Book 30 Chapter 2 – Arriving at the Virtuous to Fight
They bypassed the Hall of Great Strength and headed straight toward the pavilion in the garden where Xu Ziling talked with Shi Feixuan the previous night. Apart from the constantly droning voice of the monks chanting sutra in the Hall of Great Strength behind them, all around was silent with no one in sight, only snowflakes gently and quietly floating down from the sky.
Kou Zhong laughed and said, “I have some kind of feeling, it feels like I become honey, and all those good bees and bad butterflies that smell the aroma are rushing over to have a drop of share.”
The two boys let the snowflakes fell onto their bodies, while their feet did not stop walking toward the Tianwang Dian [king of heaven (palace) hall], which was some distance away opposite to the Hall of Great Strength.
Behind the hall, the pagoda stood tall, with layer upon layer of temple halls around it. The buildings on the left seemed to be the place where the monks slept, while the buildings on the right ought to be the dining hall, the guest room, and so on; the scale was grand.
Xu Ziling shook his head and said with a laugh, “You, this kid, from time to time you come up with some out-of-place metaphors; wild bees and unrestrained butterflies compete for the nectar is only applicable to situation where men chasing women. It’s only because we stirred up trouble on ourselves that others are looking to give us trouble!”
Inside the Tianwang Hall, the object of worship was the big-bellied Maitreya, with soft leather bundle carried on his back; on the left and right were the Four Heavenly Kings [Vajra, guardians/warrior attendants of Buddha], protecting the sky on the east, west, south and north. The workmanship was absolutely exquisite, having both body and soul, vivid and lifelike.
The Four Great Holy Monks were sitting side by side on four putuan [Buddhist praying mat, made of woven cattail] in front of the Buddha altar with their back toward the main door. On the left and right, two sides were Daoxin Dashi and Zhihui Dashi, who had fought against Xu Ziling. In the middle, with a Buddhist staff by his side, was Huayanzong’s Dixin Zunzhe, whom Kou Zhong had seen. The last monk was withered and thin, with swarthy complexion, wearing flimsy grey-colored monk robe. It’s only natural that this was the Sanlunzong’s Jiaxing Dashi, whose Ku Chan Xuan Gong was praised by Zhu Yuyan as the top in the world [see Book 29 Chapter 12].
The four monks sat silently as if the hall had four more Bodhisattva statues, but looking at them, there was not the slightest bit of abrupt, out-of-place feeling, as if they have melted into the vast, empty space of the temple hall.
A lit sweet-scenting incense stick was inserted into the center of a three-legged stove, emitting incense fragrant permeating the entire Buddhist hall.
Kou Zhong was not intimidated by this kind of oppressively divine atmosphere. Taking a step forward, he laughed aloud and said, “Wishing four Dashi’s holy-selves peace and propitious; Kou Zhong, Xu Ziling, two kids have come with specific purpose in mind to pay our respect.”
The four monks called on one of the many names of Buddha in chorus.
The four monks had different voices, the intonation was also different; Daoxin’s was clear and soft, Zhihui’s was bright and high, Dixin’s vigorous, Jiaxiang’s deep and hoarse. But the four men’s voices put together, it was like evening drum, morning bell, reverberating across the temple hall, able to rouse the grand dreams [orig. great dream of spring and autumn] that were lost in the depth of the mortal world’s sea of bitterness, to raise the awareness that life is just a spring dream [or short-lived illusion]!
A peculiar feeling rose up in Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling’s heart.
Jiaxiang Dashi spoke with his deep and hoarse voice, but every word was distinct, powerful and resonating [lit. if thrown on the floor, it will make a sound], “Two Shizhu are indeed trustworthy men; if you could cease using the weapons of war, there will be no end to virtuous achievements.”
Smiling slightly, Kou Zhong spoke calmly, “Dashi is willing to personally give directions, it is hard to come by; how could I, Kou Zhong, be willing to miss this one in a thousand years golden opportunity? I wonder how we can be regarded as passing this four Dashi’s test?”
Daoxin Dashi laughed aloud and said, “The big street has no door, emptiness absolutely has a road. As long as two Shizhu can return to where you came from, in the future whatever two gentlemen love to do, we will absolutely not interfere.”
Listening to this, the two ‘you look at me I glance at you’.
Daoxin’s words implied mysterious principles. ‘No door’ could refer to the Tianwang Hall’s main door, but it could also refer to the monastery main gate of the outer courtyard. Naturally there was a great difference between the two distances.
