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2.9 (Tsai no.22a) Shih Hui-mu

[A second version of Hui-mu's life taken from the sixth-century collection titled Ming hsiang chi (Records of mysterious omens)]

The nun Hui-mu of the Sung dynasty was surnamed Fu. She entered the religious life at age eleven but accepted only the ten rules [of a novice in the monastic life]. She lived in Chu-ko Village Convent in Liang Commandery.

When Hui-mu first read the Larger Perfection of Wisdom, she was able to chant from memory two chapters a day [a total of more than twenty thousand words]. Her teacher, Hui-ch'ao, had built a scripture hall, and once, when Hui-mu went in to offer worship, she saw in the northwest corner of the room a Buddhist monk wearing the gold-colored robe of a Buddhist monastic, and his feet were not touching the ground.

Another time when Hui-mu, in the middle of the night, was lying down and memorizing scriptures, she had a dream in which she traveled to the west, where she saw a pool filled with lotus blossoms, and sitting inside each lotus was a person who had been born there [by metamorphosis]. One large flower, however, was empty. Hui-mu, wanting to climb up onto the flower, grabbed hold of it with all her strength but, without realizing what she was doing, also began to chant scripture in a loud voice. Because her mother, hearing the chanting, thought that Hui-mu was having a nightmare, she woke her daughter up.

Hui-mu's mother was very old, and, because she had lost all her teeth, Hui-mu always thoroughly chewed her mother's food first so that her mother could eat. Doing this, however, meant that Hui-mu had to eat after noon as well as before thereby transgressing the monastic rule of not eating after mid-day. For that reason, even though Hui-mu had grown up and come of age to be able to accept the full obligation of the monastic life, she did not do so.

After her mother died, Hui-mu herself cleaned and prepared the ground for the placing of the ceremonial platform used for receiving the monastic rules, and she asked her teacher to bestow them. Suddenly, the space around the platform glowed with dazzling light, all a golden color. Hui-mu looked toward the southwest, where she saw a heavenly being who wore a trimmed robe of russet-gold color. He seemed now close and now far away, but, when she sought after him, he had disappeared.

The extraordinary things that happened to her she kept secret, but, when her elder brother became a monk, he heard rumors and wanted to find out for sure, so he tricked her, saying, "You have been living the religious life many years now, but with no results. Therefore, you might as well let your hair grow and become a wife." When Hui-mu heard this, she felt great dread and thought she should tell the truth about everything, so she gave a rough description of what she had seen.

When the nun Ching-ch'eng heard of her Way and virtue, she went to Hui-mu for the purpose of becoming well acquainted with her, the more easily to ask about the unusual phenomena Hui-mu had experienced, and Hui-mu told her everything in detail.

Later, Hui-mu and her companions in religion were worshipping the Endless-Life Buddha [Amitāyus]. Because Hui-mu did not get up after a prostration, the others thought she had fallen asleep. Someone kicked her and asked, but Hui-mu said nothing at all. When Ching-ch'eng again begged and entreated her, Hui-mu said, "While I was prostrate on the ground [worshipping the Buddha], I had a vision of going to the Western Paradise and seeing Amita Buddha, who was explaining the Smaller Perfection of Wisdom [to me]. He had already gone as far as the fourth chapter when, to my very deep regret, I was kicked awake."

In the fourteenth year of the yüan-chia reign period (437), Hui-mu was sixty-nine years old.

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