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妙執其手喻之曰。汝不解我意。我幸於外得他供養。何須自損家中食。汝但安住我不久應遠行。汝當守屋慎莫餘去。妹聞此而止。自績作布買數斛油。瓦堈盛之著庭中。語妹云。 擬作功德慎勿取也。

至四月八日夜半以布自纏而燒其身。火已親頂命其妹令呼維那打磬。我今捨壽。可遍告諸尼。速來共別。比諸尼驚至。命未絕。語諸尼云。各勤精進。生死可畏。當求出離。慎勿流轉。我捨此身供養已二十七反。止此一身當得初果(問益士人。或云元嘉十七年燒身。 或云孝建時或言大明中故備記之)

2.13 (Tsai no.26) Shan-miao

The nun Shan-miao (Excellent Subtlety) of Shu Commandery in western China

Shan-miao's secular surname was Ou-yang. She was from Fan County [in western China].

Shan-miao left the household life while still a child. Being amiable in character, she seldom went to either extreme of anger or joy. She neither wore good clothing nor ate fine food. She had a younger sister, a widow, whose husband had died, leaving her no support. Therefore, taking her child with her, she lodged with Shan-miao. Often she heard Shan-miao herself lament that she had not been born while the Buddha was on earth, and every time she said this her tears flowed in uncontrollable sorrow.

They lived together for four or five years, but the younger sister never once saw Shan-miao eating. Whenever the younger sister had cooked a meal, she would call Shan-miao to come join her, but Shan-miao would always say that she had already eaten somewhere else, or she would say that she was not feeling well and therefore could not eat anything. This went on for quite a few years until the sister felt so ashamed that she said, "My unlucky husband has perished, and, further, my child and I have no other relatives and must depend on elder sister, troubling her to no end. She is no doubt tired of us and therefore will not eat with us."

Having spoken, she wished to leave, but Shan-miao took her by the hand and explained to her, "You have misunderstood my intention. Because, fortunately, I am able as a Buddhist nun to receive offerings and donations from others, why should I eat up the food here? Don't be upset any more. Before long, I'll be going away, so you should maintain your household here and by all means do not leave." When the younger sister heard these words she stayed.

Shan-miao herself wove a length of cloth and bought many measures of oil, putting it in various jars and jugs in the courtyard. She cautioned her sister, "This oil is for a work of religious merit. Be careful that you do not use any of it."

At midnight of the eighth day of the fourth month, the [Buddha's birthday], Shan-miao wrapped herself up in the cloth she had woven and had soaked in the oil and set herself on fire. When the flames had reached as high as her head she ordered her sister, "Tell the administrator of the meditation hall to strike the gong to summon all the other nuns that they may come quickly to say farewell because I am now abandoning this life." She had not yet died by the time all the nuns had arrived in great haste and alarm. Shan-miao said to the nuns gathered there, "Each of you must diligently make the effort to perfect your spiritual life because the cycle of birth and death is a fearsome thing. You must seek to escape it, taking heed not to fall into further transmigration. I have previously abandoned this body as a worship offering to the Buddha twenty-seven times, but it is only this time that I shall attain the first fruit [whereby I am no longer liable to rebirth in the woeful destinies of hell, hungry ghosts, or animals]." (I, Pao-ch'ang, the compiler, have consulted with several elderly persons from that region. Some say she set fire to herself in the seventeenth year of the yüan-chia reign period (440); some say it was the hsiao-chien reign period (454-456); some say it was the ta-ming reign period (457464). Therefore I record them all.)

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