Three terms translated as "Faith"

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Queequeg
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Three terms translated as "Faith"

Post by Queequeg »

The following is an exercise for my own edification. If it helps others, that is wonderful. All errors are mine alone.

I've commented about this subject "faith" before on DW... can't find them now. But recently the subject came up to me again while studying the Cheng Weishi Lun, Xuanzhang's commentary on Vasubandhu's thirty verses. I posted some thoughts on two terms that are often translated as "Faith". viewtopic.php?f=39&t=31611&start=80#p506680

There is a third term often translated as faith - adhimukti. In the Kumarajiva translation of the Lotus Sutra its translated into Chinese as 信解 (Jp. shinge). 信解 is in turn variously translated into English, but more or less as "Belief and Understanding". The first character 信 is "faith" and the second character 解 is "understanding" or, I like to render "grok". In my study of the Lotus Sutra, I found that this term 信解 appears where other terms such as sraddha appear in the Sanskrit. I've wondered why Kumarajiva made that editorial decision... its not the only major decision he made.(*see below) Particularly, for those familiar with the Life Span chapter, in the Kumarajiva version the Buddha says, (variously translated into English more or less along these lines) "You should believe and understand (信解) the true words of the Tathagata!" In the Sanskrit version, the term sraddha appears there. Kern translates into English: "believe in the Tathâgata speaking a veracious word."

Anyway, this chapter is at the heart of what Zhiyi identified as the Essential Teaching of the Lotus Sutra, and so for East Asian Buddhists, particularly Lotus Buddhists, this is one of the most important teachings. Its framing as an object toward which one should arouse a disposition of adhimukti is very important. And so the question is what that term means.

In Abhidharma/Abhidhamma, adhimukti/adhimokka, is an occasional cetasika (mental factor or mental event). A cetasika is something that occurs with a citta (moment of consciousness) as a concomitant support. Its categorized as occasional because it does not always occur, unlike universal cetasikas which accompany every moment of citta (they are factors without which a citta could not arise - for instance, contact).

Adhimukti is something that happens the moment an object appears as a distinct object to the mind, but before any thought or judgment about it is formed. Its like the moment a cloud takes a distinct shape but before the mind sees it as a rabbit. It comes and goes in a single moment of mind.

So the Buddha in the 16th chapter is urging the Assembly to open themselves to that single moment of grokking. He's not actually urging "understanding". As he goes on he actually explains, you (meaning the assembly of Bodhisattvas led by Maitreya) cannot understand what I'm going to explain to you (echoing something he told to Sariputra earlier during the sermon, that only Buddhas can understand the Buddha wisdom). So he says, "Grok this." Grok, I think has a much more rudimentary connotation than understanding that I think fits that moment. I also think that grok is applicable to many other moments in Buddhist practice where one enters a teaching... In Zhiyi's case, he refers to the stage of Hearing the Name, the second of the six identities, which in other commentaries is identified with this moment of grokking. I think its also applicable generally to that moment that is described as the moment of Sudden Awakening. I think it applies in other contexts in Vajrayana, but, I'll leave my speculation there.

This term is also the title of the 4th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra. Curiously, though, the term does no appear anywhere in the Chapter.

In that chapter, Subhuti, Mahakasyapa and Mahamaudgalyayana, react to hearing the Buddha's prophecy of Buddhahood for Shariputra. This is a huge deal because the Buddha is predicting Buddhahood for an Arhat. This totally upends the idea of an Arhat as one who having attained nirvana is dwelling in their last incarnation and who will blow out into parinirvana at the end of their life. Tell a Theravadan that Shariputra will become a Buddha and you will get serious blow back.

Subhuti et al. exclaim their joy at knowing for the first time that the arhats will become Buddhas. They then relate the story of the rich man and his estranged son. In that story, there is a rich merchant whose son has wandered off. The son has wandered so long that he forgets who his father is and devolves into abject poverty. The poverty is so complete that his sense of self worth is trampled down to nothing. The father sees him one day and sends his servants to fetch the son, but the son sees the father, who he doesn't recognize, and is terrified by his wealth and power, collapsing into panic thinking he will be pressed into slavery. The father, seeing his son's suffering, orders the son released, but then sends a messenger to offer him a job cleaning the latrines on the rich man's estate. This is a job that the son thinks he is worthy of so he accepts it at the wages offered. The father removes his fine clothes, puts on rags, and goes to work alongside his son in the latrines as his boss. Gradually, the father promotes the son until he is managing the entire estate and running the father's business. The son, though, in his mind, is just doing his job. The father finally gathers everyone together and announces that the estate manager is actually his true son and heir. Instead of running away in terror like the first time he encountered his father, the son is able to accept his true identity as the son of the father.

Its taken that this story illustrates the meaning of adhimukti. At first, the son is so beaten down in spirit that he cannot accept that he belongs in the company of great and powerful men, that all he is worthy of is to clean up their literal shit. It takes years of building up the son's sense of worth to get him to accept that he not only belongs there, but that he is the rightful heir. What he comes to grok at the end of the story, through years of training and experience, is that he is the same as the father. Its not something he is told and simply believes, but rather through a gradual experience, he comes to the same mind as the father, but for the knowledge that he and the father are actually the same blood.

