Tag Archives: Fa-Tsang

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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Five common realities – facts en logic 8


Carla, Man and Narrator are sitting at the Piazza di Santa Croche for their lunch.

“Have we belittled the existing science in our introduction?”, asks Man.

“Certainly, because the existing science is – as well as the classical logic – the “best coherent intellectual system” that is well documented and prone to criticism. The pretension that the existing science could predict and prove everything of value, is too ambitious. You wish to hear our opinion about facts and logic of the outlook on God”, answers Carla to Man.

“Let me start with the All-encompassing One – and the two aspects of “One”-consciousness – and then continue with monotheism. Therefrom I would like to end with the monotheistic God in the shape of a human being. In order to keep the momentum of our quest, I think it would be wise to skip polytheism”, says Man.

feiten en logica 81[1]

“I think you are right; There are several good introductions to the history of God and to world religions wherein different forms of polytheism are explained”, says Narrator.

“When it might be necessary to study polytheism, we can still do so. I am looking forward to your explanation of the two aspects of “One”-consciousness; I can envisage different ideas, but I don’t know if my thoughts are in line with what you have read”, says Carla.

“In the “Commentary on the Awakening of Faith” by Fa-Tsang [2] I read an introduction to the cosmology [3] of “One” within the Hua-Yen [4] branche – based on the Avatamsaka Sutra [5] – of  Zen Buddhism [6]. In his commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” Fa-Tsang describes that “One”-consiousness exists of:

  • “Thusness” – or “evaṃ” [7] in Sanskrit. The “Thusness”-aspect is described as the essence without characteristics that is the source of emptiness or śūnyata [8] 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 [9]

and

  • “Saṃsāra” [10] – or the “Concourse of things”. The “Concourse of things”-aspect 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” [11] or the concourse of dharmas [12] that are created in mutual interdependency within emptiness.

feiten en logica 82[13]

At once this description creates a problem, because emptiness or śūnyata 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 and maybe I should conclude with Wittgenstein at this point: “Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen [14]“ (Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must keep silent)”, says Man.

“That is a question; I’m not sure if the possibilities of characteristics and functions – that arise in interrelationships – are infinite [15]. In case these characteristics and features are finite, then the dependent combinations may also be finite. Please, continue your introduction”, says Carla.

“I remember the chapter “Looking back at my innocence” in your biography in which you – as a young girl – had shown by using matchboxes that you may well exist a number of times in the same form within the infinite universe.  For now the “Awakening of Faith” solves the problem of finiteness and infinity by pointing to the emptiness and fleetingness of all dharmas which are only names – without words and reality – for illusionary perception”, says Narrator.

“Suddenly I am reminded of holograms that are illusionary and lifelike at once. The older I am, the more my past looks like holograms: perfectly real and true and at the same time unreal and volatile”, says Man.

feiten en logica 83[16]

“Maybe we should now skip answering the question on the finity or infinity of śūnyata (or void). We can investigate this problem during our Odyssey when we encounter “emptiness” as the third common reality”, says Carla.

“That is good”, says Man.

“On hearing the “Thusness”-aspect and the “Concourse of things”-aspect of “One”-consciousness, I got the idea that herewith a synthesis began to emerge between the world of the Upanishads (with emphasis on Ātman) and the Mahābhārata (including the tension between – on one hand – the world order and duty (Dharmakshetra) and – on the other hand – human action (Kurukshetra)). I let this thought rest until you have finished the introduction”, says Narrator.

“The introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” continues with the structure of consciousness. I explain this 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) [17].

feiten en logica 84[18]

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 [19]

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. Maybe we can go into this explanation during our investigation of the next common reality “intensities and associations”.

I wish to present this introduction to you because it gives in a nutshell an integral, differentiated and logical description of the origin of things, and of the degeneration of things. I also like this introduction because in this description a sacral and profane consciousness arise from one origin, and because at the same time enlightenment/heaven, profane/earthy and degenerate/hell are intertwined with each other in an all-encompassing oneness. In principle – according to this introduction – the enlighted/heavenly world is similar to our earthly existence [20]. Based on this reasoning, the “Porta del Paradiso” is always open; with our thoughts and illusion we close the doors and place a fence for the entry. What is your opinion about this introduction”, says Man.

