61.2 Historical Development
61.3 Principal Text
61.4 Classification of Buddhist Teachings
Literally, Fa-hsiang ( 法相 ), which is Dharma-laksana in Sanskrit, means ‘ the characteristics of Dharmas’ or ‘the specific marks of Dharmas’. As Dharma is generally the existence of both substantial matter and mental activities, this sect focuses on the study of nature and qualities of all existences. This sect is also classified as Realistic School ( 有宗 ).
This sect believes that only consciousness/ideation ( Vijnana in Sanskrit) exists in Dharmas, thus it is called ‘Wei-shih’ sect ( 唯識 ), i.e. Mere-Consciousness Sect.
This sect originated in India, formerly called Yogacara. Yogacara School was founded by Asanga, the elder of Vasubandhu, who wrote an important text ‘Yogacara-bhumi’, after which the school was named. Thus, Fa-hsiang Sect is sometimes called Yogacara Sect ( 瑜伽宗 ).
The doctrine adheres neither to the doctrine that all things exist, nor to the doctrine that nothing exists, but firmly to the Doctrine of Mean, so this school is classified as ‘Idealistic School’ ( 相宗 ).
In China, this sect is also sometimes called Tzu-yun ( 慈恩 ) sect. Tzu-yun is actually the name of the temple where the remarkable second patriarch Kuei-chi ( 窺基 ) resides.
About 900 years after the Nirvana of Shakyamuni Buddha, the great master used to ascend to Tusita Heaven every night to hear the Dharma delivered by Matreiya, and returned to his lecture hall by daytime preaching to his followers. His lectures were recorded in the famous treatise called ‘Yogacara-blumi Shastra’ ( 瑜伽師地論 ).
The treatise expounds the principle of the transformation of consciousness, which was introduced by Shakyamuni Buddha in Sandhinirmocana Sutra ( 解深密經 ) and Lankavatara ( 楞伽經 ). It also summarizes systematically the Theory of Mere-Consciousness, which was elaborated in several treatises written by the two brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu. This school is commonly known as the Yogacara.
Having traveled in India for 16 years in his pilgrimage, the great master Hsuan-tsang returned to China in 645 AD, with numerous Buddha’s relics and images, and 657 Buddhist texts. He then concentrated his work in editing and translating the texts to Chinese. One of the important texts he translated was ‘Treatise on the Establishment of Mere Consciousness’ ( 成唯識論 ), which is the principal text of Fa-hsiang sect. Hsuan-tsang is regarded as the first patriarch of Fa-hsiang sect in China.
In China, the forerunner of Fa-hsiang is another sect in China, known as She-lun ( 攝論 ). In 563 AD, Paramartha translated one of the important Mahayana texts ‘Mahayana-samparigraba’ ( 攝大乘論 ) written by Asanga, thus laying the foundation of She-lun sect. It is noted that Paramartha was also the founder of the realistic Chu-she ( 俱舍 ) sect.
There are six sutras and eleven treatises in Fa-hsiang sect, though some of them are not extant in China.
The six sutras are:
The eleven treatises are:
There are other important texts, such as:
This sect classifies the Buddha's teachings into three periods: