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沈攸之為刺史普沙簡僧尼。緒乃避難下都。及沈破敗後復還西。齊太尉大司馬豫章王蕭嶷。以宋昇明末出鎮荊陝。知其有道行迎請入內。備盡四事。時有玄暢禪師。從蜀下荊。 緒就受禪法究極精妙。暢每稱其宿習不淺。緒既善解禪行兼菜蔬勵節。豫章王妃及內眷屬。 敬信甚深從受禪法。每有嚫施。受已隨散。不嘗儲畜意。志高遠都。不以生業關懷蕭。王要共還都。為起精舍在第東田之東。名曰福田寺。常入第行道。
3.12 (Tsai no.48) Hui-hsü
The nun Hui-hsü (Wisdom's Thread) (431-499) of Collected Goodness Convent
Hui-hsü's secular surname was Chou. Her family was originally from the city of Kao-p'ing in the Lü-ch'iu district [quite far north of the Ch'i capital].
High-minded and distant in character, in physical appearance she looked like a man rather than a woman. Her statements and opinions were extremely straightforward without the slightest circumlocution.
By the time she was seven years old, Hui-hsü ate vegetarian food, observed the fasts, and was resolute in her determination to maintain her chastity. At the age of eighteen she left the secular household life to take up residence in Three-Story Convent of Ching Province [along the Yangtze River, an important center of Buddhism, far to the west of the capital]. Religious and laity alike admired her complete practice of the monastic rules.
At that time in Chiang-ling [the provincial capital of Ching Province], there was an eremitic nun who had a reputation for virtue in those western regions. When she saw Hui-hsü, she regarded her as extraordinary, and therefore, forgetting any difference in age, they together followed the Way of Buddhism. Once they lived together for a summer to practice [the meditation of visualizing the Buddha in one's presence], during which time they carried out austerities of mind and body both day and night without rest.
When Shen Yu-chih (d. 478) was governor of the province he sifted and weeded the monastic communities, at which time Hui-hsü, to avoid the difficulty, fled to the capital. She returned to the west only after the defeat of Shen [during the struggles between the Sung and the eventually victorious Ch'i]. The Ch'i grand general of the army and grand marshal, the prince of Yü-chang, Hsiao I (444-492) [second son of Emperor Kao, first emperor of Ch'i], at the end of the sheng-ming reign period (477-479) of the Sung dynasty, went out as a commander of the garrison for the provinces of Ching and Shan. Knowing of her religious practice, he requested her presence at his residence where he provided her with the four essentials of a monastic.
At that time the master of meditation Hsüan-ch'ang came to Ching from the [far western] province of Shu. He taught methods of meditation to Hui-hsü, who investigated to the utmost their subtle mysteries, causing Hsüan-ch'ang often to praise her depth of mind inherited from experience gained in previous lives. Hui-hsü thus became proficient in meditation as well as continued to maintain her vegetarianism and strict observance of the moral precepts.
The wife of the prince of Yü-chang and other ladies of the royal family were greatly devoted to her and from her received instruction in meditation. Whenever she received donations, she dispersed them to others, never having any intention of keeping them for herself. Hui-hsü, far above such matters, had no concern for her material livelihood.
The prince requested her to return with him to the capital, where, east of the eastern fields of his family's estate, he built for her Field of Blessings Convent. She was frequently invited to the prince's residence to carry out various religious practices.
In the ninth year of the yung-ming reign period (491), Hui-hsü announced that she had suddenly taken very ill, but it was not a genuine disease; it was only that she was no longer willing to eat. When she had become quite haggard and emaciated, she earnestly begged to be able to return to her convent, and as soon as she returned she immediately improved. Ten days later, however, she was again summoned to the prince's residence, and, having once arrived, her illness reappeared as before. No one knew the reason why, but suddenly the prince died (492), and one calamity after another befell his family. Because the eastern estate was in a distant suburb, Emperor Wu (440-483-493) [the prince's elder brother and second emperor of Ch'i], built Collected Goodness Convent and moved all the nuns to this new convent while using Field of Blessings Convent to house the foreign monk ārya. The monk, who received support from the royal family, was good at chanting Buddhist magical spells.
After Hui-hsü herself had moved to Collected Goodness Convent, she did not again set foot in the palace for several years. During that time everyone, both within and without the palace, greatly respected the nun and often urged her to return for short visits to the women's apartments of the palace. Lady Chu wished to hold a religious vegetarian feast and sent a message to invite Hui-hsü to consult with her ahead of time about the affair.
The nun said, "This is very good. Because I am now
old, I truly want at this time to visit the palace once more to bid farewell to
all the ladies." Thus she attended the vegetarian feast and, when it was over,
she asked for paper and brush and wrote a poem:
She then took her leave, saying, "This time when I go out to the convent, it will be farewell forever. Because I am old, I shall not again be able to enter the palace." She was healthy at that time, but a little over a month after she had gone back to the convent she said she was sick, and, even though she seemed no different from before, she died a few days later on the twentieth day of the eleventh month of the first year of the yung-yüan reign period (499). She was sixty-nine years old. The scholar Chou Sheh (469-524) wrote a statement in praise of her.
The nun Te-sheng was a companion in the Way [of Buddhism], the same in virtue and will, and received Hui-hsü's instruction in religious practice and contemplation.
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