Chinese Literature: The Concept of Enlightenment in the Framework of Liberation and Salvation
The concept of enlightenment as the condition in which a person can feel liberated from illusory components of the outer world (namely, lust/desire and hate/envy/jealousy) and reach immortality is central for many religious and philosophical systems. Throughout many centuries of civilization development, humanity has managed to reach progress in formulating simple rules to train body, mind, and spirit to reach paradise living on earth. To solve the problem of liberation, one is to stop finding faults in others (defilement) and instead attempt to grow better by improvement (realizing own faults). Religious practices can help adepts to train minds in the right way; however, it is hard to come up with the unified solution that can be applicable for all followers. The thing is that representatives of different social and national backgrounds understand the concept of enlightenment in their own way. When Christians say that salvation means reaching the kingdom of Heaven, Buddhists are focused on nirvana as the blessed state of mind, soul, and body that helps a person to feel harmonic connection with nature. It goes without saying that those who have reached this harmony are truly free from lustful distractions of the world; indeed, they are blessed to feel peace in their souls while being not stuck to material object and any of human beings at all. This philosophical approach tends to be unified into one vision that relates to different religious systems and beliefs. Showing respect to nature and feeling a part of it is one of the right ways to follow the road to enlightenment.
Symbolically and metaphorically, understanding the concept of liberation as central to reaching salvation in immortality helps human beings to progress in their personality development. Skillful instructors can help to train mind. The examples of this kind of teaching has been represented in literary texts The Journey to the West and
Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch reflects traditional approach to wisdom that helps people grow up beyond the boundaries of visible world. However, these sources are set to present Buddhist teaching in different ways that are applicable to time, place, and audience ready to contemplate and perceive the philosophy in the right way.
Both literary texts are written for followers striving to reach enlightenment which means illumination with rays of wisdom. If in the Monkeys Journey to the West, the central character is Patriarch that speaks out the teaching to the only one disciple that is stone monkey, in Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, he gives the lecture on wisdom to multiple disciples. Therefore, the first text includes particular recommendations for stone monkey, while in the Sutra the teaching is more unified. For instance, the sixth Patriarch says that every species of life has its own way of salvation (S86), and that is to keep away from the external world (Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 116), free the mind from all impurity, free the mind from all disturbance (Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 131), realizing in the end that nothing is real. In the opinion of Patriarch, he who believes in the reality of objects is bound by this very concept, which is entirely illusive (Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 146). Similarly, the author of the Journey to the West presents illusionary nature of the outer world by miraculous events that happen with Stone monkey. It is hardly believed that he was born from a rock that since the creation of the world had been worked upon by the pure essences of Heaven and the fine savors of Earth, the vigor of sunshine and the grace of moonlight (The Journey to the West 9). It starts like a fairy tale when earth turns magically pregnant and gives birth to the stone egg that being fructified by the wind is the place from which stone monkey arises with every organ and limb, learned to climb and run (The Journey to the West 9). He has brightly flashing eyes that are always in search of the light. For him, enlightenment means growing immortal. He walks to the West as far as the Palace of the Pole Star that is the cloud palace of fairy Ministers in the Treasure Hall of the Holy Mists to ask for help to find the right path for immortality. Monkey is not satisfied even when he reaches the source of the stream (The Journey to the West 10) to observe a comfortable place to live in perfect sympathy and accord, not mingling with bird or beast, in perfect independence and entire happiness (The Journey to the West 11). He reigns as a king having various monkeys, gibbons and baboons to be his ministers and officers (The Journey to the West 11). In spite of all glory, power, and wealth, the Monkey King turned sad when faced with fear of death, claiming: I shall grow old and weak. Yama, King of Death, is secretly waiting to destroy me (The Journey to the West 12). In search of right solutions to the problem of immortality, the Monkey King tries to get ready right views that Sixth Patriarch calls transcendental when providing explication in contrast to erroneous views that are called worldly. In opinion of patriarch that is presented in both texts, to reach freedom and enlightenment, one should discard all rights and wrongs and start the new life by amending our mistakes and practicing altruism in daily life (Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 92-93). In the light of these sententials, it turns clear that buddhahood is not to be attained by giving away money for charity. Bodhi is to be found within our own mind to find paradise in their very presence (Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch 93). Similarly to the Monkey King that tried to be one of the following essences (Buddhas, Immortals, and Sages) that are exempt from the Turning of the Wheel (The Journey to the West 13), we all can go in search for immortality by practicing mind training: an once our mind is set right, we are free from the three kinds of beclouding [hatred, lust, and illusion] (The Journey to the West 85). The right path to enlightenment means that we need not be worried by stumbling blocks. Provided we keep a constant eye on our own faults We cannot go astray from the right path. The right state of mind leads to the right activity, and He who treads the path in earnest Sees not the mistakes of the world; if we find fault with others we ourselves are also in the wrong. When other people are in the wrong, we should ignore it, For it is wrong for us to find fault. By getting rid of the habit of faultfinding We cut off a source of defilement. When neither hatred nor love disturbs our mind Serenely we sleep. (The Journey to the West 95). This state of peace in mind is characterized by harmonic worldview that is not set to simply wrong and right doing, as most of people distinguish. However, it is practical understanding of the human task to be happy every day of their lives.
When the Monkey King asks the patriarch about the way to reach salvation, he suggests him to choose out of 360 schools of wisdom that all lead to Self-attainment (The Journey to the West 20). He suggests him to get training in Art to summon fairies and ride the Phoenix, natural philosophy the teaching of Confucius, and of Buddha and Lao Tzu, of the Dualists and Mo Tzu and the Doctors of Medicine; reading scriptures, saying prayers, learning how to have adepts and sages at your beck and call (The Journey to the West 20). The Patriarch provides another alternative for Quietism that means low diet, inactivity, meditation, restraint of word and deed, yoga practiced prostrate or standing (The Journey to the West 21). However, the Monkey King discards all offers followed by the Patriarchs replica saying that all of them are just fish the moon out of the water (The Journey to the West 21) and thus cannot lead to salvation. The Monkeys journey ends with the essential meeting when the stone monkey faces Buddha. It seems like the traveler finally reaches the end of the world that is held by five fingers of deity (pillars). Finally, the Monkey King reveals that he was always on the palm of Buddha's hand.
Allegorically, both texts are set to the unique understanding of the role of deity in life of a human. While in some religious frameworks, people expect freedom, comfort, and well-being to be granted from the highest divine essence, Buddhist teaching of enlightenment presents another conception where a human being is responsible for his/her life and can change it radically finding the light within oneself. It is literally possible by means of meditation, altruism, and yoga that technically can train the mind in the right way. In this context, liberation means staying in peace with others, ignoring their faults, and discovering critical reflections upon oneself. The only way to reach enlightenment is not to criticize others, but start with critical assessment of one's own faults so that to reach progress on the road to salvation.
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