There is not
any time when the Buddha speaks the Dharma. There is only said to be a
time to accord with the knowledge and views of living beings. Actually
there is no fixed time. Before there is no past, and afterwards there
is no present. The Buddha is speaking the Dharma at all times.
識，我都歡喜的；不要像我盡做最後的那個善知識。你們要做 first（第一），不要做 last one（最後），我是做什麼都要做 last
At that time the Emptiness-Ruling Spirit
named Pure Light Shining Everywhere received the Buddha
awesome might, universally contemplated all the multitudes of
Emptiness-Ruling Spirits, and spoke the following verses.
Venerable Master: Actually, we were
supposed to be explaining “at that time” in: At that time the
Emptiness-Ruling Spirit named Pure Light Shining Everywhere. We
have had the phrase “at that time” over and over already, and I’ve
forgotten how I explained it the first time. In the recent occurences
of the phrase, we’ve given perfunctory explanations. Today we’ll do our
best to bring out what each of you understand concerning “at that
time,” and see if it’s the same. There’s not much time left today—just
ten minutes more. During those ten minutes, it’s not that whoever wants
to speak will speak, and whoever doesn’t want to doesn’t have to. This
time, everyone has to talk. Anyone who comes regularly to the Sutra
lectures, or who lives at Gold Mountain Monastery, must speak. What
method shall we follow? I think we can start with Guo Hu. After you
talk, you can have each one who comes after you speak in order.
Heng Shou: The
Chinese phrase means “at that time,” referring to the time when
Shakyamuni Buddha was sitting under the Bodhi tree and had first
realized Buddhahood. So, many places in the text say “at that time.”
Venerable Master: When
I learn of someone else’s death,
My heart burns as if with fire.
It does not burn for the other person,
But because death is heading my way.
Heng Ching: When
it says “at that time,” it means “at this time.” How? It’s this time
we’re coming to, that point in the text (etc.); or at no time.
It has died.
Heng Ching: Yes.
Venerable Master: What
Heng Ching: All
marks of self have perished. It is when the Buddha first
accomplishes Enlightenment, which doesn’t happen in a single
time; for the time of Enlightenment pervades all times, and the Buddha
sees all beings become enlightened at the same time.
Venerable Master: The
text says “at that time,” and says it very clearly. “That” could be
interpreted as “your,” because the Chinese character can also mean
“you” or “your.” Then the phrase would mean “at your time.” What time
of yours is that? It’s whenever you are listening to the Flower
Adornment Sutra. However, I don’t think anyone has ever explained it
that way before, and today must be the first time. Since it’s your
time, it could also be said to be my time, since you and I are the
same. You have that time, so why shouldn’t I have it? So it’s also my
time. What time is it which is both yours and mine? It’s the time when
the Buddha speaks the Great Means Expansive Buddha Flower Adornment
“But that was a long time in
the past,” you may object. That’s the very reason it says, “At
that time.” What then is the connection between that time and our time?
At that time we may have been there in the Dharma Assembly, or perhaps
we were not. Even if we were there, we may have forgotten; and in any
case there is no way to verify it.
You may object, “Oh, at that time
I was such and such a Spirit, or such and such a Bodhisattva.” Well,
what you are now? What Spirit are you at this time, or what
Bodhisattva? Consequently, there are a great many principles which
could be discussed in connection with “at that time,” but unfortunately
we don’t have the time now. We could also say since we didn’t hear it
at that time, we won’t talk about that time. We are currently looking
at the Flower Adornment Sutra, and so it is this time. You are correct
when you say there is not any time when the Buddha speaks the Dharma.
There is only said to be a time to accord with the knowledge and views
of living beings. Actually there is no fixed time. Before there is no
past, and afterwards there is no present. The Buddha is speaking the
Dharma at all times. Therefore, “at that time” is only put in as a
statement because of the worldly knowledge and worldly outlook of
present, and future all have no precision about them.
We can’t finish talking about this today, because
we don’t have time. This is very meaningful, and we will continue to
investigate it together next time. We absolutely have to find out
whether there is a time or not. That’s because there is nothing fixed
about time, since it’s imprecise. As soon as you say it’s this time,
this time has already passed. You try to pin-point it as another time,
and that time is already gone. Therefore, past, present, or future all
have no precision about them. Ah! Let’s not ramble on.
