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Monkey Novel as an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jul 13th, 2021


The work, Monkey is an informative text that gives a detailed analysis of the Chinese views, religious practices, and culture. Although this text focuses on the diverse philosophies and ideas associated with this society, it is evident that the novel emerges as an allegory of Buddhist teachings by detailing the major processes for being religious and achieving nirvana or enlightenment in this religion. The purpose of this paper is to explain why Monkey is an allegory of Buddhist teachings in the selected novel.

Reasons why Monkey is an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings

The original author of this book developed the targeted characters in such a way that they allegorized the Buddhist religious culture. There are several attributes and explanations from this book that support the notion that the text is an allegory of Buddhist teachings. To begin with, these characters in this book are required to take a long journey that is characterized by numerous challenges and obstacles. These include Monkey, Sandy, Tripitaka, and Pigsy.i The entire journey is comparable to the path that followers of Buddhism should go through if they are to attain nirvana or enlightenment. The reader also observed that Tripitaka is a representation of the physical outcomes and experiences that Buddhists have to experience or go through (Yu, 2006). At the same time, Monkey is an allegory or representation of the unseen or imaginable. This becomes a representation of the human psyche.

According to the law of karma, the actions of people who engage in sinful or wrongful acts against others will eventually evolve and result in misery. Individuals who engage in actions that have the potential to benefit others will eventually result in happiness. Most of the characters have accumulated bad karma throughout the journey. For example, the depicted monkey is seen to have caused disharmony in heaven while Tripitaka slept amid a lecture focusing on Buddhism. With such bad acts, Tripitaka is forced to go through 81 hardships (Wright, 2017). When they experience their hardships, the monkey retrieves the body of the dead king and eventually accumulates good karma. This kind of happening describes why Buddhists should do good to have their bad deeds forgiven or canceled.

The teachings of the Buddha encourage followers to support others through the use of compassion. Monkey and Tripitaka achieve this obligation by turning to Kuan-yin when they encounter the dragon-horse. This means that Buddhists are obliged to consider the attribute of compassion in an attempt to resolve emerging issues correctly. Similarly, the Middle Part is a critical concept taught to Buddhists. Amid their pilgrimage, the characters presented in the book endure unique suffering that remains hard to evade. For instance, the author writes: They had been traveling for many days in December, with its cold North winds (Wright, 2017). The pain associated with such weather conditions appears to allegorize the Middle Path in Buddhism.

Additionally, when the characters described in this book encounter different forms of suffering, it is agreeable that Tripitaka is always willing ready to identify his situation with those of others.ii This kind of depiction explains why it would be hard for the reader to distinguish the development of this story and the Middle Path. However, one who is aware of the teachings of Buddhism will be able to connect such teachings with this pilgrimage (Yu, 2006). This concept of the Middle Path described in Monkey becomes a starting point for those who are willing to have a clear understanding of Buddhism and its beliefs.

In the selected novel, the reader realizes that Tripitaka and monkey eventually become enlightened. This kind of occurrence resonates with the concept of Buddhist enlightenment. This is the case since Tripitaka eventually gets this new name: Candana-Punya Buddha (Wright, 2017). The text portrays a literal shedding of their physical bodies. It is also notable that Sandy, Pigsy, and the dragon-horse are eventually reincarnated at the end of the story, thereby being able to achieve high status. Although these characters do not achieve enlightenment, such kind of process appears as a form of reward for their good deeds along the way. The ending of this story is critical since it fulfills or supports the argument that the novel is an allegory directed at Buddhism.iii This happens to be the case since the entire journey and its conclusion described in the novel appears to echo the major teachings and ideas of this religion. The ending of the story is a clear representation of enlightenment whereby all those who do good and help others are eventually reincarnated or rewarded. It becomes a powerful guideline for people or believers who want to follow this religion and eventually realize higher states after the end of their lives.

Although the reader observes that Tripitaka was on a religious pilgrimage, the journey he undertakes gives a detailed analysis of the steps and practices that Buddhists should consider to attain enlightenment.iv The entire narration becomes a representation or portrayal of the unique physical hindrances and issues associated with the life of every Buddhist. The author succeeds in explaining why there is a need for Buddhists on the path towards enlightenment should beg for the most appropriate necessities and avoid any malpractice or violent behavior that can affect their goals. Tripitaka appears to follow such guidelines and scolds those who fail to consider them (Yu, 2006). It is because of this reason that he scolds the monkey for killing the robbers they encounter along the way. This means that Buddhist priests should always be ready to die instead of promoting violence or pursuing inappropriate behaviors.


The above discussion has answered the intended question successfully by explaining why Monkey is an allegory of Buddhism and its teachings. This is the case since the characters described in the novel have to go through a tedious and challenging journey that informs or reminds that about the issues that true believers have to go through before attaining nirvana or enlightenment. The end of the pilgrimage makes it possible for every reader to understand the requirements and practices that are essential for every Buddhist believer. In conclusion, Monkey is an informative novel that can present a detailed or subconscious understanding of this religion to any individual.


Yu, A. C. (2006). (Ed.). The monkey & the monk: An abridgement of the journey to the west. London, UK: The University of Chicago Press.

Wright, R. (2017). Why Buddhism is true: The science and philosophy of meditation and enlightenment. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.


  1. Other names for these characters appear in different translations of the Monkey.
  2. The life of every Buddhist revolves around good karma and bad karma.
  3. Buddhists can go further to follow religious teachings by observing rituals, engaging in meditation, and following the teachings of Buddha (also known as merit).
  4. This kind of enlightenment resonates with the idea of nirvana.
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IvyPanda. (2021, July 13). Monkey Novel as an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/monkey-novel-as-an-allegory-of-buddhist-teachings/

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"Monkey Novel as an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings." IvyPanda, 13 July 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/monkey-novel-as-an-allegory-of-buddhist-teachings/.

1. IvyPanda. "Monkey Novel as an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings." July 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/monkey-novel-as-an-allegory-of-buddhist-teachings/.


IvyPanda. "Monkey Novel as an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings." July 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/monkey-novel-as-an-allegory-of-buddhist-teachings/.


IvyPanda. 2021. "Monkey Novel as an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings." July 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/monkey-novel-as-an-allegory-of-buddhist-teachings/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Monkey Novel as an Allegory of Buddhist Teachings'. 13 July.

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