Now, this old fox spirit had spent a lot of time visiting with the Celestial Fox so of course she could discuss Heaven's books, and the Puxian Bodhisattva was also part of the supernatural world she knew so well. Old Zhang was now truly alarmed.
"The Puxian Bodhisattva is a reincarnation of Guanyin, Goddess of Mercy," he shouted, "just how could you actually get to see her?"
"Your humble nun," she answered, was fated to meet this Bodhisattva and we have indeed met on occassion. If you'd like an audience with her it's the simplest thing to arrange."
"Is this for real or what?" asked Zhang aloud.
"It's all a thousand times, no, ten thousand times true!" she answered.
"Well, if it's true then just wait til the Old Master gets back and I report it to him," said the gatekeeper. "But I don't know your surname or where you're staying...I'm afraid the Master will be late and you'll have been long gone by then. If he has me search for you where shall I look?"
"I'm called Holy Auntie," said the old nun. "If and when your Master calls for me just shout that name three times toward the Southeast and I, your humble nun will be right there!" Then she ran off and quickly disappeared.
Now it is said that for every true observant Buddhist there are ten who quote the sutras. Because the Deputy Magistrate and Lady both loved the Holy Way, so did even the gatekeeper come to believe in it on some level. Although his common sense told him the nun's story was awfully strange he was nonetheless willing to believe it.
At this point in our story Old Zhang watched Deputy Yang dismount and enter the house.
"Congratulations, Master," he reported; "today, just as you were receiving the Golden Sutra a reader of Sanskrit called and asked to meet you."
"What sort of person?" asked Yang.
"She was a Daoist nun known in the craft as Holy Auntie," answered the gatekeeper. "She said she was a disciple of the Puxian Bodhisattva and that she could read and interpret the sixteen classes of the Books of Heaven. If Master wishes to meet her, he need only face the Southeast and call her name three times, and she'll be right here."
"Oh, is that all?" said the Master ever so skeptically. "Well, maybe we should wait til tomorrow morning and see if she returns to our door!"
The Deputy Magistrate then told Granny Yang all about receiving the book and the story of Holy Auntie's call; his wife had a strange occurance to report as well.
"When I went into the courtyard to look at the pomegranate flowers I saw a five-colored lucky cloud to the southeast, coming this way. And in the cloud appeared a Bodhisattva so solemn and august looking in gold, pearl and jade necklaces and holding a treasure box, seated atop a white elephant. I knew in my heart it was an appearance of the Puxian Bodhisattva and I hurriedly fell to my knees in worship, but when I lifted my head she was gone. Tomorrow let's call for her as she instructed, and if she comes give her the Sutra to read and see what happens. If she really were a disciple of the Puxian Bodhisattva she wouldn't ever lie!"
Now come to think of it just who was the Bodhisattva seated in the heart of that cloud? Why, none other than a transformation of Holy Auntie! Chapter three has already told of how she was an old fox spirit that could change into people or Buddhas, capable of ghostly transformations but lacking in any real secrets of sorcery and therefore incable of any true spiritual greatness. As this poem says:
Nothing more was said about it that night. Early the next day Deputy Yang had those on duty bring scented candles and set them up in the house. Then he dressed himself in a clean new gown, went out in front of his compound and, facing Southeast, shouted "Holy Auntie" three times with all of his strength and resolve. Even before all was again silent Old Zhang reported: "The old Daoist nun from yesterday is already at the door."
Deputy Yang walked over to the entrance and greeted her, frightened to the bone.
"Please enter," he nonetheless said ever so calmly, but before the utterance was off his lips she was already inside the house, falling to her knees and announcing herself: "I, a poor nun, kowtow to thee, oh Patron of this Temple."
Now, he he wondered how she could have got into the house when he hadn't seen her pass through the doorway in front of his very eyes; she had literally been outside one moment and inside the next! He grew even more fearful and hurriedly dropped to his knees and knocked his head on the floor repeatedly in return.
"I, Yang Chun, have failed to properly receive thee, Holy Auntie, and have cause you the discomfort of the kowtow. I'm truly sorry!"
