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4.1 (Tsai no.52) Ching-hsiu
The nun Ching-hsiu (Pure Refinement) (418-506) of Meditation Grove Convent
Ching-hsiu's secular surname was Liang, and her family was originally from Wu-shih in An-ting [northwest of the old northern capital of Ch'ang-an]. Her grandfather, Liang Ch'ou, was a military commander of the title marshal in charge of subjugating barbarians; her father, Liang Ts'an-chih, was the marquis of Tu-hsiang in Lung-ch'uan County [in the far south of the country].
Ching-hsiu, when still very young, besides being intelligent, liked performing compassionate deeds. At the age of seven she took up the observance of the Buddhist vegetarian regulations on her own. The family had requested monks to come to recite the Nirvāna Scripture, and, when Ching-hsiu heard the section that talks about giving up fish and flesh, she thereupon became a vegetarian, but she did not dare to let her parents know. If she was served any flesh food, she would secretly throw it away. After receiving the obligation for the five fundamental precepts of Buddhism from the foreign monk P'u-lien, she kept them scrupulously without once transgressing. Day and night she ceaselessly offered worship and recited and chanted the scriptures. When she was twelve, she sought to leave the secular life, but her parents forbade it. After she had learned to write, she often copied out scriptures. Whatever valuables she had she used entirely for meritorious deeds, neither enjoying secular pleasures nor wearing silks and brocades nor applying any cosmetics. In this way she lived until she was twenty-nine years old, at which time she finally received permission to become a nun.
Ching-hsiu became a disciple of the nun Yeh-shou (no. 30) of Green Garden Convent, whom she served in absolute sincerity, all the while fearing that she was not coming up to the mark. Day and night, without remiss, she cultivated the threefold Buddhist work [of morality, meditation, and wisdom]. In every communal effort she took the lead, laboring without stint and taking on the most difficult matters. Benevolent deities were always nearby respectfully protecting her. At that time a certain Mr. Ma, whom the world considered divinely sagacious, saw Ching-hsiu and predicted, "This nun will be born in the Tushita Heaven."
One night three nuns were sitting in meditation in the Buddha Hall when they suddenly heard a voice in the air like the bellowing of a bull, which frightened two of them. Ching-hsiu alone retained her composure and went to her room to fetch a candle. After her return to the hall, as soon as she began to go up the steps they again heard a voice saying, "Nuns, make way, Master of Meditation Ching-hsiu is returning."
On another occasion she was sitting in meditation with several other nuns in the meditation hall. One of the nuns who had dozed off was snoring. In her sleep she saw a person supporting the hall with his head who said, "Do not startle the nun Ching-hsiu with your snoring." Another time after that when she was sitting in meditation together with all the other nuns, one of them briefly stood up to return to her room, but she saw an apparition of a person who clapped his hands to stop her, saying, "Do not disturb the nun Ching-hsiu."
In her behavior toward everyone Ching-hsiu followed all the monastic regulations and standards.
She wanted to request the master of the law Yao to lecture on the text The Sarvāstivāda Monastic Rules in Ten Recitations, but she had only one thousand in cash and was distressed that the money might not be enough to complete the arrangements. That night in a dream she saw a flock of ravens, magpies, mynahs, and sparrows, each riding in a carriage appropriate to its size and singing together, "We are going to help the nun Ching-hsiu arrange the lecture," and, when she began to plan for it, seventy donors vied to give her fine offerings.
Later, she also invited the master of monastic rules Fa-ying (416482) to give a lecture again on The Sarvāstivāda Monastic Rules in Ten Recitations. On the first day of the lectures the water in the water jar became fragrant spontaneously. On that day, because she was the only one sitting in attendance for the lecture and she feared that she might be transgressing the rule [forbidding a nun from sitting alone with a monk], Ching-hsiu consulted the master of monastic rules who replied, "You are not transgressing the rule."
Ching-hsiu, observing that the rest of the nuns were not living in complete accordance with all the requirements of the religious life, lamented, "[The Buddha] the great fountain himself, is not yet so far in the past; but the springs of his teaching are slowing to a trickle. If I do not rectify myself, how can I guide others?" Therefore she carried out the mānatta ceremony for the confession of offenses against the monastic rule, she herself confessing her own faults. When the Assembly of Nuns saw what she was doing, they, too, followed suit and, reflecting on their behavior and desiring to make amends, confessed their faults in a spirit of contrition.
