Oh, my. Where to begin on this one. First of all, it is extremely complex to understand unless you have at least some rudimentary knowledge of
Buddhism. I do, but Buddhism is a challenge to wrap one's brain around unless one is working with a master.
Much of the "New Age" philosophy comes from Buddhism, which is not a bad thing in itself, but unfortunately, too many of its proponents are merely parroting what they have heard or read, and the majority of those who claim to be experts or healers have not spent years working on themselves. I have, and what I write is a result of years of my own personal experiences. I would surmise that a great number of people who give their opinions don't even realize they are based in this ancient religion. Though there is a lot about Buddhism that coincides with what I have discovered to be my own truth, much of it also has not. Remember, there are both truths and errors in all philosophies, and the other unfortunate thing is that those who have faith in a particular religious doctrine assume it is the true and correct one, and present it as such. Just as there are numerous Christian denominations who have totally different concepts of Christ, so it is with different branches of Buddhism. However, the only sincere method of arriving at the truth is to explore many different beliefs and do one's own inner work, then arrive at one's own personal truth. And that means being flexible and willing to tweak it on a regular basis. Where we are now on this planet, in time and space, is tearing wide open the veil of illusion, and the illusions are much worse than anyone might have ever imagined. So, keep that in mind and don't be too quick to decide on a rigid philosophy, or believe what you hear or read. Having said that, I would recommend a study of this book.
Rather than tell you what this book is about, I will instead tell you about the book. Obviously, I cannot write a book review explaining Mahayana Buddhism and do it any sort of justice. Those who are interested will seek their own resources, and this is certainly a monumental one. It was translated from the Chinese into English by Teitaro Suzuki. He says the original manuscript came from India, and was written in Sanskrit, but there are no copies extant. Suzuki's translation was published in 1900, and since then, scholars have disputed certain majors facts concerning this work, beginning with the most important one—the author. Though the Wikipedia article on The Awakening of Faith attributes it to Aҫvaghosha, the article on Aҫvaghosha himself says he was not the author. Teitaro claims Aҫvaghosha was either from Eastern, Western, or Southern India—anywhere but Northern India, but Wikipedia, again says not only was he from Northern India, but that the manuscript was written in China, in Chinese, not Sanskrit, and that Aҫvaghosha was not even from the Mahayanist period. Wikipedia says he was "the first Sanskrit dramatist" and "the greatest Indian poet prior to Kālidāsa," and a traveling ascetic.
Teitaro spends 45 pages attempting to supply information about Aҫvaghosha, but is still unable to even establish the time period in which he lived. Actually, this section is the most grueling to read through, because so many of the names and places are unfamiliar to anyone but those who are scholars of this subject. Once you get past the introductory material, reading is easier (although, as stated above, there is nothing simple about Mahayanist Buddhism). One thing that adds to the difficulty is the constant use of Sanskrit and Chinese words. In the Discourse section, at least they are mostly in the footnotes.
But, nonetheless, somebody wrote this treatise, and whoever they were, had certainly mastered knowledge of Mahayana Buddhism. Wikipedia, however, says this is a treatise on "suchness" or "The Absolute" and not a doctrine of the Mahayana school itself. As in Christianity, there are many different sects, schools or branches of Buddhism, and it gets very complex. As noted above, I will not use this review to expound upon this aspect.
While the book does give a great deal of complicated information on what one must do to complete the cycle of birth and death to reach Nirvâna, it supplies very little as far as practical steps that, for instance, a Westerner might want to follow to begin the Path. If you are considering the exploration of Buddhism as a life goal or to supplement other spiritual practice, I would suggest a different book until you are comfortable with Buddhist philosophy.
This is certainly a comprehensive treatise on its subject, so I, again, will not cover all the material included. However, in general, the author discusses the different stages one must pass through to reach Nirvâna, a little about what Nirvâna is, but again, that is very difficult to understand, and in fact it is "incomprehensible." Remember, Buddhism is based on the belief of the illusion of the physical world, and an attempt to label or name anything therefore keeps one in the realm of illusion. I happen to be quite in tune with that concept, and actually believe that here, now in 2015, the illusion is collapsing at an accelerated rate. There are also lots of lists—lists on certain actions to follow in order to free oneself from karma, evil, ignorance, etc. so that one may become pure. Some of those include charity and working toward helping others to attain Buddhahood. There is also a glossary in the back, but I found the definitions as confusing as the terms. Wikipedia is your best bet. In addition, there are also other translations, including one by an English-speaking person, Timothy Richard, from 1907. The most recent translation, which may perhaps be more up-to-date, as far as scholarly research, is by Yoshito S. Hakeda, 1967.
While there was some information here that I did not understand, or more accurately, was not fully able to absorb, this book has certainly inspired me to seek more writings about the Buddhist faith and practice.
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