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Dasheng qixin lun

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Dasheng qixin lun (Skt. *Mahāyāna-śraddhotpādaśāstra; C. 大乘起信論), or Treatise on Awakening of Faith in the Mahāyāna, is one of the most influential texts within East Asian Buddhism.[1]

Though attributed to the Indian scholar Aśvaghoṣa, it is now widely regarded by scholars as a Chinese composition.[1][2] The earliest translation is attributed to Paramārtha; though some scholars suspect that Paramārtha might have been the actual author of the text.[1]

The Princeton Dictionary states:

The author of the Dasheng qixin lun sought to reconcile two of the dominant, if seemingly incompatible, strands in Mahāyāna Buddhism: tathāgatagarbha (embryo or womb of the buddhas) thought and the ālayavijñāna (storehouse consciousness) theory of consciousness.[1]

The Tsadra editors state:

The Awakening of Faith famously posits the notion of “one mind” that has two aspects: the absolute, which is equivalent to tathāgatagarbha, and the phenomenal, which is ālayavijñāna. The second aspect, the “storehouse consciousness,” is used to explain the possibility of ignorance—thought (nian 念) arises “suddenly” from the one mind to fracture all the world into conceptual phenomena, leaving all beings in a state of nonenlightenment. Yet all such ignorance is mere delusion; it does not stain the true nature, which is buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha), or original enlightenment (benjue 本覺). The process of realizing one’s true nature leads one to the state of actualized enlightenment (shijue 始覺), which is no different in principle from original enlightenment. The Awakening of Faith explains:
Grounded in the Original Enlightenment is nonenlightenment. And because of nonenlightenment, the process of actualization of enlightenment can be spoken of.[3]
The relationship among mind, thought, and ignorance is famously illustrated by the metaphor of the ocean and its waves. Just as wind creates waves on the ocean, ignorance creates thought in the mind. The wind cannot change the nature of the ocean’s water; whether agitated or still, the water remains wet. In the same way, ignorance cannot change the nature of mind. It stirs up the mind into thoughts, but just as the waves are also wet, the mind and its thoughts remain by nature enlightened. When ignorance ceases, the natural state of mind is revealed.
The treatise is divided into five sections. The first contains the author’s statement of purpose, in which he gives eight reasons for composing the text. The second part contains a summary in the form of an outline of the subsequent sections. Part three contains the philosophical discussion of the nature of mind and its two aspects, touching on important points of doctrine such as the three bodies of the Buddha and suchness. Part four is dedicated to five meditation practices, and their benefits are described in section five. In all sections the author puts his own voice in dialogue with an implied audience, clarifying points of doctrine in a question-and-answer format.[4]
Further reading


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Buswell & Lopez 2014, s.v. Dasheng qixin lun.
  2. Hsieh, Ding-Hwa (2004). "Awakening Of Faith (Dasheng Qixin Lun)". In Buswell, Robert E. Encyclopedia of Buddhism. 1. New York: MacMillan Reference USA. pp. 38–9. ISBN 0-02-865719-5. 
  3. Hakeda, Awakening of Faith, 17–18.
  4. Tsadra commons icon.jpg Tsadra editors, Dasheng qixin lun, Buddha Nature: A Tsadra Foundation Initiative