Disclaimer: This is a fan work done purely for enjoyment and no profit was made from this product. Saiyuki figures and places belong to Kazuya Minekura and related parties.

Buddha Nature

By Terra

Sanzo was going to kill Goku.

Well, Sanzo wished he could physically kill Goku but, in light of the alarming results of that accident recently, he knew that wasn't possible. But still, it didn't stop him from wishing he could kill Goku.

At least the day is over and Goku will be asleep and I'll have a night's peace.

Even long after sunset, Sanzo was still debating whether or not ordering Goku to stay on the temple grounds that day was a good idea. On one hand, everything that happened was because Goku had been bored on the temple grounds. On the other, who knows what potential unseen horrors Goku might have sprung on him that had been averted by Sanzo ordering him to stay on the grounds. Sanzo would never know which would have been wiser.

Two months it had been since Sanzo had introduced Goku to human civilization, to the temple of Chang'an, a short distance from a village of the same name, and yet Sanzo still couldn't get over the fact that Goku was so. . . unaware, for the lack of a better term. Goku wasn't mischievous (and if he was, he was a brilliant actor), Sanzo knew that. He simply didn't know better. Sanzo used to hate that excuse for children, even when his master had used it for him, but after dealing with Goku, he began to wonder if maybe the phrase had some merit. Goku had come into Sanzo's company with practically zero social graces and infantile mannerisms, despite his apparent age of around twelve years old. Of course, even Sanzo privately admitted, Goku had made huge strides in the past two months.

But he had a long way to go.

Sanzo had foolishly thought that if he took precautions, Goku's mindless acts of chaos could be minimized if not eradicated. So he had explained to Goku who was coming: a group of Buddhist nuns who went on pilgrimages who had requested lodging in advance at the temple. The eldest nun was actually an old friend of his previous master and, out of respect for Koumyou, Sanzo and Goku would offer her and her group the same courtesy that the previous Sanzo would have offered.

"Why are they called nuns? Why not monks or priests? Is it because they travel?" Goku had wondered.

"No. Nuns are simply monks that happen to be women. Remember our talk about women and how we treat them? Especially what questions we don't ask?" Sanzo had warned. Goku had nodded, showing that he remembered the lesson on women, a lesson inspired by an experience Sanzo never wanted to repeat.

Once the whole issue of the guests had been resolved, Sanzo had urged Goku to stay on the temple grounds because he didn't want to go chasing after the young boy when he was supposed to be playing the Sanzo part for the nuns. Goku, not wishing to cause trouble for Sanzo, had agreed to stay on the temple grounds. Finally, Sanzo had asked that, once Goku had finished playing outside, that he wipe most of the mud off himself and set his clothes on his bed for the laundry boys to collect. Goku had replied that he already was getting the hang of remembering that anyway so he would make sure to not forget this time.

And so Goku had gone outside to play and Sanzo had praised himself for giving the instructions calmly and firmly without using threats or his fan. It had been part of an experiment to test the theory that perhaps acting like Koumyou instead of acting like his usual self when he wanted Goku to obey would help the instructions stick.

Upon the urging of other monks at the temple, he had agreed to have his white priest robes laundered and had spent most of the day in his black leather attire, working on minor errands while the rest of temple were in a frenzy preparing for the nuns' arrival. Around lunchtime, he had returned to his room to see if Goku had ever come back. The room had been empty but Sanzo had discovered a missed blot of mud, leading him to believe that Goku had come and gone (apparently Goku had had the foresight to wipe up the floor; unfortunately Goku did not have the sense to dry the floor). His robes had been also missing so Sanzo could have only hoped that Goku had remembered to leave his clothes to be washed as well.

Eventually, the time of arrival for the pilgrims had approached and Sanzo had been forced to set aside his busy work and go change. But when he had arrived in his room, his robes were not there. He had checked in Goku's closet-like abode and had discovered that Goku had remembered his instructions because his clothes had been lying on his bed, freshly washed. Sanzo had stormed down to the monks in charge of laundry but all of them had professed that his robes had never been left on the bed, despite his claims to the contrary.

