English | Vietnamese


Sunday noon , October 15, 1972

On Democratic Process

Ven. Master Hua    


If I explain something incorrectly, any one of you can address the matter. I don’t have the attitude that as I’m the teacher, only I can say what’s wrong, and you can’t. You can always ask me a question if you think I’ve explained something wrong. It’s only to be feared that you won’t be attentive enough to bring anything up. I’m willing to discuss and look into any point that you do bring up.

A saying [in the Analects] goes, “If I bring up one angle and the student cannot surmise the other three, he is not fit to be taught.” Confucius also said, “Hui is not my helper. No matter what I say, he never opposes me or inquires about anything. He seems to be a fool. Yet when I examine his behavior after he goes home, I find that Hui is no fool.” Confucius was extremely democratic in discussing the principles with his disciples. His style was not dictatorial.

We are also investigating the doctrines in a democratic fashion. In this democratic country, we must follow democratic ways also in our study of Buddhism. We cannot employ Hitler’s dictatorial regime or Mussolini’s fascist rule. Our method is completely democratic: Everyone investigates together. If I correct a mistake in your explanation, not only should you not be upset, you should be grateful and think, “If you hadn’t told me, I would never have known I was wrong and would go on being wrong to the end.” Don’t get red in the face as soon as someone criticizes you and sputter, “Hey, how dare you say I’m wrong!” That’s not the proper attitude.

I encourage all of you to investigate together. If I lecture wrongly, feel free to correct me. Don’t be like Prime Minister Zhao Gao. Zhao Gao and Emperor Qin Er Shi had a contest to see which of them was more powerful. Minister Zhao Gao summoned a crowd of people, pointed at a deer, and said, “I say this is a horse. What do you say?”

Emperor Qin Ershi said, “I say it’s a deer. What do you say?” Basically, it was a deer, but because the people feared Minister Zhao Gao, they all said it was a horse. Qin Ershi was an emperor, but he lost to his minister Zhao Gao. That’s how the idiom, “Pointing at a deer and calling it a horse” came about. The people followed Minister Zhao Gao in calling a deer a horse, because they feared that if they said it was a deer they would be executed.

Our situation is entirely different. Here, people can criticize each other for being mistaken. Issues are open to public discussion. You, the citizens of this democratic country, choose to come to this bodhimaÜÉa precisely because we are not dictatorial here.


Timely Teachings. Page 235