Chapter 2: Buddhism
Translator: Christina Editor: Rundi
Meng Qi’s secret happiness turned into embarrassment. Zhen De and the other acolytes looked at him with astonishment and contempt, which reminded him of typical elementary school students who always wanted to draw a line between themselves and bad kids. The only exception was Zhen Hui “Fang Aqi”, who stared at the golden figure of Buddha in front of him, and it was obvious that his mind was elsewhere.
Subconsciously, Meng Qi turned his head to Xuan Zang who was standing next to him. “Did he feel anything weird?”
For Meng Qi, being embarrassed in front of everyone wasn’t a big deal, but if he exposed his true identity, which was a “zombie”, it would be a big, big deal.
Xuan Zang still had the dispirited face that he has always had. Seeing that Meng Qi was staring at him, he slightly shook his head. “Namo Amitābha. What have been decided by Brother Xuan Ku is already decided,” he didn’t imply but said it aloud.
“Ugh, so he thought I was begging for help…” Meng Qi was relieved because he knew Xuan Zang didn’t discover anything that he wasn’t supposed to discover. Therefore, unless the parents of the body or the horse-faced man showed up again, he might be able to keep his secret forever. Then after a few years nobody would suspect him ever again, since it wouldn’t be strange for anyone to forget childhood memories.
“Compared to this, being banished into the Chores Yard was just a minor issue!”
Meng Qi tried to look as absent-minded as Zhen Hui so that Xuan Zang wouldn’t notice that he wasn’t really disappointed or sad.
After the wide-faced Xuan Ku finished inquiring all the children, the result was that including Meng Qi and Zhen Hui, six children were being sent to the Chores Yard. All the other children became members of the Warrior-monk Yard.
Gently tapping his left palm with the discipline ruler, Xuan Ku said, “Follow me to the Sundries Yard for tonsure, and to pick up your robes and Buddhist textbooks. From now on, if you continue to work extremely hard, you still have the chance to join the Bodhi or Dharma Yard to learn advanced sutras and Kungfu.”
“So there’s Dharma here too?” Meng Qi was stupefied for a second, but Xuan Ku didn’t give him any time to think and walked passed all the children, towards the outside.
Being surrounded by strangers, Meng Qi didn’t dare to ask too many questions. He followed the two yellow-robed monks, Xuan Ku and Xuan Zang, and walked into a nearby yard.
“You are not officially joining Shaolin yet, so you only have to pray to Buddha. Have your tonsure done and leave your names,” Xuan Ku told them as he pointed to the hassock inside the prayer room.
“Yes, Uncle Xuan Ku,” the children followed Zhen De’s example and answered. They kneeled on the hassock one by one and kowtowed to the golden Buddha above them.
After all the children finished their prayers, Xuan Ku put his palms together devoutly and saluted solemnly to the Buddha figure. Chanting “Namo Amitābha”, he walked towards one of the children and put his right hand gently on the child’s head.
Immediately, the child’s long, black hair turned yellow, withered, and fell to the ground like autumn leaves. Less than the time it took to take two breaths; the child became a real acolyte.
“Wish your worries fade completely and secularity stays away from you,” Xuan Ku said solemnly, and his deep voice echoed in the peaceful and quiet prayer room.
“What kind of Kungfu is this? Unbelievable!” Meng Qi was stunned and excited.“Will I have the chance to learn this sort of Kungfu too?”
Xuan Ku tonsured all the children and repeated the same words again and again.
When it was Meng Qi’s turn, he lowered his head and silently chanted the names of Buddha and Lao Tzu, while grieving over the hair that will soon leave him forever.
Xuan Ku’s thick and large hands softly touched Meng Qi’s head, and his hair fell one by one right in front of him. This broke his heart because he had always loved secularity and never even thought of the idea of becoming a monk.
“Wish your worries fade completely and secularity stays away from you,”
Xuan Ku’s voice, which was like a sudden chime of the temple bell, made Meng Qi quiver. The second after, he felt that his soul was clean and clear.
However, when Xuan Ku left, the “clean” and “clear” feeling that Meng Qi felt faded away as well.
With that Meng Qi’s firm belief came back to him, “I’m going back to secularity at some point in the future!”
After praying to Buddha, tonsuring, and recording their names, the children followed a few gray-robed monks to the backyard and picked up their belongings- two sets of gray robes, two pairs of shoes and socks, and two textbooks, Shaolin Disciplines, and 12 Chants of Dawn.