The younger monks had been near tears from horror, whether the emotion had come from their fear that Sanzo would kill them for losing his robes or from the notion that the robes were lost Sanzo still wasn't quite sure. The older monks had seemed more interested in appearances: a Sanzo can not appear only half-dressed, especially in front of women. Having Genjyo Sanzo greeting the nuns in only his leather shirt and jeans might offend their sensibilities. He was not some layman pulled from the market-square; he was a most holy Sanzo, chosen by the gods. It would be an embarrassment to Buddhists everywhere, never mind the Priest Sanzo himself, if he looked less than holy. Of course, no one actually had asked his opinion on the missing robes. Sanzo himself had been perfectly comfortable appearing without the robes; it had been the matter of the attire going missing that had caused such irritation. Despite everyone's concerns, the facts had shown that no time had been left to go search for the robes and even if they had been found, they would have still been dirty, making them inappropriate to wear.

Once the issue had been agreed upon, the monks had made the final preparations and had begun to watch for the appearance of the nuns. As Sanzo had waited, he had begun to wonder where Goku had run off too. Even when the nuns had finally arrived, dirty, tired, and hungry, Goku had been absent. Perhaps he has decided to avoid trouble by getting himself out of the way, Sanzo had theorized but then reconsidered, Or he's taking a nap somewhere and has no idea what time it is.

The head of the nuns making the trek was named Michi. As far as Sanzo could figure, she was approaching her seventieth year on the mortal plane. She was an extremely compact shriveled up bag of flesh covered by simple robes signifying her role as a Buddhist nun. Michi had a scratchy near-whisper at all times and shook with each step, supported by a gnarled walking stick. Sanzo would have found her unbearable if she did not have the same laissez-faire attitude toward life as his master had; otherwise he would have begged the Three Aspects to send him on an errand for the duration of the group's stay. He knew that after the formalities, she would keep to herself and only engage in conversation if inspiration struck with a blinding force. If Sanzo was lucky, Michi might have the intuition to warn her female pilgrims, with ages ranging from just under Michi's to slightly above Sanzo's seventeen years, to use the occasion to rest before continuing the journey, not to bother Sanzo for a lecture. Although the nuns had muttered to themselves about why Sanzo was so informally dressed, Michi had not seemed to care.

"Priest Genjyo Sanzo," Michi had greeted him after her trembling kowtow, "it is an honor to be under the same roof as the disciple of the late Koumyou Sanzo. I see that the four years since his passing have not treated you too harshly and that you have grown into a man of considerable character in the six years since I have seen you."

"His death proved to be a considerable loss," Sanzo had admitted.

"We live only to die, Master Sanzo, we live only to die."

"Please," the abbot had cut in, "let us escort you to your lodgings, where you may rest briefly before dinner. We monks have prepared a vegetarian feast for this occasion." A burble of agreement had come from the nuns as the abbot and a few novices appointed to act as baggage carriers had led the women to their chambers as Sanzo and Michi discussed events that had been happening since they had last met.

As the mob had begun to pass the large peach tree, the nuns had sighed in appreciation. One young nun had exclaimed, "I hope those peaches are part of the feast!"

"Unfortunately, those are offerings to the Merciful Goddess," the abbot had explained kindly.

"But that boy is eating them!" another equally as young nun had shouted, pointing up into the branches. The group had ground to a halt as the male members had stared at each other in alarm and realization. Struck by a sudden headache, Sanzo had stomped back to the opening where the peach tree had been clearly visible. Now that the fact had been pointed out, Sanzo could then spy Goku, sitting in a high branch that had been thick enough to bear his weight, eating a peach while swinging his feet.

And for some odd reason, for some unexplainable reason, Goku had been wearing Sanzo's missing robes.

"Goku!" Sanzo had roared as he had stomped over to stand within the shade of the tree (noticing several peach pits in the shadows), "Get down now!"

Blinking in confusion as if Sanzo had interrupted a daydream, Goku had stared down at his keeper with wide, innocent eyes. "Sanzo? What did I do now?"

"Just get down!"

Shrugging, Goku had leapt deftly down to stand on the ground. Sanzo had not been shocked at all, having witnessed Goku's more death-defying feats, but the yard had been immediately filled with feminine gasps as Goku had landed from a great height without stumbling or hurting himself. Hurried whispers of "youkai" had soon followed once the nuns had caught a glimpse of Goku's power limiter.

