The Categories of T'i, Hsiang, and Yung: Evidence that Paramārtha Composed the Awakening of Faith

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The Categories of T'i, Hsiang, and Yung: Evidence that Paramārtha Composed the Awakening of Faith

Citation: Grosnick, William. "The Categories of T'i, Hsiang, and Yung: Evidence that Paramārtha Composed the Awakening of Faith." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 12, no. 1 (1989): 65–92.

Article Summary

The question of whether Paramārtha's version of the Awakening of Faith in Mahayana (AFM)[1] may really be a Chinese composition has long intrigued scholars of Buddhism. Because no original Sanskrit manuscript of the AFM has ever been found nor any reference to the AFM discovered in any Buddhist text composed in India, scholars have long suspected that the AFM might not be a Chinese translation of an Indian work. The traditional attribution of the text to Aśvaghoṣa is even more suspect—as Paul Demiéville pointed out, it is almost impossible to believe that the Aśvaghoṣa whom one associates with the Buddhacarita, the Mahāvibhāṣā, and the Sarvāstivadins could have composed any Mahāyāna text, much less a sophisticated Mahāyāna treatise like the AFM.[2] And the discovery at the beginning of this century of Japanese references to the seventh century Buddhist figure Hui-chun, who is quoted as saying that the AFM was composed not by Aśvaghoṣa, but by a "prisoner of war" who belonged to the T'i lun School,[3] prompted many distinguished scholars, including Shinko Mochizuki and Walter Liebenthal, to argue that the work was a Chinese fabrication by a person affiliated with the native Chinese T'i lun School, which devoted itself to the study of Vasubandhu's Daśabhūmivyākhyā.[4] Indeed, as recently as 1958, Liebenthal went so far as to say that one could take it as "established" that a member of the T'i lun School composed the AFM.[5] Few would go so far as actually to name the member of the T'i lun School who wrote the AFM, as Liebenthal did (indeed, as Liebenthal himself remarked, it is difficult to believe that any member of the T'i lun School could have written the AFM, given that the author of the AFM does not even seem to know the ten bodhisattvabhūmis described in the Daśabhūmivyākhya),[6] but for a long time scholarly opinion has leaned in the direction of assigning authorship of the AFM to the Chinese. Just recently Professor Whalen Lai has brought forward some cogent new reasons for regarding the AFM as a Chinese composition.[7]
      In light of all this, it might seem rather daring to suggest that an Indian actually composed the AFM, but that is what I propose to argue. I do not intend to suggest that the Sarvāstivādin Aśvaghoṣa, or even a "Mahāyāna Aśvaghoṣa" composed the AFM. The first place that any Aśvaghoṣa is listed as the author of the text is in Hui-yüan's Ta-ch'êng i chang, a work composed about a half century after Paramārtha was said to have translated the AFM, so the attribution of the text to Aśvaghoṣa probably postdated its composition. But there are a couple of pieces of important philological evidence, heretofore largely overlooked, that seem to point strongly to an Indian Buddhist, most likely Paramārtha himself, as the real author of the text, or at least of major parts of it [8] The first piece of evidence is the use in the AFM of the three categories of t'i, hsiang, and yung, categories which I will try to show were derived by the author of the AFM from Sanskrit categories used in the Ratnagotravibhāgamahāyānottaratantraśāstra (RGV) and which could not have been formulated by anyone who did not possess a knowledge of Sanskrit. The second piece of evidence is Paramārtha's interpolation of passages from the RGV into the Mahāyānasaṃgrahabhāṣya (MSbh), which seems to show not only that Paramārtha was intimately familiar with the RGV and its categories, but also that he was personally concerned about issues central to the AFM. When examined together with some interesting biographical details from accounts of Paramārtha's life, this evidence seems to suggest the very real possibility that Paramārtha was the author of the AFM. (Grosnick, introduction, 65–66)

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  1. The Ta-ch'êng ch'i hsin lun, T 1666.32.575–583. There also exists, of course, the translation of Śikṣānanda (T 1667), but since this other translation is probably a redaction of Paramārtha's version, and since it carries with it a plethora of scholarly problems of its own, all references will be to Paramārtha's version.
  2. Paul Demiéville, "Sur L'Authenticity du Ta Tch'eng K'i Sin Louen," in Choix D'Études Bouddhiques (1929–1970) (Leyden: E.J. Brill, 1973), p. 63.
  3. In ch. 5 of his Sanron gensho mongiyo (T 2299.70.228c), Chinkai, a twelfth century Japanese monk, quotes Hui-chün's Ta-ch'êng ssu-lun hsüan i as saying this. Tan'ei, a fourteenth century monk, also cites this passage in his Kishin ketsugishō. Demiéville, p. 66
  4. Mochizuki maintains that the AFM was composed by T'an tsun (*504-*588), a member of the southern faction of the T'i lun School, in collaboration with his disciple T'an-ch'ien (542-607). Liebenthal believes that Taochung (dates unknown), a member of the northern faction of the school, was the author. Liebenthal, "New Light on the Mahāyāna-Śraddhotpāda Śāstra," T'oung Pao, 46 (1958), pp. 160, 210.
  5. Liebenthal, p. 158.
  6. Liebenthal, pp. 177-78.
  7. See his "A Clue to the Authorship of the Awakening of Faith: Śikṣānanda's Redaction of the Word 'Nien,' " The Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies (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.
  8. Liebenthal lists 17 possible emendations to the AFM, many of which he attributes to a "worshipper of Amitabha" (pp. 195–97). It is difficult to judge whether all of these passages are by another hand (or hands), but the references to Pure Land Buddhist ideas do seem inconsistent with the rest of the text. It is also possible that a disciple of Paramārtha's might have added occasional explanations (prefaced by the term yu), to the original text.