Until this moment, the four monks were still sitting with their back facing them. Outside the hall, the wind and the snow filled the air, making the atmosphere even more mysterious. Xu Ziling felt that they have fallen into the disadvantageous position; asking was not right, but not asking was not an option either. Secretly performing the Great Vajra Chakra Image, he shouted the incantation with deep voice, “Lin!”
On the surface, the four monks seemed to be unmoved at all, but the two boys’ eyesight was formidable, they both sensed that the hair on the back of the monks’ neck was standing on its end. Evidently they were moved by Xu Ziling’s incantation, which contained the highest xinfa in the Buddhist school.
It was indeed using someone’s spear to attack his shield [idiom: turning a weapon against its owner; attributed to Han Feizi].
Dixin Zunzhe’s vigorous and bright voice said, “Shanzai! Shanzai! Unexpectedly Xu Shizhu is proficient in incantation method; it is indeed beyond Laona’s expectation. Incantation is already spoken out, green hills and clear waters, everywhere is distinct; I wonder where this method came from, I beg you to bestow the revelation.”
After Xu Ziling released the incantation, the originally extremely dense, fantastic-pressure-to-the-spirit-and-the-atmosphere was broken and scattered that it disappeared without any trace. The mystery and strangeness within it were absolutely difficult for anybody who was not subjected to it to understand.
Remaining tranquil and calm, Xu Ziling laughed, before speaking slowly, “This was passed on to this kid by Zhenyan Dashi during a game before he entered extinction.” [See Book 25 Chapter 3 and 4.]
Zhihui Dashi called on one of the many names of Buddha in low voice; he spoke softly, “Confused heart is turned by the sutra, understanding heart is turning the sutra. Turns out Xu Shizhu has already obtained the Zhen Yan Zhuan [true statement/incantation that is being passed on], the Buddhist secret method that has roamed the Buddhist temples all around the world; no wonder last night we were unable to move you.”
Jiaxiang Dashi suddenly said, “Two Shizhu may make your move!”
Stunned, Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling looked at each other. The four monks remained serene and stayed where they were, with their backs still facing them. In the solemn atmosphere of the Buddhist Hall, combined with their like-deep-pool-or-high-mountain calm, enigmatic concealed movement, there was a burst of austere, inviolable momentum that made them unable to make their move.
Moreover, the four monks have become one entity, with the lofty quality of suppressing-the-opponent-before-having-a-fight; perfectly faultless, no gap could be found.
Making a move toward such a ‘Buddhist formation’, no matter how conceited and how full of confidence the two boys were, they still have a moth-throwing-itself-to-the-fire, digging-one’s-own-grave fear.
Should they just turn around and leave? If they did, it would be even more stupid and cowardly, plus it would be a big contradiction to Kou Zhong’s previous full-of-himself remark.
Their qi empty and their momentum weak, they would not be able to withstand a single blow.
All of a sudden they understood. Jiaxiang Dashi lightly launched this move and reestablished their stable upper hand position, it was to force the two into the ‘cannot’, to retreat into the ‘must not’ – inferior position.
Kou Zhong let out a long laugh, shaking up the main hall.
‘Knock! Knock! Knock! Knock!’
Just as his laughter started, Jiaxiang Dashi tapped the wooden fish in front of him. It was so natural, yet it sounded so inharmonious with Kou Zhong’s big laughter.
Kou Zhong found out that it was very difficult to ‘let go’ of his free, coming-from-his-bosom laughter; suddenly he stopped laughing.
The wooden fish stopped at the exact same time. It was weird to the extreme.
Overwhelmed with shock, Kou Zhong said, “Dashi is really formidable. Was that some kind of wooden fish incantation?”
Daoxin laughed aloud and said, “Little Kou Zhong shows real feeling, real character; no artificial and empty ornament, letting out your true nature. It’s rare! It’s rare!”
Kou Zhong drew the Moon in the Well on his back. With another long laughter he sent a saber hack.
Simultaneously the four monks were emotionally moved.
‘Superb!’ Xu Ziling cried inwardly; this was the only supreme, marvelous way to ‘break the formation’.
This ‘saber strike’ really did not strike any of the four monks; rather, it chopped the empty space about a zhang behind the four monks. But the qi power brought by dropping saber blade pulled and rolled the four monks within it.
It should be noted that just now the two boys could neither attack nor defend, there was neither gap nor flaw that they could exploit. Furthermore, with Kou Zhong’s laughter broken, they were forced into the disadvantageous position. Without any means of dealing with it, their situation was more like the downslide of Yangtze and Yellow Rivers. But by suddenly sending out this saber strike, Kou Zhong has reversed the whole situation. As soon as the four monks applied their power to resist, because the momentum was in equilibrium, it was as if Kou Zhong had broken their no-attack-no-defense, no-crack-could-be-found position.
