Wu Ming pinched himself. It hurt, meaning this wasn’t a dream!
With eyes wide he stared at Fangzheng and with trembling limbs managed stepped back, “Fangzheng? Are you human or a ghost?”
Fangzheng smiled, “It doesn’t matter if This Penniless Monk is a human or a ghost. What’s important is that YOU are a ghost. You are already dead. Do you have any last words?”
When he heard the words confirming his death Wu Ming thought about his family and past. He instantly crumbled as he held his face and collapsed onto his knees. He wailed, “I’m dead? Am I actually dead? How is that possible! I can’t just accept it!”
“Have you now realized your sins?”
“I know I was wrong but I had no choice! All I wanted was to live a good life. I wanted my wife and children to live happily. What’s so wrong with that? The monastery’s money could be given to the so-called poor but it can’t be given to me? Why can they be given aid when i cannot? I can’t accept it!” Wu Ming growled.
“Why do you need so much money?”
“I suffered my entire life so I wanted to have better days. My children were growing up. I have to prepare their dowry and give them money to set up a business, that is what a man must do, right?” he stated matter-of-factly.
“You became a monk despite having a family?” Fangzheng blinked. He had not expected Wu Ming to have a family.
“Do you think I wanted to do so? I was out of options. I was ridden with debt. I had nowhere to run to so eventually I became a monk. There are few monks yet so much money. Just siphoning some of it would be enough to pass one’s days. Unfortunately that idiot Hongyan is too pedantic. He doesn’t keep the money he has, instead he donates it! He’s truly idiotic! If I were him, I would keep the money and expand the monastery, gaining more incense offerings and earning more money. By using the money as an investment to earn more money the monastery will gain reputation while I’ll earn some money. Isn’t that a win-win for everyone?”
Fangzheng smiled, “Is money really that important? You haven’t returned home for a long time because of money, isn’t that so?”
“It’s been ten years. I was too ashamed to return ever since the moment I left. I can’t return if I do not earn enough, so I really do need to earn money! I have to earn more money! I had no choice!” Wu Ming clasped his hands tightly.
“If your obsession is this intense, how are you to become Buddha?” Fangzheng shook his head gently. He never expected that Wu Ming’s obsession was this strong. He left his home for a decade and hid in the monastery to avoid his creditors. To be able to return, he needed to earn money… It was no wonder that Zen Master Hongyan was unable to redeem him when he had such an obsession.
“So what if I become a Buddha? Can becoming a Buddha free me? All I want is money but now everything has been destroyed by you! I might be dead but I’ll curse you to die a terrible death!” Wu Ming roared, a ferocious glint in his eye.
Fangzheng was unfazed and chuckled, “You are already dead so what can you do? I’ll give you a chance by sending you home. Do you want to go?”
“Yes, of course!” Wu Ming shouted immediately. It had been ten years. He yearned to go home even in his dreams! He obviously wished to take a look now that he was given a chance!
Fangzheng nodded and with a wave of his hand Wu Ming felt the world change around him. When he opened his eyes, he was in front of his own doorstep.
One turns nostalgic upon homecoming. Now that he was dead, the emotions were even more apparent. He was afraid that his entry would only make it more apparent that they were now separated by death. He was even more afraid that he would open the door to see changes in the house that he would find unacceptable! How was his wife? What about his children? Although he would request someone to watch over them every year and pass him any relevant information about them, the news he received was bad. However, he always believed that the cause of all his troubles was money. Once he had money, the rest could be settled. Therefore, he had always been working hard and never slacked.
Wu Ming raised his hand and was about to knock on the door when he heard crashing sounds coming from inside. Wu Ming’s heart skipped a beat. Was there a thief at home? He charged straight in as his soul penetrated the wall and he set foot into the room.
He saw a middle-aged woman sitting on the ground. Her hair was white and her eyes filled with tears.
Two men were fighting. The television had been smashed and the sofa overturned. The house was a mess!
“Dear! Dear! What’s going on?” Wu Ming rushed to the side of the middle-aged woman.
Unfortunately the woman could neither see nor hear him. As she looked at the two fighting men, she yelled amid tears, “Stop fighting! Stop fighting… All of you stop! How can the both of you do this just after your father passed away?”
“I don’t care. The both of you are biased. What did Brother do to deserve getting more of the insurance payouts? He’s getting married but does that mean I deserve less, what if I am to marry? I deserve half the insurance payout! Not one cent more or less!” yelled one of the men.
The other slightly older man pushed him, “You don’t even have a girlfriend. Why would you want the money? To gamble?”
“So what if i gamble? I win money when gambling. What about you? What else do you know besides being a jobless good-for-nothing? How much can that sucky stall of yours earn a year?” yelled the younger brother.
“The… the both of you are driving me to my grave!” wailed the woman.
“It was the both of you that infuriated me first. I’m telling you, it’s over between us if I get one cent less!” The younger brother slammed the door as he left.
The elder brother walked over. As he placated his mother, doubt flickered across his face. “Mom, should we give the money to Brother?”
“No, you know what sort of person he is. Giving him the money? No matter how much we give him, he will lose it.” The woman shook her head and returned to her room, locking herself in.
With the door closed, she hugged Wu Ming’s picture and cried even more sadly. “Sun Wuben! Is this what you meant by money being the solution to everything? You are dead and there’s lots of money but the children are finished… You washed your hands off everything and went to become a monk but did you ever think about us? I had to raise two children. It was like they grew up fatherless. Our elder son was belittled by others causing him to despise himself. Our younger son gallivants with his friends and loves fighting. Now that you are gone, we have received the insurance payout. It amounts to several hundred thousand but our family is finished! We will not be able to return to the pleasant past…”
“Although we were poor years ago and your startup failed, we were still a complete family. And now? Do we still have a home? It’s all finished. Finished…”
After those final words she picked up a knife and sliced her wrist!
“No! No! Noooo!” Wu Ming shouted endlessly as he watched the scene play out in front of his eyes. His screams of terror unheard.
When he saw the blood gushing out of the woman’s wrist and the color draining from her face, Wu Ming cried. He knelt in front of the woman and slapped himself in the face. He shouted, “Dear I was wrong! I’m inhuman! F**k money. All I want is you! I did all that for this family… Sob… I was wrong. I’m back! I’m back! Fangzheng, I know you are there. Please! Save my wife! Save her, please! I’ll agree to anything if you save her!”
“Amitabha. Wu Ming, you are already dead. The money has been paid. Are you not satisfied? Did you not believe that all the karma that happened to you is a result of money?” The void trembled as Fangzheng appeared out of thin air. A white monk robe was draped over his body, he looked sacred and majestic.
“What use is lots of money? What kind of suffering is it for a wife to have no husband? What kind of suffering is it for children to have no father? I do not want them to follow in my footsteps… Perhaps I was wrong. I always thought that if I were to earn lots and lots of money, I could return to let them lead a happy life. But I was wrong… This was not what I wanted. No!” Wu Ming turned his head and saw his broken family, as well as his wife that was lying in bed the life draining from her as the blood pooled into the ivory white bedsheets. He wept his heart out.