After passing the Buddhist gate, Li Qiye saw green bricks and white tiles on both sides of the temple. It was full of swaying trees with leaves gently fluttering down. This place was peaceful and quiet, separated from the chaotic mundane realm.
A quiet rustling sound came about with a certain rhythm to it. Wo Longxuan noticed that there was a monk taking his time to sweep away the fallen leaves.
This monk was around twenty years old and had a handsome face. It was apparent that before becoming a monk, he was definitely a lady killer.
“Hai Kuotian—” She was surprised to see this man and murmured: “He, he actually became a Buddhist.”
Of course she recognized this man in front of her. He was once a brilliant genius of the northern sea from the same generation as her. He was definitely incredible, but he disappeared later on.
“This is only training. He has yet to cross over completely. The eighteen temples’ requirement for crossing over is very high. He needs many years of training before he can succeed. Only then would he be considered a real monk, a disciple of Nalanda.” Li Qiye explained.
Wo Longxuan watched the man sweep away the leaves with great shock. She wanted to call out to him because the two of them had met several times before. They could even be considered friends.
The man lifted his head and saw Wo Longxuan and Li Qiye. He only greeted them with a Buddhist gesture before continuing his duty.
After seeing his expression, she knew that he still recognized her. However, he had severed all mundane ties, so even if they were friends in the past, they were only strangers now.
The two continued on. She finally noticed monks meditating on the left and right sides of the pagodas. These meditating monks were completely different from Hai Kuotian. They emitted Buddhist lights while hymns emanating from their bodies. It seemed that their flesh had become that of Buddha. Those with weaker dao hearts would instantly prostrate on the ground before their presence.
“They are different.” She commented after seeing them.
“They could be called high monks with powerful dharma. However, this level of dharma is still only the beginning, it can’t reach the apex.”
“Why do you say that?” She asked curiously.
Li Qiye chuckled and answered: “Look carefully, you will find something interesting about them. It’s just that your intuition is telling you differently, just look again.”
She took a closer look and was astounded. She had to take a step back from disbelief while looking back at Li Qiye to ask: “They, they… are they dead or alive?”
He smiled: “This depends on your definition of what is dead and what is alive.”
The shocked Wo Longxuan exclaimed: “Their blood energy has already withered. With their depleted lifespan and life force, how can they still be living?”
These meditating monks were brimming with a Buddhist radiance and sacred air. However, they had no blood energy, no life.
Even though some ancestors had dried-up blood energies and depleted lifespans, there was still some life force inside them. At the very least, they could still struggle to live for a while longer.
However, these monks had absolutely no life force. In other words, they were dead! Their appearance with their bright holy lights belied their true state.
“How can one become a Buddha without giving up on their bag of skin?” Li Qiye said dismissively.
“Then all the monks under Nalanda are moving corpses? They are all existences without life?” She shuddered at this thought. Although she knew quite a bit about Spirit Mountain, knowing and seeing were two different things.
Li Qiye leisurely said: “Why do people come to the Buddhist Funeral Plateau and Spirit Mountain? Mortals look for a home, but why do cultivators convert themselves as well? Especially those invincible Godkings, they give up everything to join this Spirit Mountain, even starting as a nameless monk. All of this for what?”
“Eternal life, right?” She murmured. She had heard people discuss this topic before.
“Yes, eternal life.” Li Qiye flatly said: “Giving up the physical body to enter the Buddhist faith — this is eternal life. From the very start, the majority of both Godkings and Emperor Candidates would come for eternal life and train in this Buddhist area. Eventually, they were converted and let go of their mundane ways and their fleshly bodies to become real high monks and achieve everlastingness.”
“Eternal life exists in this world?” She spoke with great uncertainty.
Eternal life was a profound and heavy subject. For millions of years, many peerless existences had researched this topic, but no one had heard of a successful attempt.
“This depends on what you want out of eternal life. If, say, you want to keep your blood and flesh, love and emotions, to walk in this world like the rest… this type of eternal life might not be possible.” Li Qiye looked at the horizon and spoke: “At the very least, not right now.”
She looked at the monks sitting next to the pagoda and slowly asked: “Then are the high monks in Spirit Mountain eternal?”
“In a sense, yes.” He nodded: “There is a huge price to pay for eternal life. Letting go of the body and severing mundane ties. From then on, one will drown in the Buddhist sea, no grievances, no hatred, no love… There is nothing except the dharma.”