While the momentum was drawn and multiplied, Kou Zhong could also exchange the passive for the initiative, replacing the ‘Chess Abundant’ with other formidable move from the ‘Eight Methods of the Well’. At that time, advancing they could attack, retreating they could defend, unlike before, where they were in the disadvantageous unable-to-move-a-single-step position.
Dixin Zunzhe called one of the many names of Buddha in loud voice; nobody knew when, but the Buddhist staff was already in his hands, while at the same time he turned it over to sweep at Kou Zhong, even before Kou Zhong leaped up to the air.
“Good!” Kou Zhong cried out; he activated the positive and negative qi within his body while retreated swiftly backward.
Xu Ziling followed him flashing backward, while secretly performed the Great Vajra Chakra Image. Sending out a punch, it hit the head of the staff.
The two boys’ shifting-shadow, exchanging-position was like flying bird in secluded forest, jumping fish in bluish green mountain stream; all were completely natural, leaving absolutely no trace.
The emphasis of Dixin Zunzhe’s Da Yuan Man Zhang Fa [see Book 29 Chapter 12] was the perfect freedom of ‘being the master [or being in charge] everywhere, establishing the truth in all cases’ realm, coming around from nothingness, returning toward nowhere. No matter how tight the opponent’s defense was, his Great Full Circle [or perfect] Staff could still move like a stream flowing through the dense bamboo forest.
At the beginning he estimated that Kou Zhong could only use the saber to block; in which case he would unleash his staff technique, no-hole-not-entered, no-crack-not-penetrated, attacking like mercury flowing out swiftly – to completely decimated Kou Zhong’s fighting spirit and confidence. Who would have thought that instead of advancing, Kou Zhong was retreating, and in his place Xu Ziling, using highly-skilled-appearing-as-clumsy astonishing technique, sent out a punch just before his staff technique changed, shaking the tip of the staff.
Even with Dixin Zunzhe’s Zen heart, which had been cultivated for many years, he could not help feeling a surge.
Inwardly, Daoxin, Zhihui, two men, were trembling. They knew that after last night’s battle, Xu Ziling has made another breakthrough.
‘Tschok!’ There was a noise like dead trees striking each other. Xu Ziling felt that the internal power within Dixin Zunzhe’s Great Full Circle Staff was deep, pure and harmonious, like a deep pool, a creek, or river valley flowing down swiftly from the summit of a mountain; vast, empty and boundless, so that if he used true qi to forcefully attacking in, it would be just like throwing a small stone into that kind of boundless space, at most it would only produce an echo.
Considering what he knew, naturally he could not repeat last night’s vain attempt in borrowing forces. Secretly performing his image skill, he deflected the opponent’s staff power sideways.
With eyes looking down, Dixin Zunzhe shouted, “Xu Shizhu is indeed brilliant.” While speaking, his Buddhist staff moved slightly following the push, but then suddenly exploded into staff shadows filling the whole sky, attacking Xu Ziling.
It was as if Xu Ziling already anticipated this move; fast as lightning he moved across, while Kou Zhong, who had been hunching his back over in wait with store-up momentum shot up with the ‘Sudden Strike’ move. The Moon in the Well turned into yellow light, it charged directly into depth of howling-rain-and-torrential-storm-like staff shadows.
‘Dang!’ The staff shadows dispersed.
Dixin Zunzhe stood still, holding the pole of the staff. But Kou Zhong struck a posture ten paces away, holding the saber across his chest. The spirited light in his eyes flashing, with the sweeping-three-armies impression. The two combatants stood in opposition, forcing their momentum on each other. Immediately the hall was filled with qi power, cold air permeated the air.
Daoxin, Zhihui, and Jiaxiang called one of the names of Buddha in chorus. Suddenly they separately moved to the corners of the Hall, so that the three were surrounded in the middle.
This time Jiaxiang Dashi stood up. Compared to Xu, Kou, two boys, he was still three or four cun taller; thin like withered bamboo, his face long and narrow, his pair of eyes looked half-open, half-closed, he held the wooden fish on his left hand and the wooden mallet in his right hand. There was some kind of indescribable holy-monk-who-had-attained-the-Way aura around him.
Zhihui spoke in low voice, “Two Shizhu are more brilliant than we imagined. Pinseng is full of admiration.”
To be able to force these four men to decide to act together was indeed a great pride.
