Origin and History
While the text is attributed by the faithful to Aśvaghoṣa, no Sanskrit version of the text is extant. The earliest known versions are written in Chinese. Paramartha (499-569) translated or authored the first known version, which dates to 553. Śikṣānanda translated or re-edited another version, perhaps during 695-700. Contemporary scholars believe that the text is a Chinese composition.
Written from the perspective of Essence-Function (tiyong) 體用, this text sought to harmonize the two soteriological philosophies of the tathāgatagarbha (or Buddha nature) and ālayavijñāna (or yogacara) into a synthetic vision based on the One Mind in Two Aspects.
Although often omitted from lists of canonical Buddhist texts, the Awakening of Faith strongly influenced subsequent Mahayana doctrine. It was studied and commented on repeatedly by many East Asian scholars, including Weonhyo 元曉, Fazang 法藏 and Zongmi 宗密. In great part due to the commentaries by Weonhyo, the Awakening of Faith ended up having an unusually powerful influence in Korea, where it may be the most oft-cited text in the entire tradition. It also provided much of the doctrinal basis for the original enlightenment thought found in the Sutra of Perfect Enlightenment.
- Hakeda, Yoshito S., trans. Awakening of Faith Attributed to Aśvaghoṣa, New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1967.
- Richard, Timothy, The Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna Doctrine—the New Buddhism, Shanghai: Christian Literature Society, 1907.
- Suzuki, Daisetsu Teitaro, Aśvaghoṣa's Discourse on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana., Chicago, Ill.: Open Court Publishing Company, 1900.
- Vorenkamp, Dirck, trans. An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.
- Entry in the Dictionary of East Asian Buddhist Terms
- Entry in Soothill and Hodous Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms
- The Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna Doctrine—the New Buddhism Timothy Richard, 1907 (html-ized full text at link)
- Aśvaghoṣa's Discourse on the Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki, Open Court Publishing Co, Chicago, 1900 (html-ized full text at link)
- Buddha Nature, Sallie B. King, 1991, State University of New York Press; see p22 for remarks to the effect that, although Paramartha undoubtedly was among the most prolific translators of Sanskrit texts into Chinese, he may have originated, not translated, the Buddha Nature Treatise as well as the Awakening of Faith. On these points, King cites Philosophy of Mind in Sixth-Century China: Paramartha's 'Evolution of Consciousness' , Diana Y. Paul, 1984, Stanford University Press.
- Digital Dictionary of Buddhism (log in with userID "guest")
- Chinese text of the Awakening of Faith (大乘起信論) provided by Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association
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