彌勒真彌勒 化身千百億 時時示世人 世人自不識
Long long ago about the time of the Five Kingdoms Period in China, there was a fat monk by the name of Qici in the southeast part of China. H carried a metal staff in his hand, had a bag slung over his shoulder, and went about everywhere begging, with a smile on his face. His bag, named garbage bag,”contained all kinds of useless things thrown away by people. Qici called it his bag of treasures which, when opened spread out in all directions and caused people to be happy and at ease. It prepared him for times of need, when he turned the useless into the useful.”
Whatever he pulled out of his bag seemed to have a smile on it. Under the blazing sun in the midst of a drought, Qici wore a raincoat as he walked through a field. Pretty soon the rain began to pour. His ability to predict the weather surprised people. After Qici entered Nirvana while sitting on a hard rock, for two years monks and lay people still ran into him at different places. People were amazed by that. Upon opening the verses left by him, they found this statement:
Maitreya is the true Maitreya; his transformations are in the millions of billions.
He appears to people in the world, but they don't recognize him.
From then on it was said that Qici was a transformation of Maitreya Bodhisattva and all the monasteries constructed images of Qici. The moment you step into a monastery, the first thing you see is a smiling fat monk with a bare belly and the ordinary cloth bag that became his trademark. People wrote commemorative couplets like:
His big belly is accommodating.
It can accomodate all the things in this world that are hard to accommodate.
His face breaks out in laughter.
He is laughing at all the people in this world who are laughable.
There before that eternally smiling face, all the complicated relationships prompted by love and hate suddenly seem so insignificant they are not even worth mentioning. In stillness, standing before Maitreya's image, all details of the mundane world truly take on an inexpressible flavor.
Wutai (Five Peaks) Mountain is the Way place of Manjushri Bodhisattva. Omei (Lofty) Mountain is the Way place of Universal Worthy Bodhisattva. Puto (Potola) Mountain is the Way place of Guanyin Bodhisattva. Jiuhua (Nine Flowers) Mountain is the Way place of Earth Store Bodhisattva. Maitreya Bodhisattvas's transformation Qici stayed at Shuedou (Snowy Gorge) Mountain for a long time. Thus, Shuedou has become known as the Way place of Maitreya Bodhisattva. The image of Maitreya Bodhisattva at Shuedo Monastery on Shuedo Mountain is unusually large. Beneath the yellow eaves on red walls is written a lengthy matching couplet that captures both the atmosphere of the surrounding scenery and the essence of Maitreya Bodhisattva's spirit. It reads:
Raise your eyes!
To see what’s coming down!
A plummeting flow catches our attention as we gaze up:
The snowy waterfall seems like a cold chan topic.
Capture it in the bag!
Dump it out again!
Garbage is certainly not useless!
The cloth bag also holds the Buddha mind.
Surrounding the huge main figure of Maitreya Bodhisattva in the center of the Buddha hall are a thousand smaller antique images of Maitreya lining both sides of the hall: a red-face, a green-face, a pale fat one, a thin fair one, some in monk robes, some in ordinary people's clothing. All the different statues display various aspects of Maitreya Bodhisattva capacity for tolerance. Those who visit Shuedo Monastery like to purchase replicas of the small statues: one holding a fan, another with beads in his hand; one wearing a bamboo hat, another carrying a cloth bag; one striking a gong, another holding a stone instrument; some standing, others curled in a seated position. No matter what the stance, he always looks happy!
In fact, that pleasant atmosphere permeates the environment; it found in the blowing breezes and the flowing waters. Wherever you are, you see his smile. Once I found a two-inch high statue of the Bodhisattva. His nose, arm, and bag were damaged, but his smile remained the same as the smile on the mammoth image in the hall.
Happiness doesn’t discriminate.
It doesn’t matter whether image is large or small
or even if there is an image or there is no image.
Happiness is contagious.
It infects people and all other creatures alike
and includes non-humans and non-creatures as well.
One morning I rose early and was attracted by the aroma of some flower that I passed by. A traveler told me that the blossom was called with a smile. Upon hearing the name, I felt the blossoms all immediately smiles and then burst out laughing. What a wonderful name! It was as if Maitreya Bodhisattva had transformed them so they could become an offering to the Buddhas. When happiness arises, it is difficult to tell if it is inspired by the outside world or by some source within. Handsome people on a stage can amuse us for a short time; but this big-bellied clown has given us generations of happiness. The impression of him is deeply rooted in our minds; for thousands of years he has been the pride of China.