In the seventh year of the yüan-chia reign period (430) of Sung, the foreign monk Gunavarman (ca. 367-ca. 431) arrived at the capital. His knowledge and practice of the monastic rules and regulations were of the highest caliber, and from him Ching-hsiu received once again the full obligation to observe the monastic precepts. Nevertheless, because the rest of the nuns at Green Garden Convent had a different understanding, she wished to live elsewhere so that, exteriorly— observing strictly the monastic rules—and interiorly—resting peacefully in the silence of meditation—she might come near to satisfying her religious intentions.
In the seventh year and eighth month of the ta-ming reign period (463), the princess of Nan-ch'ang of Sung and Huang Hsiu-i together donated a suitable piece of land to build a convent. In the construction work Ching-hsiu, wearing hempen clothing and eating coarse vegetables, personally carried mud and tile, laboring strenuously from morning until night. In the building of the shrines and the making of the statues, there was nothing that was not provided to complete the project. The more-than-ten nuns who lived together with Ching-hsiu in the new convent all practiced meditation as their work, and, in the third year of the t'ai-shih reign period (467), Emperor Ming (439465-472) decreed that the convent should be named Meditation Grove Convent to identify the work of those who had gathered there.
Ching-hsiu copied many scriptures in her own hand and placed them on a specially built scripture platform housed in the convent. Throughout the day the two Sāgara Dragon King brothers, to show their protection and support, left footprints that were seen by everyone who came to the convent. Each time she made offerings to the Holy Monk [Pindola] strange tracks appeared on the fruit and food.
As another example of her sanctity, once she held a seven-day offering ceremony for the holy arhats, solitary Buddhas, and bodhisattvas. >From the beginning to the end of the ritual she concentrated her mind and fixed her thoughts, whereupon she saw two foreign monks gesticulating and talking. One was called Mikhala and the other Bhikhala. Because the color of the robes that they wore was like ripe mulberry fruit, Ching-hsiu then dyed her clothing with mud to match the color she had seen. On another day she held a ceremony for the five hundred arhats of the Himalayan Lake Anavatapta and for the five hundred arhats of Kashmir. Finally, she invited the monks in the capital to attend a two-day assembly. On the second day a foreign monk appeared, and everyone there thought it suspicious. When they made an inquiry, he said that he had come from Kashmir a year ago. They asked the gatekeeper to keep watch on him. Many people saw him go out through the Sung-lin Gate, walk ten-some steps farther and then suddenly disappear.
On another occasion when she held a ceremony of inviting the Holy Monk Pindola to bathe, all was quiet both within and without the hall, except for the sound of the dipper ladling water, indicating that Pindola was truly present. Ching-hsiu's auspicious omens and unusual spiritual experiences were all of this type.
The Ch'i heir apparent, Wen-hui (458-493), and the prince of Ching-ling, Wen-hsüan (460-494), treated her with great honor, making donations to her all the time. Ching-hsiu grew old and feeble and was unable to walk. In the third year of the t'ien-chien reign period (504) of the Liang dynasty she received imperial permission to ride in a sedan chair to the imperial palace. On the seventeenth day of the sixth month of the fifth year (506), she became severely ill and depressed, unable to eat or drink. On the nineteenth day of the sixth month the master of the law Hui-ling of P'eng-ch'eng Monastery dreamed of an extraordinarily beautiful pavilion that he was told was the palace in Tushita Heaven.
When he saw Ching-hsiu within it, Hui-ling requested of her, "When you attain birth in that excellent place, do not forget to receive me there."
Ching-hsiu replied, "Because you, Master of the Law, are a great man widely conversant in the scriptures and religion of Buddhism, you shall surely live in this superlative land."
When Hui-ling heard that Ching-hsiu was sick, he went to see her and to tell her about his dream.
On the thirteenth day of the seventh month, she improved slightly, and in a dream she saw people on the west side of the Buddha Hall welcoming her with banners, parasols, and musical instruments; on the twenty-second day she invited all the religious whom she knew to gather together so that she might bid them farewell; on the twenty-seventh day she told her disciples, "I am ascending to the palace in the Tushita Heaven." As soon as she finished speaking, she died. Ching-hsiu was eighty-nine years old.
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|Published by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia|