Hong Jin sighed, “If (Zhou) Yu were to be born, why must (Zhuge) Liang exist as well…” Hong Jin stroked the young monk’s head, “Yi Xing, it seems like I will not be able to fulfill my promise towards you. It’s my fault as your master…”
“Master, don’t say that. Karma can be created and destroyed according to fate. Once there’s no fate, no amount of planning would be of use. I can understand the circumstances,” said the young monk, Yi Xing.
Hong Jin felt a lot better but still sighed, “After the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly, there will be a Buddhist Dharma exchange held internally. Every year, one person would be chosen among the promising monks deliver a sermon on the scriptures. Ignoring the fact that you would gain additional guidance from Zen Master Baiyun and the other Venerables, more importantly, the monastery will increase a rise in reputation if you do a good job by showing high levels of insight, winning the acknowledgment from everyone.”
“I have my own selfish motives. Yi Xing, you have been extraordinarily perceptive ever since you were young. You are truly a rare genius. A few years ago, Baiyun Monastery and the other monasteries kept producing genius disciples. I was afraid you were not their match and did not nominate you. I have always been hiding you. I only nominated you this year after determining that no one from the other major monasteries was your match.”
“But who knew that a person more monstrous than a monster has appeared! Fangzheng! Crossing the river on a reed…” Hong Jin closed his eyes. It felt like despair! Just the act of crossing the river on the reed was sufficient to elevate Fangzheng to the level of this year’s rookie king, giving him the coveted chance of doing the sermon!
Yi Xing thought otherwise as he smiled, “Master, you were not that mindful of the gains and losses in previous years. What happened this year? Although this opportunity is rare, isn’t Zen Master Hongyan also an abbot of a small to medium-sized monastery? However, he is well-versed in the Buddhist Dharma. Even Zen Master Baiyun respectfully treats him as his equal. In the past, you also taught me that fame and gain were inessential and that only the Buddhist Dharma matters. But today, you are…”
Hong Jin was taken aback, he smiled, “You little imp, to think I’m the one being lectured by you.” Hong Jin shook his head, “But the situation is no longer the same. Recently, a devotee offered to help us expand the monastery. Once it expands, the scale of our monastery will reach that of a middle-sized monastery. That would be a qualitative improvement. However, the devotee has been hesitant recently. He’s not sure if he should donate to us or another monastery. I was planning on using this opportunity to make a name of our Golden Bamboo Convent and completely outshine Black Dragon Monastery.”
Yi Xing eyes widened as he heard the words, “Oh, I didn’t know that. Master, why didn’t you say so earlier?”
Hong Jin showed a wry smile, “Say so earlier? To you? There was no need to talk about it. As your master, I was absolutely not letting you vie for the nomination with the intention of making any gains. If anyone has to go to hell, I shall go alone.”
Yi Xing fell silent and after a long time asked, “Master, why did you tell me now?”
“Now? The dust has settled. With Fangzheng around there’s no hope for us. Since you are already aware of it, there’s nothing more to talk about. Alright, dig in.” Hong Jin picked up his chopsticks and began eating.
Yi Xing also began eating. A glimmer flashed in his eyes, crossing the river on a reed?
It was a good meal for Fangzheng. He did not eat a lot of rice but he ate quite a bit of vegetables. Although Baiyun Monastery’s vegetables were plain they were much better than ones he cooked in One Finger Monastery.
Fangzheng was not a good cook. He basically boiled all the green vegetables in a single pot. As for Baiyun Monastery, they prepared the vegetables differently. They used all sorts of culinary techniques like baking, frying, steaming and deep frying. Although they were just leafy vegetables, the product was extremely elaborate. It was also rich in flavor.
Although the others ate the food without giving it much thought, it was truly a delightful feast for Fangzheng who only ate rice and boiled vegetables. He enjoyed his meal but unfortunately the rice was far inferior to the Crystal Rice. Fangzheng had no choice but to bear with it.
Everyone dispersed after they finished their meals. Baiyun Monastery monks brought them to their respective dormitories.
When Fangzheng looked at the well-lit buildings and recalled One Finger Monastery’s original state, he could not help but sigh. “As expected of Baiyun Monastery. Their conditions are just this good.”
Fangzheng fell asleep the moment he got into bed. An uneventful night passed.
The next day, all the monks did a simple rehearsal for the Spring Welcoming Blessing Dharma Assembly. Fangzheng followed the entire process. He sat where he was asked to be seated and recited the scriptures when needed. It was not a difficult affair.
At that moment, a monk ran over. “Amitabha. Abbot Fangzheng, do you have a photo of One Finger Monastery?”
“Yes. What do you need a photo for?” asked Fangzheng subconsciously.
The monk showed him a good-natured smile, “About that… We didn’t manage to find relevant pictures of your monastery. We used a drawing for the promotional posters. Abbot was very angry when he saw this and rebuked my senior brothers. We were instructed to get a picture but…” The monk did not continue. His swarthy skin flushed red.
Fangzheng laughed as he held his palms together and said with a bow, “Amitabha. This matter is not your fault. It’s This Penniless Monk’s fault. One Finger Monastery is too small so it’s normal you can’t find the information needed on the Internet. This Penniless Monk has the pictures and can send it to you now.”
The monk had been prepared to get an earful because he believed that Fangzheng would be angry. Besides, he had forced himself over to request for the pictures after losing a game of rock, paper, scissors. He never expected that Fangzheng, an abbot with such legendary flair, was this amiable. The swarthy monk immediately smiled as he ran off happily with the photos.