"I don't reckon you've been rude, my lord," said Holy Auntie. "It has been fated that you and your wife meet with me, and I've ridden here by the grace of the Puxian Bodhisattva especially for this rendezvous.
Deputy Yang looked carefully at the old nun. Her hair was white and her face wrinkled like that of any other old woman, but her eyes really sparkled with a spirit very different from that of mortals. And though she wore tattered rags they were immaculate. Deputy Yang then decided that she was indeed a living Buddha. Repeatedly praising Heaven and Earth, he he invited her into the home chapel at the rear and had Granny Yang brought to meet her. The old couple worshipped her in unison, calling her their Holy Teacher and setting out vegetarian food for her enjoyment, and then they sat facing her. And when the matter of the Golden Sutra was raised Holy Auntie answered boldly.
"That promise of mine was no empty boast. Whatever old and fancy script you've got, I know it all!"
But enough of the chapel! Now we find Deputy Yang ordering the pageboys to prepare a horse and two palanquins for the three of them. And soon there are riding straight to the West Garden, followed unavoidably by the local boys and girls. Now, that garden wasn't as elegant as the famed Jinrong of old but it was layed out and built well enough. Just look at this:
Deputy and Granny Yang let Holy Aunty climb out of her sedan chair first. The Master then ordered the chief gardener to lead the way. Arriving at the Temple they bowed together two or three times to the image of the Buddha. Deputy Yang then told a pageboy to bring over a small black laquered table. After wiping it spotlessly clean with his own hands he then carefully lifted the little red sandalwood box and laid it on the shiney surface. Then, having opened the box and removed and unwrapped the holy book from the red cloth, he asked Holy Auntie to look it over. Her hands pressed together worshipfully, she chanted one "Amitofo", then opened the book and looked it over from beginning to end.
"This is the Heart Sutra, a Sanskrit Sutra of Paramita, the passage from sensuous life to Nirvhana," she announced. "It comes from Holy India. In the end it has these five characters, a mantra signifying a Buddhist concept in the Heart Sutra, something beyond the grasp of mortals. That's why everyone is stumped by this book."
Deputy Yang didn't believe her and called for a Tang edition of the Heart Sutra, giving it to Holy Auntie for comparison. Sure enough it was without those five characters. From that point on the Yangs became even more respectful of her talents.
At this point Deputy Yang invited Holy Auntie to move into their house and lecture them from morning to night. But as she was unwilling, they cleaned up the three empty meditation rooms behind the shrine, moved in some bedding and furniture and provided three daily meals to take care of Holy Auntie's livlihood. The old woman now lived alone and wanted neither slavegirl nor maid for company.
"You've been bringing me vegetarian food and wine," she then told Granny Yang; "it isn't necessary, as I can go ten years without drinking or eating."
"Well," thought Granny, "she certainly can fast for a day, but even if she binds up her belly how can she last ten years? Perhaps I'll pretend to be busy and skip her meals for a few days and see what happens." Then she told the gardener to attend to some work around the house for awhile and locked up the garden gate for a week, during which time nobody came or went. On the eigth day Granny Yang rode out in a palanquin, unlocked the garden and and went in to visit Holy Auntie. And there she was, peacefully at rest in her bare room, seated on a prayer mat reciting the sutras.
"Is Holy Auntie hungry?" asked Granny Yang.
"I'm right full, thank you," answered the old nun, shaking her head. And now for the first time ever the Yangs publically proclaimed her a living Buddha.
From that point on the word spread throughout the entire Huayin County that Deputy Magistrate Yang's household was sheltering a living Buddha. Now, just for the sake of argument, if she really were a living Buddha would she still seek out people or take food and shelter from them? Really, there must have been some pretty shallow minds about!
Well, armies of men and women from throughout the county, more numerous with each passing day were now trooping into the West Garden for a look, with some worshipping her and proclaiming her their Teacher. And after another month or two the excitement had boiled over to surrounding districts and other counties, and the number of people coming was greater than ever. Deputy Yang, fearing terrible consequences from all of this spoke with Holy Auntie and they finally decided to lock up the place for three years with no outside visitors allowed. The front door of the Shrine was then locked and two layers of official seals placed around it. They would secretly bring her little odds and ends via the curving hidden rear path from the house. Deputy Yang then visited the County Magistrate and had him issue a proclamation forbidding public assembly. Seeing the frightening words of the official orders of prohibition the masses of the people stopped coming at once. Only the old couple themselves would drop in during their walks in the garden, visiting her in the meditation rooms and sometimes spending days and nights discussing the Buddist theory of retribution and reciting the sutras. Her former public didn't dare have any more to do with her and so the old fox spirit only sat alone there in Huayin County enjoying the hospitality of the Yangs. She also did some reflecting on her own fate.
