Sun Wukong: Learn

The other disciples were angry at Sun Wukong for driving off the master. To them, he had offended by refusing to learn. Despite their loathing, the Monkey King was cheerful. In the back of his mind was the answer to the riddle, so he bore their resentment without response. The actions of Subhuti in leaving held subtle clues that suggested a meeting in secret to the keen mind of the monkey. For the rest of the day Sun Wukong waited impatiently in the cave, staring at the sky until dusk. He went to bed with the others, but made sure to stay awake.

At the third watch, the monkey would go to the back door. Lacking another method for keeping track of time, he breathed slowly and counted until the approximate time. Outside was a brilliant, clear sea of stars and emptiness in the sky. Sun Wukong made his way along an old path to the back door, which was ajar. Seeing this as confirmation of his belief, he quietly entered and crouched by the bed inside. Not wanting to disturb the Immortal who slumbered upon it, the Monkey King knelt and waited until they awoke. Subhuti was surprised to see the monkey inside instead of at the door, but once composed was impressed that he understood the cryptic message. They offered to teach Sun Wukong the Way of Immortality, and he accepted.

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Sun Wukong soon settled into the calm way of the monastery, learning and meditating with all the other disciples. In his free time he would do whatever work needed to be done. It was a simple life that provided all necessities of life, and years passed without the Monkey King noticing.

One day the Immortal called all the disciples together to learn the Way. Their profound teaching excited Sun Wukong, who began eagerly jumping and clapping. Disturbed by the commotion, Subhuti asked why he was leaping about instead of listening. Sun Wukong answered, “I was listening to your teachings with all my attention, but your marvellous words amazed me so much I jumped without realizing. Please forgive me.”

“If you truly understand my words, then tell me how long you have been here.”

The monkey did not know, but remembered that he had fetched firewood for the stove seven times. According to the Immortal’s words, that meant he had lived there for seven years.

With this knowledge, Subhuti queried what Way the Monkey King wished to learn. He was offered the Way of Magic Arts, the Way of Sects, the Way of Silence, and the Way of Action. Each time, Sun Wukong asked whether he could gain immortality through that method. Each time, the answer was no and he refused. Frustrated, the Immortal descended and slapped him three times, yelling “You won’t study this and you won’t study that, so what do you want, you monkey?” before leaving.

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