Awakening of Faith: Preliminaries




I take refuge in [the Buddha,] the greatly Compassionate One, the Savior of the world, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, of most excellent deeds in all the ten directions;
And in [the Dharma,] the manifestation of his Essence, the Reality, the sea of Suchness, the boundless storehouse of excellencies;
[And in the Sangha, whose members] truly devote themselves to the practice,
May all sentient beings be made to discard their doubts, to cast aside
their evil attachments, and to give rise to the correct faith in the Mahāyāna, that the lineage of the Buddhas may not be broken off.

*Most familiar Buddhist Solemn Invocation honoring the Three Treasures—Buddha, Dharma and Sangha; am not quite comfortable, though, with Hakeda concluding this with “that the lineage of the Buddhas may not be broken-off.” What does “lineage” have to do with the focus in this shāstra highlighting the Sea of Suchness and ITs Perfect Vehicle (Tathāgata-garbha), of Liberation? Let’s contrast this with Suzuki’s:

That all beings (sarvasattva) may rid themselves of doubt, become free from evil attachment, and, by the awakening of faith (śraddha), inherit Buddha-seeds, I write this Discourse.

*He’s describing here the absolute-fullness of this endeavor—the innate-inheritance of the “bodhi-seeds” that will initiate the Direct-Recognition of Bhūtathatā; in effect sharing in the exuberance of the Source Itself, as exemplified by the Tathagatas, the Bearers of Suchness—indeed, what need of any form of lineage here? Lineage of what? This is no affair of ‘whatness’ but rather that of the Essential THATNESS.



*Although drawn from a later edition of the text, Suzuki’s format once again highlights a more thorough address of the underlining thrust of the discourse as a whole.

For the purpose of awakening in all beings a pure faith in the Mahāyāna, of destroying their doubts and attachment to false doctrines, and of affording them an uninterrupted inheritance of Buddha-seeds, I write this Discourse. 

*Suzuki’s footnote elaborates on the precise nature of the term ‘Mahayana’ in this present context:

The term Mahayana here seems not to have been used as it usually is in contrast to the Hinayana. Aśvaghosha adopts it simply to denote the greatness of suchness (Bhūtathatā) as well as to prove its being the safest and surest means of salvation. It is therefore the name given to the first principle itself, and not to any philosophical system or religious dogmatics. But the term used in this wise by Aśvaghosha and perhaps in earlier Mahayana texts gradually lost its original sense in the course of the development of this progressive religious view. It was then transferred to distinguish the system at large from that of the so-called śravakas, to which the followers of the former gave in contrast to their own the rather humiliating name Hinayana. At the time of Aśvaghosha the controversy between them was probably not as vehement as it proved later on. And this fact may be seen from the tolerant spirit shown in the third convocation under the reign of King Kanishka. By the Mahayana followers Ayvaghosha is unanimously recognised as the forerunner of Nagdrjuna by whose marvelous genius the system was brought to maturity.

There is a principle whereby the root of faith in the Mahayana can be produced, and I shall explain it. The explanation consists of five parts: 

  1. Introductory.
  2. General Statement of Principles.
  3. The Explanation Itself.
  4. The Practice of Faith.
  5. Benefits [derived therefrom].


1. There are eight inducements [to write this Discourse]:
A general object, i. e., that the author might induce all beings to liberate themselves from misery and to enjoy blessing, and not that he might gain thereby some worldly advantages, etc.

*By “inducements” Suzuki is most likely referring to that deep “revulsion” (Lanka-pravritti) within the inner resources of consciousness reflecting the Higher-Amala modality.

2. That he might unfold the fundamental truth of the Tathagata and let all beings have a right comprehension of it.

3. That he might enable those who have brought their root of merit [kuśalafūla) to maturity and obtained immovable faith, to have a philosophical grasp of the doctrine of the Mahāyāna.

*This inner-maturity is once again activated by the Higher Amala modality, thus generating a great grasp of the principles of the Mahayana.

