Sunday, April 22, 2012

Journey to the West - Part 3

Refer to this link for the making of the “Journey to the West” and theme song, they really put so much effort within those 8 months of fliming. They filmed at so many locations and often have to carry tonnes of equipment along the uncharted paths, and putting up with the weather conditions. Even though the special effect is nothing like the ones you see in Hollywood movies, you have to understand they made this drama series with the budget and equipment/know-how that they have. .  

There was an episode whereby a certain King of a small kingdom had been pushed into a well by a demon in disguised. The demon-in-disguise had earlier gained the trust of the king ever since he ended a drought and became appointed as the king’s advisor. While sleeping at a Buddhist temple, the Tripitaka Monk had a dream in which the dead king, who had died 3 years ago, sought the help of the Monk to vanquish the said demon. After pushing the king into the well, he turned into the image of the king and told his subjects that the king’s advisor had fallen into the well. Monkey was instrumental in helping reveal to his subjects that the so-called king was actually a demon in disguised. And the Monkey had sought the help from Medicine God (Tai Shang Lau Jun, mainly in Taoism) to revive the actual king and was given a magical pill. The actual king was successfully revived and the demon was vanguised. However, there was a twist at the end of the story. It was revealed that the demon was actually the lion that Bodhisattva Manjusri rides on. He had to manifest on earth as a demon on instructions from the Buddha to cross over the king who had earlier imprisoned the manifestation of Manjusri. Apparently Bodhisattva Manjusri had gone to test and teach the king to be more sincere when doing good deeds. The king was said to be only concerned about his own pride when doing good deeds and not so concerned whether the deeds actually benefited the people or not. Anyway, the lion had gone to help release his master and through consultations with the Buddha had decided to manifest as a demon to turnover the king. Even though the king was pushed into the well, and while being “dead”, he was actually being taught by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. The Buddha wanted to enable him to stay in the Buddha’s Pure Land but apparently his merits were not enough yet. Thus he had to return to earth as a human again. The Buddha did not tell Tai Shang Lau Jun but through causes and condition, somehow I think he knew and the pill was given to Monkey. Therefore, we cannot really judge a person by his or her outer appearance. Sometimes outside a being may be a demon, but in actual fact it can be a bodhisattva. Conversely, a person can look very saintly externally, but may have bad intentions in his/her heart.         
There are also episodes whereby a cow (belonging to one dewa) and a fish (belonging to Kuan Yin Bodhisattva) whereby they evolved into heavenly spirits (a type of asuras) after hearing the dharma. I think these stories support the animal liberation concept that Buddhists are doing, particularly the Tibetan Buddhists who chant mantras for the animals to hear before releasing them. Depending on the karma of the animals, they could be reborn into a higher realm, for example, as a human being. But whether they become a good or bad human, depends on their own selves. It is not guaranteed they will be beings of good character in their next life. It is said that bad habits die hard. There was a reason in the first place why they became animals. So, if they even have a little bit of good karma, perhaps they will encounter with someone good who will enable them to change their old ways, so that they don’t get reborn as animals again after only one life of escaping it.
They also came upon a town that had been without water for 3 years.  There was not a single drop of rain and the rivers and wells had also dried up. This episode is important because it shows the existence of God (i.e. the Christian kind) within the context of Buddhism and Taoist beliefs and how the entire town had to suffer because the actions of the king. The king had angrily scolded his wife for offering food to God and the other heavenly gods.  He said that it would be better to eat them themselves rather than offer the food to Heaven. He also said he would rather offer the food to the dogs rather than to the Gods. This kind of attitude was wrong and the Jade Emperor (as lord God of the 3 samsaric worlds) punished the town to be without water. It was not until Monkey intervened and requested the other Gods to persuade the Jade Emperor to stop the punishment. Upon suggestion by one of the God, Monkey told the King and his people that they need to change their wrong attitude and start to have faith ion religious practices. They especially need to believe the existence of Heaven and Hell. They also must respect the Gods and the Buddhas. Once the attitude changed, the Gods were pleased and Jade Emperor commanded the dragons to shower rain in that town immediately. So, from here we can learn that any governments or country that does not respect God or believe in Heavens and Hells, will surely suffer. Due to sometimes the head of the government, the whole country has to suffer. So, choose your governments properly!
The other point in another story is that the Heart Sutra can be used to cut across all confusions and defeat the demons. Once the internal mind is peaceful and clear, the external environment will also be crystal clear. I have also used the Heart Sutra to heal before. Do not under-estimate the power of the Heart Sutra mantra, i.e. Tayatha Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha. 
When the Monk came to Anathapindika’s temple, he knew that was the place the Buddha did many of his preachings. According to the story of Anathapindika, the whole temple and compound was made of gold. That was the condition with the owner of the land with Anathapindika before he could sell it to Anathapindika. And Anathapindika did just that. He covered every inch of the garden with a few inches of gold. The owner had to fulfil his part and the ladn now belongs to Anathapindika who offered it to the Buddha. But when the Monk arrived there, there was only rubble and ruins of the once majestic temple, said to be made of gold. He stepped into the throne hall where the Buddha once was sitting and preaching.  In the movie, he was shown as touching the floor with his hand, and the whole floor and temple ruins magically restored itself and transformed into gold. Even the Buddha was seen sitting on his golden throne together with all his fourfold assembly of Sangha. I think the Buddha reminded him something. After he got the message, the place transformed back into the ruin that it was. All the gold had disappeared. This episode was interesting in that it reminded me of a popular believe among Buddhists, particularly Mahayanists, that the Buddha is still preaching here in all of his places. This is stated in the Lotus Sutra. The only thing was that we are unable to see him or hear his teachings. Only if our heart and mind is pure, could we see and hear the Buddha. Reminded me of the short glimpse I had of the Buddha and his assembly preaching the Sutra. That was truly a wonderful sight I won’t forget!  

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