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 Time Is Like A Water Pipe

The year-end often sees people sighing over the fleeting nature of life. Sayings such as these are heard at that time: "Swift fly the years, how time flies"; "Another year has just flashed past"; "Oh frailty, thy name is old age"... But impermanence does not just make an occasional appearance at the end of the year. It is by our side every day, every hour, every minute, and every second. It follows us everywhere – as we walk along on the street, cook in the kitchen, and lie down in bed. However, we are habitually oblivious to it, and too busy to pay it attention.

I have long since stopped lamenting the impermanence of things in this way. Those who do so are probably perturbed by how quickly time goes by and how short life is. They wish to live long. To me, having a long or short life makes no difference. Last year and the year before last only differ in terms of numerals. (Only just now Master Zongdao pointed out that I have mistakenly recorded events that took place in 2012 as 2013.) Even yesterday and my childhood days are almost the same: both have just slipped away. Perhaps it is my age – the folds and grooves in my memory have been smoothed out by the brain. Therefore, time is flat to me. It has no depth any more.

This reminds me of a mirror which reflects all three-dimensional views, both distant and near, as one flat surface. I like the character for "flat" (ping平); it always denotes something agreeable to me. For example, equality (ping deng 平等), calm (ping jing平静),and gentle (ping he平和). In this sense, the value of being flat should probably exceed that of being three-dimensional.

My perception of time as being flat prompts me to consider this question: What is the essence of time? Is it simply the chronological depth of the past, present and future? What is long-term and what is temporary? As the saying goes, "Bystanders see more than gamesters." When we are totally absorbed in the game of time with a three-dimensional perspective (past, present and future), we are under its control. Imagine our life being cut into countless slices, then re-assembled into a whole, much in the same way as a book consists of numerous thin pages of paper.

In contrast, time which has only a flat surface gives us a sense of the completeness of life. It allows us to become dispassionate onlookers of the game of time, watching the narrow tunnel of the past, present and future. What has this got to do with me? I am not inside it. I am merely having fun watching the transparent tunnel of the so-called past, present and future, with vehicles moving forward in it one after another. Such a game alone is enough to fill lives with suffering.

Consider the water in the ocean and that in a narrow pipe. They are both water. The ocean is free and vast, with rising and falling tides. Its surges know no barriers and impediments, while pipe water is reduced to a long and slim course by the narrowness of the tube, waiting in line to flow forward. Our minds are like water. Who has poured it into the narrow pipeline of time rendering it unable to overtake at all? What is this pipe-line made of? The "ego"!

Some of us would like to see the pipeline of time in our worldly life extended as much as possible, say from 100 meters to 120 meters. There is really no point in this. What if it is 500 meters long? The end of a 500 meter-long pipeline is still buried underground, trapping our lives inside it throughout.

We should break out of the tube's confines and leave the pipeline. Even if we cannot join the ocean, we fare much better crouching inside a basin than getting squeezed in the pipe. In winter in north China, heating is supplied by hot water circulating through pipes. Our lives in the Six Realms of samsara (cycle of rebirth) are like the circulating water in the heating pipes. They are forever confined in dark conduits, propelled onward by karmic forces.

When the Buddha says, "Time doesn't exist," people are flabbergasted and raise their eyebrows. "What? How is it possible that time doesn't exist? Without time, how can we live?" Ha! How reasonable and logical such shocks and counter-arguments appear to be, except that they are just the reason and logic of humans. If the water in the ocean says to the tap water, "There is no pipe," the latter is unable to understand. "Without pipes, we cannot live and everything will turn upside down. Imagine what a disaster there would be if a pipe burst. That would be terrible!" But there again, is it natural for water to be inside a pipe?

Time does not exist for Amitabha Buddha. Hence, he has an infinite life. Only "I" have the concept of time, resulting in my ensnarement in samsara.These transformations all result from other-power.

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Master Huijing

Master Huijing

Master Jingzong

Master Jingzong

Guiding Principles

Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings