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王氏大瞋云。尼要名利詐現奇特。密貨內人作如此事。不爾夜半城內那知。耀曰。新婦勿橫生煩惱。捨身關我傍人豈知。於是還寺斷穀服香油。至昇明元年於寺燒身。火來至面誦經不輟。語諸尼云。收我遺骨正得二升。及至火滅果如其言。 未燒之前一月日許。有胡僧年可二十。形容端正竟胛生毛。長六七寸。極細軟。人問之。 譯語答云。從來不覆是故生毛耳。謂耀曰。我住波羅奈國。至來數日。聞姊欲捨身。故送銀甖相與。耀即頂受。未及委悉匆匆辭去。遣人追留出門便失。以此甖盛其舍利。不滿二合。云。

2.23 (Tsai no.36) Hui-yao

The nun Hui-yao (Glorious Wisdom) of Eternal Quietude Convent in Shu Commandery [in the west, far upriver from the capital]

Hui-yao's secular surname was Chou. Her family was originally from Hsi-p'ing [in southwest China].

Hui-yao, who left the household life while still a child, always vowed to burn her body as a worship offering to the Three Treasures. At the end of the t'ai-shih reign period (465-471), she spoke about her intention to the governor, Liu Liang (d. 472), who at first gave permission. Hui-yao asked to be able to carry out her self-immolation on the top of the tile pagoda that belonged to Madame Wang, a concubine of a certain Chao Ch'u-ssu. Madame Wang gave her approval, and on the full-moon night of the fifteenth day of the first month [the day of the Lantern Festival], Hui-yao, carrying cloth and oil, led her disciples to the pagoda. They had not finished the preparations, however, when Liu Liang sent a letter addressed to the nuns saying, "If Hui-yao succeeds in her intention to burn herself up as an offering, then Eternal Quietude Convent will incur a grave offence." Hui-yao had no choice but to stop her preparations.

Madame Wang, very angry, said, "That nun, wanting fame and profit, deceitfully indulged in unusual behavior, bribing her cronies to do a thing like this. If that were not the case, how could someone in the city, at midnight no less, know anything about it?"

Hui-yao [responded to the charge], "Madame, do not engage in such confused thought. Abandoning my body is my concern. How could others know?" Thereupon she returned to the convent, where she gave up eating cereals, consuming instead fragrant oils [as described in the chapter on the Medicine King bodhisattva in the Flower of the Law], until the first year of the sheng-ming reign period (477), when she offered her body by fire at the convent. Even when the flames had reached as high as her face, she continued to chant scriptures without ceasing.

She said to all the nuns, "Gather up the bones I leave. There should be exactly two pints." After the fire had gone out, the result was as she had said it would be.

A month and some days before her self-immolation, there appeared in the region a foreign monk, about twenty years old, who, although of most proper appearance, had extremely fine, soft, black hair growing on his shoulders to the length of six or seven inches. When people asked about the strange phenomenon, he answered, through an interpreter, "Because I have never covered my shoulders hair has grown there."

He said to Hui-yao, "I live in Varanasi [that is, central India] but have been here quite a few days. I heard that you intend to abandon your body. Therefore I want to give you a silver jug." Hui-yao received it with the utmost respect, but, before she could find out more about him, the foreign monk departed in a great hurry. She sent people to follow and bring him back, but he had already gone out the city gate and disappeared. The silver jug was used to hold the sharīra [the pearl-like relics of sanctity], recovered from Hui-yao's bones. The relics came to not quite a fifth of a pint.

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