“When you finish learning, reading, and writing in the Sutras Yard, you will be able to recite the disciplines and chants. Before that, I will tell you the basic disciplines. First, you must not deceive or disrespect your teachers and predecessors. Second, if you don’t have the permission to learn Kungfu, you must not try to learn them sneakily. Third, you must not kill any living beings. Fourth, you must abstain from alcohol. Fifth, you must abstain from meat. Sixth, you must abstain from lust…” Xuan Ku repeated the major disciplines that needed to be followed, and in the end he said in a very serious tone, “For anyone that breaks these rules, a light punishment will be scolding, while the most severe punishment could be the deprivation of you learning kungfu and expulsion from Shaolin.”
He only mentioned two of the possible punishments, which were respectively the lightest and the most severe. Other punishment could include hard labor, hand-writing the entire sutra, being hit by clubs, and standing facing the wall without moving for hours while reflecting on your mistakes.
After explaining these disciplines, Xuan Ku and Xuan Zang led the acolytes and left the Sundries Yard.
“In Shaolin Temple, monks who wear gray robes are ordinary monks, those who wear yellow robes are the manager monks of different yards, and those who wear yellow robes and red cassocks are the His Abbotship, the head of the yards, and the elders…” On their way, Xuan Ku didn’t take a break and continued to educate the acolytes about the “common sense” in the temple. He only stopped talking and went silent when Zhen De and his fellow yard-mates entered the Warrior-monk Yard.
As they walked, Meng Qi noticed that they obviously were walking further and further away from the center of the temple. Green trees surrounded the yellow-painted walls, and he could seldom see a prayer room. After a long time, Meng Qi finally saw an extremely mottled and timeworn yard.
“Oh my, Brother Xuan Ku, Brother Xuan Zang, you came so early!” A fat monk standing in front of the gate walked towards them with a large smile on his face. He also wore a yellow robe, but his collar was open and untidy, and his big fat belly stood out and grabbed a lot of attention.
Xuan Ku frowned, and put his palms together solemnly. “Namo Amitābha. Brother Xuan Xin, how could you be so lazy?”
The fat monk Xuan Xin seemed to have become used to Xuan Ku’s temper since a long time ago. He wasn’t angry at all. “Ah, you are too obsessed with looks. Are these the students for our Chores Yard?” He didn’t want to argue with Xuan Ku about his looks, so he pointed at Meng Qi and the other children and asked.
“Please arrange them as you like, Brother Xuan Xin,” Xuan Ku answered seriously.
At this moment, the silent Xuan Zang suddenly opened his mouth, “Are Zhen Ying and Zhen Guan still in the Chores Yard?”
“They are, they are!” the fat monk said confusedly. “Brother Xuan Zang, why are you asking about them? You aren’t planning to accept them as your students, are you?”
Xuan Zang shook his head and sighed. “The kungfu build-up in my body is already broken. How can I accept new students? I don’t want to mislead anyone. Brother Xuan Xin, could you please lead these two to the same room with Zhen Ying and Zhen Guan?”
He was pointing directly at Meng Qi and Zhen Hui.
Meng Qi’s heart beated fiercely. This was the first time Xuan Zang stepped in and made a decision for him. Was it because Zhen Ying and Zhen Guan had something special about them, and could they possibly help him out?
“Haha, you don’t have to be so polite to me for me do you a favor, Brother Xuan Zang. This is a piece of cake!” Xuan Xin agreed without hesitation.
Xuan Ku gave Xuan Zang a glance, but didn’t say anything about it. Rather, he said seriously to Meng Qi, Zhen Hui, and the other acolytes, “The reason I assigned you to the Chores Yard was that each of you have your own problems. If you can solve them by yourselves, and cultivate your temperament through the process, then you may have the chance to join the Warrior-monk Yard, the Dharma Yard, or even the Bodhi Yard.”
“However, if you continue to rely on trickery and if you continue to be lazy and unwilling to strive, or if you cannot calm down your temperament and are not willing to endure hardship, then I am not going to hide it for you. I will notify the Commandment Yard to give you your deserved punishments.”
He didn’t hide his thoughts at all and said them aloud to show that he was completely candid and honest. This made Xuan Xin, who was standing on the side, a little bit embarrassed.
“Yes, Uncle Xuan Ku,” the acolytes all answered together.
After watching Xuan Ku and Xuan Zang leave, Xuan Xin stretched his body and his fat shook up and down with his movement. “Finally they are gone! It’s always the scariest thing to see that iron-faced devil.”
“This guy…” Meng Qi pretended to look steadily forward, and followed the waggling Xuan Xin into the meditation room.
