Let us give here some remarks on the Chinese translations of Açvaghosha's principal and best known work The Awakening of Faith. The Sanskrit original is long lost, probably owing to the repeated persecutions of Buddhism by Chinese emperors at different times. According to the Chêng yüan catalogue (compiled between A. D. 785-804) the Sanskrit text is said to have existed at that time. It is a great pity that such an important Buddhist philosophical work
as the present çâstra can be studied only through translations. 1
There are two Chinese translations still existing in the Tripitaka collection. The first translation was made by Paramârtha ( ) otherwise called Kulanâtha ( ) of Ujjayana (or Ujjayini, modern Oujein) in Western India. He came to China A. D. 546 and died A. D. 569 when he was 71 years old. Among many other translations, the present one came from his pen on the tenth day of September, A. D. 554.
The second one is by Çikshânanda ( ), of Kusutana (Khoten), who began his work on the eighth of October, A. D. 700. He died in China A. D. 710 at the age of 59.
As to the problem whether the original of the two Chinese translations is the same or different, my impression is that they were not the same text, the one having been brought from Ujjayana and the other from Khoten. But the difference, as far as we can judge from the comparison of the two versions, is not fundamental.
In the preface to the second translation of the Kao
li edition, the unknown writer states to the following effect: "The present Çâstra has two translations. The first one is by Paramârtha and the second one is from the Sanskrit text brought by Çikshânanda who found also the older Sanskrit original in the Tz‘u an tower. As soon as he had finished the rendering of the Avatamsakasûtra into Chinese, he began a translation of his own text with the assistance of several native Buddhist priests. The new translation occasionally deviates from the older one, partly because each translator had his own views and partly because the texts themselves were not the same."
Though the Chêng yüan as well as the K‘ai yüan 1 catalogue affirm that the two translations were from the same text, this can only mean that they were not radically divergent. For if any two editions differ so slightly as not to affect the essential points, they can be said to be practically the same text.
Which of the two translations then is the more correct? To this question we cannot give any definite answer as the originals are missing. The first translation has found a more popular acceptance in Japan as well as in China, not because it is more faithful to the original, but because a most learned and illustrious Buddhist scholar called Fa tsang (A. D.
[paragraph continues] 643-712) wrote a commentary on it. And on that account the commentary is more studied than the text itself. Fa tsang assisted Çikshânanda in preparing the second translation, but he preferred the first one for his commentary work, partly because the first one had already found a wide circulation and some commentators before his time, and partly because both translations agreeing in all their important points, he did not like to show his "partiality," as a commentator on Fa tsang says, to the one in the preparation of which he himself took part.
The present English translation is made from the second Chinese version by Çikshânanda, but the first version has been carefully compared with it, and wherever disagreements occur between them they have been noticed in footnotes.
38:1 Notice Açvaghosha's discussion with Puṇyayaças as above mentioned.
39:1 An inquiry has been made by the present English translator as to whether the original Sanskrit copy could be found either in India or in Nepal; but Prof. Satis Chandra Âchâryya, of the Buddhist Text Society, Calcutta, with whom he has been communicating on the subject, informs him that as far as India is concerned there is almost no hope of securing it, and also that his friend in Nepal has been unable so far to discover the original.
40:1 A catalogue of Buddhist books collected in the K'ai yüan period (A. D. 713-741) of the Tung Dynasty, by Chih-shang, A.D. 730. Its full name K‘ai yüan shih chiao lu. Twenty fasciculi.