Sunday, January 03, 2016

On the title "Arousing Faith of the Mahayana"

"The Treatise on Arousing Faith of the Great Vehicle" is most commonly known by D.T. Suzuki's rendering of the title as Discourse on The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana .  Yoshito S. Hakeda's translation shortens the title to The Awakening of Faith.  The Sanskrit title is Mahayana-Sraddhotpada-Shastra, and the Chinese title is 大乘起信論 Dàshéng Qǐxìn Lùn. (WG: Ta-ch'eng ch'i-hsin lun).

In his essay “Wonhyo's Reliance on Huiyuan in his Exposition of the Two Hindrances,” A. Charles Muller writes in Note 8:  

In rendering the title of the Dasheng qixin lun as Awakening of Mahāyāna Faith, as opposed to Hakeda's "Awakening of Faith in Mahāyāna" I am following the position put forth by Sung Bae Park in Chapter Four of his book Buddhist Faith and Sudden Enlightenment. There he argues that the inner discourse of the text itself, along with the basic understanding of the meaning of mahāyāna in the East Asian Buddhist tradition does not work according to a Western theological "faith in..." subject-object construction, but according to an indigenous East Asian essence-function 體用 model. Thus, mahāyāna should not be interpreted as a noun-object, but as a modifier, which characterizes the type of faith.
Of course, Hakeda took his lead from D.T. Suzuki’s rendering of “The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana,” but Hakeda himself seemed to be uncomfortable with the phrase “in the Mahayana,” and he shortened his English title to just “The Awakening of Faith” dropping off the problem of “faith in what?”   I agree with Park's argument that the frame of "faith in..." becomes problematic in reference to the Buddhist idea of vehicles as the vehicles or means of faith, not the aim or ends of faith. But there is nothing inherently wrong with the rendering "faith in the Mahayana" as long as we realize that it is faith in the vehicle, not faith in the Mahayana as a dogma of faith.  

Also, Park’s argument, via Muller, has some rationale for it based on taking the Chinese title 大乘起信論 as a reordered syntax of the Sanskrit Mahayana-Sraddhot-Pada-Shastra (mahāyānaśraddhotpādaśāstra).  But the Chinese title by Paramartha places “arousing” (I prefer using "arousing" to that of “awakening” which is actually another Sanskrit or Chinese word) between “Mahayana” 大乘 and “faith” , which means, when viewing the term “Mahayana” as a modifier, that the term Mahayana would be directly modifying the type of “arousal” not “faith.” By Park’s and Muller's logic of separating arousal and faith, the title would be “Faith of Mahayana Arousing” and not “Arousing of Mahayana Faith.”  

So the problem with the title comes from the divergence of the Sanskrit or Chinese syntax and ultimately how to read the Sanskrit. That is, the syntax of the Chinese title takes the Sanskrit as “Mahayana Sraddhotpada,” while Park’s view takes the Sanskrit as “Mahayanasraddhot Pada.”  My current preference is to agree with Park only in so far as the title does not refer to faith “in” Mahayana, but then to follow Paramartha’s Chinese rendering of “Mahayana Sraddhopada” to read Mahayana as modifying both the “arousing” as well as the “faith”, thus rendering it as “The Treatise on Mahayana’s Arousing Faith” or “The Treatise on Arousing Faith of the Great Vehicle.”  The treatise is not referring to an “Awakening of Mahayana Faith” (ala Park and Muller) any more than to “Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana,” (ala Suzuki and Hakeda); but refers to Mahayana’s method or way of arousing faith in the true suchness of mind. As the Treatise states, "it is the characteristic of the True Suchness of mind that exactly shows the essence of the Great Vehicle." (是心真如相即示摩訶衍體)   So the title could, if somewhat loosely, be translated with a modern ring as “Arousing Faith Mahayana Style.”


Related posts on Arousing Faith of the Great Vehicle: On the title; Part One; Part Two; Part Three; Part Four; Part Five.

[This post first posted 01/03/2016 Copyright (c) A. Gregory Wonderwheel 2016.]


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