Fangzheng nodded. “Of course. Sharing happy matters with one’s ancestors makes them happy too. Remember, when you come here to honor our ancestors, cut the grumbling and talk more about the good things. If the ancestor is happy, you will be happy. Ancestors will protect you and your days will only change for the better.”
“For real?” Monkey asked in surprise.
“In a way, it is laying your heart bare. Happiness is contagious. Thinking of happy things daily will make a person feel happy. Thinking of depressing matters daily will only make a person feel worse. This form of repression and even delirium makes it easy for something bad to happen to a person. Therefore, a person’s happiness depends on one’s state of mind. The rich have their own happiness but similarly, the poor have their own form of happiness. And honoring our ancestors is a ways of sharing the happiness with our ancestors. You will be happy if the ancestors are happy as well. If you are happy deep down, you will naturally turn ill fortune into good.”
Monkey scratched his ass but stopped midway and changed to scratching his head. “Although I don’t understand, it sounds like it makes sense.”
Squirrel cocked his head. “I never expected that a few actions and a few words could have such deep meaning and knowledge behind it.”
“This is a cultural heritage that has been spread for thousands of years in China. It’s just that many people have already forgotten, thrown away as dregs. But in recent years, some people have picked up these practices again. It’s a good thing.”
Fangzheng made way. “A monastery is unlike a normal house. A monastery will go according to the age at which one enters the monastery. Lone Wolf came the earliest, Squirrel second, and Monkey last. According to this order, come over and offer the incense and kowtow. This Penniless Monk will place the incense for Lone Wolf. This Penniless Monk will also help Squirrel. Monkey, you can do it yourself.”
The three animals did not object it. Lone Wolf was yearning to try. He bit on the incense sticks and stood upright. He imitated Fangzheng by pressing his paws together and bowed. But the moment he bent his back, he fell forward.
Fangzheng said, “Old Dad One Finger, this wolf is not human after all. This is already the most he can do. Please accept his sincerity and do not blame him.
Indeed, after Lone Wolf kowtowed thrice, the smoke rose up and reached the heavens. Zen Master One Finger had received it and was satisfied.
Fangzheng helped Lone Wolf insert the incense sticks before he gestured for Squirrel to come forward.
It was difficult for Squirrel. Was it still possible for him to stand while holding up that huge bunch of incense sticks but to kowtow? Squirrel looked at Fangzheng in despair.
Fangzheng took over the incense. “This Penniless Monk will help you kowtow.”
Squirrel nodded and bowed together with Fangzheng. Fangzheng said, “Old Dad One Finger, this guy is a little small. Please don’t blame him for me kowtowing for him.”
Smoke swirled up into the sky again. Squirrel heaved a sigh of relief when he saw that.
Then Fangzheng helped insert the incense sticks for Squirrel. Squirrel obediently kowtowed and did it quite well.
It was much easier for Monkey. Monkey did the bows, insertion of the incense sticks, and kowtows all by himself. He did it perfectly well and the incense similarly rose into the heavens. Monkey also heaved a sigh of relief.
Fangzheng nodded in silence when he saw that. “Old Dad One Finger, this is an intelligent Monkey. He sought Buddha by traveling a great distance and has a heart inclined towards Buddhism. However, it is difficult for him to change his monkey disposition. But This Penniless Monk believes that there will come a day when he becomes a standard monk.”
After everyone showed their respects, Fangzheng took out the fruits and laid them out in front of the grave. “This was solicited by This Penniless Monk from the foot of the mountain. It is This Penniless Monk’s kind intentions as well as the villagers’ kind intentions. Old Dad One Finger, have a taste. They should be pretty good.
Then, Fangzheng picked up the paper money and said to the trio. “Fold them piece by piece. Remember, do not damage them. Damaged money cannot be spent.”
Lone Wolf wallowed in misery once again. He truly could not do it for his paws were inadequate…
Fangzheng did not make things difficult for him and instructed him to watch by the side.
Fangzheng, Squirrel, and Monkey split the paper money and folded them one by one. Then, Fangzheng lit them all up. At the same time, he knelt and constantly recited, “Amitabha.” He recalled how well Zen Master One Finger had treated him. It was a form of remembrance and was also his way to cultivate generosity.
The fire burned but there was quite a lot of paper money. From the looks of it, it would take a while to finish burning. However, Fangzheng was in no rush. He knelt there and watched.
Monkey was a little impatient. He picked up a stick and tried to stir the fire pile, allowing it to burn faster.
Fangzheng cast a stern look at Monkey, scaring him into throwing the stick away. “This honoring of ancestors only happens once a year. Be patient. Besides, by striking down like that, who knows how much paper money is destroyed. With them destroyed, it will be damaged when it reaches the other side. How can damaged money be spent?”
Monkey nodded, expressing his realization. He obediently squatted in a corner to wait.
Fangzheng did not tell the monkey everything. There was a reason why he did not let Monkey poke the fire pile. Due to strong winds, once the fire pile was disturbed, sparks would fly and easily be blown by the wind. It could easily cause a fire catastrophe. As for waiting by the side, by watching the paper money burn completely, it was a way of watching the fire. It also prevented a fire catastrophe from happening. This not only allowed one to accompany the ancestors, it was also a sign of respect. It also included many pragmatic matters when it came daily life.
The human and three animals waited silently until all the paper money and incense finished burning. Only then did Fangzheng get up. He bowed at the grave once again, “Old Dad One Finger, we are leaving. If there is a chance, I’ll try to come more often. Amitabha…”
With that said, Fangzheng cleared away the ashes in front of the grave. The remaining plastic bags were all removed, including the offerings.
He looked at the three animals with yearning looks and asked, “You guys want to eat?”
The trio nodded immediately.
“Sure you can. Bow to Zen Master One Finger with me. Inform him of your intentions and he will agree to it.”
The three animals hurriedly bowed at Zen Master One Finger with Fangzheng. “Old Dad One Finger, the offerings would be a waste placed here. Since you have finished eating, share it with all of us. Here, I thank you on the three little guys’ behalf.”
After bowing, Fangzheng handed the apples, bananas and other fruits to the three animals. The three carried them in excitement but none of them dared to eat it. Nor did they dare smile. They held taut faces and looked miserable holding their joy. It was truly hard on them.
After leaving Zen Master One Finger’s grave and returning to the monastery, Fangzheng said, “Alright, all of you can relax. The time of solemnity is over…”
The three animals were clearly stifled from the solemnity. All of them began crying out randomly and as a result
Dong dong dong!
Fangzheng raised his hand and struck each of them. “Silence is to be maintained in the monastery!”
The three animals looked at Fangzheng with eyes welling in tears. They felt really aggrieved.It was you who let us relax…
Fangzheng smiled. “Alright, time to eat. This Penniless Monk has not eaten fruits in a long time… Let’s try something fresh.”
Fangzheng wasn’t lying. He had already forgotten when he had eaten fruit for the last time. He washed an apple and with a flick of his sleeve, closed the door. Now that he finished the consecration ceremony, there were many people waiting for him at the foot of the mountain.
It was seven in the morning and the time was perfect. He was neither late nor early.
When Fangzheng descended the mountain, Monkey followed. Lone Wolf and Squirrel stayed home to keep watch.