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Home > The Sage Who Transcended Samsara

3 Looking Up at The Moon

 The cafeteria in the Chores Yard was simple and time-worn. Wooden tables were paired with long benches, and the bluish-white lamps lit up everyone's face.

Until he walked into the cafeteria, Meng Qi didn't know that there were as many as fifty to sixty monks in the Chores Yard. In that respect, altogether there might be more than a thousand monks in Shaolin.

Since everyone wore gray robes, nobody noticed Meng Qi and the other new acolytes. They all sat on benches and waited for the monks that were on duty to carry their food over to them.

"Little brother, sit here." As someone who had a big secret, Meng Qi cherished Zhen Hui's companion in this unfamiliar world. Therefore, thinking from an adult's perspective, he wanted to take care of Zhen Hui, which also helped him to alleviate his fear for all the unfamiliar things around him.

Zhen Hui had a sincere expression and wasn't shy at all. He naturally sat in front of Meng Qi and stared at the food on the nearby tables.

"Did extreme hunger make this kid stupid?"

Meng Qi mumbled to himself. He suspected that there were some problems with Zhen Hui's IQ, because Zhen Hui wouldn't be as dull as he was now otherwise.

The monks on duty finally came to their table with the food basket. When they opened the lid, the fragrance of the food overwhelmed Meng Qi.

"This smells awesome!" Meng Qi couldn't help it but complimented the food. He thought doubtfully,

"are the chefs at Shaolin too professional? Or is it because I'm just too hungry?"

The monks on duty took out the dishes one by one from the food basket, and placed them on the table. The second that Meng Qi recognized what were in the dishes, he was astounded.

"Is...is this meat???"

In the large bowl that was in the center of the table, there was a fat and oily piece of food that looked just like meat.

But we are in a Buddhist temple!

Meng Qi couldn't believe what he saw and decided to try the thing out. However, as he picked up his chopsticks, in less than a second chopsticks were coming from all directions. When Meng Qi realized what has happened, the top layer of the huge meat-like object has already disappeared. It seemed like the Char monks at the table were all highly-skilled at scrambling for food.

Looking at Zhen Hui's mouth, which was filled with oil, Meng Qi confirmed his guess. While still sighing about the fierce competition at the table, he picked up a piece and ate it.

Fat yet not greasy, the piece melted immediately after he put it into his mouth. With such an amazing taste, it must be among the most delicious things in the world!

"But it is definitely f*cking meat!"

Meng Qi felt that only curses could accurately represent his feelings. First, it was to cheer for his tongue and stomach. Second, it was to express how unbelievable reality was.

"Hey, little brother," Meng Qi whispered to Zhen Hui.

Zhen Hui's chopsticks were moving as fast as if they had wings. He didn't stop eating and had an extremely focused expression on his pretty little face. "Huh?"

"This is meat!" Meng Qi felt he had an obligation to remind his little brother not to fall into the trap and break the rules.

Zhen Hui nodded sincerely and said unclearly with food in his mouth, "Yes, it's meat."

"It wasn't a question..."

Meng Qi realized that there were communication barriers between him and Zhen Hui.

At this moment, someone sitting beside them said coldly, "Before enlightenment, we only abstain from acrid food."

"Doesn't that include meat? I thought all monks shouldn't eat meat!" Meng Qi subconsciously rebutted, after which he noticed that the person was his roommate, Zhen Guan.

Zhen Guan continued eating and said sarcastically, "You seem to be from an aristocrat family. I didn't expect you not even to understand what 'acrid' means."

This was like the Achilles's heel for Meng Qi and at the moment he didn't know how to respond. Suddenly, a young, clean-cut monk sitting at the opposite side of the table smiled and started to explain, "Acrid food refers only to food that has a strong flavor, for example, those that contain garlic and green onions. However, in the last hundred years, people commonly see Shaolin as a place abstained from eating meat. It is normal for you not to know about the actual situation."

Meng Qi gratefully nodded to him. The young char monk continued, "Originally, Shaolin only banned the killing of living beings and acrid food. Later on, because of kindness and mercy we gradually abstained from meat as well. However, Shaolin is one of the greatest sects of Kungfu in the world, and Shaolin disciples need to exercise and build up their bodies constantly. Without the help of supplements such as magical herbs and medicines and if we stop eating meat, there would be no ways to cure the damage in our bodies. For this reason, Shaolin Disciplines has said that, before enlightenment, disciples will follow the original Buddhist sayings and only need to abstain from acrid food. However, we must remember that we still cannot kill any living beings."