Adhimukti, unlike sraddha, is not a good or wholesome cetasika, but is rather a neutral cetasika that takes on the moral quality of the object in response to which it arises. If the object that is grokked is unwholesome (evil), then its a detrimental path. If the object is of neutral moral quality, then its a neutral event. If the object is wholesome, and the Buddha's teaching is wholesome, then it is a wholesome event.

In the context of Buddhadharma, the significance of this moment of adhimukti is that its the moment that the Buddhadharma is grokked as an object. If not for that moment when the Buddhadharma arises in the mind as an object - even before its understood or conceptualized in any way, then no spiritual development in the Budhda path can follow.

There seems to be as sense in which adhimukti is a volitional act. This is critical because it puts the beginning of the Buddhapath squarely within the power of the person - it is their decision to open to the Buddha path.

And that's where I think we see the sense in which this is an act of faith.

In the Ta Chi Tu Lun, Nagarjuna explains early on that the Ocean of Buddhadharma can only be entered through faith (since we don't have a Sanskrit version of the text, its impossible to know which term is used, and the Chinese is ambiguous in light of what I explained above). One must make a decision, must grok the Ocean of Buddhadharma before it can be entered. And I think it also follows that once you grok the Buddhadharma, you cannot un-grok it (that seems to be the point of the simile of the Poison Drum described in the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra - once you hear the drum, the poison is in you, no matter what you do. Zhiyi in Mohezhikuan compares the teaching of Buddhanature to poison which kills (the ego) the moment it is heard.)

Sraddha is a wholesome cetasika that occurs in all good or wholesome cittas. It doesn't occur in unwholesome/evil or neutral cittas. Sraddha is a cetasika that presupposes that Buddhadharma is already recognized as an object. Xuangzhang describes it as "a profound acquiescence toward and joyful desire for realities, virtues, and abilities." I quoted the passage in full in the post linked above. It makes sense then that Adhimukti with Buddhadharma as preceding condition, must occur before sraddha can arise. It also makes sense then why Kumarajiva might have rendered chapter 16 as 信解, because the Buddha was about to reveal a teaching he had not previously revealed (at least in the memory of anyone present).

Xuangzhang comments a little bit later that "profound acquiescence" describes the cause that is sraddha, and "joyful desire" as the effect.

One more observation and then I'll wrap up this wall of text. In the 17th Chapter of the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha describes the benefits (effect) for those who hear this teaching after the Buddha's parinirvana: "after the Tathāgata’s parinirvāṇa, those who hear this sutra do not disparage it and rejoice in their hearts, should know that this is a sign of their full and willing acceptance." BDK Trans. p. 240. Emphasis added. So basically, he is describing someone who is in a wholesome (kusala) state.

A whole lot more to unpack in that, but, I'll just close this.

*The insertion of the ten factors the Buddha lists in the Upaya chapter of the Lotus Sutra - nyoze sho, nyoze tai, etc... - is another editorial decision. It apparently is taken from the Ta chi tu lun, a commentary on the 8000 line Prajnaparamita Sutra attributed to Nagarjuna, but likely a later composition, possibly by Kumarajiva himself. This is interesting because this is also a central teaching identified by Zhiyi. Anyway, this touches on the importance of Kumarajiva for Chinese Buddhism. He is usually just characterized as a translator, but he is clearly much more than that in the East Asian traditions.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
Simon E.
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Re: Three terms translated as "Faith"

Post by Simon E. »

Fascinating and illuminating Q.Q. Thank you.
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.
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Caoimhghín
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Re: Three terms translated as "Faith"

Post by Caoimhghín »

Queequeg wrote: Fri Oct 11, 2019 5:58 pm *The insertion of the ten factors the Buddha lists in the Upaya chapter of the Lotus Sutra - nyoze sho, nyoze tai, etc... - is another editorial decision. It apparently is taken from the Ta chi tu lun, a commentary on the 8000 line Prajnaparamita Sutra attributed to Nagarjuna, but likely a later composition, possibly by Kumarajiva himself. This is interesting because this is also a central teaching identified by Zhiyi. Anyway, this touches on the importance of Kumarajiva for Chinese Buddhism. He is usually just characterized as a translator, but he is clearly much more than that in the East Asian traditions.
Good post. :good: :buddha2:

One point though, isn't the Mahāprajñāpāramitopadeśa/Dà zhìdù lùn a commentary on the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra, rather than the Astasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitāsūtra?
savi saghara aṇica di, savi saghara dukha di, savi dhama aṇatva di:
yada paśadi cakhkṣuma tada nivinadi dukha eṣo mago viśodhia.

"All formations are inconstant," he said.
"All formations are stressful," he said.
"All phenomena are selfless," he said.
When one sees this, one becomes adverse to stress, and this is the path of purity.

(Gāndhārī Dharmapada fragments)
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Queequeg
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Re: Three terms translated as "Faith"

Post by Queequeg »

:smile:
Might be... I was going off the top of my head... I defer.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
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