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1.9 (Tsai no.9) Chu Tao-hsing

The nun Chu Tao-hsing (Fragrance of the Way) (in the lineage of an Indian monk) of the Eastern Convent of Lo-yang

Tao-hsing's secular surname was Yang. Her family was originally from T'ai-shan [in northeast China].

Tao-hsing was both scrupulous and firm in character, and she was able to get along with everyone. During her probationary period before becoming a full-fledged nun, she practiced chanting the scriptures while running errands and performing other duties. Therefore, by the time she was twenty she could recite from memory the Flower of the Law, the Vimalakīrti, and other scriptures. After she had accepted the full obligation of the monastic rule and become a nun, she pursued her study of Buddhist teachings while continuing to maintain her vegetarian diet and her practice of austerities. As she grew older, rather than taking more ease, she intensified her rigorously ascetic way of life.

Tao-hsing lived in Eastern Convent of the old capital city of Lo-yang [in north China on the south bank of the Yellow River]. She was particularly adept in the [intellectual acrobatics of the philosophical discourse known as] Pure Talk, and she was especially competent in [the Buddhist scripture known as] the Smaller Perfection of Wisdom. She esteemed the understanding of principles and did not engage in mere argumentation. All the students of the [Buddhist Way] in the entire province considered her as their teacher and master. Tao-hsing was the first of the nuns who specialized in expounding the meaning of the scriptures.

In the t'ai-ho reign period (366-371) of the Chin dynasty there lived a woman named Yang Ling-pien, who was an ardent follower of the [Taoist Way] of the Yellow Emperor and Lao-tzu, and she practiced in particular the breathing exercise known as swallowing the breath [designed to strengthen the body's vital essence and lead to physical immortality]. The people of the region had respected the Taoist woman and her activities very much until Tao-hsing's Way of Buddhism eclipsed her own arts. Yang Ling-pien pretended distant kinship with Tao-hsing on account of their having the same last name and, using that as a reason, cultivated a friendship with Tao-hsing; [but in reality] she harbored great envy and looked for a chance to poison the Buddhist nun. She eventually succeeded in putting poisonous herbs into Tao-hsing's food, and, despite many medicines, Tao-hsing did not recover. Nevertheless, when her disciples asked her in whose house she had contracted this illness, she answered, "I certainly know who did this, but all is a matter of karmic connections [and was meant to turn out this way], so do not ask me any more about it. Even if telling you who did it would help me, I still would not say; how much less am I likely to say when there is no cure at all." Tao-hsing died without revealing the name of her poisoner.

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia