The Bureau of the Five-Grain Transmigration – from A Journey to the West

A Journey to the West is one of the four great Clasics of Chinese literature and was written in the sixteenth centuury by Wu Cheng’en. In the west it is better known by as “Monkey” because of the 1960’s cult television series of that name.

A scene of Journey to the West

A scene of Journey to the West (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It tells the story of the pilrimage of the buddist monk Xuangzang. In this excerpt the character Pilgrim (aka the Handsome Monkey King) is called by the derogatoryly term pi-ma-wen, by “Idiot” (aka. Piggy).

“Just now when we entered the hall,” Pilgrim said, “I chanced to notice a little door on our right. Judging from the foul stench coming through it, I think it must be a Bureau of Five-Grain Transmigration. Send them in there.”

Idiot, in truth, was rather good at crude labour! He leaped down, threw the three statues over his shoulder, and carried them out of the hall. When he kicked open the door, he found a huge privy inside. Chuckling to himself he said, “This pi-ma-wen truly has a way with words! He even bestows on a privy a sacred title! The Bureau of Five-Grain Transmigration. What a name!” Yu, A.C. 1977, The Journey to the West Volume II Pg. 315. (Translation of)

An illustration of Zhū Bājiè

It seems as though even the classics can’t let a good peice of toilety humour pass them by.

“F” is for the bureau of Five-Grain Transmigration

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What value, an athiest prayer

I’ve witnessed some Atheists get quite flustered and occasionally angered when other people pray for them. Although I tarried in this mindset for a short period I now value the act of prayer and meditation. It is a conscious act to extend positive energy to another being or set of beings.

I don’t believe in an interventionist God. But I know darling that you do – Nick Cave (Into my arms)

This is as good a place to start to describe my viewpoint on prayer. We are not products of the environment we exist in but we are influenced in many ways by it. I grew up in a staunchly Catholic family and school system but I was encouraged not to limit my viewpoint to those taught by religious leaders, or held by the society of the time. The most profound influence however was reading The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God (2006) by Dr Carl Sagan based on his Gifford Lecture under the theme The Search For Who We Are.

Dr Carl Sagan is known to have said that there is no scientific evidence that God exists but he also acknowledged that neither has evidence that God doesn’t exist been provided.

In over twenty years of training in the martial arts, specifically Aikido, the most valuable notion I have discovered is the untapped power of the sentient mind.

In general terms, how often have you felt your mind disturbed and looked up to see someone watching you. Just as in combat when we sense an opponent’s attack before they physically move, so can we sense another sentient mind’s attention on our mind.

The sentient mind is a powerful instrument and should not be underestimated

 It is the act of prayer or meditation that adds value, not the actor’s faith in some hirsute gentleman or any other vision of a divine entity. So I encourage all sentient beings especially Atheists to practice the art of prayer or meditation.

Discovering truths on your own

My eldest son is in his final year of high school and I went with him when he visited a Buddhist temple as part of an assignment for “Study of Religions”. He chose “the Five Senses” as his topic for the assignment and this alone frightened off the “Aussie” monk who’d been assigned to him; she referred him on to someone “higher”.

It was interesting to note that Buddhists don’t have any creation theory, nor believe in a God—of a western definition. Buddha was an actual person and it is the truths he and his followers discovered that are strictly held in reverence. Anyone can become a Buddhist; we all have the Buddha nature inside us but it is often held down by all of the crap we pad out our daily lives with.

I had a thought about the Christian saying “they will know we are Christians by our love” and concluded that they would mistake a Buddhist for a Christian because they actually strive to live their entire lives properly; not just forty-five minutes on a Sunday.

One clear difference to other “religions” is that Buddhists are encouraged to question everything. But these questions are exploratory rather than confrontational. We can only discover truths on our own; they cannot be taught—only learnt (there is a difference).