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4.13 (Tsai no.64) Shih Tao-kuei

The nun Shih Tao-kuei (Honor of the Dharma) (in the lineage of Shākyamuni) (431-516) of Ti Mountain Convent

Tao-kuei's secular surname was Shou, and her family originally was from Ch'ang-an [the old capital in the north]. As a child she was pure and serene and fond of searching out the principles of things. Energetic in her determination, her efforts surpassed others. Vowing to spread the Buddhist religion she did not eat flesh or strong-flavored vegetables, and, devoting herself to the salvation of all living beings, she was content to wear ragged clothing. Tao-kuei chanted the Shrīmālā and Infinite Life Scriptures, keeping to the task day and night. With loving thoughts her parents allowed her to take up the practice of religion, and, when she was seventeen, she left the secular life to become a nun.

Tao-kuei read widely in the scriptures and monastic texts, fully investigating their content. Coveting neither name nor fame, she took the practice of religion as her calling, and in the realm of contemplation she entered into meditative trance that did not cease regardless of her activity. When confessing her faults or making her vows, her words of sincere entreaty greatly moved those who heard them.

Hsiao Tzu-liang (460-494), the prince of Ching-ling, Wen-hsüan, of the Ch'i dynasty, regarded her with great respect and built Peak Mountain Convent for her to have a place to bring together a community of nuns devoted to the practice of meditation. When he asked her to serve as the manager of affairs of the new convent she firmly refused, but, when he asked her to serve as the model for the practice of meditation, she agreed.

Thus Tao-kuei lived for the rest of her life in the convent in Cassia Park. Although repeatedly the gathered clouds might obscure every view or deep snow might bury the whole mountain, she circumspectly cultivated her practice of sitting in meditation, never becoming weary in spirit. With whatever donations she received from the faithful she widely promoted good works, keeping not a penny to benefit herself.

Tao-kuei died in the fifteenth year of the t'ien-chien reign period (516) at the age of eighty-six and was buried on the south face of Bell Mountain.

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