As Fangzheng looked at the monk’s departing back, he rubbed his nose and chuckled to himself. “Who said that the monks of Baiyun Monastery are arrogant? They all seem pretty nice…”
Up to this point in time Fangzheng was still unsure of his standing. Crossing the river on a reed was a testament to Patriarch Bodhidharma. His status had long risen because of his feat. He was like a celebrity among the monks. Most monks would have heard of the legendary stories of Patriarch Bodhidharma. Crossing the river on a reed was an excellent legend that had been passed down. They thought better of Fangzheng when they saw him since they had never met Patriarch Bodhidharma. They felt awe and reverence towards him.
Fangzheng was a little excited knowing that his One Finger Monastery was finally going to be on a promotional poster. His monastery’s name was finally going to be well known.
He did not go anywhere else. All he did was wait by the promotion posters placed by Baiyun Monastery’s entrance.
About ten minutes later, the swarthy monk ran over with a few monks. After they gave Fangzheng a bow, they hung up a new poster. When Fangzheng saw the door on One Finger Monastery with the large golden text, he smiled. “Old Dad One Finger, our One Finger Monastery has finally appeared on Baiyun Monastery’s door. Do you see it?”
Fangzheng returned to the recital room in a good mood. He took out the scripture and began reciting them in preparation for tomorrow.
At that moment, he heard a stir coming from outside.
Fangzheng went out to take a look and saw a few monks shouting while pointing at a roof. Fangzheng looked up and saw a pink monkey ass disappear into the woods.
Fangzheng heard a monk say unhappily, “This monkey is going overboard. He comes to the monastery to steal every other day. He previously stole some of the offerings and today, even the Buddha statue fell victim. Sigh… if I were not a monk and he wasn’t a protected animal, I would have beat him to the point of debilitation!”
“It can’t be helped. It’s a protected animal. It’s like a living ancestor you can’t touch. Let’s go. We just need to chase him away. Sigh…” Another monk grumbled.
Fangzheng was amused watching the stocky martial monks turn helpless towards a monkey. So he was not the only one being harassed by animals! Thinking back to the self-righteous squirrel who had stolen food Fangzheng felt that all was fair in the world.
He returned to the room and continued meditating. Fangzheng became hungry later in the evening and began rummaging his bag to look for the Crystal Rice dumplings to eat. But…
“Where are my rice dumplings?!” Fangzheng looked at the empty bag and nearly cursed out in anger. Thankfully, he had been accustomed to acting as an accomplished monk and was able to endure it. However he was yelling inwardly, “Which bastard grandson stole the few rice dumplings I had? And doesn’t he have any thieving ethics? Steal from the rich, not from the poor. Doesn’t he understand that? Does he not know that thieves have their code of honor?”
His tummy began groaning as Fangzheng rubbed his belly and went out the room. He wondered if he could find something to eat.
At that moment, he heard rustling above him in the trees.
Fangzheng looked up and saw a shadow squatting on the tree, baring its teeth at him.
Fangzheng looked carefully and realized that it was a white-furred monkey!
Upon seeing the monkey and recalling the situation in the morning, Fangzheng smacked his head and exclaimed, “Monkey, were you the one who stole my rice dumplings?”
The monkey was given a fright as it looked strangely at Fangzheng. Then it trembled as it pointed at Fangzheng and asked, “You know how to speak?”
Fangzheng’s face turned ashen. Why did all the animals that hear him speak act in this manner? He seemed to forget that if an animal could speak, perhaps any human would act the same way…
Fangzheng said, “This Penniless Monk obviously can speak. Cut the nonsense. Where’s This Penniless Monk’s rice dumplings?”
“Give me a rice dumpling and I’ll tell you.” The monk scratched his ass as he looked disparagingly at Fangzheng. His eyes appeared to be burning as he looked at Fangzheng’s room.
Fangzheng did not need to press further. After being with animals for so long, he could tell the truth at a glance when it came to these naive animals. Everything was written on their faces! “You still want more after stealing my rice dumplings? You made This Penniless Monk hungry. What do you plan on doing?”
“Those rice dumplings were really yours?” The monkey stared at Fangzheng.
“Duh! One and only one!” said Fangzheng confidently.
“Are you serious? You look no different from the other stupid furless monkeys. Why would you have the rice dumplings but not them? Are all the peaches of a particular tree plucked by you?” asked the monkey in all seriousness.
Fangzheng was rendered speechless. He realized that it was indeed difficult to discuss with this unfamiliar bumpkin monkey on matters that went beyond the concept of its species.
He went straight back to the point. “Cut the unimportant fluff. This is where I live. By taking something from my house, isn’t that stealing? @%$#&…”
“Enough, cut the idle chatter. All I did was eat two of your rice dumplings. What’s the fuss? I’ve eaten so many of those furless monkeys’ food but I have never seen any of them be so long winded,” cried the monkey impatiently.
Fangzheng was astounded. He had been disdained by a monkey! Fangzheng endured his pangs of fire as he asked curiously, “And what do they do?”
“They throw brooms or things like peaches. They jump and leap while yelling. It’s quite a lively scene. They are just a little stupid. However, they are a lot more direct than you. They will usually only yell before taking action. None of them are as long winded as you,” said the monkey in all seriousness.
Fangzheng: “@#[email protected]%… This monkey is really mistaking the kindness of others as idiocy!”