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2.10 (Tsai no.23) Fa-sheng

The nun Fa-sheng (Victory of the Law) of Wu County South Convent

Fa-sheng's [origins are unknown]. When young, she left the household life and took up the life of a religious in South Convent of Wu County [some distance to the southeast of the capital of the Sung dynasty]. Some sources say it was East Convent. Her piety and zeal were recognized by the assembly.

In the yüan-chia reign period (424-453) of the Sung dynasty a certain Ssu-ma Lung, originally of Ho-nei [in the north], who was serving as the county magistrate of P'i-ling [southeast of the capital], met up with an attack and was killed in battle. The parents of his wife, Madame Shan, had already died, and she had no children. Madame Shan was already advanced in years when she went to Wu County to stay with Fa-sheng, who treated her as her own mother. Almost half a year later Madame Shan got sick. The illness grew progressively worse and after three years was at a critical stage. Because Fa-sheng had nothing stored in reserve, she had to beg for all the medicines needed to treat Madame Shan. When begging for the medicines, Fa-sheng feared neither rain nor heat; she fled neither wind nor cold. Madame Shan's condition thereafter improved, and everyone praised and honored Fa-sheng.

Later, Fa-sheng traveled to the capital to further her study of meditation, in the course of which she penetrated the riches of contemplation, and she investigated to the utmost the subtle and hidden fruits of the spiritual life. She instructed her disciples, accomplishing this without undue severity. When acting she did not seek personal gain; when in repose she did not seek fame. In her diligent and complete observation of all her duties, she could not but save living beings.

At age 60 she had been ill for some time, and she herself said she would not recover. When her intimate disciples, puzzled, asked how she knew, Fa-sheng informed them, "Just now I saw two Buddhist monks who told me this is the case." After a brief while she continued, "I see two other monks, different from the ones I saw previously. Their right shoulders are bare as though they are preparing to circumambulate the Buddha in worship, and they are carrying flowers and placing them by my bed. Some distance behind them I see a Buddha sitting on a lotus flower, and his radiance is reflecting on my body." After this she did not go to sleep again that night. Instead, she asked someone to chant the Flower of the Law for her, but near the end of the night her breath grew short, so she gave the command, "Stop chanting the scripture and instead repeat the name of the Buddha for me." She herself also repeated the name of the Buddha and at dawn, her countenance unchanged, she suddenly died.

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