What is Cultivation
Only after walking over a hundred steps into the Ling Xu sanctuary did the mantra resounding within Ye Fan’s heart slowly dissipate, the entrance had tens of limestone steps that seemed extraordinary but Ye Fan did not stop and would not be allowed to stop either.
Just ahead of them, the mountain peaks were breath-taking and filled with thick spiritual Qi that went on in the distance. A thousand metre long waterfall was flowing down from a tall mountain like a stretch of shining silk, it was as if the galaxy was flipped upside down. The thunderous rumbling sound echoed out like ten thousand stampeding horses, simply a magnificent and beautiful sight.
“No wonder it’s called an immortal sanctuary, the scenery is exceptional and it seems like a piece of pure land that does not belong to the world.”
A snaking path that lead towards a serene place, the track was made of cobblestones and continued past a waterfall. The winding path led to the innermost parts of the magnificent immortal mountain. Along the way, ancient trees covered the sky and their branches seemed like vigorous curling dragons. Many palaces could be seen hidden amongst the trees and they seemed to fit in naturally with the surroundings.
By the sides of the ancient road, there were man-made medicinal fields that held ginseng that was as thick as a child’s arm, ling zhi mushrooms with nine hanging leaves and many other unknown medicinal plants that were glistening and translucent with divine glows within. The medicinal smell permeated the air and penetrated deeply into the heart*.
[T/N* Idiom: Feeling of comfort and happiness derived from external influences]
The people they met along this road largely had to pay their respects to these elders and were very friendly towards Wei Wei who was a peerless talent and her status in Ling Xu sanctuary could be imagined.
Wei Wei returned the greetings but did not have an air of arrogance. Within this peaceful pure land, she was elegant and otherworldly like a fairy and like a gentle wind that gently blew by, delicate and graceful, she vanished into the depths of the sanctuary.
Ye Fan and Pang Bo were brought before a small mountain, there were several thatched cottages interspersed with bamboo forests and medicinal fields accompanying each house. A few ancient trees were also closely linked.
Although there were no fine jade buildings or palaces and everything seemed rather ordinary, it gave one the feeling of nature and tranquility as though one had stepped out of the world onto a pure land. It seemed to cleanse the soul, escaping from the mortal world and cleansing all vexations.
“The two of you will stay here first.” The few elders warned and explained before leaving. There was another student who was also brought to Ling Xu sanctuary but was not brought to stay with Ye Fan and Pang Bo and was sent to another area.
It was close to afternoon when a youth in his twenties brought food for them. The food was light and simple and contained a majority of medicinal ingredients: lotus root, polygonatum, poria and gastrodia elata.*
[T/N* All of these are actual Chinese medicinal herbs]
“This meal…… can it even be eaten? There isn’t even any meat. These two days we’ve only been eating wild fruits or drinking water. Right now we’re continuing to eat such simple fare, I feel that our mouths will soon have mountain water flowing out.”
Although the food was simple and had no grease, Ye Fan and Pang Bo still cleared the dishes and even a leaf was not spared.
“Can you send over some roast chicken?”
Seeing the behaviour of the two, the youth who brought the food over was stunned and speechless as he said: “We…. don’t have that. Within the sanctuary, that isn’t provided. If the two of you still aren’t full I can send additional food over.
“Why aren’t there any meat dishes? I’ve seen the red-crowned crane, white deer and other unknown precious birds and unusual animals. Just roasting one or two of them would suffice, I especially feel that those red crowned cranes have been fed sufficiently fat.”
The youth who brought the food seemed like he had seen a snake demon as he hurriedly left, as though he could not wait to get away from the two of them.
“It seems that entering into an immortal sect to cultivate isn’t something that is worth celebrating much over. The days are too simple and there isn’t even any meat to be had. How are we going to continue living like this.” Pang Bo grumbled incessantly.
Ye Fan also felt very unsatisfied and really felt like catching a chicken to roast, tearing out a drum and having wine as an accompaniment, gorging oneself fully.
In the ten over days that followed the elders did not appear again and the youth that brought food started to be familiar with them and under their continual exchanges Ye Fan and Pang Bo began to get used to the ancient language. The youth was envious of them, disciples that first entered the sect usually did not have their own abodes and needed to successfully cultivate before being allowed one.
“These thatched cottages also count as owning an abode?”
Ye Fan and Pang Bo wore the clothes that the youth brought over and besides their short hairdos, they were no different from the others within the Ling Xu sanctuary.
“You can’t say it like that, this small mountain and its surrounding area belongs to the two of you and if you enough capability you’d be able to establish your own abode.”
“Since the small mountain is ours, even if we kill a deer or roast a few red-crowned cranes there shouldn’t be anyone who cares right?”
Seeing the way the two were behaving, the youth did not dare to continue talking and felt that these two people were too bold and their thoughts were simply too different from normal people.
“Don’t be afraid, we won’t act rashly. Why don’t you fill us in on exactly what is cultivation?”
This was something that Ye Fan and Pang Bo were very concerned about and until now they still had no clue as to what it entailed. Although they had heard people mention about ‘sea of bitterness’, ‘divine bridge’ and ‘the shore on the other side*’, they did not understand what it meant.
[T/N* In Buddhism it is known as paramita]
The youth shook his head as he did really know either. He had entered the Ling Xu sanctuary for a short period and had not actually started on the road of cultivating.
“It seems like you guys can’t wait any longer.” At this moment an elder with white hair yet whose complexion was like a child appeared before the small mountain, his sleeves were fluttering and his feet hovered above the ground. He seemed to have rode the wind to arrive before the thatched cottage and nodded to the youth by the side who was greeting him: “You can go.”
“You are……” Ye Fan and Pang Bo did not recognise this elder with his rosy face and long white hair that seemed to be an otherworldly old immortal.
“I’m an elder of the Ling Xu sanctuary, Wu Qing Feng. All the disciples who have joined for three years or less are taught by me.”
“Greetings venerated elder.”
“No need to be so formal.”
“Venerated elder can you change the contents of our meals? If it goes on like this even before we start cultivating we would have already levitated and become an immortal. The food is simply too plain and even seeing a grasshopper would make us salivate.” Pang Bo whined bitterly.
Elder Wu Qing Feng had a serious face as he said: “The mortal world is filled with greed. Upon entering the immortal sanctuary the first objective is to cut all ties with opulence, cleansing the body and soul. If you can’t even rid yourself of the lust for food, in the future when facing the various temptations on the road of immortality it would certainly be difficult to get through.”
Hearing this Pang Bo was rendered speechless. Ye Fan had not joined the immortal sanctuary and it was not his place to make any requests.
Ye Fan and Pang Bo had many questions within their hearts but Ye Fan was not in a good position to question and Pang Bo who was already a disciple of the Ling Xu sanctuary could do so without any worries. Elder Qing Wu Feng sat on a tree stump and began to answer the various questions that were posed to him. When it came to cultivation they simply had no understanding at all.
“Look at this sky, do you two feel that it is unblemished?”
“No clouds can be seen for a thousand li, the blue sky is spotless and naturally is unblemished.” Ye Fan was unsure why the elder had asked such a question but since the elder looked at him he naturally answered.
“Wrong, there are endless amounts of dust.” Elder Wu Qing Feng opened his palm and said: “Even between my fingers there exists an endless amount of dust.”
“What…… is the meaning?” Pang Bo asked in confusion.
Elder Wu Qing Feng was tranquil like an otherworldly immortal as he continued: “What do you people think this endless dust is?”
“What else could it be? Naturally it’s dust.”
“It is dust, yet it isn’t dust.” The elder coolly stated.
“I understand the part that ‘it is dust’. What’s the ‘yet it isn’t dust’ part supposed to mean?” Pang Bo questioned.
“It’s the world, a vast and boundless world.” Elder Wu Qing Feng was unflappable as he spoke very naturally and calmly.
“It’s a vast and boundless world….. you aren’t joking are you?” Pang Bo was bewildered.
“In the future the two of you will understand. The dirt, grass and trees all form one world.”
“Can you speak more directly? I feel as though I’m listening to obscure writing and although the words are easily understood the deep meaning contained within cannot be comprehended.”
Elder Wu Qing Feng sat there and coolly laughed: “Let’s not discuss these matters today. What I want to say is that within the heaven and earth there are endless amounts of dust and each particle is a world. Similarly our body is composed in the same way. Although we can’t see anything there is an endless ‘gate’ and it is plentiful like the endless dust within heaven and earth. A seemingly small body but containing an untold number of ‘gates’, continually opening these gates and discovering the ‘true self’ that is cultivation.”
Seeing the stunned expressions on the two, elder Wu Qing Feng was like the calm waters of a well* and questioned: “Now, do you two understand what is cultivation?”
[T/N* idiom: calm and composed]
“I seem to have grasped a bit of what you just said.”
“That’s good, continue to slowly comprehend what it means. Right now I’ll explain what is the sea of bitterness, there are an untold number of techniques but all of them begin from the sea of bitterness to embark on the road of immortals.”
“Venerated elder you must be more in-depth this time.” Although they had not really started on the path of cultivation, Ye Fan and Pang Bo understood that their initial understanding on it was extremely important.
“Of the countless living things within this world, all go through the process of growing and ageing. There are some that can exist eternally within the world, immortal throughout time, then there are others that are born in the morning and dead in the evening*, in a snap of the fingers their lives had already passed.”
[T/N* Idiom: Lives pass by fleetingly]
“Venerated elder, what you just said is far too mystifying, what exactly are you trying to tell us?”
The elder did not blame them for interrupting his speech and pointed an ancient tree in the distance: “Do you two know how long it’s been around for?”
“Naturally there is a way of finding out. Once we chop it down and count the number of growth rings within the trunk we will know.”
“That’s correct, time is emotionless and would leave its scars on all living this. The tree has growth rings and our bodies also have the wheel of life.”
“Us humans also have these things?” Ye Fan and Pang Bo felt that this was ridiculous.
“The cultivation that I will be talking about precisely stems from the wheel of life within our bodies……”
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