[21] How A Great Master Chose Pure Land Over Heaven 大师选净弃天记


[In the Tang Dynasty], Dao’ang (道昂) of Hanling Mountain Temple in Xiangzhou (his original clan name is unknown), was a man from Wei Commandery. Firmly committed to the faith and upholding its principles, he was penetratingly pure in spirit. Alone, driven by unusual ambitions, he stood nobly outside the world. He had cultivated wisdom and understanding but feared that they did not lead to awakening, and so he formed the aspiration to be reborn in the Western Pure Land. 


Later, he learned that his life was about to end and reported this in advance to his acquaintances. He was to leave at the beginning of the eighth month. When the time came, he was not at all ill. He asked whether it was time for the meal, and when the sun was at the midpoint in the sky he ascended the high seat.


There was something extraordinary about his appearance and the incense burner produced a strange fragrance. Calling members of the congregation toward him, he conferred on them the Bodhisattva Precepts. His words were incisive and cut through to the hearts of the listeners. At that time the congregation surrounded him to receive his last instructions.


[Dao’]ang raised his eyes, looked up high, and saw large numbers of deities everywhere, performing on string and wind instruments. A mournfully beautiful tune was heard clearly from a distance. Gods spoke loudly to the monks gathered there, “Deities of Tuṣita Heaven, playing music, have come down to welcome him.”


[Dao’]ang said, “Karmic retribution is the foundation of life and death. This is not what I have sought all this time. I have always prayed for the Pure Land. Why is my wish not heard in spite of the sincerity of this practice?” With his words completed, he then saw the gods playing music rise up higher, and they soon disappeared. Then he saw the western sky filled with incense, flowers, and performers playing music. Like a cloud, this vision flew over and circled above his head. All the monks saw it.


[Dao’]ang said, “Monks, do not be alarmed. Now the spiritual beings from the West have come to welcome me. I should now go to them.” With his words completed, only seeing the incense burner falling from his hands. Then on the high seat, he then departed. He died at Baoying Temple, at the age sixty-nine, in the eighth month of the seventh year of the Zhenguan period (633 C.E.). Both monks and laymen lamented aloud; a crowd as large as a mountain gathered to observe them.


When the body was moved for temporary burial [people saw that] on the bottom of his feet characters such as “Hall Of Universal Light” had appeared. The body was sent back to Mount Hanling, where a cave was carved in which to place it. After the spring the body had not decayed, still sitting upright firmly, just as when it was placed there.


Furthermore, once when Dao’ang was to give a lecture it was as usual dark in the hall, since there was no lamp. He raised his hand high and it emitted a strange light, illuminating the whole building. Seeing this, the audience wondered where the light had come from. [Dao’]ang said, “This light is always inside my hand. What are you wondering about?” If his ways did not match the numinous models and his practice did not fit those who are close to sagehood, such miraculous occurrences could not have taken place.

《法苑珠林》: 第十五卷

[The] Dharma Garden’s Grove [Of] Pearls: 15th Scroll
[By] Xīmíng Monastery’s Śramaṇa Dàoshì Compiled

A Forest of Pearls from the Dharma Garden, Volume III
(Translated by Koichi Shinohara)

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