, How long have your animals been away from your mountains, Bodhisattvas?

Seven days, said Manjusri.

A mere seven days on your mountains is several thousand years in the mortal world, the Tathagata replied. Goodness knows how many living beings they have destroyed there. Come with me to recapture them at once.

The two Bodhisattvas traveled at the Buddha's left and right hand as they flew through the air with the host. This is what could be seen:

The shimmering clouds of blessing parted for Lord Buddha

As in his great compassion he came down from his shrine.

He taught the truth about all beings since creation,

Explaining how everything had been transformed in time.

Before him went five hundred holy arhats;

Behind him were three thousand guardians of the faith.

Ananda and Kasyapa were both in close attendance;

Samantabhadra and Manjusri came to conquer monsters.

The Great Sage had been granted this favour and succeeded in bringing the Lord Buddha and his host with him. It was not long before the city was in sight. Tathagata, said Monkey, that's Leonia, where the black vapors are coming from.

You go down into the city first, said the Tathagata, and start a fight with the evil spirits. Do not win. You must lose and come back up. Leave it to us to recapture them.

The Great Sage then brought his cloud straight down to land on the city wall, where he stood on the battlements and shouted abusively, Evil beasts! Come out and fight me at once! This caused such consternation among the junior demons in the towers on the wall that they jumped straight down into the city to report, Your Majesties, Sun the Novice is on the wall, challenging us to battle.

That ape hasn't been here for two or three days, the senior demon replied. Now he's back challenging us to battle. Can he have fetched some reinforcements?

He's nothing to be scared of, said the third demon chief. Let's all go and have a look. The three chieftains, all carrying their weapons, hurried up on the wall where they saw Monkey. Without a word they raised their weapons and thrust at him. Monkey held them off by swinging his iron cudgel. When they had fought seven or eight rounds Monkey feigned defeat and fled.

Where do you think you're going? the demon king asked with a mighty shout, and with a somersault Monkey sprang up into mid-air. The three spirits went after him on clouds, but Monkey slipped aside and disappeared completely in the Lord Buddha's golden aura.

All that could be seen were the images of the Three Buddhas of Past, Future and Present, the five hundred arhats and the three thousand Protectors of the Faith who spread all around, encircling the three demon kings so closely that not even a drop of water could leak through.

This is terrible, my brother, said the senior demon chief, lashing out wildly, that ape is a really sharp operator. How did he manage to bring my master here?

Don't be afraid, elder brother, said the third demon. If we all charge together we can cut down the Tathagata with our swords and spears and seize his Thunder Monastery. The demons, who had no sense of proper behavior, really did raise their swords to charge forward, hacking wildly.

Manjusri and Samantabhadra recited the words of a spell and shouted, Won't you repent now, evil beasts? What else do you hope for? The senior and the second demon chiefs gave up the struggle, threw down their weapons, rolled and reverted to their true images. The two Bodhisattvas threw their lotus thrones on the demons' backs and flew over to sit on them. The two demons then gave up and submitted.

Now that the blue lion and the white elephant had been captured only the third evil monster was still unsubdued. Spreading its wings it dropped its heaven-square halberd and rose straight up to try to catch the Monkey King with a swing of its sharp talons, but as the Great Sage was biding in the golden aura the demon dared get nowhere near him. When the Tathagata realized what it was trying to do he made his golden aura flash and shook his head, the supreme meditator in the wind, to turn the creature into a bright red lump of bloody meat. The evil spirit seized it with a flourish of its sharp talons, whereupon the Lord Buddha pointed upwards with his hand, destroying the muscles in the monster's wings. It could not fly or get away from the top of the Buddha's head, and it reverted to its true appearance as a golden-winged vulture.

Opening its beak it said to the Buddha, Tathagata, why did you use your great dharma powers to catch me like this?

You have been doing much evil here, the Tathagata replied. Come with me and you will win credit for a good deed.

You eat vegetarian food in great poverty and suffering at your place, the evil spirit replied, but here I can eat human flesh and live in no end of luxury. If you kill me by starvation you'll be guilty of a sin.

In the four continents I control countless living beings who worship me, the Buddha replied, and whenever they are going to perform a service to me I shall tell them to make a sacrifice to you first. The Great Roc would have escaped and got away if it could. As it was he had no choice but to accept conversion.

Only then did Monkey emerge to kowtow to the Tathagata and say, Lord Buddha, today you have captured the evil spirits and removed a great bane, but my master is dead.

At this the Great Roc said bitterly as it ground its teeth, Damned ape! Why did you have to bring these ferocious men here to persecute me? I never ate that old monk of yours. He's in the Brocade Fragrance Pavilion now, isn't he? When Monkey heard this he quickly kowtowed to thank the Lord Buddha. Not daring to release the Great Roc, the Buddha made him into a guardian of the dharma in his brilliant halo then led his host back to his monastery on their clouds. Monkey landed his cloud and went straight into the city, where there was not a single junior demon left. Indeed:

A snake cannot move without its head;

A bird cannot fly without its wings.

They had all fled for their lives when they saw the Buddha capturing their evil kings.

Monkey then freed Pig and Friar Sand, found the luggage and the horse, and said to his fellow-disciples, The master hasn't been eaten. Come with me. He took the two of them straight into the inner compound where they found the Brocade Fragrance Pavilion. Opening the door and looking inside they saw an iron trunk from which could be heard the sound of Sanzang weeping.

Friar Sand used his demon-quelling staff to open the iron cage over the chest and raise its lid. Master, he called.

At the sight of them Sanzang wept aloud and said, Disciples, how were the demons beaten? How did you manage to find me here? Monkey told him all the details of what had happened from beginning to end and Sanzang expressed boundless gratitude. Then master and disciples found some rice in the palace and ate their fill of it before packing their things and leaving the city along the main road West. Indeed:

Only a true man can find the true scriptures;

The will's shouts and the heart's labors are in vain.

If you don't know when on this journey they were to see the Tathagata listen to the explanation in the next installment.

Chapter 76 | Journey to the West (vol. 3) | Chapter 78