FOR the purpose of awakening in all beings a pure faith in the Mahâyâna, 1 of destroying their doubts and attachment to false doctrines, and of affording them an uninterrupted inheritance of Buddha-seeds, I write this Discourse.
There is a principle whereby the root of faith in the Mahâyâna can be produced, and I shall explain it.
The explanation consists of five parts:
II. General Statement of Principles.
III. The Explanation Itself.
IV. The Practice of Faith.
V. Benefits [derived therefrom].
48:1 The term Mahâyâna here seems not to have been used as it usually is in contrast to the Hînayâna. Açvaghosha adopts it simply to denote the greatness of suchness (bhûtalathatâ) as well as to prove its being the safest and surest means of salvation. It is therefore the name given to the first principle itself, and not to any philosophical system or religious dogmatics. But the term used in this wise by Açvaghosha and perhaps in earlier Mahâyâna texts gradually lost its original sense in the course of the development of this progressive religious view. It was then transferred to distinguish the system at large from that of the so-called Çrâvakas, to which the followers of the former gave in contrast to their own the rather humiliating name Hînayâna. At the time of Açvaghosha the controversy between them was probably not as vehement as it proved later on. And this fact may be seen from the tolerant spirit shown in the third convocation under the reign of King Kanishka. By the Mahâyâna followers Açvaghosha is unanimously recognised as the forerunner of Nâgârjuna by whose marvellous genius the system was brought to maturity.