The time passes by very quickly. Without our realizing it, the summer is already over. In China, Confucius compared life to a ceaselessly flowing stream. Time that has gone by can never return. Someone also said,
An inch of time is worth an inch of gold,
But even if one has an inch of gold,
One can hardly buy back an inch of time.
An inch of time is as valuable as an inch of gold. If you lose gold, it’s possible to recover it. Once time has gone by, however, there is no way to get it back. Therefore, time is even more valuable than gold. Thus, in Buddhism we say, “An inch of time is an inch of life.” When time grows short, one’s life is also shorter. We must certainly value our time and not casually let it go by in vain.
During this summer, we have begun our days at six o’clock in the morning, either meditating or studying the Buddhist Sutras, From early in the morning until nine o’clock at night, every person applies himself diligently to cultivation. I believe that this period has been more precious than gold, more valuable than diamonds. Everyone has been together, being permeated and influence by what we have heard and cultivated.
This period of time could be considered a most precious and valuable time in each of our lives. It’s a pity that this time is not that long; it has passed by in the twinkling of an eye. Although it is over, the Buddhadharma that each of us has learned has planted a precious vajra seed in our brain and in the field of our eight consciousness. This seed has been planted, and in the future it will certainly bear the indestructible fruit of vijra. The indestructible vijra fruit is also the Buddha-fruit; in other words, we will become Buddhas.
When will we become Buddhas? It depends on our own efforts at tilling and irrigating the fields. The seed has been planted in the ground, but, just as in farming, you have to water it, pull the weeds, and turn the soil by tilling it, making it soft so that the seed can sprout. How do you pull the weeds out? What does it mean to weed the ground? It means that at all times, each one of us must “guard against what is subtle and stop what is gradually going to happen.” That is, we must guard against the arising of very subtle thoughts. We must put a stop to all false thoughts, getting rid of them completely.
Every day we must apply effort in this way. Each day we must cultivate in this way, tending and irrigating the fields. It’s just like farming. You give it some water and pull out all the weeds, day by day, and the vajra seed you have planted in the ground will produce a Bodhi sprout. After your Bodhi tree has produced shoots, that is, after your Bodhi sprout has come up, it will eventually bear the Bodhi fruit. But you have to protect that Bodhi sprout and Bodhi fruit. Don’t neglect it. If you neglect to water it and tend to it, then it will wither away and dry up.
What is meant by watering? If you study the Buddhadharma every day and use the Dharma water of the Buddhadharma to irrigate your Bodhi sprout, then over the course of time, your vijra fruit will come to maturity. If you don’t continue to care for this vijra seed after this period is over, then even though it was planted, it won’t be easy for it to sprout. You must protect your vijra seed well. Don’t go back to doing the things you used to like doing. Follow the rules and behave yourselves. Don’t be as rowdy as you used to be. Don’t do the heedless things that you used to do. If you follow the rules, then you are in accord with the Buddhadharma. If you don’t follow the rules, then you are not in accord with the Buddhadharma. We should certainly be people who abide by the rules and work according to the regulations. Don’t be too lax or overly emotional. Those are my expectations for each one of you.
During this summer session of lectures on the Shurangama Sutra, it has surely been the case that, “Once it enters your ears, it is forever a seed of the Way.” As soon as the principles of this Sutra pass through your ears, they remain forever in the field of your eighth consciousness as seeds of Bodhi.
A talk given in September, 1968,
At the Buddhist Lecture Hall, San Francisco,
during the Shurangama Sutra lecture series