A hint of smile escaped from the corner of Dixin Zunzhe’s mouth. “Kou Shizhu’s saber strike already attained the essence of the Saber Way,” he spoke softly, “Millions of changes are contained within no-change, forcing Laona to abandon changes as well in place of one: changing defense to offense. In the world, other than the ‘Heavenly Saber’ Song Que, I am afraid no one else is able to produce such a saber strike.”
Only this moment did Kou Zhong’s right hand, which was holding the saber, recover from the numb and painful feeling. Thinking about how he was able to exchange a stake-it-all move with this Buddhist school’s Buddha-immortal level figure without vomiting blood and sustain injuries, immediately his confidence soared. Laughing calmly, he said, “Fortunately, today is not a battle for our lives against all Dashi. How about we make an agreement? If by the time the incense stick is gone and we are still unable to leave this Hall, just consider us lost. What do you think?”
Daoxin laughed aloud and said, “Little Kou Zhong has fast movement and fast tongue. Very well, it’s a deal. Otherwise, we, these four old fellows, might appear too narrow-minded!”
Kou Zhong let out a long whistle; his bearing majestic, extremely overbearing, he spoke coldly, “I am afraid there will be half a sichen before this incense stick is burned. This kid will take this golden opportunity to ask advice of Zunzhe’s brilliance. However, all Dashi ought to consider that this kid might absent-mindedly slip away at any moment.” Finished speaking, he took three steps forward.
Dixin Zunzhe’s pair of eyes suddenly opened, the spirited light within flared out. In the ordinary people’s eyes, Kou Zhong appeared to use footwork to make his steps seemed indeterminate, and the angle of his saber hard to fathom even more. But of course, Dixin Zunzhe was not an ordinary man; in just one glance he could see through that Kou Zhong was utilizing the steps to excite the fantastic true qi within his body, so that when he unleashed the saber, it would be swiftly moving and even more difficult to block. Furthermore, it would definitely come with ten-thousand-junthunderbolt, fierce-power-shaking-the-world momentum.
Even with Dixin Zunzhe’s self-confidence, he could never let Kou Zhong stored up momentum and sent out a saber strike will all his strength. Moving the Buddhist staff swiftly, he swept across Kou Zhong.
Who would have thought that Kou Zhong unexpectedly laughed aloud and said, “Zunzhe fell into my trap!” At the same moment he took the fourth step.
Everybody present, including Xu Ziling, felt that this last step of Kou Zhong really contained universally-shocking profound mystery; it appeared to be only one step, but it shrank the distance so that he was only one cun outside Dixin Zunzhe’s staff momentum.
Subjected to his previous three steps, the latter was dazzled and momentarily let the fierce-and-severe-without-equal staff slipped through, so that not the slightest threat reached the opponent, who was more than two jiazi younger than he was. [With one jiazi equal to 60 years, I find it hard to believe that Dixin was more than 120 years older than Kou Zhong.]
Xu Ziling also gasped in amazement. It was not that he had not experienced the fantastic footwork that Kou Zhong learned from Song Que; he simply had never imagined that Kou Zhong would be able to go completely beyond natural in combining it with his other effective footwork and used it out. He first lured the opponent to make his move, and then when the opponent was caught off guard, he suddenly unleashed it. The most hard-to-come-by was that it was completely without warning.
‘Swish! Swish! Swish!’ Three saber strikes in succession chopped down, the qi power grew without restraint, enveloping Dixin Zunzhe inside it. They saw the Moon in the Well turned into lightning-like yellow light. Each saber strike hacked from unexpected angle into staff shadow, which was as solid as the wall or a mountain. Each saber strike sealed any changes Dixin Zunzhe was about to make, so that this very able person from Buddhist school was incapable to unleash the Great Full Circle Staff Technique at full strength.
If Xu Ziling felt that the shocking fact was hard-to-believe to his own eyes, naturally the other three monks did not need to be mentioned.
‘Dang! Dang! Dang!’
Kou Zhong pulled back his saber and retreated to Xu Ziling’s side. Stroking the blade of his saber, he called out, “Delighted! Delighted! I am indeed delighted!”
Dixin Zunzhe saluted with one palm; he sighed and said, “Kou Shizhu is indeed an amazing talent in the martial art study of the present age; Laona is full of admiration.”
Daoxin Dashi interjected, “In my opinion, we really do not need to waste time by continuing this battle, simply because if the four of us, old baldheads make our move together, it will be difficult for little Kou Zhong’s momentum to use this kind of marvelous technique to make Zunzhe to have the power but difficult to unleash; if anybody is injured, we all will feel uncomfortable.”
