Something that delighted Fangzheng was that everyone's minds miraculously changed after bathing the Buddha statue. When they entered the temple, they would enter with fearful reverence. Hence no one had littered in the temple, and so it had remained clean.
After finishing his cleaning chores, Fangzheng fetched water to fill up the vat. With that, the day was over. As he watched the sunset and finished the last bit of Laba Congee, he finally heaved a sigh of relief.
Fangzheng walked into the temple hall in satisfaction and silently uttered, "System, I want to accept the Merit Box!"
A yellow beam of light flashed as a red Merit Box appeared in front of a mat inside the temple hall. On it was written the word 'Merit'.
The merit box looked like it was made from wood but when Fangzheng touched it, it was like he was touching ice. However, it was not cold, and it had quite a nice texture to it. At the top was a tiny opening that allowed one to drop their incense donations.
"I finally have a Merit Box. There will be no need for me to search for money all over the place anymore. Oh, I nearly forgot about it! There should be quite a lot of incense money today!" Fangzheng quickly searched the premises and indeed, there was a stack of money on the offerings table. It was rather varied. There was a buck, fifty cents, ten bucks and even several notes of hundred-dollar bills! However, what was most eye-catching was that stack of money!
Fangzheng picked it up and counted. There was a total of two thousand bucks! There were small notes in it. From the looks of it, the person must have taken out all the money in their wallet.
Fangzheng rubbed his nose and guessed that the only person who would have done such a thing had to have been Tan Ming.
"Indeed, good people deserve kindness. Yes, This Penniless Monk is still considered a good person. Amitabha." After proclaiming a Buddhist proclamation, Fangzheng walked out of the temple hall. Waving his hand, he beckoned for Squirrel and Lone Wolf, "Let's go! Time to play!"
At the same time, behind Hongyan Village, which wasn't very far from One Finger Village, there was a tiny mountain. The mountain wasn't very high, but it was situated near a river and had gorgeous scenery. There was a bituminous street that wound around the mountain to its peak. There was a tiny monastery temple on the mountaintop named Hongyan Monastery.
"How is it possible? How is it possible? The people of my Hongyan Monastery have been robbed away by a tiny temple? Chen Jin, I'm warning you. Whether I can become the next abbot depends on this. You have failed me on this matter. Forget it, there's nothing more to talk about. Our friendship is over!" a bald monk shouted before hanging up the phone.
At that moment, a middle-aged monk walked over. "Amitabha. Junior Brother Wu Ming, Abbot is asking everyone to congregate."
"Yes, Senior Brother. This Penniless Monk will be right there," the disgruntled look on Wu Ming's face immediately disappeared as he answered with a benevolent face.
"Senior Brother, do you know why the abbot is gathering us?" Wu Ming asked on the way.
Wu Xin sighed and said, "The Dharma Assembly of Bathing the Buddha in the past few years might not have been comparable to those big monasteries, but there should have been more than a thousand people coming. This year, there was a sudden and drastic drop. The incense offerings received are incomparable to the past. Abbot must be asking about it."
When Wu Ming heard that, his face sunk. He had volunteered to oversee the Dharma Assembly of Bathing the Buddha but now, with the event turning out this way, he felt his heart skip a beat! He was probably going to be in trouble.
After passing through the halls and rooms, he came to an empty ground. By that time, there were about two dozen monks sitting on the ground. An old monk dressed in a red Kasaya was sitting in front. His hands were holding onto prayer beads as if he were in meditation.
After Wu Ming and Wu Xin sat down, the old monk opened his eyes after a short while.
At that moment, a monk stood up and said, "Abbot, the number of attendees for this year's Dharma Assembly of Bathing the Buddha has been drastically reduced. The incense offerings cannot be compared to past years. The reason why this happened is unknown."
"This matter was always handled by Senior Brother Wu Xin in the past. This year, Wu Ming paraded his capabilities and insisted on organizing it. Now, it ended up like this," another monk said with a sneer.
Wu Ming's face sank. He was extremely sullen.