4. That he might enable those whose root of merit is weak and insignificant, to acquire faith and to advance to the stage of immovable firmness {avaivartikatva)*

*Avaivartikatva means literally “never retreat.” Faith is said to become immovably firm when one enters into the group of those who cannot be shaken in the possession of absolute truth {samyaktvaniyatarasi.}

5. That he might induce all beings to obliterate the previously acquired evils (durgati or karmāvarana), to restrain their own thoughts, and to free themselves from the three venomous passions. [covetousness; malice; ignorance].

6. That he might induce all beings to practise the orthodox method of cessation [or tranquilization śamatha] and of intellectual insight {vidarśana), to be fortified against the commission of mental trespasses due to inferiority of mind.

[* Hakeda’s take: “The sixth reason is to reveal to them the practice [of two methods of meditation], cessation [of illusions] and clear observation (śamatha and vipaśyanā; Ch., zhiguan), so that ordinary men and the followers of Hīnayāna may cure their minds of error.”]

7. That he might induce all beings in the right way to ponder on the doctrine of the Mahayana, for thus they will be born in the presence of Buddhas, and acquire the absolutely immovable Mahayana-faith.

*Make no mistake, proper-attunement with the “Great-Vehicle” assures a faith that is oriented to the family of all Buddhas.

8. That he might, by disclosing those benefits which are produced by joyfully believing in the Mahayana, let sentient beings become acquainted with the final aim of their efforts.


Question: What need is there to repeat the explanation of the teaching when it is presented in detail in the sutras? 

Answer: Though this teaching is presented in the sutras, the capacity and the deeds of men today are no longer the same, nor are the conditions of their acceptance and comprehension. That is to say, in the days when the Tathāgata was in the world, people were of high aptitude and the Preacher excelled in his form, mind, and deeds, so that once he had preached with his perfect voice, different types of people all equally understood; hence, there was no need for this kind of discourse. But after the passing away of the Tathāgata, there were some who were able by their own power to listen extensively to others and to reach understanding; there were some who by their own power could listen to very little and yet understand much; there were some who, without any mental power of their own, depended upon the extensive discourses of others to obtain understanding; and naturally there were some who looked upon the wordiness of extensive discourses as troublesome, and who sought after what was comprehensive, terse, and yet contained much meaning, and then were able to understand it. Thus, this discourse is designed to embrace, in a general way, the limitless meaning of the vast and profound teaching of the Tathāgata. This discourse, therefore, should be presented.



In what does the general statement consist? The Mahayana can be briefly treated as to two aspects, namely, What it is, and What it signifies.
What is the Mahayana? It is the soul of all sentient beings (sarvasattva), that constitutes all things in the world, phenomenal and supra-phenomenal ; and through this soul we can disclose what the Mahayana signifies.

*I have especially chosen Suzuki’s take here since it includes a much misunderstood (in today’s parlance) word: soul

The blog-post, The Buddhasoul, especially highlights that “Soul is synonymous with Self-Essence and Mind”; in this sense IT is the “flowering quintessence” that perfumes the inherent Buddha-nature of all sentient beings.

Because the soul in itself, involving the quintessence of the Mahayana, is suchness (Bhūtathatā), but it becomes [in its relative or transitory aspect, through the law of causation] birth-and-death (samsara) in which are revealed the quintessence, the attributes, and the activity of the Mahayana. 

*Hence Mind AS IT IS in Itself (The One Essence) and through the multitudinous of Its outflows, and thus Its functions (The Many).

