Sun Qiancheng was taken aback. He never knew that the offering of incense had so much to it. He could not help but give Fangzheng a big thumbs up. “I learned something new today!”
Sun Qiancheng did everything according to Fangzheng’s instructions. He offered one incense stick after another and silently said the words.
Fangzheng stood by the side to help in reciting the sutras.
By the time the entire process was done, the sky had gradually darkened. Sun Qiancheng invited Fangzheng to join his family for dinner but Fangzheng declined. Although Fangzheng was starving, he wished to return home for his meal.
After bidding Sun Qiancheng farewell, he heard firecrackers set off in the village. Fangzheng returned to One Finger Monastery and cooked a pot of rice. An uneventful night passed.
The next day, a drizzle ushered in the new dawn. Following that, there was lightning. Fangzheng knew that with the Tomb-Sweeping Day over, the weather would quickly become warmer. Similarly, the construction of One Finger Monastery was brought forward.
After Tomb-Sweeping Day, it became idyllic in April. However, the month also had some special Buddhist festivals. The twelfth of the fourth month and sixteenth of the third month on the lunar calendar were claimed to be the birthdays of Cundi Bodhisattva. This was a major Buddhist festival. Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, Guan Yin Bodhisattva, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva, and Manjusri Bodhisattva were the four most famous Bodhisattvas. Fangzheng’s monastery consecrated two Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s but Fangzheng did not hold a Dharma Assembly during Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s birthday. All he did was his customary scripture recital and paid homage to just her.
He could not do anything else. Although if he forcibly held a Dharma Assembly, the System could help him. Fangzheng truly lacked the experience of running one. If he did one without proper planning it would bring more issues than benefits. Besides, the Dharma Assembly was only one of the ways to spread the Buddhist Dharma.
After Guan Yin Bodhisattva’s birthday was Samantabhadra Bodhisattva’s birthday. Fangzheng did not consecrate her, so he nothing other than recite and honor the Bodhisattva inwardly.
Seeing the days pass and the birthday of another Bodhisattva approach, Fangzheng wanted to plan a Dharma Assembly. However, Dharma Assemblies needed preparation. What did he need to do? Fangzheng realized that despite participating in a large-scale Dharma Assembly at Baiyun Monastery, he had no way of experiencing the entire process due to its massive scale. The things he learned was pitiful. If he wanted to organize a Dharma Assembly, to be honest he had no idea how to even begin.
He heard a series of hurried footsteps coming from outside the monastery. Fangzheng looked up and saw it was someone familiarSpeedy Delivery’s delivery man, Hu Tan. Hu Tan ran in while gasping for his breath. Before he even came to a stop, he pulled out an envelope and said, “Venerable Fangzheng, your delivery. I’ll place it here. Take a look yourself. I have something to tend to. I’ll be leaving first…” After putting down the envelope, Hu Tan ran off once again.
Fangzheng frowned when the young man made to leave. “What happens if the item inside is damaged? Are you just leaving it like that? Aren’t you going to take a look? This Penniless Monk hasn’t even signed the acknowledgment slip?”
“There’s no need to sign it. I believe in you Master. I’ll shoulder the responsibility if anything happens.” Hu Tan had already run off quite a bit as he spoke.
Fangzheng rubbed his nose and chuckled, “If there were a gold bar inside, This Penniless Monk would hide it. When the time comes, you will be crying your eyes out. Hehe…”
It was just mindless talk. It was only a large envelope. Even an idiot would know that there were no gold bars inside. Fangzheng opened it and was surprised.
“Cundi Bodhisattva’s birthday Dharma Assembly invites Abbot Fangzheng. Inviter: Zen Master Hongyan.”
It was an invitation! Fangzheng sighed when he read the contents. Indeed, it was regarding the upcoming festival. Fangzheng did not plan on organizing any celebrations on One Finger Monastery. Although the System would provide for him, no one would come! After the eighth of the April, the weather turned increasingly warm. The villagers who had been lazing about the entire winter had to begin their agriculture preparations.
They had to test the motor pumps, build large tents to nurture the seedlings, plow the fields… The entire village became busy in an instant. If he held a Dharma Assembly during this period, it might work if he was near a large city. City folk did not need to farm. Be it to ‘walk on green grass’ so as to enjoy the energy of life, join in the bustle, or have thoughts about consecrating Buddha, they would attend it, making it a grand event.
But in a place like One Finger Monastery, the devotees were mainly villagers. They were also people that only came to pray when they needed help. Under such circumstances, who would give up the chores they had at home to participate in the Dharma Assembly?
It was not only One Finger Monastery. It was likely that Hongyan Monastery would not have many people participating. at best, people from the Songwu County would come to join in the bustle. This was also only because Hongyan Monastery was rather famous and Zen Master Hongyan was rather influential. As for One Finger Monastery, it was likely that few would turn up if it was organized.
What’s more, One Finger Monastery did not have Cundi Bodhisattva consecrated. Organizing such a Dharma Assembly felt like a sham.
Furthermore, with Fangzheng lacking the experience, he did not dare to organize a Dharma Assembly of a larger scale. If Hongyan Monastery organized it, he could watch and learn. Coming to this conclusion, Fangzheng happily put away the invitation and prepared to participate in Hongyan Monastery’s Dharma Assembly.
With everything decided, Fangzheng carried the huge wooden fish to the back of the monastery. He then recited the scriptures to his Crystal Rice sprouts. Seeing Fangzheng about to recite the scriptures, Lone Wolf, Squirrel and Monkey followed. They sat at the side of the field as the three animals listened attentively while Fangzheng struck the wooden fish and recited the scriptures.
A few days passed quickly. Fangzheng woke up early. After tending to the monastery’s matters, he ate breakfast and left the monastery with Monkey. His destination was Hongyan Monastery which was still pretty from One Finger Monastery. If he rode on a motorbike, it would take more than an hour to reach. It would take quite a while if he walked.
Therefore, Fangzheng did not plan on walking. After descending the mountain, he went straight for Wang Yougui’s house. He had already contacted him yesterday. Wang Yougui happened to have a village meeting at Hongyan Village, so Fangzheng could get a lift.
Wang Yougui had already made preparations. He was waiting for Fangzheng. Seeing Fangzheng arrive, he patted the motorbike and chuckled, “Venerable Fangzheng, I’ve been waiting.”
Fangzheng smiled. “This Penniless Monk isn’t late, right?”
“No, you aren’t. He’s just impatient. Ignore him!” Wang Yougui’s wife walked over. She was carrying a basin of leftover rice, mashed corn. Before she did anything, a huge brood of chickens ran over and raised their heads, waiting to be fed.
Wang Yougui smiled. “Can you not drag me down out of nowhere? I’m chief of a village after all. Can’t you give me a little face?”
“Does giving you a little face line one’s shoe? If possible, you can walk barefooted in the future. I don’t care,” she retorted with a small grin.
Wang Yougui immediately capitulated and said to Fangzheng, “Alright. We’ll leave once you are ready. Oh yeah, about your monkey…”
“Don’t worry. He’s smart. He knows what to do.”
“Alright. I’ll drive slow. If it doesn’t work out, we’ll think of another solution.” As Wang Yougui spoke, he got on the motorbike. Fangzheng sat in the middle and patted the backseat and said to Monkey, “Sit behind me. The bike is fast. Hug This Penniless Monk tightly or you might fall off. Don’t blame This Penniless Monk if you fall off, you have been warned!”