Asvaghosha's Discourse on the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana

(Taisho Tripitaka 1666)

II. General Statement

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.

Because the soul in itself, involving the quintessence of the Mahayana, is suchness (bhutatathata), 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.

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 (samata), neither increases nor decreases, and is void of distinction.

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

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 Mahayana (great vehicle).]

[Again this Dharma is called the Mahayana;] because it is the vehicle} (yana) 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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