Fangzheng was determined not to participate regardless of what happened.
Fangzheng said, “Thank you for explaining it to This Penniless Monk. This Penniless Monk will have to refuse participation.”
“Abbot Fangzheng, there should be a reason why you are rejecting it, right?” someone pressed.
Fangzheng answered as though it was a matter of fact, “Just as Venerable Yi Xing said, rules are rules. How can it be ignored because of This Penniless Monk? There’s no point fighting for that spot. Besides, This Penniless Monk has read very few books and has even less insight. There’s probably nothing This Penniless Monk can say.” Fangzheng did not plan on hiding the truth. It was not terrifying if one was uncultured. What was terrifying was the insistence on being cultured despite in actuality lacking it.
Everyone exchanged looks. This was the first time they had encountered such a person in all these years. In the past everyone fought for it. But this time he refused even after they persuaded him. Was he really that lacking in knowledge? Was he embarrassed participating? He even gave an excuse that he did not read the scriptures? If you didn’t read any scriptures how did you manage to deliver such reasonable insights?
Although this was on the minds of many, no one said a word.
Upon coming to this realization, everyone looked at Fangzheng with complicated emotions. Some were relieved by Fangzheng’s frankness, while there were others who believed him. Some were even disappointed at Fangzheng for being an ignoramus. Why didn’t he study the Buddhist Dharma when he could cross the river on a reed?
Zen Master Baiyun asked once again, “Abbot Fangzheng, are you certain you are conceding the opportunity?”
Fangzheng nodded. “Yes.”
Zen Master Baiyun nodded. “In that case, Venerable Yi Xing, you shall do it.”
Yi Xing smiled when he heard that as he held his palms together, “Yes.”
Hong Jin was delighted when he saw the situation play out. He still felt like he was in a dream even when Yi Xing had gone up to the stage to preach. He originally believed that they had lost their opportunity. To his surprise Fangzheng had chosen to concede. It was like a pie had dropped from the sky! Hong Jin began having doubts. He looked at Fangzheng, who looked like he was listening attentively, while grumbling inwardly, “Is he really that magnanimous or is he lacking in knowledge?”
Yi Xing talked about the Avatasaka Stra on stage. The amount of insight he had gained was limited at his age. However, Yi Xing cleverly avoided talking about the Avatasaka Stra in its entirety. Instead he chose particular points to elaborate on.
“This Penniless Monk has read the Avatasaka Stra day in and day out. It fills me with insight. Especially a particular sentence in the sutra: One is Many; Many is One. People get confused by the numbers here but they do not know that the one and many here represent not mere numbers. Instead: One and the Dharma; the myriad Dharmas return to One; One manifests as the myriad Dharmas; returning to the heaven and earth. In this world, only our hearts represent the truth. The heaven and earth’s Dharma manifest from the heart. Once your heart is right, the myriad Dharma will form…” Yi Xing spoke at length for twenty minutes. He explained the idea of focusing one’s heart so as to control the myriad Dharma.
Everyone nodded when they heard him as they marveled inwardly. There was even applause from time to time. This was not a treatment the other abbots received when they preached the scriptures.
When Yi Xing was done, he got up and bowed. The crowd immediately gave him a rapturous round of applause!
Hong Jin was even more excited as his palms swelled from all his clapping.
Yi Xing was extremely pleased with the reaction from the monks beneath the stage. His eyes could not help but glance at Fangzheng who was also clapping.
Zen Master Baiyun smiled, “Hong Jin, it appears that there will be someone to pass down the mantle for your Golden Bamboo Convent.”
Hong Jin laughed out loud. “Yes, definitely. Definitely…”
Everyone smiled inwardly when they saw Hong Jin laughing so happily. The debate might have been intense but after the debate everyone remained friendly. They were still happy for Hong Jin.
Zen Master Baiyun then said to Yi Xing, “Yi Xing, do you have anything else to say?”
Yi Xing held his palms together and bowed. “What This Penniless Monk said were his personal conclusions. This Penniless Monk hopes that Abbot Fangzheng can comment on it.”
Everyone was stunned. No one expected Yi Xing to suddenly raise such a request. But people realized why…
“This Yi Xing sure is nice. Through this opportunity he is letting Fangzheng go up on stage to share his insights. They can get famous together.”
“He has a Bodhisattva’s heart and good insight. He has a limitless future…”
People only thought of it that Yi Xing was being grateful for Fangzheng’s concession but they did not know that Yi Xing’s true goal was to probe Fangzheng’s knowledge!
Fangzheng was dumbfounded. He was being made to go up again? He had been dodging all day but in the end, the arrow had come flying right back at him! He had heard of the Avatasaka Stra and also read it albeit a little. After all, there was some information on the Internet but it was too much work to read or even find the entire sutra on the Internet.
There was something Fangzheng was glad about. If there was something wrong with Yi Xing’s explanation, it had to be that the line: One is Many; Many is One! When Fangzheng heard that line, he too had his own opinions about it. Yet, he was unacquainted with the scriptures, so he was unsure of his conclusions. After all they came from him looking at mountains, water bodies, and rocks while on the mountain, not inspired by having a rich repertoire of scripture readings. When he checked the Internet to contrast his opinion with others, no one shared a similar conclusion.
Therefore, Fangzheng lacked confidence.
Now with Yi Xing forcing him Fangzheng, had no choice but to bite the bullet and go onstage.
Yi Xing felt a little regretful when he saw Fangzheng really ascend the stage. He pondered to himself, “Could it be true that he has some skill? But even if he has real skill, I did it out of goodwill. He would not blame me. If he lacks skill, hmph… All I did was expose a fake.”
After Fangzheng went up the stage, he bowed at Zen Master Baiyun before holding his palms together. He then bowed at everyone before sitting cross-legged on the stage. He took a deep breath and smiled. He thought to himself, “There’s really nothing I can do. It’s hopeless now. I’ll just close my eyes and speak randomly. If it works, it works. If it doesn’t, too bad.”
Therefore, Fangzheng said, “This Penniless Monk does have a different understanding of the line, One is Many; Many is One, in the Avatasaka Stra.”
When this was said, everyone was stunned. By saying that he had a different opinion, he was PK-ing Yi Xing! Immediately, everyone turned attentive. They wanted to see what Fangzheng had figured out!
Fangzheng gently spoke, “Buddha talks about the suffering of sentient beings. But where is the suffering of all sentient beings? The One Finger Monastery that This Penniless Monk lives in is rather remote. The number of people that came up the mountain could be counted on one hand. This Penniless Monk’s master passed away last year leaving This Penniless Monk alone. All This Penniless Monk can do is stay behind in an empty monastery to figure some things out that he didn’t really understand. This carried on until one day when a wolf and a squirrel entered This Penniless Monk’s life. This filled this Penniless Monk’s life with joy! The wolf becomes happy after eating. The squirrel also eats his fill. If there’s any fun, he would be happy. They lead their lives carefree and do as they please. But humans are different. Humans suffer when they are hungry. But when they are satiated, they wish to eat better. It still ends up as a form of suffering. Those without children are suffering but those with children feel like they are suffering because of the tiring nature of taking care of children… All sentient beings suffer but why are animals happy? How do we explain this?”
“Just like Venerable Yi Xing mentioned, the myriad Dharma comes from the heart. The myriad forms come from the heart. Everything stems from the heart. There is only one heart but it can manifest endless worries. Therefore Buddha said that One is Many. As for Many is One, This Penniless Monk believes that by abandoning all these worries, transforming the myriad of worries into a pure heart will allow one to be truly liberated and attain great sovereignty!”
After hearing his words people, were collectively dumbfounded, silent or even shocked!