The Six Bandits

After Sanzang encounters Monkey under the five elements mountain and frees him, six bandits attack them.

“We are mighty robber kings, benevolent lords of the mountain. Since you don't know our names, I'll tell them to you: Eye-seeing Happiness, Ear-hearing Anger, Nose-smelling Love, Tongue-tasting Thought, Mind-born Desire, and Body-based Sorrow.” Sun Wukong laughed at them. “You're just a bunch of small-time crooks. You can't see that I'm your lord and master". -- Journey to the West

These six bandits symbolize obstacles to reach the state of self-awareness, in which the Higher Self is awake.

Seeing and hearing, emotions, desires, and opinions are all internal thieves. But if the inner mind is awake and alert, sitting aloof in the middle of it all, then these plunderers change and become members of the household.
-- Hong Zicheng(16th c. Chinese philosopher) Caigentan
In the primal state, the five elements foster one another in harmonious union and are manifested in action as the five virtues of benevolence, justice, courtesy, wisdom and truthfulness. In the conditioned state, the five elements are imbalanced and damage each other; this manifests in action as the five rebels of joy, anger, sadness, happiness and desire.
 -- Liu Yiming (18th c. Taoist master)

The primal state refers to the state of self-awareness, while the conditioned state refers to the absence of self-awareness. In the conditioned state, we are in a state of fascination and our attention is attached to what we see, hear, desire, think and feel without any self-awareness.

The lower self is like a thief who sneaks into your house at night to steal whatever is valuable and worthwhile. Turn on the light. The thief who is a coward will then run out. How do we turn on the light? Through the practice of remembrance. -- Sheikh Tosun Bayrak
As soon as that gang of robbers and thieves finds the opportunity, it will steal one’s virtue and even put an end to one’s life in the higher states. -- Gampopa (Founder of the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism, 12th c.)

The lower self steals our self-awareness by making us pre-occupied with our vision, hearing, opinions, desires and emotions. By remembering our selves, we can awaken our Higher Self. Then vision, hearing, opinions, desires and emotions are no longer me, but members of the household that I live with and can ignore or choose to spend time with.

Thou shalt not steal. -- The Bible, Exodus 20:15
If the goodman of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. -- The Bible, Luke 12:39

Monkey, the goodman of the house, saw the thieves coming and got rid of them. Internally this means to empty oneself and suspend all judgmental thinking, letting words, ideas, emotions and thoughts pass by without getting involved in them. This emptiness inside can then be filled with self-wareness.

The ten Oxherding pictures
(illustrated by Tomikichiro Tokuriki)



Don't acknowledge bandits as your sons,
Or you will forget the Dharma and the mind.
Do not allow yourself to be deceived by others,
Smash them first with a punch.
When the mind appears it is non-existent,
When the Dharma appears, it ceases.
When the boy and the ox both disappear,
The blue sky is absolutely clear.
All is as round as an autumn moon,
And this and that can no longer be distinguished.
-- Journey to the West







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