|Entering the Sea of
Entering the sea of awareness is the
idea behind the eighth road of Luohan Gung known as 'Venerable
Monk Enters Nirvana.' In order to succeed at our
training our mind must be pure and focused with no
extraneous thoughts to disrupt our mind. Practicing this
posture is good for stretching the legs, hips and back.
The name of the posture reminds us to keep our mind
A Startling Discovery in Taiwan
Eighteen Luohan Gung many years ago in Taiwan a
student of mine pointed out the meaning of a puzzling
passage of the text. It was a reference to the romantic
relationship within a play called Story of the Western Chamber
written during the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). A
romantic comedic play which remained popular among the
common folk of China for hundreds of years. This passage within Eighteen Luohan Gung alluded
to the play and how the desire of the male lead, Student Zhang, for a beautiful girl
had briefly glimpsed had disturbed the calm tranquility of his mind.
This sentence in Eighteen Luohan Gung shows
how our mind can be easily disturbed by
excessive desires just as how the mind of Student Zhang
was disturbed by his desire for a beautiful girl.
Postures From Eighteen Luohan Gung
The move 'venerable monk enters nirvana'
can be done both high up or squatting low to the ground
as shown here.
Venerable Monk Enters Nirvana
The clean and pure sea of awareness
1. Touch your leg
stick out your ribs and tightly close the crotch.
Clear your mind see your innate nature then your
eyes will become radiant
As the venerable monk sits in meditation,
Shadows of waving bamboo appear on the window
The lamp's clear light won’t be extinguished by
A dream of Hongniang going to the western chamber.
Lying sick in bed he (Student Zhang) sends a letter.
The fiercely tempered little monk is obstinate as
In pursuing success ambition becomes uncontrollable,
There is no need to search for the Western Paradise.
The sub heading,
The clean and pure sea of awareness,
represents what the student of meditation is trying to
attain, a mind of awareness unclouded by worldly
Of the ten lines only the first
ones give a clue as to how to perform the posture.
Line 2 reminds
the student to clear your mind and view your innate nature.
Innate nature is a Buddhist term that identifies that
part of us that exists independent of our physical body.
From a Buddhist
perspective birth, aging, illness and death are stages
of life that all
of us must experience. Death is simply the
termination of life, not the soul. Our consciousness
will drift with our karma and change its form after we
breathe our last
breath, yet our innate nature remains alive and, like the
changes of the seasons, goes on in an endless cycle.
Shadows of waving
bamboo of line 4 are the
thoughts of your mind while the window screen is where you see
these thoughts. The
lamp's clear light
represents our own conscious clarity and the wind is
that which disturbs your mind. In other words, don't let
your thoughts lose their tranquility.
Lines 6 and 7 are the reference
to Story of the Western Chamber where Student Zhang falls in love with a girl, Hong Niang,
but has no way to communicate his love to her. He tries
to get a monk at the temple to help him deliver the
letter, but the 'little monk' obstinately refuses.
The ninth line reminds us of the
lengths that Student Zhang eventually is willing to go to marry Hong Niang. By extension, how anyone
might lose sight of who they are by the mad pursuit of
realizing their goals of success.
The final line, 'There
is no need to search for the Western Paradise,'
Western Paradise being the Buddhist heaven. The writer
reminds us that the 'Western Paradise' is a state of
mind, not a place to go. The path to this Western
Paradise starts with controlling the mind.
of the Western Chamber
What follows is an outline of a
very long play. Traditionally, this play might take
several days to perform. I find the story of the martial
monk most interesting and have outlined the part of the
story that causes him to bring his martial valor into
play. The martial prowess of Monk Benevolent Perception
saves the lives of Student Zhang and Oriole and the
lives and property of Monastery of Universal Salvation. The
500 year old precursor to modern Chinese martial hero
The Story of Oriole
A Chancellor of China named Cui lived in the capitol
city with his wife and beautiful daughter Oriole.
Unfortunately, Chancellor Cui suffered sudden onset of
illness and soon passed away leaving behind a wife and
daughter to fend for themselves.
The wife ‘Madam’ and daughter Oriole took along their
two servants and attempted the long journey of
transporting the Chancellor’s coffin back to the
ancestral shrine for burial. During the journey to their
hometown the road became temporarily impassable.
Stranded as they were with no way to continue they took
refuge in the monastery of Universal Salvation.
The Story of Student Zhang
Zhang rides a donkey while his servant follows
A certain student Zhang, on his way to the capitol to
sit for the imperial examinations also happened to pass
through the monastery of Universal Salvation. While
admiring its ancient architecture he caught a glimpse of
Oriole and became instantly smitten by her beauty.
Stunning knockouts-I’ve seen a million;
But a lovely face like this is rarely seen.
It dazzles a man’s eyes, stuns him speechless,
And makes his soul fly away into the heavens.
She there, without a thought of teasing, fragrant
Simply twirls the flower, smiling.
reflection of her beauty;
hungry eyes have gazed until they are shot through,
My starving mouth has salivated until I swallow in
In vain I am infected with a marrow-piercing
How can I withstand her, who turned autumn ripples
(lovely eyes) on me as she left?
the abbot, Dharma Source, for permission to stay in a
spare room under the pretext of having a quiet place to
prepare for the imperial examinations. Shortly
thereafter Oriole said of Student Zhang,
A youth of greening spring,
An inner nature perceptive and quick,
A talent and learning to cap the age.
