The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana (or Awakening of Mahayana Faith, Sanskrit: Mahayana-sraddhotpada-sastra, 大乘起信論) is a text of the Mahayana branch of Buddhism.

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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.[1][2]


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.


English Translations

Other References


  1. Nattier, Jan. The Heart Sutra: A Chinese Apocryphal Text?. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol 15, issue 2, pgs 180-81
  2. Chinese Buddhist Apocrypha by Robert E. Buswell. University of Hawaii Press: 1990. ISBN 0824812530. pgs 1-29

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