Cittaprakṛti and Ayoniśomanaskāra in the Ratnagotravibhāga: A Precedent for the Hsin-Nien Distinction of The Awakening of Faith

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Cittaprakṛti and Ayoniśomanaskāra in the Ratnagotravibhāga: A Precedent for the Hsin-Nien Distinction of The Awakening of Faith
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Citation: Grosnick, William. "Cittaprakṛti and Ayoniśomanaskāra in the Ratnagotravibhāga: A Precedent for the Hsin-Nien Distinction of The Awakening of Faith." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 6, no. 2 (1983): 35–47. https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/view/8605/2512.

Article Summary

The question of the authorship of the Ta-ch'eng chi-hsin lun The Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, tr. Paramārtha, hereafter referred to as the AFM), has long been a lively subject of discussion among scholars of Buddhism. Such eminent Buddhologists as Demiéville, Liebenthal, and Mochizuki (to name just a few), have debated the authenticity of the two Chinese translations of the text and discussed the possibility that the original text of the AFM might have been composed in China as part of a controversy between two branches of the Ti-lun sect.[1] In recent editions of the Journal of the IABS the question of the authorship of the AFM has been raised again. In a couple of intriguing essays, Professor Whalen Lai has presented some new arguments in support of the Chinese authorship of the text.[2]

      I do not intend here to try to resolve all of the many questions involved in determining the author of the AFM (such an undertaking is well beyond the scope of a short paper), but I would like to address an argument that Professor Lai raised in the first of his articles—namely his contention that the AFM's exposition of the relationship of hsin (mind) and nien (thought, thought-moment) bears such an "unmistakable sinitic stamp" that it must have been authored in China.[3] I will try to show that the AFM's central conception of an "unmoved," pure mind (hsin) existing as the basis of the deluded movement of thoughts (nien) has an important Indian precedent in the cittaprakṛti and ayoniśomanaskāra notions of the Ratnagotravibhāga-mahāyānottaratantraśāstra (hereafter referred to as the RGV), a text with which the AFM's author may well have been familiar. I do not intend this as a criticism of Professor Lai's research—the parallels he finds between Chinese thought regarding hsin and nien prior to the period of the Six Dynasties and the elucidation of these notions in the AFM deserve serious attention. I simply would like to show that similar parallels—if not direct textual influences—exist between the AFM and the Indian-composed RGV, so that there is no compelling reason to conclude that the AFM theory of mind (hsin) and thoughts (nien) demonstrates Chinese authorship. (Grosnick, "Cittaprakṛti and Ayoniśomanaskāra in the Ratnagotravibhāga," 35–36)

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  1. For a selected bibliography of articles on the authorship of the AFM see Yoshito Hakeda, The Awakening of Faith Attributed to Aśvaghosa (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), pp. 119–22.
  2. Whalen W. Lai, "A Clue to the Authorship of the Awakening of Faith: Śikṣānanda's Redaction of the Word 'Nien' ," JIABS, 3, No. 1 (1980), pp. 34–53 and "Hu-Jan Nien-Ch'i (Suddenly a Thought Rose): Chinese Understanding of Mind and Consciousness," JIABS, 3, No. 2 (1980), pp. 42–59.
  3. Cf. Lai, "Clue," p. 49.