Twisting and turning his body in a hundred
Right in front of us he runs back and forth to show
off his wit and good looks.
time of realizing their mutual admiration for each other
a quivering monk ran in, ‘Help us! Help us! General
Flying Tiger has sealed off the temple with his 5000
mutinous troops. They are sounding the gongs and beating
the drums. The general says that he is here to snatch
away Oriole as his wife. What will we do?’
Oriole lamented to herself, ‘An orphan and a widow, a child
and her mother with nowhere to flee. Truly, my father
who passed away before us turned out to be the lucky
General Flying Tiger
The news of deceased Chancellor Cui’s exceedingly
beautiful daughter staying at the monastery of Universal
Salvation had found its way to General Flying Tiger.
Sitting astride his war horse outside the gates of the
Monastery Flying Tiger delivered his ultimatum, 'Present
Oriole to me for marriage or my soldiers will burn this
temple to the ground and massacre every last soul
Oriole decides, against her mother’s wishes, that the only
way to save the situation is to commit suicide and
present her corpse to General Flying Tiger.
In desperation Madam calls together all the temple
occupants, both monk and laity, and offers her daughter
hand in marriage to whoever can overcome Flying Tiger
and his army of 5000 pillaging soldiers, ‘ Who among you
monks and laymen of either corridor has a plan to
repulse these soldiers will receive a dowry and Oriole
as a wife.’
Student Zhang stepped forward shouting out boldly, 'I can
turn back these 5000 rebel soldiers, why don’t you ask
‘Where lies your plan?’ Asks Madam?
‘Whenever the reward is great a brave man will appear.’
‘If you can drive away these soldiers I will give away Oriole
‘If it is really so, then lets not scare my wife anymore.
Please return to your bedchamber, I have a plan to
repulse these troops.’
the way to her room Oriole laments,
All the monks flee for their own lives;
Of all my relatives, who cares about us?
This student, who knows me not at all,
shows great concern for a perfect stranger…
Whether the situation can be rescued or not
Is temporarily in the hands of this budding talent…
I only hope that you can wipe away 5000 men
With the tip of your brush!
Oriole leaves, Student Zhang gives instructions to the
frightened abbot, Dharma Source, and orders him to carry
out the plan. ‘For my plan I must use the service of
Abbott Dharma Source.’
As if splashed in the face with cold water he says, ‘I can’t
fight, spare my live and call out another to serve you.’
‘Don’t be foolish. I need you to deliver a message to the
Dharma Source Speaks with Flying Tiger
Dharma Source goes outside the temple gates, ‘General
Flying Tiger, would you please come here and talk?’
Flying Tiger approaches, accompanied by soldiers, ’Send out
‘Don’t be angry General, Madam has sent me here to talk to
you. Madam really wants to deliver her daughter up to
you, General. But she is still wearing mourning for her
father and, alas, she has fainted out of alarm over the
sounding gongs and beating drums. If you want to become
a bridegroom, you should lay down your armor, restrain
your troops, and retreat the distance of one bowshot.
Within a limit of three days her mourning will be
completed; she will change her mourning garb for a
bright red bridal gown, Then will she be sent to you,
General, with a dowry thrown in. But if she is given up
immediately, first, she will still be wearing mourning
clothing, and second, she will be unlucky for you.’
‘Well, since it is like this, I’ll give you three days;
grace, If she’s not delivered then, you’ll die to the
last man. Go and tell Madam that.’
Dharma Source returns to report,’ The troops have withdrawn.
If she’s not delivered up in three days, we’re all
Someone asked,’ What happens after three days? We still must
deliver the girl or else we’ll all be massacred.’
in his tent waiting taking reports from soldiers
circa late yuan early Ming
It so happens that Student Zhang had a childhood friend
who later became General White Horse. Presently in
charge of 100,000 men guarding nearby Pu Pass. ‘A single
letter sent from me to him and he will surely save us. I
will write the letter but who amongst you dares deliver
A Wild Monk Gives Vent to A Murderous Heart
A monk stepped forward,' I dare.’ This was Monk
Benevolent Perception who begins by describing his lust
These vegetable stuffed buns at the temple are
really tasteless. No need to bake, fry or roast
those 5000 traitors. The hot blood from their
throats will slake my thirst for a time. Their raw
hearts, lungs and livers will temporarily stave off
‘What if they won’t let you pass?’ Asks Student Zhang.
Those far off, with giant steps, I will sweep away
with my iron staff;
Those nearby, with a flick of the wrist, I will cut
down with my prohibition’s knife ( a small religious
The small ones-I’ll pull them up and give them a toe
The big ones-I’ll squash them down and trample their
With a single angry stare, roaring and crashing,
I’ll roil the breakers in the ocean;
With a single wave of the hand, thundering and
smashing, I’ll shake the cliffs in the mountains.
My feet will trample until the axis of the earth
trembles, rattling apart;
My hand will pull until the gate of heaven
collapses, splitting asunder!
Monk Benevolent Perception takes the letter to General
In the end the letter is delivered and General White
Horse comes to save the day. But all is not over there.
The story continues with Oriole's mother refusing to
honor her promise and give up her daughter to a poor
In the end the of Mantis Boxing exhorts us to
Clear your mind see your innate nature then your eyes
will become radiant
Prints from Story of the Western Chamber taken
from The Moon and the Zither 1991 by The Regents
of the University of the California