"So this means that it would be okay if we ask some ordinary people or a farmer down the hill to kill animals for us?"

Meng Qi roughly understood how it worked. As a Buddhist sect that excelled in martial arts, Shaolin must care for the body conditions of disciples that had just joined the sect. Therefore, they decided to go with the original sayings of Buddha and allow for the exception.

Meng Qi had a favorable impression towards this young char monk due to the monk's logical and knowledgeable explanation. He smiled and asked politely, "May I ask for your Dharma name, please?"

"Zhen Yan," the young monk said, while continuously eating.

Meng Qi continued to ask, "My name is Zhen Ding. May I ask what 'enlightenment' means?"

Meng Qi tried to appeal that he, or the body that he was using now, was at a very young age. Therefore it would still be reasonable for him to ask these questions, since as a kid he might not have learned a lot of things from his parents yet.

Zhen Yan laughed and pointed at the wooden table with his left hand. "You will understand eventually. Now, take care of your stomach first."

Meng Qi looked to the direction that he was pointing at. Half of the food was already gone!

"WTF! Why didn't these a*sholes wait for me!"

Meng Qi cursed silently and joined the food-scrambling crew.

...

Finally full, Meng Qi wiped his mouth and walked back to the meditation room with Zhen Hui.

"Sigh, honestly, I would say the food here is below-average. The reason I thought they were really good at the beginning was only because I was way too hungry." Meng Qi burped as he stroked his belly, and started to evaluate the quality of his dinner.

Zhen Hui thought carefully and said, "It was better than anything that I have eaten in the past. But if big brother you think that it's not good, then it must be not good."

"What? You trust me that much?" Meng Qi asked curiously.

Zhen Hui raised his hand, felt his bald head, and answered somewhat embarrassedly, "I think you are a good person. You don't hate me like everyone else does. So I trust you."

An Investigation on the Relationship between Childhood Experiences and Mental Disorders... For some reason, this title popped into Meng Qi's mind.

He was just about to swagger and settle his image as a trustworthy and respectable big brother when Xuan Xin walked towards them with his big, fat belly. "Hey, you two, go clean up the yard. Later I will tell you some Jianghu stories and expand your horizons."

"Jianghu stories?"

Meng Qi's curiosity was triggered. After asking where the brooms were kept, he called on Zhen Hui to go to the Char room with him. The room was in the corner of the yard.

A char monk had to be prepared for random requests that could come at any time. Meng Qi didn't feel irritated about this kind of requests, as long as they were not unreasonable or against him personally. When he was still in school and later at work, it wasn't uncommon for his homeroom teachers and senior managers to assign him to do cleanings or other trivial duties.

Sweep, sweep, sweep. As the brooms brushed across the stone floor, they raised the dust and removed the fallen leaves.

As children whose bodies had not yet fully grown, Meng Qi and Zhen Hui found it difficult to control the brooms smoothly. Nevertheless, because the yard was frequently being cleaned up, it didn't require a lot of work and Meng Qi and Zhen Hui were still able to manage it.

While they were sweeping, Meng Qi suddenly had a weird yet interesting idea. He laughed and mimicked the voice of an old man, "Little brother, don't you think we are like the Shaolin Sweeping Monk [1]?"

"True, we are sweeping." Zhen Hui didn't even raise his head and continued sweeping.

Meng Qi's smile stuck at the corners of his mouth. He sighed and thought,

"so boring that he doesn't understand the meme!"

After stabilizing his mood, Meng Qi cooperated with Zhen Hui and finished cleaning up the yard before the sun went down. As they finished, they saw a group of gray-robe monks carrying benches into the yard. Although the monks came in a clutter, they arranged their benches and sat orderly.

"

Well

this is efficient..."

Meng Qi suspected that maybe Xuan Xin frequently held this kind of lecture.

The sky was completely dark when Xuan Xin slowly walked out from his room. As soon as he appeared, several Char monks greeted him immediately and either settled his bench for him or put the lights on for him, demonstrating perfect enthusiasm.

"Big brother, what are Jianghu stories?" The dull Zhen Hui said seemingly interested in the topic.

"Well, um, it would take a long time to explain, so I'll explain it to you after we listen to Uncle Xuan Xin." Meng Qi didn't want to waste time on teaching Zhen Hui about the "difficult" term. He sat on the bench quietly and waited for Xuan Xin to begin.

