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Home > The Monk That Wanted To Renounce Asceticism

1068 Fangzheng Is Vexed as Well

 Upon seeing this, Fangzheng frowned slightly before relaxing again when he came to a realization.

Salted Fish and Red Boy also frowned when they saw the stone incense cauldron.

Salted Fish mumbled. "Reverend, are you sure this is an incense cauldron and not some donkey trough?"

Fangzheng hit him in the back of the head and glared at him. "Have you seen such a beautiful donkey trough before?"

Fangzheng wasn't bragging. Although the incense cauldron looked simple, one could tell that it was a great piece of art that concealed itself in that simplicity. The natural grain it had outlined a Mahavira Hall, with countless Buddhas prostrating towards Buddha Gautama! From another angle, it would show phenomena of blooming lotus flowers or carps bestowing peace. It was truly a rare treasure. The only pity was that it was made from stone. However, when Fangzheng carefully observed it, he was astonished to discover that it wasn't stone! Instead, it was a special kind of porcelain made from burning a certain type of clay. It just looked identical to stone superficially. This also meant that the pictures on it hadn't been formed naturally, but baked into the cauldron using very intricate techniques.

This made it amazing. Fangzheng had never heard of anyone capable of doing that!

Salted Fish didn't feel the pain after being struck. Instead, he continued behaving in his usual style of courting death. "I'm speaking the truth. Although I've seen stone incense cauldrons on Mount Numinous, they were basically all circular! I've never seen a squarish one before... Reverend, were you cheated by someone who got a donkey trough as a replacement?"

Red Boy added. "Master, I've never seen such an incense cauldron either. It's clearly square, but it has three legs. It looks more like a tripod cauldron."

Red Boy's words were more roundabout, so Fangzheng couldn't flare up. He looked at his disciples who wore looks of curiosity before patiently explaining. "That's because you aren't aware. In ancient China, tripod cauldrons were items used to cook food in or for offerings. How can a vessel meant for cooking not have a lid? Therefore, tripod cauldrons all have lids. Furthermore, they are typically made of bronze or metal. Metals are good conductors, so it's easy to heat up food that way."

Salted Fish mumbled. "I get it. The fellow who gave you this tripod cauldron took the lid as commission! Or it wasn't delivered to you properly. Reverend, that's unacceptable. How can someone gift something half-baked?"

Fangzheng couldn't be bothered with him as he continued. "Look again. What is this incense cauldron made out of?"

The animals and Red Boy leaned close. Lone Wolf, Squirrel, and Monkey had little experience with the world, so they naturally failed to notice anything. All they knew was to call it stone.

Red Boy was different. He had grown up among all kinds of Dharmic artifacts and treasures, so he had a rather sharp eye. After taking a look, he yelled, "This is porcelain!"

Fangzheng nodded. "That's right. It's porcelain."

"Master, so what if it's porcelain? What's so special about that?" Squirrel was puzzled. Wasn't size all that mattered for something meant for holding incense sticks? Why bother with the material?

Fangzheng shook his head. "Although Buddhism was spread from India, it has long adapted itself to our local customs after countless years. Many ideals and principles have been deeply influenced by Chinese culture. Many things of the past were abandoned as it fused with Chinese culture. China is particular about circular heavens and squarish land. Hence, incense cauldrons have differences because of the different ways of worship. Just as Salted Fish said, there are more round cauldrons on Mount Numinous, but that's because the Buddhas burn incense not to pray to gods but to the heavens! Mortals also mostly use circular incense cauldrons to consecrate the heavens. Most of these incense cauldrons are made of stone or metal.

"As for a squarish incense cauldron, it's used to consecrate the land, mortals, and all life, so as to shower blessings on them. Such cauldrons are mostly heated from clay, which is porcelain. But the principle behind this needs to be thought of clearly. Our porcelain incense cauldron abides by the principles of China.

"I've often said that we show respect to Buddha, but it's not a flying Buddha or a Buddha sitting on a mountain I think of when I say that, but the Buddha in the hearts of everyone-the innate kind nature of humanity. Therefore, the devotees that come to our monastery to consecrate Buddha would be better described as people coming to see themselves for who they are and to consecrate themselves. As such, it's rather suitable for us to use a squarish incense cauldron.

"As for the three legs of this cauldron, it's a commonly used item in Buddhism. The three legs represent the three treasures of Buddhism. When the cauldron is put in its place, it is supposed to have one front leg and two back legs. That's in accordance with the Dharma, and something to take note of. However, to be honest, I haven't seen a squarish incense cauldron with three legs before. Circular incense cauldrons with three legs are more common.

"Of course, things aren't as particular these days. There's also no need to use such strict categories. Metal, stone engravings, or porcelain can all be used. At the very least, many monasteries are no longer particular about this."

Having said that, Red Boy nodded. "Indeed, in the eyes of others, it's only a way of building on superstition. In the modern era of knowledge overflow, it's all about convenience. You just need to get the idea across."

Salted Fish shook his head when he heard that.

On the other hand, Squirrel wore an adorable, puzzled look. "Efficacy depends on sincerity. I think that there's nothing wrong with it."

Upon hearing this, Fangzheng felt a little disconsolate. He shook his head slightly. "Efficacy does depend on having a sincere mental state when consecrating Buddha, but this is different."

With that said, Fangzheng shook his head and headed for the backyard. His figure appeared rather sad.

Squirrel immediately chased and asked, "Master, why don't you explain further?"

Fangzheng waved his hand and said, "The tradition of culture is embedded in the rituals. When the rituals are simplified or even skipped, what's left behind is just emptiness. Finally, it will be scattered by the wind across the rivers of history, never to be seen again. These particularities might seem like nothing, but they bear the weight of culture. When these are gone, one's culture is also gone.

"Just like how people often say that the Spring Festival is lacking that feeling of a new year. Is that really the case? It's more like the Spring Festival has been marginalized. All the rituals have been simplified and eliminated, leaving only the reunion dinner at the end of the day. Now, in an era when everyone has plenty of food to eat and drink, a reunion dinner can be had at any time, right? When the reunion dinner also loses its attraction, what's left of the Spring Festival?

"In the past, there were decorations with lanterns, firecrackers were released according to the time, and all kinds of festive items were hung up and displayed. There were particularities with what people said when they met each other or with how they spent the entire night awake with the lights on. releasing firecrackers in the middle of the night. An entire family would eat dumplings while children kneeled before their parents to thank them for bringing them up. The parents would hand out red packets, making it a joyous occasion. But now, everything has changed. Everyone has a phone. The Spring Festival Gala is left playing on the television with no one really watching. Dumplings are eaten ahead of time, and people get lazy setting off firecrackers. Everyone sleeps early as a result. And with that, the new year passes without anyone realizing it.

"Rituals are vessels of culture, but when the culture wishes to abandon the rituals, are the rituals ultimately the only thing being abandoned?"Donkey sounds like incense.