"You are welcome. It's my job. Well then, let me offer some incense first. I will need to rush back after that. Master, if you are busy, there's no need to entertain me." After saying this, Hu Tan entered the Buddha Hall and looked up. He discovered that the Buddha statue was gone, and in its place was a golden plaque. There were two Bodhisattvas on it, both manifestations of Guan Yin Bodhisattva.
Ever since the previous incident, Hu Tan had read up on Buddhism. He knew that one of the Bodhisattvas was the Thousand-armed and Thousand-eyed Guan Yin who was extremely powerful. She dealt with a lot more matters than the child-giving Guan Yin. Hu Tan was not a greedy person. He solemnly prayed and hoped that he and his family would enjoy peace. Then, he offered an ordinary incense stick and bade farewell.
After sending Hu Tan away, Fangzheng opened the envelope. It wasn't a letter but an invitation.
Fangzheng was taken aback when he read it.
"Baiyun Monastery will be holding a Blessing Dharma Assembly at the beginning of next month and they are inviting me?" Fangzheng was truly astonished.
Baiyun Monastery was considered a middle to a large-sized monastery. It spanned quite a large area and was seated atop Mt. Baiyun. Baiyun Monastery had many Dharma Assemblies every year, with almost one every month. However, the scale of the Dharma Assembly after the new year festivities was usually the greatest every year. It was also the grandest one. It was called the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly.
This Dharma Assembly was meant to bless everyone in the world. Therefore, one monastery was unable to shoulder such karmic retribution. Typically, they would invite other monasteries to run it with them. All the participating monasteries would have their names printed on a roster, and there would be large posters hung outside. This way, be it the media, the participating attendants, or visitors, all of them would see these posters. It was also a way to publicize the other monasteries.
In a way, it was a form of official recognition of all the monasteries that were invited to Baiyun Monastery for the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly. It was as though they were proper monasteries that had been given a certificate. And those that were unqualified to go were unorthodox monasteries. Although it was not the monastery's official stance, nor did it believe it was a correct understanding, the common people thought so. If Baiyun Monastery did not invite you, how could you call your building a monastery? Is it fake? Are you a cheat?
This was the influence Baiyun Monastery had!
And it was because of all these benefits that countless monasteries would attempt to participate in Baiyun Monastery's Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly every year. However, Zen Master Baiyun of Baiyun Monastery was not a utilitarian. Typically, regardless of the size of the monastery, he would basically send an invitation if he knew of them. Therefore, Zen Master Baiyun was respected by all in Black Mountain City. No one would malign his character.
However, One Finger Temple of the past did not receive such treatment. It was too remote after all. Furthermore, Zen Master One Finger kept a low profile, so Baiyun Monastery did not know of One Finger Temple's existence. As such, One Finger Temple had never received a Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly invitation in the past.
Back then, Zen Master One Finger would look in the direction of Baiyun Monastery as he murmured, silently helping in the blessings every year. Fangzheng said with a smile, "Old Dad One Finger, you never had a chance to attend it. I have been invited this time. You should be happy, right? Heh heh."
Fangzheng smiled faintly as he put the invitation away. The Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly was next month. Since there was half a month to go, he was in no rush.
In the remaining days, Fangzheng continued cleaning the Buddhist hall, reciting scripture, practicing calligraphy, 'walking the dog,' teasing the squirrel, etc. He led a carefree and easy life.
However, someone else was feeling uneasy.
"What? Baiyun Monastery invited One Finger Temple to the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly?" Wu Ming looked at the monk in front of him in shock as he asked.
"Senior Brother, I just received the information. It has been confirmed. An invitation was indeed sent. I know you have something against One Finger Temple, so I immediately came to inform you," said Hong Xiang.
"Hong Xiang, you did well. You will be rewarded in the future. Let this matter end with me. Don't tell anyone else, alright? Especially Senior Brother Wu Xin. He is too honest and has always been prejudiced against me. It will easily cause trouble," exhorted Wu Ming.
"Don't worry, Senior Brother. I'm with you. Senior Brother Wu Xin is too stubborn," guaranteed Hong Xiang as he patted his chest.
Wu Ming nodded as he ruminated over the problem of dealing with Fangzheng. He had suffered under Fangzheng's hands twice, especially the last time. He was rebuked by Fangzheng in front of so many people. He had lost all his standing. He had to seek revenge!
At that moment, Hong Xiang whispered, "Senior Brother Wu Ming. In fact, it's not difficult to teach that Fangzheng a lesson."
"Oh? What ideas do you have? Tell me!" Wu Ming's eyes lit up as he asked.
Hong Xiang hunched over and whispered, "Baiyun Monastery is seated atop Mt. Baiyun. Although Mt. Baiyun is considered part of the Mt. Changbai mountain range, it is a mountain in the middle of a river. It is surrounded by river water perennially. If one wants to ascend the mountain, they will have to cross by boat..."
When Wu Ming heard that, he roared with laughter and said, "Good. That's good. Hmph, I will definitely make Fangzheng lose all his standing. Let's see if he has the shame to participate in the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly! Who knows, he might return with a broken heart and immediately renounce asceticism. Hahaha!"
Fangzheng did not know that someone was machinating a scheme against him. He continued leading his peaceful days.
Occasionally, there would be visitors who came up the mountain to offer some incense and seek blessings.
The mountain appeared timeless and soon, half a month had passed. Noticing that the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly was about to begin, Fangzheng had to take a trip down the mountain. He needed Wang Yougui's help.
"What? Baiyun Monastery invited you to participate in the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly?" Wang Yougui was extremely excited when he heard the news.
Fangzheng grinned. Why did he feel that Wang Yougui was happier than he was! Who was the abbot here?
When Wang Yougui saw Fangzheng nod, he laughed loudly and said, "That's great! It's great news! Your One Finger Monastery is going to be famous! If it becomes a tourist destination or something, the city will provide some support. Our village will also benefit from it. Haha!"
Fangzheng was immediately rendered speechless. Indeed, he was a village chief. Wang Yougui's thoughts were completely on a different trajectory from his.
"Alright, don't worry. When you leave, I'll get some folks to take turns to watch your monastery. I'll guarantee you that you will return to see it dustless. Nothing will be gone," Wang Yougui guaranteed as he smacked himself on the chest.
Fangzheng felt at ease when he received Wang Yougui's guarantee. Wang Yougui also asked if Fangzheng had money for his trip and offered to give him some if he lacked it. Although Fangzheng wanted the money, it was not incense money. He could not take it and could only politely reject it. With a bag in hand, he left the village. The bag was filled with his meals for his journey to Baiyun Monastery. He was too poor to afford a restaurant after all.
When he left the village, Fangzheng finally began his journey to Baiyun Monastery. As for Squirrel and Lone Wolf, they remained in the monastery to watch over it.
This was the first time Fangzheng was traveling so far alone. He felt a little fearful, but he also felt a little excited when he imagined the place he was going. The only worry he had was that he lacked money.
One Finger Village had a regular bus that belonged to a neighboring village. It would drive through the various villages daily before driving straight for Songwu County. It would then send everyone back in the afternoon. There was only one return trip a day. One could get the ride if one woke up early. If you were late, you could only wait until the next day.
Fangzheng boarded the bus and everyone on it was a familiar face. No one was a stranger to Fangzheng. Therefore, there was quite a lively conversation on the bus.
After reaching Songwu County, Fangzheng bought a bus ticket. When he saw his seat, he immediately felt embarrassed.