Having said that, he looked at her and added: “Moreover, everything will turn into smoke the moment they leave the Buddhist Funeral Plateau. Only by staying at this place would they stay eternal.”
“Turning into another person… in other words, this is becoming a puppet.” She couldn’t help but comment. These words sounded disrespectful, but they were the truth.
“These are the enlightened high monks.” Li Qiye smiled and didn’t deny her statement: “All along, eternal life has come at a hefty price. When one’s lifespan is used up, the rest of the world will no longer matter to them. So what if they have to let everything go? They can continue to live. After all, death claims it all anyways.”
Wo Longxuan contemplated for a moment. Even a Godking at the end of his lifespan would have to face the horror of death. He would die and his dao would vanish.
Just like Li Qiye said, everything became nothing upon death. Thus, before that very last moment, why not give everything that was already gone so that one could live on?
At this time, Li Qiye walked outside of the Hall of Great Strength. A high monk shrouded in Buddhist light came out to greet him. His robes seemed to be gilded, making him seem to be transcending into a Buddha. At this level, the physical flesh was no longer worth mentioning. 1
“May I ask where you are from, Sacred Monk?” The high monk quickly placed his palms together after seeing Li Qiye. His Buddhist chant came afterward with a resonating rhythm, giving others the sensation that Buddha was inside everyone.
“Where I am is where Buddha resides, regardless of time and space.” Li Qiye smiled faintly and said: “I am here to debate the ‘Minor-trinal Surangama Sutra’ with Kong Hui.” 2
The high monk placed his palms together and asked: “What is your desire?” The monk knew that Sacred Monk Kong Hui was the person who understood the Minor-trinal Surangama Sutra the best in their temple. He was unmatched in this regard.
“Buddha teaches, myriad laws are void while all living things exist.” Li Qiye smiled and answered: “My desire is my ‘will’, there is no need for more.” 3
“Amitabha, amitabha, you have reached the true meaning of the dharma, please come in.” The monk bowed again and led Li Qiye into the Hall of Great Strength.
Wo Longxuan didn’t go in because she knew Li Qiye’s power from his debates. Right now, when he was about to go against the sacred monk of the Zen Void Temple, his power might be even more terrifying. Thus, she didn’t want to listen due to its great effect on her.
However, she was quite puzzled. Everyone knew that people came to partake in the three trials on Spirit Mountain because they had desires. Otherwise, who would want to come and risk being converted?
However, Chu Yuntian had no desire and only wanted to debate against Kong Hui. Did this mean that this Chu Yuntian was truly obsessed with Buddhism?
After Li Qiye entered the Zen Void Temple, many people watched them from outside. They wanted to see just how strong this nameless person’s dharma was.
“Dum—dum—dum…” At this time, the bell in the temple rang.
“Scripture debate.” After hearing the bell, everyone knew what Li Qiye wanted to do after entering. Someone murmured: “To begin so high, he must truly be a high monk. Debating against the sacred monks in the Zen Void Temple — just what kind of powerful resolution is needed for this?”
Even though the eighteen temples welcomed everyone in the world to come and debate with the victor obtaining what they wanted, very few people were willing to do so in the last millions of years. This was because it was the same as teaching a fish to swim. Which cultivator could out-debate the sacred monks in these temples?
“Om—” A buzzing sound came right after the bells. A Buddhist light covered the sky afterward. From the light emerged three giant Buddhas accompanied by Buddhist recitals as if they wanted to save all living beings.
After hearing the faint chants, many cultivators on the mountain shuddered. They knew a mighty sacred monk had taken action, so they quickly exited the mountain.
For the followers below, they hastily prostrated and bowed their heads while accepting the baptism of the chants.
No one could see the debate within the temple. Even those who could get inside wouldn’t risk the danger. The debate between two sacred monks would easily subdue and convert them into their followers.
1. Hall of Great Strength is the main hall of a Buddhist temple containing the main image of veneration. 2. This is a shortened esoteric phrase that comes from the Diamond Sutra. The latter part means the following: in order to go from one point to another, one would need to travel across space after a period of time. However, Buddha has understood the meaning of the universe; the void is everything and nothing is the void — he is everywhere. From the perspective of myriad existences, both time and space are just concepts and do not actually exist. Thus, time and space don’t matter if he is Buddha. Noted, this is my own interpretation of the text. I am not versed in Buddhism. 3. This is another esoteric term made up of two words. The first letter is: position of existence, everywhere, location, home. The second is: determination, will, temperament. Together, they mean existence of the mind.