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2.6 (Tsai no.19) Shih Hsüan-tsao

The nun Shih Hsüan-tsao (Mysterious Elegance) (in the lineage of Shākyamuni) of Great Mysterious Terrace Convent of Wu Commandery

Hsüan-tsao's secular surname was Lu. She was the daughter of Lu An-hsün of Wu Commandery [southeast of the capital city].

When Hsüan-tsao was a little over ten years old, she contracted a serious illness, and, despite all the medicines, the days went by with no improvement. At that time [the nun] Shih Fa-chi of the Great Mysterious Terrace [Convent] said to Hsüan-tsao's father, "This illness is probably the consequence of deeds done in a former life and therefore is not something that medicine can cure. I go by the Buddhist scriptures, which say that, if those who walk in danger and suffering are able to take refuge in the spiritual power of the Three Treasures and confess their faults, aspiring to attain spiritual accomplishments, then they will indeed gain freedom from suffering and danger. If you and your daughter cast aside the corruption of the world, wash away the dust of secular life and single-mindedly turn for refuge to the [bodhisattva Kuan-yin], then there should be a cure." Lu An-hsün agreed to this, and in his own house sponsored a vegetarian feast in honor of the bodhisattva Kuan-shih-yin.

With unsullied intent they worshipped [the bodhisattva], and Hsüan-tsao, despite her illness, concentrated her thoughts and made prostrations continuously. After seven days, at the first watch of the night, there suddenly appeared a gold image slightly more than a foot high. The image rubbed Hsüan-tsao's body three times from head to foot, after which the girl felt the illness rapidly disappear.

Because of this miraculous cure she sought to enter the life of a Buddhist nun and so took up residence at Great Mysterious Terrace Convent. Her zealous practice included chanting the Flower of the Law Scripture and maintaining a strict vegetarian diet for thirty-seven years. With constant longing and concentration she vowed to be reborn in the Tushita Heaven [of Maitreya, the next Buddha].

In the sixteenth year of the yüan-chia reign period (439), she went to the capital city to copy scriptures, but the circumstances of her death are unknown.

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