Ji Gong was born in 1130. Story starts like this his parents were wealthy couple but couldn’t have a child. They started visiting temples and were praying to various deities to get a child. In one of temples they were praying near statues of 500 Arhats. Suddenly one of statues of Arhats fell and got broken. It is said that its spirit went into Ji Gongs mother as she very soon became pregnant. So it is believed that he is reincarnation of one of them. At age of 18 his parents died. He decided to become monk and was ordained and got Chan Buddhist name Dao Ji in Lingyin Temple near Hangzhou. Ji Gong was eccentric but always smiling, kind hearted and compassionate. He loved nature so much and spent a lot of time in nature. But Ji Gong didn’t obey all rules of Buddhism. He liked to drink alcohol and eat meat a lot. Daoji disobeyed monastic rules and had troubles with temple authorities. He liked to behave crazy, make jokes and pranks even when he wasn’t drunk. It was his nature.
Oldest monk tolerated him as he considered that gates of Buddhism are too wide and can accept even “Crazy Monk”. That’s how he got this nickname. Soon oldest monk passed away and Ji Gong was expelled from temple. Only thing he had was wearing monastic robe which looked faded very soon, chaplet around neck, hat on which was written Buddha, bottle and wooden fan. He was going alone on streets, villages and mountains and enjoyed listening to birds thus became even closer to nature. When he appeared in towns people taught he was some weird crazy homeless who was either acting crazy or too drunk as he carried bottle with rice wine always. All money that he got by begging he spent on alcohol and meat especially on pork ribs. Some people were afraid of him but were generous towards him when they saw his kindness and willingness to help. He was very friendly towards children and played with them. Local imperial authorities never liked him as he was speaking truth how they steal from people and they used to arrest him. He was often passing forests and mountains in order to reach other villages and towns. People often confused him with beggar and homeless but when they saw his hat and chaplet they called him crazy monk. People often saw him drunk sleeping under tree. He achieved many things such as healing children. He also cured strange knot from head of one old man in local village.
Daoji continued homeless lifestyle. Finally he was admitted by Taoist temple as in Taoism moderate use of alcohol and meat is acceptable. Ji Gong continued to be himself and help on his own way that is a bit strange. For example he helped an old man who was trying to hang himself, when Ji Gong saw him he came imitating that he also wants to hang himself they started discussion and Ji Gong asked man to get naked as he was born anyway naked so he should die naked. Than Ji Gong continued making fun of desperate man and man started laughing and making jokes too and he forgot about suicide. Then he told his tragedy to monk about death of his daughter. He continued helping people and his motto was- Torn sandals, worn hat, shabby monks robe, wherever is injustice there I am.( Shahar 163)
Years were passing. People and Taoists recognized more and more his goodness and willingness to help and started calling him living Buddha. He was never considered as reincarnation of Buddha but reincarnation of one of Arhats. He was perceived already as an enlightened and compassionate and natural one. Another of his quotes is- Sixty years life in disorder, from east to west, I fight always, Today I review and return all is same as those before. ( Shahar 163) Practice of meditation and mysticism gave him superhuman abilities that are probably more legend than reality. For example he used his power through well to bring best wood logs from Sichuan province needed for temple construction so he continued shouting in well until enough of wood was transported via energy. Also once Ji Gong felt that mountain peak may fall down on a village and destroy it. He started warning people but they thought he was some lunatic that spoke nonsense. So Ji Gong was running around and spotted a wedding. He came there and kidnapped the bride and was running with her on his shoulder. Groom, his family, brides family and other guests started chasing him and called whole village to chase kidnapper. So they run for him in forests and suddenly mountain peak fell on village. Than Ji Gong left bride go. He than saw large rock falling on a small girl that remained in village. He used power of his mind and inner energy and pointed on rock by hand and according to legend rock still floats in the sky at that place near Hangzhou.
In last years of his life Ji Gong was supposed to be ordained as enlightened one- Arhat at Buddhist temple since Buddhist started to respect his deeds and personality. When among other monks he was wandering half-drunk towards temple and laughing. He spotted a young lady crying because her baby was sick. He then left the line of monks and went to help the baby. Then he was late on ceremony but anyway when he explained reason he was ordained as Arhat. In 1207 he passed away and was buried in Jingci Temple. He was recognized as immortal and deity firstly by Taoists. As this branch of Taoism allows eating meat, alcohol and sex in moderate level he didn’t do any misconduct and despite strange and foolish behavior his positive joyful nature, compassion, tolerance, patience, simplicity, wish to help, and balanced life and closeness to nature he was granted with status of deity. As he was late on Buddhist ceremony there was not place for him in Arhat hall but his statue was put on beam. In Lingyin Temple at Feilai Feng near Hangzhou on walls you can find many murals that depict his life. There are many stone statues of Ji Gong on Feilai Feng mountain and caves there. Also his statue you can find in Arhat hall in Azure Clouds Temple at Xiangshan hill near Beijing. His statues take important place in altars of several Taoist and Buddhist templs. Some people worship Ji Gong in their home altars as they believe he brings happiness, joy, cheerful mood, health and wellbeing. Instead of tea they give wine or brandy in front of his figure. Espcially in southern China he is popular as a deity in Guangdong, Sichuan, Fujian, Hong Kong, Chinese Taiwan and in Chinese communities of Singapore and Malaysia.
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