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法也緣等還家即毀神座繕立精廬。晝夜講誦。夕中每有五色光明。流泛峰嶺有若燈燭。 自此以後容止華雅音制詮正。上京諷誦不能過也。


3.1 (Tsai no.37) Fa-yüan

The nun Fa-yüan (Affinity with the Law) (424/426-479/482) of Tseng-ch'eng in Tung-kuan [in south China]

Fa-yüan's secular surname was Lun. She was from Tseng-ch'eng [in Tung-kuan in south China].

In the ninth year of the yüan-chia reign period (432) of the Sung dynasty, Fa-yüan was ten years old, and her sister Fa-ts'ai was nine. At that time they knew nothing of the teachings or scriptures of Buddhism. In that year, the eighth day of the second month [the day commemorating the Buddha's final nirvana], both sisters disappeared. Three days later they reappeared saying that they had reached the heavenly palace of the Pure Land and had seen the Buddha, who had converted them.

On the fifteenth day of the ninth month [the full-moon day], they disappeared again for ten days before returning. After that sojourn they were able to speak and write a foreign language as well as chant Buddhist scriptures. When they chanced to see anyone from the foreign lands to the west of China, they bantered with them, communicating with them fluently.

In the tenth year (433), on the fifteenth day of the first month [the day of the Lantern Festival], they vanished once again. People working in the fields saw the two girls blown whirling by a wind up to the sky. Their parents, worried and afraid, petitioned the spirits with sacrifice for the happy fortune of the sisters' return, but it was a month before they came back.

When the two sisters returned, they had already embraced the monastic life, signified by their wearing monastic robes and carrying their cut-off hair. They reported that they had seen the Buddha and also a nun who had said, "Because of affinities established between us in a previous life, you should become my disciples." She rubbed their heads with her hands, and their hair fell out of its own accord. The nun bestowed religious names on them, calling the elder sister Fa-yüan and the younger Fa-ts'ai. On the point of sending them back, the nun said, "You should build a monastic dwelling, and I shall give you scriptures."

When Fa-yüan and her sister returned home, they demolished the altar to the spirits and in its place built a monastic dwelling where they discussed and chanted scriptures day and night. Every evening multicolored lights, as though from lanterns or candles, played over the mountain peaks. From this time forward the sisters' demeanor was elegant and their speech correct and clear. The chanting in the capital itself could not surpass theirs.

The provincial governors Wei Lang and K'ung Mo both humbly made offerings, and, when they heard the two sisters' speech, they even more deeply honored the nuns' unusual quality. Because of this all the people in the region served the True Law of the Buddha.

Fa-yüan died at the age of fifty-six in the chien-yüan reign period (479-482).

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