“In your luggage I noticed a book on Hua-Yen Buddhism with the title “Entry into the inconceivable [21]”. This title is also very well applicable to your introduction. I have – of course – my usual questions about the definition of the first fundamentals of “One”-consciousness. But my questions and hesitations on the starting point in your introduction are far more abstract and fundamental than on the beginning of other parables, stories and introductions to the awakening of consciousness. I am looking forward to the third common reality “Emptiness” that we will investigate on our Odyssey. At the “concourse of things”-aspect and its sequel, I have additions, comments and criticism from phenomenology, but you know these already [22]”, says Carla.

“I will come back on a possible synthesis between the world of the Upanishads and the Mahābhārata; your explanation during the introduction to the commentary on the “Awakening of Faith” showed indeed a possibility for a synthesis at a high abstract level with other accents. Because we wish to travel in “lightness” and “quickness”, I think we can better move forward. I’m curious how you will connect “God in Search of Man” with this introduction. But let us first walk around the square”, says Narrator.


[1] Detail of Sistine Chapel fresco “Creation of the Sun and Moon” by Michelangelo (c. 1512). Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God

[2] See also: Vorenkamp, Dirck, An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2004 p. 10 – 14

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmology

[4] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huayan_school

[5] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avatamsaka_Sutra

[6] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zen

[7] In Sanskrit the word “Evam” consists of the verb √e meaning “approach, reach, enter” and the noun “va” meaning “wind, ocean, water, stream, going”. Source: electronic version of the dictionairy Monier-Williams – MWDDS V1.5 Beta

[8] See also: Leben, Man, Narrator – One Way. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2013, p. 110 – 112

[9] See also: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 66 – 68

[10] Saṃsāra consists of “sam” meaning “together, with, together with” and “sāra” meaning “course, motion, uitbreiding, strength, core, value” in Sanskrit, whereby Saṃsāra can be understood as “the concourse of things”.

[11] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalt_psychology

[12] See also: Five commen realities – facts and logic 3

[13] Emptiness (or śūnyata) and Gestalt (or Saṃsāra) may be compared with emptiness and bubbles; both create each other. Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C5%9A%C5%ABnyat%C4%81

[14] See also: Wittgenstein, Ludwig, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. Amsterdam: Athenaeum-Polak & Van Gennip, 1976 p. 152

[15] See also: Nārāyana, Narrator, “Carla Drift – An Outlier, A Biography”. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 156

[16] Example of a hologram. Souce image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holography

[17] See also: Vorenkamp, Dirck, An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2004 p. 14 – 15

[18] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gestalttherapie

[19] Somewhere was written that even the gods are bound by the law of cause and effect.

[20] See also the parable about heaven and hell narrated by a parish priest in Valkenburg in: Origo, Jan van, Who are you – a survey into our existence – part 1. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012 p. 82 – 83

[21] Cleary, Thomas, Entry into the inconceivable – An introduction to Hua-Yen Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1983

[22] See also: Nārāyana, Narrator, “Carla Drift – An Outlier, A Biography”. Amsterdam: Omnia – Amsterdam Publisher, 2012, p. 34 en 114

Five common realities – facts and logic 7


Carla, Man and Narrator have visited the inside of the Baptisterium San Giovanni and they are now standing outside for the closed Eastern door of the Baptisterium.

“This is according to Michelangelo the “Porta del Paradiso” or the gateway to paradise. On the top panel in the left door, “Adam and Eve in paradise”, “the fall” and “the expulsion from paradise” are shown. Paradise and the fall are beautiful metaphors for the human illusion of the paradisiacal possibility to an all-encompassing knowledge of the organised chaos. After Gödel had eaten from the apple of wisdom with the proof of the two incompleteness theorems – whereafter the illusion of omniscience of “facts and logic” was basically unreachable forever – the scientific world knew that humanity has forever no access to the paradise of omniscience.

feiten en logica 71[1]

It is absolutely right that the “Porta del Paradiso” is closed and there is a fence before this gate”, says Carla.

feiten en logica 72[2]

“I have read in my city guide that both doors are copies of the original doors that were severely damaged by the ravages of time and the flood of the river Arno [3] on November 6, 1966. Because of this flood, several panels were torn from the Porta del Paradiso [4]. I think the flood of the river Arno was also a manifestation of organized chaos”, says Man.

feiten en logica 73[5]

“Certainly. The river has exceeded the banks to a nearly equal height in 1333 and in 1557 AD. Perhaps this is the reason that the living quarters in the Florentine palaces are located on the first floor.

