Fangzheng looked at the duo and smiled calmly. "Are you worried that he still poses a threat to you?"
The duo smiled awkwardly.
Fangzheng nodded. "How about this, tonight I will accompany you outside."
"Eh... Master, there is no need for a monk of your stature to do so. It's best you return. We'll be fine. There's four of us after all.".
Fang Yunjing nodded. "Master, please sleep in your own room. We will be fine."
Ma Juan hurried to agree, "Master, we'd feel bad if we made you stay here."
Hu Han was also about to agree but was cut off by a wolf's howl heard from a distant mountain. It gave him such a fright that he changed what he planned to say. "I think it would be great if Master stayed outside!"
He received furious glares from the other three for his trouble. He lowered his head, stared at the ground and kicked the dirt.
Fangzheng chuckled. "I'm a monk. Where I sleep is of no importance to me. It was destined that we meet, so I shall make my bed outside for the night."
Truthfully Zhao Datong and company also wished for Fangzheng to stay behind. The appearance of the wolf had frightened them. Having the capable monk around would put them at ease.
As they sat down in a circle around the campfire, they fed the wolf and watched the constellations in the sky. Under the starlight, Fangzheng's bald head reflected the ample light of the night yet it left the group with a sense of security.
The group felt mixed emotions while they immersed themselves in the scene and atmosphere. This trip out into the wilderness was more than worth their time.
As they chatted, they got used to one another and grew more casual.
Zhao Datong tilted his head and turned to Fangzheng. "Master, what rules does one typically need to take note of when one comes to a Buddhist temple?"
Mu Juan blinked. "Datong, aren't you a Christian not a Buddhist? Why would you ask?"
Hu Han laughed. "That's right. Weren't you the one who didn't want to enter the temple in the first place?"
Zhao Datong refuted them and casually waved a hand. "Times have changed. I previously didn't know that a true god resided in the mountains. Now that I do, I'm obviously convinced. I have already become a student of the Buddhistic ways." He clasped his hands together copying Fangzheng, " Amitabha. From now on you may refer to me as Master Datong."
Mu Juan shook her head. "Pui! Master? You? You eat an entire cow's worth of meat. The alcohol you like to drink has a high alcohol concentration. If you were to become a Buddhist, only a rock might believe you."
Zhao Datong smiled calmly. "Haven't you heard the saying? Alcohol and meat pass through the intestines, while Buddha resides in the heart. I have Buddha in my heart, so what's there to fear from meat and alcohol? Isn't that right, Master?"
Fangzheng shook his head slightly. "Do you know who spoke those words?"
Zhao Datong blushed slightly and scratched his head. "I've only heard it. As for who originally said it, I don't really know."
Fangzheng nodded. "People have misunderstood the meaning behind this quote. It's a shame. The origin of alcohol and meat passes through the intestines while Buddha remains in the heart is the result of a moving and tragic story. It speaks of Zhang Xianzhong of the Ming dynasty when he attacked Yu City, which is currently called Chongqing. He stationed himself in a temple outside the city and forced the monks break their diets and eat meat. One monk named Poshan said that he would eat the meat if Zhang Xianzhong promised not to slay the inhabitants of the city once it had been conquered. Zhang Xianzhong agreed to his words and vowed to do so. Therefore, Poshan ate the meat breaking his lifelong vow of abstinence, in truth he also wished to taste meat."
"Master, I've never heard that story but I've heard others say that the quote originated from Sage Ji, more commonly known as Ji Gong. Is that true? Legend has it that Ji Gong ate meat and drank alcohol yet still managed to attain immortality from his belief in Buddhism." Fang Yunjing spoke up, countering his words..
Fangzheng smiled, he glanced at her. "Most people attribute this quote to Ji Gong. However, they don't know the second half, 'but if common people imitate me, it is similar to entering the path of demons' and 'those who mimic me go to hell while those who vilify me to heaven.'"
Ma juan frowned. "What does that mean? Why can Ji Gong eat meat and drink alcohol while others can't?"
Fangzheng nodded to her words and continued, "The idea that 'alcohol and meat passes through the intestines, while Buddha remains in the heart' has confused sacred and commonality, morality and virtue. It's a heretical idea that should be ignored. All living creatures have Buddha in their nature. It doesn't decrease in mortality nor does it increase in sacredness. The common man has so much to worry about and things weighing him down that his Buddhistic nature cannot be revealed. If he were to kill and eat meat, he would receive the karma of being ill-ridden and live a short life. In his next life, he would become a beast to repent for his sins. Only sages with remarkable power and when under special circumstances can eat meat and only in order to save mankind from misery. It is a form of concealing their identity as sages, this secret cannot be understood by mere mortals. You should know that Ji Gong would eat two dead doves only to spew out two living ones. If common people could do that, then they would be free to eat meat. But if they cannot, then they have no choice but to uphold the precepts! If a rabbit attempts to jump over a cliff that a lion can leap across, it would only result in the rabbit's demise. Ordinary people do not have the qualifications to mimic the non-pedestrian acts of great men. My cultivation is to save all beings from misery. 'All beings' does not only refer to humans, it also refers to all sentient beings. For example, this lone wolf."
Zhao Datong nodded with a grin and applauded. "Nice! Well said!"
Ma Juan rolled her eyes. "Do you even understand what he said?"
Zhao Datong scratched his head. "Nope, but I definitely know it's correct!"
"Bootlicker," Ma Juan murmured. However, the way she looked at Fangzheng seemed to have a little more reverence in it.
Fang Yunjing nodded slightly. "So this sentence is misunderstood. Sigh, I wonder how many people have fallen victim to it. Master, thank you for your guidance."
Fangzheng shook his head. "It is my duty to enlighten visitors, no reason to be so polite."
Hu Han tried to get things back on topic. "Master, what rules are there when entering a Buddhist temple? I heard temples have quite a few of them."
Fangzheng laughed. "There are indeed a lot, but ignorance is no sin. Buddha will not blame the ignorant."
"Master, could you enlighten us as to the rules of a temple?" Ma Juan asked out of curiosity.
Fangzheng smiled. "There are simply too many. For example, there are already many rules before you even set foot in the main hall."
"There are three doors in the entrance," he continued. "Technically, one has to enter from the left and right instead of taking the middle door as a form of respect."
"If you were to take the left door, you need to step in with your left foot first. The right foot goes first if it's the right door."
"After entering the main hall, only Buddhist scriptures, sculptures and offerings may be brought in."
"The main hall cannot be entered at will. It can only be entered when one wants to chant scripture, pay respects to Buddha, clean or add oil to the burning flames. Some things are prohibited like using the Buddhist hall as a passageway because of convenience."
"Before entering the hall, one has to clean one's body and mind. Both hands must be washed and upon entry one should not let their gaze wander due to curiosity. After paying respects, one can look up with reverence and silently recite: 'When I set eyes upon Buddha, I vow that sentient beings will attain unhindered vision and behold all Buddhas'."
"As a form of respect, one can only turn right in the hall and not left. When the masses pay their respect to Buddha they need to pay attention to the corners, and there is no need to bow with hands by the waist. All one has to do is look up in reverence."
"In the main hall, one cannot speak of worldly things nor can one create clamor. Unless they are listening to scriptures and teachings, everyone has to sit in meditation outside and not inside, the hall. Even when discussing Buddhist teachings, one cannot raise one's voice or laugh."