The Monk That Wanted To Renounce Asceticism Chapter 1
This story begins in a parallel world.
With the fair refreshing weather of autumn in the far north. White clouds floating gently in the sky and birds taking their migratory flight flowing with the wind. The gentle breeze stirred through the fallen leaves creating a soft, gentle rustle. What a beautiful autumn day!
A common thought for most common men, one such man being the solitary exception.
In the southwestern corner of Gulin City was a mountain named Mt. Tongtian. It was one of the outcrops of the Changbai mountain range. On one corner of said mountain range stood a single peak named Mt. One Finger. The mountain wasn't extremely tall, with its peak clawing towards the sky, but the breathtaking view of the periphery of the Heavenly Lake of Tianshan was blocked. At the top of this mountain stood a Buddhist temple called the One Finger Temple! One Finger Temple had two sanctums. The front-facing sanctum was the shrine, while the one in the back was the meditation monastery. This was also the communal living space of the monks, to be precise it was where the acolyte monk, Fangzheng, lived. This solitary monk was the sole inhabitant of One Finger Temple.
Just days ago, the One Finger Temple's abbot One Finger, had passed away. The desolate temple, which now lacked any and all alms, was slowly but surely wasting away to the passage of time.
There was a single bodhi tree in the courtyard that was brought from the far south by an aspiring rich man. This man had tragically died once the bodhi tree had been planted. The result? What was meant to be a complete renovation of the temple ended in crumbles, the plans to restore the temple to the magnificence it once had... were lost.
Furthermore, the bodhi tree had frozen and perished not even a year since it had been planted because of the frigid northern weather. Now only the withered remnants of the once beautiful tree remained. More than once Fangzheng had entertained the thought of one day chopping it down for firewood. Yet in the end, he could not bring himself to do so.
At this particular moment in time, Fangzheng stood under the bodhi tree with an official document in his hand. His eyes filled with misery as he looked up to the sky, he voiced his dissatisfaction, "Amitabha, what the f*ck!? All I wanted was to renounce my asceticism! Why would you give me this bloody document!? I have to be the abbot of this bloody temple just because of this f*cking document!? First of all, this darn temple doesn't have any money and secondly, it has no other inhabitants! We don't receive alms from incense donations, other than the winds and storms that provide for this place, it has nothing worthwhile!"
He sighed, eyes downcast. "... All I wanted was to be an ordinary person. To marry someone, have a kid before I embrace the gentle caress of death. Was that too much to ask? It was not easy for the old monk to raise me, he was an admirable man, so I endured it. But now that the old monk has passed away, I am asked to spend the rest of my days in this broken down old temple? No! Absolutely not!"
With that said Fangzheng crumpled the document and threw it into a gap of the withered bodhi tree.
He returned to his room and grabbed his luggage, preparing to leave!
Once he reached the One Finger Temple's entrance, he came to a halt. He turned back and stared at the worn down plaque of One Finger Temple and could not help but reminisce about the old monk, Zen Master One Finger, who had raised him ever since he was young. The reason for the old monk's name was because he truly only had one finger. What could he do with one finger? Most people would probably be rendered useless, incapable of keeping up with the daily order of business. Zen Master One Finger, contrary to all expectation, had managed to cultivate a plot of land and through alms and selling his produce had worked to afford Fangzheng's education throughout high school.
It was at this very entrance that Zen Master One Finger had walked with him down the mountain every single day to send him off on his way to school.
It was also this entrance where Fangzheng would find Zen Master One Finger waiting by the door with a gentle smile whenever he returned.
As days turned to years, Fangzheng grew taller and Zen Master One Finger bent under his arduous life. His hunching back worsened and arthritis plagued the elderly monk. Not once had he seen that Zen Master One Finger was suffering from excruciating pain. A permanent and gentle smile always found its place on the old monk's face. He would tap his back and smile at the young Fangzheng, "I've been watching you grow up and become a strong healthy young man. It's a true relief to have such a reliable heir to my old temple."
Every time Fangzheng heard that sentence he would choke up and bite back tears. He would think to himself, "The old man acts nothing like an esteemed monk! Shouldn't an esteemed monk like him speak in thought-provoking gathas?" Instead of the gathas one expected to hear it was the gentle slap of reality.