[6]

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA[7]

This flood is an outstanding example of the organised chaos. Within reasonable certainty it can be stated, that once every few hundred years a similar flood can occur in Florence, like – within certain limits – all other water levels in the river can manifest themselves at any given time with a certain probability – this is the ordered nature of the organised chaos. But no one can predict on which day in the future a similar flood as in 1333, 1557 and 1966 AD will happen – this is the chaotic nature of the organised chaos”, says Carla.

“Good example. Yesterday I was looking for more information about Gödel. I read Gödel’s ontological proof of God. I have a copy of this proof for you”, says Narrator.

feiten en logica 76[8]

“I can rarely accept a first definition without questioning. During my study at Delft University of Technology I had always asked my teachers where the first definition was based on. Initially teachers could give a limited answer to my question, but by asking further questions the answer always came down to the platitude: “We must start somewhere“. This answer remained unsatisfactory for me, I was actually always asking for an answer to “Why” while at best teachers could give an answer to “How – within a certain context”. Looking back, my change from my study of Applied Physics to the subject Humanities can be traced to the fact that Applied Physics has no answers available to why facts and logic manifest itself in a certain manner to us. Coming back to the first definition in Gödel’s ontological argument: why has God-like only positive properties and no negative characteristics or imaginary properties – as imaginary numbers in electrical engineering [9]? Based on the lack of an answer to my last question and based on Gödel’s first incompleteness theorem, Gödel’s ontological proof cannot contain a complete system – or a complete description of God-like. In the case Gödel’s ontological proof would contain an all-encompassing system – which is not the case in my opinion  – the consistency of the axioms cannot be proven from within its own system according to Gödel’s second incompleteness theorem. For completeness, I must say that my statements are based on scientific logic – and not on religious principles [10]. I think Gödel’s ontological proof is only a first exercise of Gödel in the field of religion and no more”, says Carla.

“I think you’re right”, says Narrator.

“Sounds convincing. During lunch I would like to hear your opinion about facts and logic of the look on God as described by Abraham Joshua Heschel in “God in Search of Man” [11] and the two aspects of “One” in the “Commentary on the Awakening of Faith” by Fa-Tsang [12], says Man.

“This fits nicely with Gödel’s ontological proof. My introduction to the mind of the warrior can wait for a while. Shall we look for a place for our lunch? ”, says Carla.

“I know a nice place in the Piazza di Santa Croche”, says Narrator.


[1] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florence_Baptistery

[2] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptisterium_(Florence)

[3] See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Flood_of_the_Arno_River and http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alluvione_di_Firenze_del_4_novembre_1966

[4] Source image: http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baptisterium_(Florence)

[5] Source image:http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alluvione_di_Firenze_del_4_novembre_1966

[6] Source image: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%9Cberschwemmung_in_Florenz_1966

[7] Source image: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1966_Flood_of_the_Arno_River

[8] Source image/text: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/G%C3%B6del’s_ontological_proof

[9] Calculations of electronic circuits are considerably simplified by use of imaginary numbers with a real value equal to zero. See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imaginary_number

[10] See also the statement made by Prof. Dr. W. Luijpen on the scope of science in relation to religion referred to in the post “Five common realities – facts and logic 6”

[11] See also: Heschel, Abraham Joshua, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976 (Reprint – original published in 1955).

[12] See also: Vorenkamp, Dirck, An English Translation of Fa-Tsang’s Commentary on the Awakening of Faith. New York: The Edwin Mellen Press. 2004