[November 1, 1973 Thursday]
Good and Wise Advisors, yesterday
we did not complete our investigation of “at that time.” Also, after
some of the people spoke, they thought to themselves, “There are still
a lot of principles which I didn’t finish explaining!” Well, since you
didn’t finish, today we can continue the discussion. We absolutely have
to bring the actual meaning to light, enabling all of us here to
understand. Only then have we made it through the gate. You shouldn’t
consider my lectures to be totally correct. In what I say there is only
partial knowledge and incomplete understanding. Far more deep,
profound, and wonderful principles are still stored in the Treasury of
Sutras. All of you should look within yourselves, employ the sword of
your own inherent Prajna wisdom, and analyze the meaning of this
Dharma. You shouldn’t just know what I lecture, and not be able to make
your own personal discoveries.
Right now we’re using this
precious time to investigate these wondrous, inexhaustible principles.
None of you should simply wait for others to complete their talks and
figure there’s no need for you to speak. As the proverb reminds us:
“When it comes to humaneness, one does not even yield to one’s
Teacher.” We can change “humaneness” and say instead: “When it comes to
meaning, one does not even yield to one’s Teacher.” You definitely need
to explain the meaning better and more fully than your Master. That’s
what I hope from you. Moreover, if you can present a fuller explanation
of the meaning, you become my teacher. There should be no differences
of high or low among us, and we shouldn’t have considerations of rank.
The investigation of principle should not take status into account. All
of us are equal. It just depends on your own wisdom—if your wisdom
surpasses that of all other Good and Wise Advisors, then you are the
foremost Good and Wise Advisor. I myself also wish to learn from the
Good and Wise Advisor who is out in front. I will be delighted if one
of you wants to be Good and Wise Advisor Number One. Don’t be like me,
always wanting to be the last Good and Wise Advisor. You should be
first; don’t be the last one. I like to be last in everything, and so I
don’t amount to much. You ought to be a lot better than I am.
On the other hand, you shouldn’t
develop a wrong-headed, deviant outlook of arrogance and proclaim, “Now
I’m Number One. I surpass everyone. I can knock down my Teacher, how
much the more anyone else.” If you look down on everyone in that way,
then you make the mistake of being conceited. Something is wrong but
you say it is right, and you claim that something which is right is
wrong. That’s having deviant knowledge and deviant views. You need to
possess an accurate eye for distinguishing dharmas. You can’t just go
around stirring up trouble when there is none, nit-picking for
nonexistent faults. That’s not right. The right way is to maintain
proper knowledge and proper vision, have genuine wisdom, authentic
Prajna light which dispels all darkness. You shouldn’t have the
attitude that no Bhikshu is as good as you, much less the Bhikshunis,
or that Upasakas are of even less use, not to mention Upasikas. As soon
as you have such thoughts, imagining that in the heavens and below you
alone are honored, virtually bursting empty space apart, then in the
future there will be no way to save you. Once you have blasted empty
space apart at the seams, there will be no place to hold you. This is
something important which you need to know.
Are there any meanings which you didn’t finish discussing yesterday? If
you have something more to say, we can go back over it. Today we’ll ask
Dharma Master Miao Yin to be the referee.
Dharma Master Miao Yin:
I could not presume to do so.
Venerable Master: Why
not? [to disciple Heng Ching] Oh, I know. It’s because he doesn’t
understand English. He didn’t give that as the reason, but that’s the
reason. [discussion] Now he says he understands a bit. What about
Heng Ching: I
could say something.
I thought you had something to say, so I couldn’t fail to give you a
Heng Ching: Last
night’s lecture by the Master focused on the first two words of the
phrase “at that time,” so now we’ll concentrate on the word “time,”
which was not fully discussed yesterday. There are all different kinds
of time. However, if we try to describe what time it is, in general we
can distinguish ten kinds of time. The first is…
Venerable Master: There’s
a time to eat, and a time to sleep.
There’s a time to eat, and a time to sleep...
To be continued