Unfortunately, high school had proven to be too expensive. Zen Master One Finger could no longer provide for Fangzheng's continued education due to his failing health. Fangzheng, bound both by duty and emotion, returned to the mountain to attend to the man that raised him. Zen Master One Finger, despite his advancing years sternly forbade him from working the farm and harvesting produce. Instead, he was asked to study the Buddhist scriptures and teachings. As for chores like cooking and fetching water from the well, Zen Master One finger took them all on himself.
Three years passed before the old monk could hold on no longer and passed away.
It had been three years since Fangzheng stopped attending high school. Other people his age were probably seniors in university yet here he was, stuck, bound by duty to the mountain that held the decaying temple. It was a matter that filled Fangzheng with some resentment. He had tried to tell Zen Master One Finger more than once that he wanted to seek employment in the outside world and lead a normal life. He did not wish to sever his bonds to worldly pleasure and live the life of an ascetic.
Yet whenever Fangzheng saw the old monk's pained expression whenever he mentioned "seek employment and lead a normal life," his words ground to a halt, and he kept his tongue.
Fangzheng always felt like the Monkey King, Sun Wukong, while Zen Master One Finger was the Golden Hoop. Just as the magical headband in the legend would tighten and cause an unbearable headache, the old man tightened his hold on him in a similar manner to the headband, granting him little freedom. Now that the old monk had passed away, he realized how wrong he had been! Zen Master One Finger was not the Golden Hoop, but the only person who meant anything to him, that very worldly connection that he claimed to be searching for.
He was like a father, a mother, everything!
The realization crushed Fangzheng, and emotions welled up behind his eyes until he could no longer hold back the tide. He knelt in front of Zen Master One Finger's grave and wept. Once he finally returned to the mountain and the memories of old crashed into his soul, he felt the same dam break once more, the tears welled up. He found a corner and stayed there, one day turned to two, two turned to four and eventually, he remained in the corner for an entire week.
The first six days had been because of the raw emotions connected to the loss of his only relative, the small fact that they had not been related by blood was irrelevant. The final day was mostly because of the growing hunger.
Thankfully, civil servants arrived on the seventh day. They had brought him rice and left behind a document. It promoted Fangzheng from acolyte to abbot! Although the temple wasn't ruled by the government nor were any promotions dictated by them, the document still had worth. At the very least, Fangzheng was now the official owner of the temple.
Fangzheng did not plan on continuing as a monk. He wanted to renounce his asceticism and return to the secular world. He wanted to marry and have children. He wanted to live a peaceful life! He did not want to continue struggling against poverty!
When he thought of that, Fangzheng turned his head and looked at the patroness of female fertility, Guan Yin Bodhisattva. He bellowed furiously, "Why? Why do we worship you only to be poor? I'm not worshiping you anymore! I'm done! I'm leaving!"
"Ding!" A crisp sound echoed in Fangzheng's head. He jumped and twisted around surveying the area. "Who is it?"
"Congratulations Host. You have satisfied the requirements of activating the Buddha System by successfully owning a temple. From this moment on, you will enjoy the protection of the heavens and be augmented by the myriad worlds."
"What the heck?" Fangzheng's first thought was that it was a practical joke, but after checking his surroundings he found them empty.
He searched his body and found only his cellphone. It was an older Nokia model. It could handle calls and be used to crush walnuts! It had two melodic tunes and if it did have internet access, it was barely usable. It was truly the most sluggish of phones... The government had once installed an internet line to the mountain, but it had been damaged years ago. Without the Internet, it was impossible for such a gizmo to show its meager use.
As for everything else, it had nothing to do with the modern world, much less anything able to make such a sound.
"Ding! Host, I am the Buddhist System. You are the chosen one of Buddha."
"System? Buddha System?" Fangzheng suddenly realized something as he exclaimed, "A cheat!?"
"You can interpret it in that manner."
"Then, what can you bring me?" Fangzheng asked before he said with a wry smile, "Actually, don't worry about it. I'm a person who is about to return to the secular world. I'm not going to be some Buddha..."
"Riches and women!"
"I think I'll to give it some consideration! After all, I'm an intelligent individual! Old Dad One Finger said so before." Fangzheng hurriedly changed his statement.
"Will not be provided!" the system added with a happy tone.
"Son of a! Are you kidding me? That's it, I'm out!" Fangzheng grabbed his luggage and made for the entrance.
The System's voice sounded once again. "However, I can help you become an abbot, a master that will be respected by thousands of people. You will be able to make One Finger Temple the biggest in this world!"