Asvaghosha's Discourse on the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana

(Taisho Tripitaka 1666)

I. Introductory

There are eight inducements [to write this Discourse]:

1. 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.

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 to maturity and obtained immovable faith, to have a philosophical grasp of the doctrine 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).

5. That he might induce all beings to obliterate the previously acquired evils (durgati or karmavarana), to restrain their own thoughts, and to free themselves from the three venomous passions.

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

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.

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.

Though all these doctrines are sufficiently set forth in the Mahayana Sutras, yet as the predispositions and inclinations of the people are not the same, and the conditions for obtaining enlightenment vary, I now write this Discourse.

There is another reason for doing so. At the time of the Tathagata the people were unusually gifted, and the Buddha's presence, majestic both in mind and body, served to unfold the infinite significances of the Dharma with simplicity and yet in perfection. Accordingly there was no need for a philosophical discourse.

After the Nirvana of the Buddha there were men who possessed in themselves the intellectual power to understand the many-sided meanings of the Sutras, even if they read only a few of them. There were others who by their own intellectual powers could understand the meanings of the Sutras only after an extensive reading of many of them. Still others lacking in intellectual powers of their own could understand the meanings of the Sutras only through the assistance of elaborate commentaries. But there are some who, lacking in intellectual powers of their own, shun the perusal of elaborate commentaries and take delight in studying and cultivating enquiries which present the many-sidedness and universality of the doctrine in a concise form.

For the sake of the people of the last class I write this Discourse, in which the most excellent, the deepest, and the most inexhaustible Doctrine of the Tathagata will be treated in comprehensive brevity.

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