Explore the fascinating story of the Changqing Monk's spiritual journey, rebirth, and unwavering commitment to his monastic life amidst worldly temptations.
In Changqing, there was an old monk, whose spiritual practice was pure. He was in his eighties but still had a robust body. One day, he suddenly fell down and couldn’t get up. By the time the monks from the temple rushed to his aid, he had already passed away. The old monk was unaware of his own death; his spirit floated away from his body and ended up in the territory of Henan. In Henan, there was a young nobleman from an old aristocratic family, leading more than ten men on horseback for falconry and hunting wild rabbits. Suddenly, the horse got startled and went berserk, causing the young nobleman to fall from his horse and die. The spirit of the old monk happened to wander to this place and merged abruptly with the lifeless body. Gradually, he regained consciousness. Servants rushed forward to inquire, and when he opened his eyes, he exclaimed, “How did I get here?” Everyone helped him back to his home. As he entered, many extravagantly dressed women came to inquire and greet him. He was greatly surprised and said, “I am a monk, how did I end up here?” His family thought he was talking nonsense and earnestly tried to console and awaken him. He no longer explained himself and simply remained silent with closed eyes. When they brought him food, he only ate plain rice, refusing both alcohol and meat. At night, he slept alone and did not allow his wives and concubines to attend to him.
A few days later, he suddenly wanted to go out for a walk, and everyone was delighted. After leaving the house, as soon as it became a bit quiet, many stewards and servants came up to him, seeking his approval for matters related to money, accounts, and finances. He used the excuse of being sick and tired for a long time to avoid taking responsibility. He only asked, “Do you know about Changqing County in Shandong?” Everyone replied in unison, “Yes.” He said, “I feel bored and restless and want to go there for a visit. Quickly prepare my belongings.” People advised him that he had just recovered from his illness and should not embark on a long journey, but he did not listen. The next day, they set off. When they arrived in Changqing County, he saw that the scenery there was just as it had been in the past. Without asking for directions, he went straight to the temple there. Several of his former disciples in the temple saw the distinguished guest and came forward to greet him with great respect. He asked, “Where is the old monk?” The monks replied, “Our master passed away some time ago.” He then inquired about the location of the old monk’s grave. The monks led him there, and he saw a lonely three-foot-high grave with wild grass not yet fully grown on it. The monks did not understand what he meant. After inspecting the grave, he prepared his horse to return home. Before leaving, he instructed, “Our master was a monk who strictly adhered to the Buddhist precepts. You should carefully preserve his handwritten manuscripts and belongings and not damage them.” The monks nodded in agreement. So, he left. When he returned home, he remained like a lifeless piece of wood, sitting still all day and paying no attention to household matters.
After residing there for a few more months, he secretly slipped out and went directly to his former temple. He said to his disciples, “I am your master.” Everyone doubted that he was talking nonsense and exchanged glances, smiling at each other. So, he recounted the reason for his soul’s return and talked about the actions of the old monk during his lifetime, all of which matched the facts. Only then did everyone believe him and invited him to stay in his original bedroom, serving him as before. Later, the young nobleman’s family sent carriages and horses multiple times, pleading for his return, but he paid no attention. After more than a year, the nobleman’s wife sent competent servants to bring many gifts. He refused to accept gold, silver, and silk, only accepting a simple robe. The nobleman’s friends sometimes visited his village and respectfully came to see him. They found him silent, plain-spoken, sincere, and at the age of only thirty, he often spoke about his life of over eighty years.
The chronicler of strange tales said: When a person dies, their soul should disperse, but this monk’s soul drifted a thousand miles without dispersing, all due to his ability to maintain his nature. I am not astonished by this monk’s death and rebirth, but rather amazed that he came to a place of wealth and splendor and still managed to reject others and evade the worldly temptations. To be able to obtain various luxuries of life in the blink of an eye is undoubtedly a desirable thing for ordinary people, let alone for an ascetic monk who lives a life of austerity!