The Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana Sutra examines the concept of the absolute. The “absolute” of the sutra is built upon the foundation of the Buddha-Nature concept in which a Buddha-like capacity is within all beings. The “Mahayana” of the sutra refers to this absolute in its grandeur and value, not to the “Mahayana” that is contrastable with the non-Mahayana.1

The sutra’s five parts (other than the opening invocation and the closing prayer) are: an opening offering eight reasons for writing the work, an outline, an explanation of the Mahayana concepts described in the outline, the practical application of the aforementioned concepts, and instructions for practice.

The text, historically attributed to Asvaghosha but now widely believed to be of Chinese origin, explains that the mind is pure and untainted in its original form but that delusions are acquired throughout life that cloud the Buddha-nature, obscuring it from view. Thus, suchness of the mind is inseparable from phenomena such as the cycle of rebirth and sense impressions. This is an insightful and innovative approach to reconciling two seemingly irreconcilable topics: the phenomenal and the transcendent. In other words: the mind is the Dharma Realm.

Emptiness and phenomena are mind. The eight consciousnesses of the Yogachara school are described in the Awakening of Faith as phenomena. While original enlightenment is present within all sentient beings, “accidental” enlightenment is the rediscovery of this original Buddha-nature. Thus, the text merges the Buddha-nature concept with the consciousness-only model of Yogachara.

Sanskrit:  Mahāyāna śraddhotpādaśāstra

1Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana, 7