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時莊嚴寺曇斌法師弟子僧宗玄趣。共直佛殿慢藏致盜。乃失菩薩瓔珞及七寶澡罐斌衣缽之外室如懸磬。無以為備。憂慨輟講。閉房三日。勝宣告四部旬月備辦。德感化行皆類此也。 齊文惠帝聞風雅相接召。每延入宮講說眾經。司徒竟陵文宣王倍崇敬焉。勝志貞南金心皎比雪。裁箴尼眾實允物望。令旨仍使為寺主闔眾愛敬如奉嚴尊。從定林寺僧遠法師受菩薩戒。 座側常置香鑪。勝乃捻香。遠止之曰。不取火已信宿矣。所置之香遂氛氳流煙。咸歎其肅恭表應若斯也。永明中作聖僧齋攝心祈想。忽聞空中彈指合掌側聽。勝居寺三十年。未嘗赴齋會遊踐貴。勝每重閑靜處係念思惟。故流芳不遠。文惠帝特加供俸。日月充盈。締搆房宇。闔寺崇華。
3.6 (Tsai no.42) Chih-sheng
The nun Chih-sheng (Victorious Sagacity) (427-492) of Establishing Blessings Convent
Chih-sheng's secular surname was Hsü. Her family was originally from [the northern city of] Ch'ang-an, but had lived [in the south] in Kuei-chi, for three generations.
When she was six, Chih-sheng went along with her grandmother to the capital to visit Pottery Office Monastery. When she saw the magnificence of the monastery, the precious decorations, and adornment, she wept copiously and begged leave from her grandmother to cut off her hair and cast aside secular garments to become a nun. Her grandmother questioned her in detail, and Chih-sheng fully explained her intention, but her grandmother said she was too young and did not permit it.
During the Sung dynasty many hardships caused people in all classes of society to lose their livelihood. The times were very confused, and the years went by, so that Chih-sheng was close to twenty before she was able to leave the secular life and take up residence in Establishing Blessings Convent.
Walking alone without peer, her practice of the Buddhist monastic life was inimitable. She listened to a recitation of the Great Final Nirvāna Scripture, and, hearing it once, was able to hold it in mind. Later, when she was studying the books of monastic discipline, she mastered them thoroughly without having to be taught twice. The fame of her memory in all respects increased. She herself wrote several tens of scrolls of commentaries in which the phrasing was concise and the meaning far-reaching; her interpretations were recondite and her reasoning subtle.
Encountering filth she was not soiled; meeting with adversities she was not worn down. In the ta-ming reign period (457-464) there was a fellow who used deceit to meet with her, to try to embrace her in a lascivious way, hoping she would not keep to her rules. But Chih-sheng with deep-seated purpose upheld her purity and stood firm as a wall. With grave countenance she reported everything to the Assembly of Nuns, who recorded what had happened and reported it to the civil authorities. Chih-sheng maintained the pure precepts of the monastic life as though she were guarding bright pearls.
At one time the monks Seng-tsung (438-496) and Hsüan-ch'ü, disciples of the master of the law T'an-pin of Splendidly Adorned Monastery, together were on duty in the Buddha Hall, but, because they were careless in storing things, they invited a theft in which the bodhisattva necklace and the seven-jeweled water bowl were stolen. T'an-pin's own room, except for his robe and begging bowl, was as bare as a hanging gong, and therefore he had nothing with which to replace what had been taken. Distressed and sad, he suspended his lectures and remained in his own quarters for three days. When Chih-sheng made this known to the four groups of monks, nuns, laymen, and lay-women, everything was provided within ten days. The response to her virtue and influence was always like this.
The Ch'i heir apparent, Wen-hui (458-493) [the eldest son of Emperor Wu], hearing of her reputation, often summoned her to his presence. Whenever she was invited to the imperial palace to give lectures on the various Buddhist scriptures, the minister of education, the prince of Ching-ling, Wen-hsüan (460-494) [the second son of Emperor Wu,] respected her even more.
Chih-sheng's sense of purpose was as durable as southern gold, and her heart as pristine as northern snow. Because she was indeed highly respected for the discerning moral advice she gave her Assembly of Nuns, the empress dowager ordered that she serve as abbess of the convent. The whole community loved and respected her as though they were serving their elders.
Chih-sheng made the vows of one aspiring to be a bodhisattva from Master of the Law Seng-yüan (ca. 430-ca. 490) of [Upper] Grove of Concentration Monastery on Bell Mountain. A censer was always placed beside the seat, and Chih-sheng picked up some incense to put in it, but Seng-yüan tried to stop her, saying, "The censer has not been lit for the past three days." But when clouds of smoke arose from the incense that she had dropped into the censer, everyone marveled at her awesome devotion that brought forth such a response.
During the yung-ming reign period (483-493), while she was holding a vegetarian religious feast in honor of the Holy Monk [Pindola], she concentrated her mind in earnest supplication. When she unexpectedly heard fingers snapping in the air, she brought her palms together in a gesture of reverence and bowed her head to listen.
Because Chih-sheng lived in the convent for thirty years without attending the vegetarian meals given outside the convent and without roaming about visiting either nobles or commoners, and because she dwelt in quiet seclusion and remained in contemplation, the fragrance of her reputation was not widespread.
The heir apparent, Wen-hui, especially made offerings to her, and as time went by they were so abundant that she built more buildings and that the entire convent was splendidly beautiful.
Chih-sheng sacrificed her own religious robes and begging bowl, selling them to raise money to make stone images at Sheh Mountain Monastery for the sake of seven emperors of the Sung and Ch'i dynasties.
In the tenth year of the yung-ming reign period (492), when she was confined to bed with an illness, she unexpectedly saw golden chariots with jade canopies all coming to welcome her. On the fifth day of the fourth month she told all her disciples, "I am now going to leave." The disciples wept. She then pulled aside her robe to expose her chest on which there appeared, written in the highly cursive style, the character Fo (Buddha), clear and white in form and color. At noon on the eighth day [the day of the Buddha's birthday], she died at the age of sixty-six. She was buried on Bell Mountain. The heir apparent, Wen-hui, had supplied her medicines, and imperial officials provided everything needed for the funeral.
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|