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The Emperor Wu's Repentance Service
The Emperor Wu's Repentance (also known as the Place of Compassion Repentance) was compiled by the Ch’an Master Pao-chih and ten other honorable monks. This repentance was so named because it originated from the Emperor himself. A devoted Buddhist, Emperor Wu (of the Liang Dynasty) took the Bodhisattva precepts during the second year of his reign, and abided to them strictly for the rest of his life. In addition to building many temples and hosting numerous Dharma services, he also studied extensively the teachings of Buddha during his life time. Thereupon, he was also known as the Bodhisattva Emperor. Queen Chi, the emperor’s first wife, was a jealous and temperamental woman. Hence, her thoughts and words were extremely wicked.
Due to her snake-like nature, she descended to the world of pythons after her death at age thirty. However, her spirit was not obscured; she was not ignorant of her karmic causes. During the second year of his rule, Queen Chi visited the Emperor one night at the palace. At first, the emperor did not recognize the snake was his wife. Thus, the queen revealed herself and told him why she had assumed the body of a python. She also made her current sufferings and all the bad deeds she had ever committed known to the Emperor.
She begged him to rescue her from the miseries. Upon learning the truths, Emperor Wu immediately invited Ch’an master Pao-chih and other honorable monks to write a repentance of ten scrolls for the queen in accordance with the disciplines of the sutra and the essentials of confessing one’s sins. Shortly after the repentance service, Queen Chi, dressed in high-topped hat and red gown, revisited the emperor, “With the aid of Buddha’s strength, I was able to shed the body of a python, and be reborn in the Celestial Realms; hence, I am here to pay my gratitude.? After her speech, the figure disappeared. The merit one accumulates from the repentance is thus inconceivable and beyond ordinary comprehension. Thenceforth, the Emperor Wu’s repentance service is one of the most popular and widespread repentance services because it benefits both the living and the dead. Today, it is still being held regularly.