With Goku closer to him, Sanzo could then take in Goku's appearance. Instead of his usual boots, Goku had opted for reed sandals, most likely in an attempt to avoid cleaning his shoes twice. To his credit, the sandals had been dusty at most. However, Sanzo's robes had been a disaster. Sanzo being twice Goku's height, his robes could never hope to fit Goku. The hem had dragged on the ground, looking like a ridiculous train, becoming consumed by grass and dirt. The sleeves had been too long, forcing Goku to roll them up in order to be able to use his hands. The girth of robes itself had been far too big for the tiny Goku, which he had tried to reduce by folding one side over the other almost completely and wrapping the sash around his waist multiple times and even then Goku had been still practically swimming the cloth. However, the worst crime had been the food stains, most notably the peach juice. Apparently, Goku had thought nothing of using the cloth as a tablecloth or as a napkin.

Fuck the experiment.

"Sanzo? What's wrong? You look mad," Goku had reflected as Sanzo had struggled for words.

Finally, the words had come to him, "Goku! How many times do I have to tell you not to eat the peaches off this tree!"

"But they're yummy! Have you ever tried...?"

"No! I haven't because no one is supposed to eat them! No one! No one includes you!"

Goku had cocked his head to the side and had pouted. "I don't really see why we can't. Has anyone ever seen her eat them? How do you even know she likes peaches? It seems an awful waste if..."

"Never mind the goddamn peaches!" Sanzo had screamed. "Why are you wearing my robes! Where are your clothes!"

"In the laundry. You told me to put them on the bed for the laundry and I did."

"They're clean now!"

"Oh? I didn't know that."

Sanzo had paused then. Okay, he didn't know about his clothes being clean now. Honest mistake. But that still doesn't explain... "But why are you wearing my robes?"

"'Cause you left them for me, Sanzo."

For a few moments, Sanzo had just gurgled, dimly aware that the entire temple had come to watch the spectacle now. Monks and novices had begun to explain the strange peach-eater and why a priest like Sanzo was personally handling the situation to the nuns in whispers, many of whom had begun to titter. Once composed, Sanzo had bellowed, "What gave you the stupid idea that I left the robes for you to prance around in!"

"Well, you left them on the bed..."

"For the laundry, numbskull! Like I had told you to do! It never once occurred to you that I might need to follow the same procedure!"

"Oh. I thought it was for me to wear while I waited for my clothes, Sanzo. I'm really sorry, Sanzo. Do you need them right away?" Goku had wondered, wiping off the excess peach juice off the robes.

Sanzo had been simply too exasperated to care at this point. "It's too late now. Just take the robes off so they can be washed."

"Take them off?"

Sanzo had glared at Goku then, growling, "I'm hardly going to let you to continue wearing them, Goku. Take them off your sweaty stinky body, monkey."

Before Sanzo could have reacted, Goku had plucked at the sash and the whole ensemble had slid off with a short hiss, pooling around his sandals on the dirty ground.

Goku had been completely butt-naked. Goku had not even bothered with boxers, every inch of his anatomy had been there for the world to see.

As the group of monks, nuns, and novices had flown into a panic, Goku had calmly bent down and had scooped up the robes in a ball, holding them out to Sanzo, asking, "Who do I give the robes to?"

Unable to speak, Sanzo had simply wrapped the cloth around the important parts of Goku's body and had dragged him back to his own room by the hair. Once they had escaped, Sanzo had forced Goku into his real clothes, not caring if he hurt him in the process, while scolding him lividly about walking around naked with only Sanzo's robes to protect him from the elements and then stripping in public. Goku, in between protests of pain, had argued back that he had done everything Sanzo had requested and it wasn't his fault if Sanzo didn't word himself correctly. After that, dinner had been a nightmare, with the novices and the younger nuns barely unable to control their giggling every time one of them looked at Goku and caught another's eyes.

But that was behind him. Now it was dark and everyone was heading to bed. Sanzo was now sitting in his room, enjoying one last cigarette as he looked at the moon through the window.


Well, he had been enjoying that cigarette.

"It's late. Go to bed."

"But, Sanzo..."

"Bed. Now. Leave me in peace."

"But I have a question I want to ask you."

"Ask me in the morning," Sanzo requested, flicking the ash in a tray.

"But I want to know now," Goku whined, leaning on the doorframe.

"And I want to you sleep now."

"Come on, Sanzo, it'll take you five seconds! Come on, Sanzo! Just one little question! It'll bug me all night if I don't know! Come on, just let me ask!"

"All right! Ask the question if it'll shut you up," Sanzo snapped, taking a drag of his cigarette.

