Review: An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith


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An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith by Fazang
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The translater Dirck Vorenkamp begins “An English translation of Fa-Tsangs’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith” with an outstanding introduction to the cosmology of “One” within the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism based on the Avatamsaka Sutra ( see: “The Flower Ornament Scripture: A Translation of the Avatamsaka Sutra” by Thomas Cleary).

In his commentary on the “Awakening of Faith”, Fa-Tsang describes that “One”-consciousness exists of:
– “Thusness” as the essence without characteristics that is the source of emptiness (or sunyata) wherein all exists in mutual interdependency. The “Thusness”-aspect is all before it is named and it is also the emptiness within Indra’s Net
and
– “Samsara” – or the “Concourse of things” – that shapes all the characteristics and functions wherein all originates in mutual interdependency. The “Concourse of things”-aspect creates the perceived characteristics of Indra’s Net; it is the “Gestalt” or the concourse of dharmas that are created in mutual interdependency within emptiness.

At once this description creates a problem, because emptiness is unspeakable by lack of features and because the capabilities of features and functions, that arise in interdependence and reciprocity, are infinite. We cannot put it into words – it is an entry into the inconceivable – and maybe we should conclude with Wittgenstein at this point: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen“ (Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent)”.

The introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” continues with the structure of consciousness, explained in a bird’s eye view.

“One”-consciousness has aspects of “Thusness”-consciousness and “Concourse of things”-consciousness. Thoughts arise – via an intermediate step – from the “Concourse of things”-consciousness (or “Gestalt”-consciousness).

There are five forms of thought:
1. Consciousness of cause and effect
2. Consciousness of development and evolution
3. Consciousness of manifestations
4. Consciousness of differences and illusions
5. Consciousness of continuing effects of cause and effect

When the first three forms of thought are also based in the emptiness of “Thusness”-consciousness, then these forms may be a basis for Buddhist enlightenment. The last two forms are the onset for the discrimination of things.

The ability to discrimination leads to awareness of separate phenomena:
• Consciousness of suffering and joy
• Based on desires that come out of suffering and joy, objects get shape
• When objects are shaped, names – including symbols and letters – arise for objects
• Based on names and symbols, actions arise with “cause and effect”
• Connected with actions, suffering (and joy) arises.

Then the introduction continues with an explanation of degenerate forms of consciousness that originate in a combination of a desire to illusions, symbols, acts, etc.

After this introductions follows the translation of “Commentary on the Awakening of Faith”.

The copy I received from the publisher, was accompanied with a bookmarker mentioning the makers of the book!

Highly recommended for a further study of the Hua-Yen branche of Zen Buddhism.

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