Xuan Xin looked around and was satisfied with the curious faces in front of him. He coughed and began. "Today, I will continue to share my experiences in the furious battle in Jiang Zhou City."

"You know, the 'Flying Yaksha' Yan Wuwo and 'Ice Fairy' Ye Yuqi are both renowned names on the local rank board. That battle, as I could recall, was disastrous. At least 100 square miles of ground that surrounded us was soaked with blood, and the entire river was frozen into ice...But as merciful as I was, how could I bear seeing people suffer? So there I was, chanting the name of Buddha, trying to resolve that personal resentment between the two..."

He was extremely immersed in telling the story, yet only half of the Char monks who were listening seemed interested. The other half only showed disdain and contempt.

"Uncle Xuan Xin is so cool!" Zhen Hui apparently became more active while listening to the Jianghu stories, which he had a similar interest in as he had towards food.

The sleepy monk Zhen Ying, who was sitting one row before them, didn't turn back while he said in a voice as inaudible as a mosquito humming, "the 'Flying Yaksha' Yan Wuwo is the master of 'Zombie Fist', which is from a region east of the Yangtze River. The 'Ice Fairy' Ye Yuqi is the sister-in-law of Mr. Lu from Huamei Heights. They are both in the top 30 local ranking, which means that they would be similarly strong compared to the heads of the Dharma Yard and Bodhi Yard."

"The heads of the Dharma and Bodhi Yards... the duty manager of the Chores Yard..."

Meng Qi instantly understood that Xuan Xin was just exaggerating. His exaggerations were somewhat realistic though, because he cunningly positioned himself into significant events that had actually taken place in Jianghu.

"So it turned out that compared to the cold Zhen Guan, the sleepy Zhen Ying was more knowledgeable?"

Zhen Hui continued to compliment retardedly, "I didn't know that Uncle Xuan Xin is so cool!"

He couldn't understand a single bit of what Zhen Ying was trying to convey.

Meng Qi pulled gently at Zhen Hui's sleeves and said in a low voice, "The heads are way stronger than Uncle Xuan Xin."

"But..." Zhen Hui wanted to ask, if Uncle Xuan Xin was not strong, then why would he be able to end the furious battle? However, Meng Qi stopped him and told him to ask after they returned to their rooms, since if Xuan Xin heard their conversation, he might become angry and punish them.

Xuan Xin was too excited and enthusiastic about bragging that he uncontrollably spat around while he talked. After a long, long time, he finally finished the whole "world savior" story. He looked at Meng Qi, Zhen Hui, and the other new acolytes. "Do you have any questions? There is nothing about Jianghu that I don't know about."

Meng Qi hurriedly said, "Uncle Xuan Xin, we know too little about Jianghu and couldn't understand a lot of things that you have talked about."

"Hmm, right. If you couldn't understand, you wouldn't be able to feel how influential and powerful I was." Xuan Xin nodded and cleared his throat, "Let me introduce the basics that you must know about Jianghu. I will begin with the four largest temples of Buddhism."

"Thank you, Uncle Xuan Xin," Meng Qi said happily.

Xuan Xin jauntily began, "Even though there are uncountable Kungfu sects in the world, if you want to know which are the strongest it must be among the lineages of the Four Buddhist Temples, the Three Taoist Sects, the Six Sword Sects, the Six Powerful Societies, the Nine Evil Paths, the 14 Aristocratic Families, and...and the Six Heretic Masters."

He didn't seem sure when he mentioned the Six Heretic Masters, but this didn't hinder him from continuing. "The Four Buddhist Temples include Shaolin, Shui Yue, Jin Gang, and... Lan Ke."

He paused again when it came to Lan Ke, and didn't seem so sure about it. He then angrily shouted, "In fact, I don't understand at all why Lan Ke is among the Four Buddhist Temples. Nobody knows about them, and I heard that their disciples seldom do anything in Jianghu. They don't have any famous stories, nor have they made any significant contributions!"

It was the first time that the other Char monks heard something like this. They all asked curiously, "If this is true, then why is Lan Ke among the Four Buddhist Temples?"

Xuan Xin became proud again. He flaunted, "I heard that when His Abbotship was young, he met a successor of Lan Ke Temple in Jianghu. Later, he gave only a single comment on Lan Ke, and it was 'if it is destined, then the world would be small after all; if it is not destined, then even the shortest distance could be like the distance between two poles.'"

"How rhetoric and mysterious!"

Including Meng Qi, every gray-robe monk was amazed. They all felt confused, curious, and somewhat fearful of Lan Ke.

