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法宣。本姓王。剡人也。父道寄世奉正法。宣幼而有離俗之志。年始七歲而蔬食苦節。 及至十八誦法華經。首尾通利解其指歸。坐臥輒見帳蓋覆之。驟有媒娉誓而弗許。至年二十四。父母攜就剡齊明寺德樂尼。改服從禁。即於是日帳蓋自消。博覽經書深入理味。成戒以後鄉邑時人望昭義道莫不服其精致。



4.14 (Tsai no.65) Shih Fa-hsüan

The nun Shih Fa-hsüan (Comprehensive Law) (in the lineage of Shākyamuni) (434-516) of Beckoning Clarity Convent in Shan-yin

Fa-hsüan's secular surname was Wang, and her family came from Yen [near Kuei-chi, southeast of the capital]. Her father, Wang Tao-chi, continued his family's profession of the True Law [of Buddhism]. Already as a child Fa-hsüan had determined to leave the secular life and become a nun, and beginning at age 7 she undertook a vegetarian diet and other austerities. At age 18 she chanted the Flower of the Law Scripture and fully studied and understood its purport from beginning to end. Whether sitting or lying down for sleep, Fa-hsüan always had a vision of a canopy hovering over her.

Unexpectedly a matchmaker appeared to arrange a betrothal, but Fa-hsüan made a vow that she would not be married. When she was twenty years old, her parents took her to the nun Teh-leh (no. 51) of Brightness of Ch'i Convent in Yen where she donned the garb of a nun and undertook to follow all the precepts of the monastic life. From that day forward the vision of the canopy vanished.

Fa-hsüan read widely in the scriptures, fully savoring the flavor of their doctrines. After she received the full obligation of a monastic life, her contemporaries in the region all looked up to her, acknowledging her excellent practice [of Buddhism].

At the time of the end of the Sung dynasty (420-479) the master of the law Seng-jou (431-494) traveled around eastern China preaching and explaining the scriptures and commentaries, going from T'u and Sheng mountains in Yen [north] to Yü Cave on Kuei-chi Mountain, or [going on farther west] to ascend Ling-yin Mountain, or [going on farther north to Ku-su Mountain, way up in Wu Commandery]. Fa-hsüan took pleasure in the subtleties of Seng-jou's explication of the trends of thought in the commentaries to the scriptures, and she looked deeply into the profundities of the essentials in the scriptures themselves as explained by Hui-chi (412-496), another master of the law who had also been traveling in the region. During the yung-ming reign period (483-493), she received instruction in the Sarvāstivāda Monastic Rules in Ten Recitations from the master of the law Hui-hsi. Thus, day by day her knowledge increased in both breadth and depth.

Fa-hsüan then moved to Beckoning Clarity Convent in Shan-yin County, where she repeatedly lectured on the scriptures and the books of monastic rules until her fame spread beyond the immediate region [which included what was, in olden times] the kingdom of Yüeh. Rather than build up a private fortune for herself she used the donations given her to renovate the convent buildings, whose reconstruction was so splendid that it seemed to be of divine workmanship. She had scriptures copied and images made, and there was nothing that was not completed to perfection.

Chang Yüan of Wu Commandery, Yü Yung of Ying-ch'uan and Chou Ying of Ju-nan, famous literary men of the time, all went personally to Fa-hsüan to pay their respects. When Hsiao Chao-chou, the Ch'i dynasty prince of Pa-ling, was serving as the administrator of Kuei-chi, he treated her most generously. [Hsiao] Yüan-chien (d. 519), prince of Heng-yang of the Liang dynasty, asked her to serve as his mother's religious instructor when he came to the commandery.

Fa-hsüan died in the fifteenth year of the t'ien-chien reign period (516) of the Liang dynasty at the age of eighty-three.

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