This remark was tantamount to saying that because Kou Zhong was too formidable, even Daoxin himself had no confidence that he would be able to subdue Kou Zhong without using any killer move.
Kou Zhong lightly elbowed Xu Ziling, while smiling and said, “Ling Shao, what do you think?”
Xu Ziling elegantly shrugged his shoulders and calmly said, “What opinion do I have? It’s up to you, this kid!”
None of the four monks did not exclaim in admiration inwardly. Just by looking at how the two boys, under the monks’ tremendous power, were still able to be this relaxed, comfortable and leisurely in talking and joking about deploying their troops, it was obvious that they had obtained the hidden elegant demeanor of people with remarkable attainments in the martial art study; something that ordinary martial art master would not be able to achieve.
Kou Zhong let out a burst of long laugh, filled with enormous confidence; shaking his head, he said, “Daoxin Dashi is mistaken! If it were only me, Kou Zhong, one kid, this moment I would have abandoned my saber and admit defeat. But Kou Zhong plus Xu Ziling, plus our goal is just leaving from the temple hall’s door, it is a different matter altogether.”
Kou Zhong and Xu Ziling both felt a chilling-the-heart, failing-the-guts pounding; this time it came from Jiaxiang Dashi striking his wooden fish. It was like a strange force penetrating the wall and passing through the rampart, and went straight into the depths of their spirit.
Suddenly, Jiaxiang Dashi, who was revered as the chief of the four monks – moved right in front of the two boys. Dixin Zunzhe withdrew to the back, forming a triangle with Daoxin and Zhihui, who were guarding the left and right corners near the door, and thus the two boys were surrounded right in the middle.
Jiaxiang’s withered and dark, long face did not reveal the slightest amount of mood fluctuation; the wooden fish was already hidden inside his cassock, his withered hands came out from within the wide sleeves of his grey robe, his right hand was upright, his left hand flat with the palm facing down. He spoke apathetically, “The two Shizhu are defeated today because of excessive confidence. The four of us have not fought hand to hand with anybody for nearly twenty years, it’s hard to raise the intention to fight. But given a certain amount of time, to have two gentlemen remain in this hall ought to be manageable, albeit with difficulties. Because of our concerns over the common people of the world, please forgive Pinseng for committing this offense.”
Kou Zhong stood upright with the saber in his hand; he pointed to Jiaxiang from a distance, while sending out wave after wave of energy to withstand Jiaxiang’s terrifying-the-soul-and-frightening-the-heart’s momentum. He responded in loud and clear voice, “It’s not that we have excessive confidence; rather, we dare to face challenge in order to establish a clear-cut goal. The reason that I, Kou Zhong, am unwilling to abandon the saber and admit defeat is also for the sake of the common people of the world. Only because of different positions that there exist a diametrically opposing argument between you and I, two sides.”
Daoxin laughed aloud and said, “Fresh and green bamboo is full of Tathata [from dictionary: the ultimate inexpressible nature of all things], dense yellow flowers not without Prajna [wisdom; from dictionary: direct insight into the truth taught by the Buddha, as a faculty required to attain enlightenment]. Little Kou Zhong, do you understand?”
Smiling ruefully, Kou Zhong replied, “What is Tathata? What is Prajna? This is the first time I hear about those terms; how could I understand?”
Zhihui Dashi put his palms together, with a string of sandalwood Buddhist beads hanging down; guiding patiently and systematically, he said, “Tathata refers to the eternal, unchanging truth contained within objects; Prajna refers to the wisdom to become a Buddha. Does Shizhu understand?”
Kou Zhong cast a glance toward Xu Ziling, who was standing by his side with hands hung down; laughing, he said, “Xiao Ling has more Buddha nature than me; why don’t you ask him?”
Laughing involuntarily, Xu Ziling said, “Whether all mundane objects conceal Buddha nature or not, bluish green bamboo and yellow flowers are just one of the objects, naturally they have Buddha’s truth and wisdom within them. But this kid still does not understand, what does it have to do with Kou Zhong’s remark about different positions will also result in different arguments?”
Daoxin cheerfully said, “Moving by following karma, being by responding to intention. We are moving by following karma, while two Shizhu are not. Karma rises, karma ended, cause and effect multiplied. As a result we have the meeting before our eyes this moment. Although Shizhu can understand self, you cannot understand the present. The degree of loss is a fork in the road. How about putting down nature, the body does not live?”
Kou Zhong shook the long saber in his hand, creating a burst of buzzing noise; he calmly said, “Thank you very much for the enlightenment, so that today disciples learned a lot of principles that I have previously never thought about. Four Dashi, please bestow instruction again.”