"Yay! Here goes! Does a monkey in the tree have a Buddha nature?" Goku chirped in the same manner he'd use if he was wondering when dinner was going to be.

Sanzo began to cough violently and dropped the still burning cigarette in his lap. He jumped up in pain and managed a tiny squeak before having another coughing fit. Luckily, he stomped it out before it lit the whole place on fire. Goku moved to assist him but Sanzo waved him off before he regained his breath. He recovered and, facing Goku fully, demanded, "What!"

"Does a monkey in the tree have a Buddha nature?"

It took Sanzo a minute to process that not only was this a question about Buddhism but it was coming from Goku of all people. The fact that the question that Goku asked was fairly profound was the source of the most surprise. The shock was diminished by the fact that his question wasn't that original.

"You're asking the question wrong, Goku," Sanzo criticized, sitting down on the bed again.

"I am? How can I ask a question wrong?"

"The question is 'Does a dog have a Buddha nature?' You know, woof-woof?"

Goku appeared to consider this idea but rejected it. "Nuh-uh. They said 'monkey in the tree', not 'dog'."


"One of the novices and one of the young nuns. I don't remember the names..."

Oh, he's just quoting someone else. He didn't think that up on his own. I was starting to get worried there. "So you overheard them?"

Goku shook his head and answered, "They came up to me and asked me that question. And I said 'I don't know. I'll ask Sanzo'." Goku frowned as he added, "And then they laughed and said that they got their answer right there. I don't get it. How is that the answer?"

Sanzo groaned as he leaned back against the wall. Baiting Goku was a pastime shared by most of the novices at the temple and it appeared that the younger nuns shared the thrill. Of course, as Goku grew wiser and more socially aware, these opportunities were becoming fewer and fewer so the novices were forced to become cleverer in order to get the desired effect. Sanzo really couldn't see why they bothered; the pranks never affected Goku's state of mind, it only pissed Sanzo off. Sanzo told himself that the fact that the pranks interfered with his life was the reason he disliked the jokes. But perhaps a small part of his soul remembered being the butt of similar mind-games when he was still a ward of his master and felt a sliver of protectiveness for the naïve foundling, just as Koumyou had. But the stray thought was promptly squashed.

However, the answer to the question was actually rather complicated and he wasn't sure where exactly to begin.

"Sanzo?" Goku moved closer, his hands clasped behind his back, his entire body tilted to one side. "Hello?"

"Unlike you, Goku, when I'm asked a question, I actually do a process called 'thinking' so I can give you an intelligent reply."

"I do so think!"

"You obviously didn't think about the question about Buddha nature," Sanzo replied. "Do you even know what they were asking you?"

"Yes, of course! They were asking if monkeys have a Buddha nature!"

Sanzo growled in frustration. "And?"

"Well, that's it!"

"And if monkeys do have a Buddha nature, what does that mean for the monkeys?"

"Well, the monkeys would... um... be happy?"

"Do you even know what a 'Buddha nature' is?" Sanzo saw Goku's face droop in embarrassment and continued, "In a nutshell, having a Buddha nature means that you have the capacity to become enlightened. If you have a Buddha nature, you can become enlightened. If you don't, you can't.

"The question the novice asked you is a variation of a famous Buddhist question, except it uses a dog, rather than a monkey. You're supposed to meditate on, that means think about, the question and figure out the answer that way."

Goku hummed as he considered this explanation. "But I didn't answer the question. Or did I?"

Sanzo sighed as he began to lay out the prank for Goku, "People who become enlightened usually, it is believed, think a lot about really deep subjects. Usually about questions such as the dog one we're discussing. Do you understand that?" Goku nodded. "Most humans think that human beings possess Buddha natures; whether they obtain Buddhahood is up to them. So the question is whether animals literally or foreigners figuratively..."

"Wait, where did foreigners get into this?"

"Dogs, and monkeys for that matter, are used to represent foreigners. Now stop interrupting, I want to get to sleep sometime tonight. Anyway, the question is can animals and/or foreigners obtain Buddhahood. If they can, that means they have the ability to meditate, to think."

"Make sense," Goku reflected. "I think."

"The people at this temple agree that you are both a monkey youkai and possibly a foreigner. So when they asked you this question, what did you say?"

"That I didn't know and I'd ask you," the boy replied glumly, the implication dawning on him. "Meaning that I can't think and I don't have Buddha nature."

