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2.11 (Tsai no.24) Seng-tuan

The nun Seng-tuan (Propriety of the Sangha) (ca. 378-448) of Eternal Peace Convent

Seng-tuan was from Kuang-ling [which was on the north bank of the Yangtze River to the northeast of the capital city of the Sung dynasty]. For generations her family had worshipped the Buddha, and she and her sisters were very devout.

Seng-tuan had vowed that she would leave the household life instead of being married off. Nevertheless, her beauty of face and figure was well known in the region, and a wealthy family had already received her mother and elder brother's agreement to a betrothal. Three days before the marriage ceremony was to take place Seng-tuan fled in the middle of the night to a Buddhist convent whose abbess hid her in a separate building and supplied her with everything she needed. Seng-tuan also asked for a copy of the Bodhisattva Kuan-shihyin Scripture, which she was then able to chant from memory in only two days. She rained tears and made prostrations day and night without ceasing. Three days later, during her worship, she saw an image of the Buddha, who announced to her, "Your bridegroom's life span is coming to an end. You need only continue your ardent practice without harboring these sorrowful thoughts." The next day her bridegroom was gored to death by an ox. Thus was Seng-tuan able to leave the household life.

[As a nun] she steadfastly observed all the monastic regulations, and, when she concentrated her mind in the vast realm of Buddhist meditation, she seemed as though she could form no words at all. When, however, she explicated the distinctions between the philosophical concepts of name and reality, she could speak indefatigably. In addition to her other accomplishments she could also chant the entire Great Nirvāna Scripture [a total of about three hundred fifty thousand words] in only five days.

In the tenth year of the yüan-chia reign period (433), she went south to the capital and took up residence in Eternal Peace Convent. In managing the affairs of the community she treated everyone the same with equal affection for all. Great and humble happily submitted to her authority, and, with the passing of time, she was even more respected.

In the twenty-fifth year of the yüan-chia reign period (448), when Seng-tuan was more than seventy years old she died. Her disciples P'u-ching and P'u-yao were also well known for their practice of austerities and for their chanting of the Flower of the Law Scripture.

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