November 14, 1973, Wednesday evening

On Drawing Names in Democratic Buddhism

Ven. Master Hsuan Hua


Master: What is everyoneís opinion concerning the four lines of verse that were lectured today? Now is the time to express yourselves. Use your inherent wisdom to elicit the meaning of this stanza. If you have a unique outlook and a real point to make, you may advance it for the assemblyís consideration.  If thereís a word or phrase that you didnít understand, you may ask that it be brought up for investigation. On the other hand, if you understood everything and donít have any opinions, we can go on to the next passage.

Our method of lecturing the sutras is democratic. Everyone has the right to speak, and each person has a chance to lecture the sutra. Itís not the case that one person makes baseless autocratic pronouncements that everyone else just as baselessly accepts. 

           From within ignorance, further ignorance is transmitted,

            So with one transmission, two donít understand.

            The teacher falls into the hells,  

            The disciples burrow in after him.


Donít any of you follow a teacher whoís falling into the hells, and burrow in after him. Now that Iíve explained it you all understand, donít you? But you canít get out of explaining this. You definitely must explain it. And so now you disciples can explain the verse. Letís see, who should explain it?

All of you good advisors should strike up your spirits. Donít fall asleep. Now weíre going to investigate these eight lines together to see which line was explained correctly and which line was lectured wrong. We need to find this out. Donít be a tongue-tied or remain closed-mouth. We are going to look into these eight lines of verse as a group. Iíll be able to tell by who wants to talk or not which ones of you were asleep just nowódo you believe that or not?

Disciple:  I believe it!

Master: Speak up, all of you. Everybody talk at once. Iíll be able to distinguish what each person says. [Editorís note: No one says anything.] Since no one is talking, Iíll draw a name. [Editorís note: At the Masterís Dharma seat is a container of wooden sticks recording each discipleís name. He pulls a name from among them.] Come forth! Come forth! You canít hide! Just say whatever you can say. What is your viewpoint on the eight lines of verse? Bring up your opinions. Any parts that were not fully explained are left for you to finish. If everything was covered, you can elaborate a bit. Donít think, just speak up quickly. Once you start thinking, itís secondary truth; itís no longer truth in the primary sense. I canít believe you were happy with everything they said, or that they explained every line completely. Nor do I believe they fully brought out the meaning of every phrase. Thatís also true of what I said. All of us should examine this together so true principle comes forth.

We donít want to follow the custom of Chinese Buddhism in the old days, the tyrannical insistence on, ďWhat I say goes, and anything you say is wrong.Ē As your teacher, I will definitely accept your pointing out my faults. In this democratic country, I am determined to practice democratic Buddhism.

Iím not afraid of opposition. Any disciple who opposes me is a good disciple of mine. Those who donít oppose me are my bad disciples. [Editorís note: The Venerable Master asks a visiting Dharma Master if he has ever heard anyone talk that way before, to which the Dharma Master replies he never has.] Iím not afraid of people opposing me, undermining me, scolding or slandering me. I most welcome any of you having the talent to scold your teacher. Speak in Chinese first, then in English. I canít tell you to speak in English first, because the sutra text is in Chinese. [Editorís note: Several disciples explain the verses.]


(Timely Teachings. pages 82 - 84)