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2.18 (Tsai no.31) Fa-pien

The nun Fa-pien (Discussant of the Law) (ca. 403-463) of Luminous Blessings Convent

Fa-pien was from Tan-yang [just to the south of the capital]. When yet a child she left the household life and became a disciple of the nun Hui-kuo (no. 14) of Luminous Blessings Convent. Respectful and modest, she lived a life of utmost simplicity, wearing worn-out clothing and eating a simple vegetarian diet, never touching strong-flavored foods. Word of her eminent simplicity soon filled the capital, and the Lang-yeh prince, Yü, the governor of Yang Province, deeply admired and respected her.

Later, Fa-pien sought to receive instruction in meditation from the foreign monk Kālayashas (ca. 383-ca. 442), a meditation master who was living at Grove of the Way Monastery. Cultivating her meditation in accordance with the teaching, she reached the pinnacle of that spiritual practice. Whenever she joined in communal activities, she always seemed to be dozing, and, once in the refectory when the other nuns dispersed after the meal, she did not get up with them. In alarm the administrator touched her and found her body to be as inflexible as wood or stone. The administrator hurried to report the event, and everyone came to see, but a moment later Fa-pien came out of her meditative trance and spoke like her usual self. The other nuns in the community all respectfully submitted to her, redoubling their reverence for her accomplishments. Fa-pien died in the seventh year of the ta-ming reign period (463) when she was over sixty years old.

The day before her death, the master of the law Ch'ao-pien (420492) of Upper Grove of Concentration Monastery dreamed of a palace that was beautifully decorated, everything down to the last trifle glowed in an aura not of this world. Men and women dressed in fine array filled this palace, but no lord was to be seen. When in the dream the monk Ch'ao-pien asked why no lord was to be seen, he received the reply, "The nun Fa-pien of Luminous Blessings Convent is shortly going to be born here; she should arrive tomorrow."

On that day Fa-pien felt only that she was shivering, and she sent word to the community who, from highest to lowest, gathered around her. She said to them, "There are strangers approaching me, now visible and now faint, like shadows and clouds." Having spoken, she died as she sat there.

Afterward there were also the nuns Tao-chao and Seng-pien, who were known for their practice of the perfection of vigor [one of the six Buddhist perfections]. Tao-chao, whose secular surname was Yang, was from the northern province of Hsü. Keeping a vegetarian diet and chanting scriptures, she was supported with offerings from the prince of Lin-ho.

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