“Zhen Ying, Zhen Guan, these are your fellow junior apprentices Zhen Ding and Zhen Hui.” Xuan Xin pointed at Meng Qi and Zhen Hui and then left the room with the other acolytes.
Inside the meditation room, there was a large bed that could fit around seven to eight people, and it was also the only thing in the room.
On the bed, there were two gray-robe monks, one sitting and one lying down. They were both around the age of 20. The monk that was lying on the bed had a dull expression and stared blankly into space without saying anything. While the monk that was sitting on the bed said icily with a deep frown on his face, “You can put your luggage under the bed. If you want water, go to the water tank in the yard and get it yourself.”
“Hi, may I have your name please?” Glancing at the dull Zhen Hui, Meng Qi decided that he should rely on himself to establish a good relationship with his roommates.
The person answered coldly, “Zhen Guan.”
After giving the short answer, he didn’t speak again. Nor did he give Meng Qi and Zhen Hui another look. Meng Qi felt frustrated that the numerous topics he had thought about, which were to help him establish a closer relationship with his roommates, were now useless.
On the other hand, Zhen Ying closed his eyes and continued to sleep.
“What kind of people are these!” Meng Qi complained silently, but he put on a fake smile and said to Zhen Hui, “Brother Zhen Hui, I am Zhen Ding. From now on you can call me big brother.”
“Ok, big brother.” Zhen Hui didn’t find it difficult to say at all.
“This dull little guy is the best!” Meng Qi thought, feeling much better now. He decided to behave like a big brother and help Zhen Hui. “Little brother, yes I will just call you little brother. Come on, let’s put on our monk clothes first.”
Even though there were other people in the room, Meng Qi didn’t feel uncomfortable because when he was in the university dorm, he always wore nothing other than his underwear to enjoy the coolness. He quickly removed his clothes and put on his monk garments.
On one hand, he thankfully appreciated the ease it took to put on the garments, which helped him to avoid seeming ridiculous. On the other hand, he started to check the clothes that he originally had been wearing.
The clothes were of delicate workmanship and had soft textures. Even though Meng Qi didn’t know much about clothes, he knew that these clothes must be worth a lot. In addition to the expensive clothes, he also had a jade pendant on his waist, and a small jade Buddha pendant on his neck that clung to his chest. The jade was cool and made him feel very comfortable.
Meng Qi carefully observed the thumb-sized jade Buddha. It had a face that was full of mercy and benevolence, and looked like as if it was a real person. Apparently, it was also of extraordinary workmanship. Furthermore, its surface was fine and smooth and it made Meng Qi’s hand felt gentle and cool.
“According to the horse-faced man, this pendant was given by a no-name old monk to me as a gift. Since the duke or whoever that was didn’t take it away from me, it might not be just an ordinary pendant. I’d better carry it with me wherever I go.”Putting the jade Buddha back around his neck, Meng Qi hid it inside his clothes. Then he packed up his original clothes and the pendant he had on his waist, and put it under the part of the large bed that he had chosen to sleep on.
Suddenly, the seemingly asleep Zhen Ying abruptly sat up, quickly put on his shoes, and ran out the door. Meng Qi was a little shocked by his actions and didn’t know what had happened.
“It’s dinner time,” Zhen Guan said coldly and walked out as well.
“What kind of people are these!” Meng Qi complained again. He turned to Zhen Hui and said, “Little brother, are you ready? It’s dinner time!”
“Yes, I’m ready!” The second Zhen Hui dropped those words, he ran to the door like a rabbit. It seemed like he couldn’t endure his hunger anymore.
“…” Meng Qi was speechless. Maybe he was the only normal person here.
Zhen Hui stopped by the door, turned around and asked Meng Qi with a face full of confusion, “Big brother, aren’t you coming?”
“At least you have some sort of conscience and know that you should wait for me!”Meng Qi thought to himself. He answered somewhat jokingly, “Well, I am not as hungry as you guys are.”
“Look at you. All of you are like reincarnation of devils that had starved to death in your previous lives!”
Zhen Hui was no longer confused and nodded earnestly, “Ok, big brother. I will go first then.”
He whipped around and rushed towards the cafeteria.
“Hey! I was just joking! You didn’t need to take it seriously…” Meng Qi was shocked with his mouth hanging half-open.
It took him a few seconds to react and after which, he shouted, “Hey! Little brother! Wait for me!”
Suddenly, a burst of sadness overwhelmed him. “In other time-travel stories, people always had little sisters. Why do I only have a little brother? And it’s also foreseeable that in the future I won’t have any little sisters either…”