Perhaps it was because people needed to sweep the tombs the next day which resulted in there being especially few people that came to offer incense to Buddha. They were probably busy dealing with the logistics of tomb-sweeping the next day. After all, tomb-sweeping during the Tomb-Sweeping Day was of grave importance. Nearly every family’s relatives and children would rush here for it. Thus, the families that were nearest to the ancestral graves had to host these relatives. They had to prepare all sorts of sumptuous dishes but those could not be instantly made. They needed to make preparations.
The day passed and Fangzheng woke up before dawn. He pushed open the door and the moment he came out, Lone Wolf ran over in high alert. Monkey came over with eyes still half-closed.
Fangzheng rubbed Lone Wolf and Monkey’s head before he began sweeping the temple hall. Monkey also began sweeping the ground. The bodhi tree had shed a large number of leaves overnight but Monkey remained helpless with regards to this.
After sweeping the temple hall, Fangzheng began to cook. It was already six in the morning after they had breakfast. After tidying up everything, Fangzheng took out the paper money and numerous incense sticks he had prepared the day before. There was Crystal Rice, as well as some blanched Wormwood sprouts and dandelion leaves. He opened the door to the monastery and left.
The sky was covered in dark clouds as though it was about to rain. The wind wasn’t strong but it left a chill.
The moment Fangzheng exited the door, Lone Wolf, Monkey, and Squirrel followed. None of them dared to fool around when they saw Fangzheng’s serious face.
Squirrel asked out of curiosity, “Abbot, why do you look so serious? Also, what is Tomb-Sweeping Day?”
“As the saying goes, ‘Tomb-Sweeping Day falls on the fifteenth day after the spring equinox, when all things, including the air and light, are clear and pure. This gives the day its name.’ Its literal meaning, Clear Brightness, suggests that once the day comes, the temperature will rise and it’s the best time for agriculture. This gives rise to the saying ‘sow crops around Tomb-Sweeping Day.’ This is also the day when the land recovers…”
Lone Wolf felt puzzled. “Since it’s such a great day, why do you look depressed?”
“Other than it being a day marking one of the twenty-four divisions of the solar year, the Tomb-Sweeping Day is also a day that the Chinese use to honor their ancestors and those that have passed away. How can honoring the dead be done with a smiling face? The moment you leave the door, you have to think back to your ancestors and you should not smile. Otherwise, if the ancestors were to know, wouldn’t that make them think you are happy because they departed? This is a show of disrespect to the ancestors. Understand?”
Lone Wolf scrunched up his face, looking extremely stern. Squirrel also pressed his fat face and acted solemn too. Monkey imitated Fangzheng’s bearing. He adjusted his monk robes and walked like an elder. He exuded the feeling of a monk.
Fangzheng felt happy when he saw the three animals’ intelligent behavior. He nodded slightly and brought the three animals to Zen Master One Finger’s grave.
Zen Master One Finger’s grave was not far. It was situated in front of a large plain with the mountains behind it. It allowed for a wide view. Fangzheng did not know geomancy, nor did he know if it was a good place or not. Zen Master One Finger enjoyed standing here to look into the distance when he was still alive to figure out the Buddhist Dharma. Therefore, Fangzheng chose to bury him here.
When he stood in front of the grave, Fangzheng took a deep breath. “Old Dad One Finger, I’m here to visit.”
As he spoke, Fangzheng placed all the items down. He began clearing the weeds from Zen Master One Finger’s tombstone. After winter, the weeds had withered, so it was not difficult to clear them.
Fangzheng took out a large stack of incense sticks.
Monkey came over to take a look. “Abbot, people offer incense sticks three at a time. Why do you hold so many? Did the old Zen Master like incense?”
Fangzheng shook his head. “No. If This Penniless Monk had come alone, three sticks would have been enough. But This Penniless Monk is not the only person in One Finger Monastery now. The three of you are also part of One Finger Monastery. Today, it is a form of familial consecration. A familial consecration needs 365 incense sticks. According to the number of males, these 365 incense sticks will be divided. Then, they are to be offered in descending order of age. This is also a rule. Since the four of us came today, it will be split in four. Since This Penniless Monk is the oldest, the additional stick will be offered by me.” With that said, Fangzheng took our 92 incense sticks and handed over the remaining 91 sticks to Monkey, Lone Wolf, and Squirrel.
When it came to Monkey, he easily held the incense sticks.
As for the poor Squirrel, he tried his best grabbing so many incense sticks with his tiny paws but found it very difficult to even hug them. He could only temporarily place them on the ground and watch them.
Lone Wolf was afraid of getting wet, so he also placed the incense sticks on the ground.
The three animals originally thought that they here to watch the development but never expected Fangzheng to say such words. He treated them as members of One Finger Monastery or relatives. They felt their hearts turn warm as they felt a little sense of pride. Look, this baldy in front of us is our boss!
Fangzheng lit the incense sticks and came in front of the tomb. He raised the incense high, “Old Dad One Finger, Fangzheng is here to visit. It’s your festival today. I hope you will enjoy the consecration.”
Just as his voice faded, Fangzheng saw that the incense in his hand suddenly stir due to a gust of wind. Similarly, the smoke reached into the heavens but failed to dissipate despite the blowing wind. Although the incense smoke was thin, it could be seen clearly!
Upon seeing this scene, Fangzheng jumped in fright. He had never seen such a phenomenon before.
“There is no need to be alarmed. Since there is Buddha in the world, it would be normal for ghosts to exist as well. This ghost is not the haunting ghosts you imagine, but one that lives in your heart. The ancestors of the living do not live in the netherworld but in the hearts of their descendants. They exist because they are remembered by their descendants. They dissipate when their descendants forget. Due to the gratefulness and kindness of the descendants, the kindness that stems from the heart will bear fruits of kindness, allowing one to be rewarded with kindness in turn. On the contrary, if one forgets their parents and ancestors, their hearts have turned evil. How could anything they do be good? A problem in character will result in retribution when they do something wrong. This is what people mean by the blessing from the ancestors… When descendants honor their ancestors, they are not only honoring their ancestors but their hearts as well,” said the System suddenly.
When Fangzheng heard that, he was enlightened. He pressed his palms together as he recalled the various scenes he had experienced with Zen Master One Finger in the past. That instant, he felt as though Zen Master One Finger stood in front of him. Fangzheng understood things he failed to understand in the past. He had an indescribable feeling of epiphany.
Fangzheng bowed with incense sticks in hand. Then holding them in hand, he used his left hand to insert them from the right into the left. He did it at an adequate pace and was done inserting all the incense sticks shortly after. As he inserted the essence sticks, he explained to the three animals, “As the living, left is regarded as the best. For the deceased, right is regarded as the best. By using our left hand to insert the incense sticks shows our utmost respect. They are our seniors. We are beneath them. By inserting from right to left, it is to conform to their logic.”
After inserting the incense, Fangzheng knelt and kowtowed. After striking the ground three times with his head, he said, “Old Dad One Finger, it’s been a while. But you should be able to see that our One Finger Monastery has been renovated. The incense offerings have been increasing. We even held a Dharma Assembly of Bathing the Buddha. Everything went smoothly. You should be happy seeing all of this, right? This is something you have been hoping for all your life. It has finally been accomplished. Believe me, I will definitely make One Finger Monastery the great monastery you always wished for it to be.”
“Abbot, will the old Zen Master really hear what you say?” asked Monkey out of curiosity.