However, Wu Ming could not accept remaining in a passive state. Hence, he stood up and said, "Abbot, this matter is This Penniless Monk's fault. However, it is not entirely This Penniless Monk's fault. This year, One Finger Temple, which should have been dissolved, suddenly came alive for some unknown reason. A young monk inherited Zen Master One Finger's mantle and has begun running One Finger Temple. That young monk is from One Finger Village, so he grew up there from a young age. This year, he organized a Dharma Assembly of Bathing the Buddha and since the villagers are his elders or closed ones, they naturally went to support him. Furthermore, it was organized by the village itself.
Devotees of our Hongyan Monastery comprise mainly of Hongyan Village, One Finger Village, and Hongyin Village. Without one village's villagers, we will definitely have fewer people."
"That is not a reason. We all know the situation with One Finger Temple. Back when Zen Master One Finger was alive, it could be considered a temple but even then, it was quite rundown. How could it support the running of a Dharma Assembly of Bathing the Buddha? Just the Laba Congee alone would be something they can't afford, right?" someone said.
Wu Ming was perplexed too. How could such a poor temple afford to run a Dharma Assembly? Back when he was handling the matter, he had thought about One Finger Temple but didn't care too much because it was only a small, rundown temple. It was extremely poor, so he would rather die than believe that One Finger Temple would cause any trouble. Yet in the end, the problem truly ended up stemming from it. He was filled with regret!
"Amitabha," at that moment, the old monk suddenly gave a Buddhist proclamation. Everyone fell silent.
Zen Master Hongyan looked at Wu Ming and said, "One Finger Temple has a worthy successor?"
Wu Ming did not understand what Zen Master Hongyan meant by that. He nodded and said, "Yes, there is a young monk named Fangzheng."
"Amitabha, it can only be right. Zen Master One Finger's Dharma insight is profound. He trains his mind and not his body. Now that he has a worthy successor, it should be a joyful matter. Why do all of you need to look so bitter? Fangzheng... Years ago, that little kid came to Hongyan Monastery. This Penniless Monk saw him too. He was quite a smart chap."
The monks expected Zen Master Hongyan to be infuriated and were surprised when he laughed instead. They looked at each other and wondered how the reduction in incense offerings could be considered a good thing.
At that moment, Wu Xin asked, "So it seems Abbot had the chance of meeting Fangzheng once. That can be considered fate."
Zen Master Hongyan nodded and said with a laugh, "Years ago, This Penniless Monk observed Fangzheng. That child's eyes had an intractable look in them like a playful little monkey, and This Penniless Monk commented to Zen Master One Finger, "Fangzheng isn't suitable to be a monk. He isn't destined with the Dharma." However, Zen Master One Finger disagreed and said that he was destined to be one. Now, it seems like This Penniless Monk had indeed made a wrong call. This young lad has actually uplifted One Finger Temple. It's truly praiseworthy."
"Abbot, but he snatched our devotees and incense offerings away," said Wu Ming.
Zen Master Hongyan shook his head and said, "Incense offerings are for Buddha. Isn't it the same anywhere else? The Dharma Assembly of Bathing the Buddha is meant to cleanse one's heart and mind. It's not meant to make anyone look good. What difference does it make whether the villagers of One Finger Village go to One Finger Temple or come to Hongyan Monastery to bathe Buddha? Wu Ming, your desire to excel over others is too much. In the future, remember not to think such undesirable thoughts."
With that said, Zen Master Hongyan stood up and said, "Then, this matter is settled. Today, I gathered all of you here to discuss with everyone the festival after the new year..."
Wu Ming could not bear listening to anything else Zen Master Hongyan had left to say. He felt his face burning hot. He was feeling embarrassed, but he was also furious!! He was the youngest disciple of the generation with the Dharma name 'Wu' to enter Hongyan Monastery. If he did well, he could very likely take over Hongyan Monastery after Zen Master Hongyan stepped down! What was Hongyan Monastery? Although it was a tiny monastery, the amount of incense money it received, the subsidies given by the government, and various donations etc. was something that would turn Wu Ming's eyes red when he thought about it!