"Those four words that Auntie Zetian said, 'Stop at Willow Yang', have already come true. But I don't know about the 'Enlightened at Egg Dan' part; what's that going to be all about?"
As the story has unfolded so far we have forgotten one important part: the whereabouts and fate of Hu Mei'r! Why hasn't she turned up in the story? Now, Dear Readers, there's absolutely no reason to be alarmed. I've got only one mouth and a single tongue so I can't tell two stories at the same time! For now we may as well put Hu Mei'r aside and get on with clearing up the meaning of the four words "Enlightened at egg Dan".
Simply put, an old bonze by the holy name of Ci Yun headed the Yin Hui Temple within the walls of the city of Sizhou. It was a branch Temple with a few monks in training and an old Daoist priest, Liu Gou'r, serving as Rector. Abbot Ci, nearly sixty years of age, was a forthright man who spoke his mind frankly and minced no words.
One day someone in the town invited him to come and read the sutras. Having worn his only gown for over a month it was soiled, so for the occasion he decided to boil some water and wash it before going. Taking a bucket he went to the pond in front of the Temple and was starting to draw some washwater when he spotted an object on the surface, half floating and half submerged, eggshaped and white, and knocking against the bucket. He bent down and examined it closely, scooping it into the bucket and laying it down upon his washboard. It was rather like a goose egg.
"Perhap's somebody's barnyard goose got loose and laid this egg in here," he thought, "wonder if it's going to hatch? If it isn't I can give it to our young monks to eat, but if there's a little fellow growing inside I'll take it over yonder to Zhu Dabo's and let his hen sit on it....there's a life involved, after all. The sutras tell of how egg eaters will fall down into the empty reaches of Hell... I wouldn't want to do anything to cause some terrible retribution like that, now..." So next day he held it up to light and noticed something filling up the whole egg, moving in a lively way; a new life. So hurrying over to Zhu Dabo's place he put the egg into the hen's nest, promising that if a goose or whatever was born he could keep it. Zhu Dabo naturally agreed. It was possible the hen might refuse but she sat on the egg for seven days. But when Zhu Dabo came to feed her he found his hen lying dead to one side, and in the nest he saw the upper body of a tiny infant breaking its way out of that egg, already protruding six or seven inches! The other eggs had already been emptied and a pile of broken shell was all that remained of them.
Zhu Dabo, mortified, ran to inform the abbot of the news. He in turn received quite a fright and ran over to see for himself.
"Oh, no," he cried out, "how strange, how bizarre! I'm so sorry for getting you into this mess. Your hen, eggs and nest are all destroyed. Just wait until our buckwheat is ready for harvest and I'll bring you a few bushels!"
"Oh, that's OK," said Zhu Dabo, "It was my fate. I'm just afraid that the neighbours will find out and it'll get around to the officials, and then it'll get blown up into a big case. Why, in the next village Old Lady Wang was raising a litter of pigs, and one of them had front hooves just like human hands. The Bao Chief found out and he told the Mayor, saying that there was an instance of sorcery among his residents. The Mayor then despatched officials to search for evidence, and they wanted to take the piglet. And then they demanded food and drink, and then money, even when she sold the sow she still couldn't raise enough." Zhu looked at the Abbott worriedly: "Teacher, you absolutely must take that monster and destroy it," he said, trembling, "or else you'll involve my family."
Abbot Ci listened in dark silence to Zhu's words. It was all he could do to conceal the nest under his black gown and run straight back to the Temple. Telling nobody there about it, he went right into the vegetable garden with a shovel and dug a hole in the corner of the wall, piling up the dirt. The, using the nest as that infant's coffin, he buried it deep in the earth. It's like this:
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