<Previous Section>
<Next Section>





4.10 (Tsai no.61) Seng-shu

The nun Seng-shu (Transmitter for the Sangha) (430-513) of Solitude Convent

Seng-shu's secular surname was Huai. Her family was originally from [the northeastern city of] P'eng-ch'eng, but her father Huai Seng-chen had moved to [the capital city of] Chien-k'ang.

When Seng-shu was a child, she set her mind on the practice of religion and at age 8 undertook a vegetarian diet. When she was nineteen, in the twenty-fourth year of the yüan-chia reign period (447) of Sung, she left the secular life under the direction of the nun Ching-hsiu (no. 52) of Meditation Grove Convent. She was extremely rigorous in her practice of morality, keeping all the regulations without fail. She widely read both the scriptures and the texts of monastic precepts, carefully perusing them all, and later made a particular study of the Sarvāstivāda Monastic Rules in Ten Recitations, whose meaning she thoroughly comprehended. Further, under the direction of the two masters of meditation, Fa-yin and Seng-shen (416-490), she received instruction in all the many abstruse methods of meditation.

Seng-shu then took up residence in Meditation Grove Convent as the head of meditation studies, but, because the hubbub of all the people coming, going, and gathering together became too great, she resolved to live in seclusion. When Lady Chang, mother of the prince of Lin-ch'uan, heard about this she gave up her own residence, intending to convert it into a convent for Seng-shu, but at that time regulations forbid her to do this. It was not until the first day of the ninth month of the second year of the yüan-hui reign period (474), when Wu Ch'ung-hua, the mother of the prince of Ju-nan, requested an imperial decree, that the convent was allowed to be built. There were altogether over fifty units of halls, shrines, and cells. Seng-shu, together with her companions, twenty women in all, delighting in the quiet of meditation, named their new convent Solitude.

In all circumstances Seng-shu held fast to her own sense of propriety and did not encourage any outward ostentation. At the close of both the Sung and Ch'i dynasties the world was in turmoil, but Seng-shu, sitting in the quietude of meditation, was not at all vexed by the clamor of worldly affairs.

The Ch'i heir apparent, Wen-hui (458-493), and the prince of Ching-ling, Wen-hsüan (460-494), treated her with great courtesy and respect. They refurbished and adorned the entire convent, giving everything remarkable splendor. They provided for her necessities throughout the four seasons without cease.

When the great Liang dynasty came to power, and the empire once again was established in order and good principles, both religious and laity paid her great respect, gathering like clouds from the four directions, but Seng-shu did not store up any of the material goods offered to her. Rather, she distributed them as soon as she received them. Sometimes she used the wealth she received to help the Buddhists of the four groups—the monks, nuns, laymen, and lay-women. Sometimes she used it to buy freedom for captured animals. She begged for donations to commission five golden images, all of which were of magnificent beauty. She also commissioned the copying of more than a thousand scrolls of Buddhist scriptures and texts of monastic precepts, the cases and rollers of which were adorned with precious ornaments.

Seng-shu died in the twelfth year of the t'ien-chien reign period (513) at the age of eighty-four and was buried on the south side of Bell Mountain [close to the northeast outskirts of the capital].

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