**In the hermeneutic tradition of East Asia, t’i, or “essence [soulness-inclusion mine],” refers to noumenal, internal, and invisible aspects of reality, whereas yung, or “function,” refers to its phenomenal, external, and visible aspects. The purpose of the t’i-yung formula is to show the inseparability of two seemingly separate but in reality non-distinct things. (Article: Wŏnhyo’s Faith System, as Seen in His Commentaries on the Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith Sung-bae Park, pg.34)

Wŏnhyo (617-686) Patriarch of Korean Buddhism: 

“In praising the excellence of ′Buddha′s mind′ one is praising function (yung) and essence (t’i). The first phrase, ″the most excellent act pervading all the ten quarters,″ praises the function (yung) of Buddha′s acts…. The word ″omniscient″ extols the essence (t′i) of Buddha′s wisdom. The reason the operation of [Buddha′s] acts pervades the ten quarters is that nowhere does the essence of Buddha′s wisdom not penetrate. The essence of wisdom penetrates everywhere. Hence, the word, ″omniscient.” (Article: The Essence-Function Formula as a Hermeneutic Device: Korean and Chinese Commentaries on Awakening Mahāyāna Faith Sung-bae Park, pg.2) 

In this analysis we see Wŏnhyo using the t′i-yung formula for showing the relationship between the acts and the wisdom of the Buddha. In other words, he sees this relationship as that of t′i (here wisdom) and yung (here acts). The main features of Wŏnhyo′s use of the t′i-yung formula are the following: (1) yung refers to acts which, provisionally speaking, are phenomenal, external, and perceivable; (2) t′i refers to wisdom which, provisionally speaking, is noumenal, internal, and invisible; (3) although t′i and yung are explained separately, in reality, however, they are inseparable; (4) although the yung aspects of phenomena are easily perceivable by ordinary people, no one is able to see the yung aspects properly unless the t′i aspects are in fact present at the same time. In the case of the Buddha himself, his acts and wisdom are not two. Therefore, there is neither preference on his part nor a temporal priority of t′i or yung, they occur simultaneously. In the case of un-enlightened, ordinary people, however, the yung aspect is greatly in evidence while the t′i aspect is hardly so; therefore, those ordinary people who are seekers should not be overwhelmed by the Buddha′s acts but also discern the Buddha′s wisdom, otherwise they might bring those acts down to their own lower level where their wisdom is yet hidden. Therefore, the seeker must pay attention to the hidden t′i aspect in as much as a Buddhist practice does not consist simply in imitating the Buddha′s acts, but in realizing their essence. As soon as the essence (t′i) of the acts is present, the function (yung) simultaneously appears. (ibid, pg.3)

The Mahayana has a triple significance: 

The first is the greatness of quintessence. Because the quintessence of the Mahayana as suchness exists in all things, remains unchanged in the pure as well as in the defiled, is always one and the same (samatā), neither increases nor decreases, and is void of distinction.  

*Once again here that “soul-like” quality that permeates everywhere and yet nowhere, thus never losing Its Primordial Sameness.

The second is the greatness of attributes. Here we have the Tathagata’s womb (tathāgata-garbha) which in exuberance contains immeasurable and innumerable merits (punya) as its characteristics.  

*We will discover as we progress in this series that the Tathagata-garbha, although the primordial ‘Womb of Suchness’, also houses the Bodhi-seeds that interacts with the samsaric-dimension. Thus in this sense It resonates both Absolute and Immanent tonalities. In Wŏnhyo’s frame of reference, ‘complete via negativa and complete via positiva.’

**Wŏnhyo further states:

“True Dharma which comprises both absolute truth and mundane truth is called Tathāgatagarbha because that is the ultimate place where all Buddhas return…”

Here ‘tathāgatagarbha’ is the stage of attainment or realization, rather than a causal condition as the course followed until realization, and here it means the same as One Mind ((一心 eka-citta). Even though the unenlightened seek and indulge the five-sensory fields and the single thought field, we are bound to return to One Mind by way of ‘anuttara-samyaksaṃbodhi-citta… (Abstract: Wonhyo’s Buddhism from the Perspective of Tathāgatagarbha-vāda, Pyong-rae Lee, pg48)

The third is the greatness of activity, for it [i. e., Mahayana] produces all kinds of good work in the world, phenomenal and supra-phenomenal. [Hence the name Mahāyāna (great vehicle).] 

[Again this Dharma is called the Mahāyāna;] because it is the vehicle (yāna) in which all Buddhas from the beginning have been riding, and Bodhisattvas when riding in it will enter into the state of Buddhahood.

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