Seeing that his words had shocked everyone, Xuan Xin laughed with satisfaction. "Back to the topic. Let's first talk about our Shaolin Temple."

"Tens of thousands of years ago, there was a chaotic fight between demons and deities until Buddha arrived and repressed them. However, as a consequence, The Buddha's Palm became lost and nobody could find it. It wasn't until two thousand years ago that Dharma, the originator of Shaolin, coming from the desolated south and crossing the Yangtze River using only a reed, found the third move in The Buddha's Palm. Finding it by coincidence, he brought the supreme Buddhist lineage back to the world."

"Even though there wasn't a syllabus or guideline, the originator Dharma was extremely talented. He meditated for ten years and developed Yi Jin Jing and many other Kungfu from his comprehension of The Buddha's Palm. He used these Kungfu as the basis for establishing Shaolin Temple. Only a hundred years have passed, and Shaolin has already become one of the largest sects in the world. After the hard work and cooperation of many generations of divine monks and masters, we now have as many as 72 different ultimate Kungfu. Also, if we only look at the ones that are at the same level as Yi Jin Jing, we have added True Scripture from Grand Phantasia and Mo-Ke Exorcism Punch to our list of the most precious treasures of the temple. In regards to which divine masters have obtained or created these precious Kungfu, we will talk about it next time."

Demons, deities, True Scripture from Grand Phantasia, and Mo-Ke Exorcism Punch... Meng Qi was completely blown away and started to daydream about them. Maybe the Kungfu in this world was not as simple as he had thought. There were even demons and deities! Of course, it still might just be a myth.

Suddenly, Xuan Xin deliberately coughed and grinned. "Since it is really late now, I will leave the rest of the story to tomorrow."

He stood up quickly and disappeared into his room.

Hey, stop tantalizing people! Meng Qi has just prepared himself to listen to stories about the 72 ultimate Kungfu, Jin Gang Temple, and etcetera. Xuan Xin had left him with an overwhelming level of unfulfilled curiosity.

After cleaning up the yard, Meng Qi and Zhen Hui quietly went back to their meditation room. Zhen Guan and Zhen Ying were already in deep sleep; their breaths were long and relaxed.

The two didn't speak, and silently lied onto their parts of the bed. They were still immersed in the Kungfu world that Xuan Xin had described.

"Little brother, are you willing to be a Char monk forever, and not have the chance to learn Shaolin Kungfu?" Meng Qi whispered, breaking the silence.

Zhen Hui was confused. "Big brother, what do you mean by 'willing'?"

"I mean, are you happy and satisfied, and do not want anything more than what you have now." Again, Meng Qi sensed the communication barrier between them.

Zhen Hui responded with an "Oh". "Now, I can eat, sleep, work, and I can eat until I am full. I can listen to Uncle Xuan Xin's stories. I am willing. It is much better than before."

He then added, "If I can learn The Buddha's Palm, it would be even better."

Meng Qi nearly laughed out loud when he heard this. So was it "willing" or "unwilling"?

He paused for a moment, and when he opened his mouth again, he found that Zhen Hui's breath had already become soft, and Zhen Hui was apparently asleep.

The meditation room returned to complete silence with only the sound of soft breathing, which made the night seem even darker.

The moon outside the window was bright and high in the sky. It sprinkled a layer of silver and white onto the floor beside the bed, just like the winter frost.

Meng Qi looked at the quiet and peaceful view. The various emotions that he had been restraining all suddenly became uncontrollable and filled up his heart. Sorrow, confusion, pity for himself... He also missed his family and his old world.

During the day, he didn't have the time to think about a lot of things, which increased his suffering in such a silent night.

Meng Qi couldn't sleep as he thought about his many "farewells".

It wasn't until now that he fully comprehended the emotions in Li Bai's poem Quiet Night Thoughts.

"I descry bright moonlight in front of my bed.

I suspect it to be hoary frost on the floor.

I watch the bright moon, as I tilt back my head.

I yearn, while stooping, for my homeland more."

Looking up at the moon, Meng Qi couldn't think of anything else.

TL notes: Shaolin Sweeping Monk: Refers to the famous character in novelist Jin Yong's Tian Long Ba Bu (English translation name: Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils). The Shaolin Sweeping Monk was a mysterious no-name old monk whose daily routine was to sweep the floor in Shaolin. However, he was also the strongest person in the novel and possessed the highest level of Kungfu.

Christina28 June, 2018