A Clue to the Authorship of the Awakening of Faith: "Śikṣānanda's" Redaction of the Word "Nien"

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A Clue to the Authorship of the Awakening of Faith: "Śikṣānanda's" Redaction of the Word "Nien"
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Citation: Lai, Whalen. "A Clue to the Authorship of the Awakening of Faith: 'Śikṣānanda's' Redaction of the Word 'Nien'." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 3, no. 1 (1980): 34–53. https://journals.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/index.php/jiabs/article/view/8506/2413.

Article Summary

The text, Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lunf (The Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna, henceforth abbreviated as AFM), has been the center of a long controversy in the field of Buddhist studies. It has been suspected by Mochizuki Shinkōg[1] and others to be a Chinese fabrication, while Tokiwa Daijō and others defend its alleged Indian origin. The present short article will not review the past and present scholarship on the AFM or bring in my own studies on the matter.[2] It will be devoted to one tiny but crucial issue: the fate of a key concept in the two "translations"—Paramārtha's original (AFM) and Śikṣānanda's version (AFMS for short). The concept is nien and wu-nien. To state the conclusion here so as to simplify our discussion: the nien complex, in my opinion, cannot be understood without reference to a pre-Buddhist (Han Chinese) usage of the term. It is foreign or jarring enough to the person responsible for the AFMS that it has been systematically modified or outright substituted so as to bring the AFM in line with the Yogācāra (Wei-shih,i Vijñaptimātratā) philosophy. By showing the sinitic character of the nien ideology, its centrality in the AFM, and the redaction of it by the AFMS, we can come one step closer to resolving the long controversy over the authorship of the AFM. From the limited evidence in this one short study, it would appear that the AFM was authored in China and the AFMS was a conscious redaction of the AFM in China (or Korea?[3]) to bring this work into line with the demands of Hsüan-tsang'sj Wei-shih philosophy.
      We will begin with a survey of modern Sanskritists' attempts at identifying nien and why such attempts have ultimately failed. Then we will look at a similar attempt by the AFMS to edit off the nien ideology and how by so doing it violated the integrity of the original AFM message. The sinitic meaning of the term nien and wu-nien will be demonstrated with precedents in Han thought, usages in the Six Dynasties and in Ch'an.k I will conclude with a word on why AFMS was produced. (Lai, "A Clue to the Authorship of the Awakening of Faith," 34–35)
  1. Mochizuki, Daijo kishinron no kenkyucn (Kyoto, 1922).
  2. Ongoing project since my dissertation (Harvard, 1975).
  3. Mochizuki suggests Korea because of the discovery of the AFMS in Korea.