“System, what must This Penniless Monk do to Red Boy before the mission is considered completed? Must he be tortured all day and night till he becomes an obedient child? Isn’t that a little too much?” Fangzheng peeled off a few bamboo shoots and threw them into a bowl filled with Unrooted Clean Aqua. He was making tea, it tasted sweet and refreshing, rather different from other teas.
“What do you think?” asked the System.
“This Penniless Monk will decide?”
“Of course not. However, what would make Red Boy a perfect person?”
Fangzheng thought about it. Bodhisattva had offered merit points when she gave him the mission. It would be abnormal if he could decide on when the mission was complete. Fangzheng slowly enjoyed his tea and pondered the problem. Instantly, Fangzheng was reminded of Zen Master One Finger. This problem was one they had pondered before. In a conversation between Zen Master Hongyan and Zen Master One Finger…
Back then, One Finger Monastery was still One Finger Temple and in shambles. Fangzheng returned and saw Zen Master Hongyan and Zen Master One Finger sitting in the yard chatting. Fangzheng did not interrupt. He squatted by the door and fell into a daze. He did not like the restrictive feeling of facing Zen Master Hongyun.
“Abbot One Finger, that Fangzheng is so mischievous. Is it really okay to let him run freely at the foot of the mountain?”
Zen Master One Finger laughed. “Fangzheng… Heh heh. Hongyun, what do you think should be done?”
Zen Master Hongyan pondered before saying, “At the very least, discipline him. Rein him in a little?”
“Then would he still be Fangzheng if I tried to change him by force?” Zen master one finger asked with a slight raise of an eyebrow.
Zen Master Hongyan was slightly taken aback and frowned, “Cultivation is meant to be arduous, lonely. If one cannot calm his mind, how is one to engage in Zen meditation?”
Zen Master One Finger pointed at a rock. “Do you think a rock can engage in Zen meditation?”
Zen Master Hongyun frowned. “How could it, it is not alive.”
Zen Master One Finger replied, “Precisely. Something without life cannot meditate, but what exactly IS life?” He gently spread his arms encompassing the area around him. “This Penniless Monk believes that a person’s character is the hallmark of life. If a person’s character is destroyed, it’s equivalent to to destroying who they are, wiping their existence from the world. Take this rock as example, it is beautiful, smooth, one of a kind. If man changed all the stones to look exactly the same would the stone still be special, would its worth not disappear?”
Zen Master Hongyan nodded slightly, stopped, then tapped his chin. “Such a personality would make one more prone to mistakes.”
Zen Master One Finger nodded. “This Penniless Monk always believes that that the myriad of things in the world is about cultivating one’s character. It’s to cultivate in good. Changing the bad, keeping the good while maintaining one’s true self, is the right way. If everyone were to cultivate according to the personality of Buddha, is there still a need for Maitreya Buddha or the Bodhisattvas or Arhats who each have different personalities? Tolerance brings greatness, respect. Buddhism has developed for so many years and for it to last this long and still thrive, is because all rivers run into the sea each individuals path may differ, but each has the potential to reach the final destination.”
He smiled gently as he stared down the mountain. “Although Fangzheng is roguish, his true nature is good. He might steal wild fruits sneaking them off farm plots, but he would share the wild fruits with the other children who are hungry. When caught, he will step forward to be punished protecting friends who are as guilty as he is.”
He laughed softly. “He might chase chickens and drive out dogs just for fun but when a car might hit a dog he will jump forward to save it. He has his flaws but he also has his virtues. Both his flaws and virtues make him the child he is today.”
“The world is interesting and colorful because of the different kinds of people. If everyone was the same color, the world would become monotone. He might have his faults but by slowly guiding him, he will understand what is right and what is wrong. Forcibly wiping out his flaws might have faster results but it would change the essence of who he is.”
“This Penniless Monk suddenly realizes why you left to practice Buddhism in this tiny temple.” Zen Master Hongyan smiled wryly. He realized that many of Zen Master One Finger’s ideas were partial towards the human character and not Buddhism! At the very least, he did not adhere to most Buddhist philosophies. It might not be diametrically at odds but there were still certain disagreements. It would be fine most of the time but once there was a clash, it would make everyone uncomfortable.
Zen Master One Finger smiled and did not say a word.
“Have you thought it through?” The System interrupted Fangzheng’s memory.
Fangzheng smiled. “Yes. This Penniless Monk has a simple requests for Red Boy. Do not kill people nor animals. Do not act with evil intent. Anything else is fine.”
“Oh, you won’t be doing anything apart from that?” The System was clearly surprised by Fangzheng’s answer.
“No. Things like providing board and lodging have to be done, no? In addition, one is marked by the company one keeps. I believe that as he gets imperceptibly influenced by what he sees and hears, he will come to understand what should and should not be done.” Fangzheng chuckled and drank his tea.
The System fell silent. It was unknown if it went to complain about him or to ponder life.
Red Boy carried the water buckets in. He threw them to the kitchen and sat right in front of Fangzheng. He pouted as he hugged his arms. “Master, when are you returning my Dharmic powers?”
Although Red Boy did not know how he lost his Dharmic powers, it was obvious even to an idiot that it had something to do with Fangzheng.
Fangzheng smiled. “This is a world of mortals. What do you want Dharmic powers for?”
Red Boy wanted to say that with his Dharmic powers, he could kill him easily. However, he did not dare say that out aloud. Instead he said, “If I have my Dharmic powers, would there be a need to fetch water? With a wave of the hand, water would come automatically! Why is there a need to go through all this trouble? Besides, everyone here is a mortal. Once I have Dharmic powers, I can protect the safety of our monastery. I can create miracles, attract countless devotees. Wouldn’t there be a lot of incense offerings as a result? Also, I’m the Child of Wealth. Way back when, Bodhisattva gave me a Money Line. I can produce treasure and give it to those in need.”
Fangzheng had to admit he was enticed. The kid could even make money! He was so poor that he would pick up ten cents if he saw any! But he knew very well that the problems that would arise would outweigh the benefits if he gave Red Boy his Dharmic powers back.
Fangzheng chuckled. “My dear disciple, you aren’t wrong. Don’t worry. You will definitely have your Dharmic powers back when the need for your Dharmic powers arises. But for now, it’s time we prepare our next meal…”
Red Boy looked at the kitchen and back at Fangzheng. He looked furious as he said through gritted teeth, “Don’t tell me that you are getting a king… Ahem, me to cook? I don’t know how to cook…”
“That’s fine. Let your three senior brothers teach you.” Fangzheng chuckled as he looked towards the sweeping Monkey.
Monkey immediately said, “Don’t worry. I’m skilled at cooking. I’ll definitely teach you properly.”
Red Boy itched to give the darn monkey a slap. No one would think you were dumb if you kept quiet.
Ultimately, Red Boy had no choice but to obediently prepare the meal. Fangzheng looked at Red Boy’s back and smiled. The rascal resembled him when he was younger. there was a difference between Fangzheng and Zen Master One Finger. Back then, Zen Master One Finger would not reprimand him or nag at him. He would only bring Fangzheng with him when he did certain things, allowing Fangzheng to watch him so he could understand the rationale behind them.