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以建武元年二月十八日夜。登此積薪引火自焚。捨生死身供養三寶。近村見火競來赴救。 及至簡已遷滅。道俗哀慟聲振山谷。即聚所餘為立墳剎也

3.10 (Tsai no.46) T'an-chien

The nun T'an-chien (Simplicity of the Dharma) of Voice of the Teaching Convent

T'an-chien's secular surname was Chang, and her family originally was from Ch'ing-ho [in northern China]. She was a disciple of the nun Fa-ching. She traveled throughout the valley of the Huai River [north of the Yangtze River], to study with various teachers, so that she might widely proclaim the True Law of the Buddha. Putting others first and herself last, her ambition was to help all living beings.

In the fourth year of the chien-yüan reign period (482) of Ch'i, she built Voice of the Teaching Convent, where she practiced the quiet of meditation and achieved [the highest concentrative state known as] samādhi. She was widely known for her virtue, and her meritorious influence spread daily. Both religious and laity respected her and made plentiful offerings.

At that time there was a master of the law Hui-ming who deeply appreciated silence and quietude. Originally he lived in Grove of the Way Monastery, which had been refurbished and adorned by the heir apparent, Wen-hui (458-493) [eldest son of the emperor], and the prince of Ching-ling, Wen-hsüan (460-494) [second son of the emperor], during the yung-ming reign period (483-493) of Ch'i. Many of the monks there were students of doctrine and were constantly debating topics in the scriptures and explanatory treatises. Because of the hustle and bustle of all the coming and going, Hui-ming wanted to get away. T'an-chien made a gift to him of her convent, and she herself moved to White Mountain, where she built a grass shelter to protect her from wind and rain. At the appropriate times she went out begging and was sustained by the alms she received.

She often gathered firewood, saying that she was going to carry out a meritorious act, and [on the day celebrating the Buddha's final nirvana], the eighth night of the second month in the first year of the chien-wu reign period (494), she mounted this pile of firewood and kindled a fire, immolating herself, thereby abandoning her body of birth and death as an offering to the Three Treasures. When the people in the neighboring village saw the fire, they raced to rescue her, but, when they arrived, T'an-chien had already died. Religious and laity alike lamented, their cries reverberating through the mountains and valleys. They then built a tomb to bury her remains, which they had gathered up.

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