"Answering their question and making the joke come full circle. Now go to bed!" Sanzo ordered. Goku sighed and went back to his own room, closing Sanzo's door behind him. With the boy gone, Sanzo threw himself under the covers and closed his eyes. His last thought before complete unconsciousness was I can't believe that I gave a lecture on Buddhism to Goku of all people.

The next day, Sanzo didn't give a thought to the accidental lecture he had given the night before. Even if he had thought about it, he probably would have guessed that Goku had forgotten the whole incident. Now that his "let's play Koumyou" experiment had failed, and the time for first impressions were over, Sanzo had no qualms about yelling and whacking Goku with his paper fan whenever Goku did the various mindless acts of destruction throughout the temple grounds. A few of older or kinder nuns made attempts to be sociable to Goku but, from what Sanzo witnessed, none of these interactions were particularly thrilling for either party.

And so dawn faded gradually into dusk without too many complications from those currently residing at the temple. As Sanzo smoked an after-dinner cigarette as he watched the dusk fade into pitch night, Goku unceremoniously thumped his butt down on to the floor beside him, his legs splayed out in front of him while his arms were locked at the elbows as they supported his upper body. "I'm hungry!"

"You just ate."

"An hour ago!"

"Hardly an eternity." If Sanzo had been a more sensitive man, he would have winced for making such a comment to a person who had sat in a cave for five hundred years without eating. But he wasn't, so he didn't. "If you're so hungry, get up and get a snack from the kitchen."

Goku's arms vibrated as if he was moments away from leaping up but after a few seconds, he simply slid his hands back and lay on his back. "Nah, too lazy."

"Then I guess you'll starve."

For nearly five minutes, they sat or laid in silence, the only sound being the soft muttering of sporadic conversation from the other people in the temple, the wind, and the crackling of the burning tobacco as Sanzo inhaled paired with the puff of the exhalation that always followed.

Out of nowhere, Goku announced, "I thought about the question."

This caught Sanzo off-guard since he had no idea what question Goku could possibly be referring to. "Do you realize how many questions that have I asked or heard today? Which one, monkey?"

"Exactly. The one about the monkeys. Well, dogs. Or foreigners. Never mind. Anyway, I thought about it."

Sanzo took another drag. "When do you think about it?"

"All last night and all day today."

Sanzo scoffed, "You actually had a continuous thought. Congratulations, Goku." Goku beamed. He rolled his eyes and shook his head.

"Anyway," Goku continued, "I thought about it all this time and I think I have an answer."

"Oh?" Sanzo, of course, knew the answer. Everyone knew the answer. "And what is it?"

"Monkeys and dogs have Buddha natures."

And that wasn't it. Sanzo flicked his cigarette in irritation and asked, "Why?"

"Why not?" Goku replied simply, adjusting himself so he could lay on his side with his chin held in his right hand so he could see Sanzo.

"That's not an explanation!" Sanzo spat. Goku simply shrugged as best he could in his current position. Sanzo exhaled sharply through his teeth as he crushed his cigarette in the ashtray. For about ten minutes, Sanzo stared out into the stars, aghast at Goku's silly answer, as Goku continued to stare at him. Fed up, he turned his face back, scowling at the boy, and muttered, "You really are a little monkey."

But he had actually thought about the question...

Only those with the capacity to meditate possess Buddha nature...

Perhaps... the correct answer is that...

"I'm so hungry!"

"Shut up!"

Son Goku doesn't possess brains, let alone Buddha nature.

The End

Author's Notes: The idea for this fic came from an essay I read by Whalen Lai on the original novel Journey to the West, where Lai brought up the Buddhist question discussed here. The essay is titled "From Protean Ape to Handsome Saint: The Monkey King" (Asian Folklore Studies. Volume 53, issue 1, pages 29-65, in the year 1994. Yes, I'm that nerdy). Yes, the official answer is "no" but Lai argues that Monkey King actually proves the "correct" answer to be incorrect since he beats out his human peers, who supposedly have Buddha nature by virtue of being human, by solving the riddles of the Taoist Patriarch (who sadly is not mentioned in Minekura's Saiyuki, which is a shame because he's a cool character). It's a really cool essay, especially if you've read the original work (I recommend the Yu English translation with all one hundred chapters). Anyway, I would greatly appreciate comments/reflections/criticism on this one-shot. Please review!