“The trouble is, you think you have time.”

Spotted here:

This is another one from Jack Kornfield’s Buddha’s Little Instruction Book (1994), which isn’t a collection of Buddha quotes, but is Jack’s rather lovely interpretation of Buddhist teachings.

According to the publisher:

Just as the serene beauty of the lotus blossom grows out of muddy water, Buddha’s simple instructions have helped people to find wholeness and peace amid life’s crisis and distractions for more than 2,500 years. For this small handbook, a well-known American Buddhist teacher and psychologist has distilled and adapted an ancient teaching for the needs of contemporary life. Its practical reminders and six meditations can infuse smallest everyday action with insight and joy.

It’s a charming book, although the title has led many people to think that its contents are quotations from the Buddhist scriptures. In some cases that appears to be so, but most of the aphorisms seem to be Jack’s own thoughts.

Thanks to an alert commenter (Paxski, below), I was able to track where Jack got this quote from. Paxski had heard Jack use this quotation in one of his talks on CD, where he attributed it to Don Juan. Paxski wasn’t sure which Do Juan this was, but a hunch gold me that it was probably the (fictional?) Yaqui shaman from Carlos Castaneda’s books. And indeed, I found the following in Journey to Ixtlan, Castaneda’s third book:

There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time … If you don’t think your life is going to last forever, what are you waiting for ? Why the hesitation to change? You don’t have time for this display, you fool. This, whatever you’re doing now, may be your last act on earth. It may very well be your last battle. There is no power which could guarantee that you are going to live one more minute.

So this another version of the “timeless” reminder that time is brief and that we should make good use of it.

Shorn of this context, though, as it is in Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, I’ve often found this quote to be a little counter-productive. I knew what the quote was intending to say, but what is it we don’t have time for? The quote doesn’t say. I certainly hope I have time to get enlightened. Of course I don’t know how much time is available to me, but if I’m being told that I don’t, in fact, have time, then what’s the point? The quote’s intention is to point out that we don’t have time to waste, but not having time to waste is not the same thing as not having time. We do have time, or at least we have some time, and the question is how we’re going to use it.

Shorn of its context, I think that this particular quote may be an example of what Daniel Dennett has called a “deepity.” Here’s an adaptation of Wikipedia’s account of that term:

Deepity is a term employed by Dennett in his 2009 speech to the American Atheists Institution conference, coined by the teenage daughter of one of his friends. The term refers to a statement that is apparently profound but actually asserts a triviality on one level and something meaningless on another. Generally, a deepity has (at least) two meanings; one that is true but trivial, and another that sounds profound, but is essentially false or meaningless and would be “earth-shattering” if true.

It would be earth-shattering to say, truthfully, that we don’t have time. But it’s essentially false. Still, this is me over-thinking the quote. As I mentioned, I knew the first time I read it what it meant. It’s just a little ambiguous. And not something the Buddha said, although he said similar things:

  • “Unindicated and unknown is the length of life of those subject to death.” (Source)
  • “Those who have come to be, those who will be: All will go, leaving the body behind. The skillful person, realizing the loss of all, should live the holy life ardently.” (Source)
  • “I have reckoned the life of a person living for 100 years: I have reckoned the life span, reckoned the seasons, reckoned the years, reckoned the months, reckoned the fortnights, reckoned the nights, reckoned the days, reckoned the meals, reckoned the obstacles to eating. Whatever a teacher should do — seeking the welfare of his disciples, out of sympathy for them — that have I done for you. Over there are the roots of trees; over there, empty dwellings. Practice jhana, monks. Don’t be heedless. Don’t later fall into regret. This is our message to you all.” (Source)
  • Life is swept along, next-to-nothing its span. For one swept to old age no shelters exist. Perceiving this danger in death, one should drop the world’s bait and look for peace. (Source)
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74 thoughts on ““The trouble is, you think you have time.”

  1. It seems to me that Mr. Kornfield is referring to the urgency to get to one’s spiritual work. That is mainly meditation. Enlightenment comes in stages and it takes seeing clearly. To see clearly one must first see through the illusion of ego, mine and that of everyone else. Reality is concept and concept is mostly false. When trying to see through it the ego keeps serving up self serving concepts that can appear to be enlightenment but, are nothing more than the next delicious drama. So, as one does their work they continue to cut through the layers of concept.

    One of the issues is that the world will not support your efforts to be free, to become enlightened, as they say (which may be another ego trip). So, in large part you walk this path alone. You must sit with your own junk in the reality of the now without the luxury of a fantasy with which to escape for the millionth time. Once this is done, in silence focusing on the breath, real progress can be made. But, if progress is the goal then the ego will create and progress illusion. So, sitting with no agenda, no goal, is the only way. Sitting for the purpose of sitting. Trusting the universe to provide without knowing or caring what is to be provided.

    It’s hard work at times that requires dedication, especially since there is no expectation of a payoff. The ego want’s a goal to get drunk on. But, if you surrender to the wishes of the ego you’ll find yourself an old person who has accomplished exactly nothing in an entire lifetime. Lots and lots of old people on this planet are unenlightened. Look and you can see. Which leads back to the Kornfield quote “The trpuble is. you think you have time”. You don’t.

    • I had to search to find who wrote “Trouble is we think we have time”, as I couldn’t remember. Truth is this little quote has changed my life, nothing has been the same since, the reality really hit home, so to speak, I’ve shared it with many, and I thank you!!!!!!! I do have to laugh at some of replies below…..especially those who either don’t get it or the one’s who find it…..”simple” for lack of a better word. I have tattooed this one in my mind, it keeps me in the moment and allows me to be the person I want to be on a daily basis.
      THANK YOU. Marianne

  2. I agree ~ it’s confusing. It does set up a paradox though because of its confusing nature but it’s total ambiguity cancels out any real meaning or teaching. Someone posted this quote and I thought it was puzzling and that’s how I got here. So maybe its purpose it to set of an enquiry :)

  3. For me, it speaks to the idea of mindfulness, and is a reminder to aspire to be fully aware in each moment, and to move authentically throughout each moment, and to not put off that which you need to do “because you have time,” or because you’ll “do it later.”

    We all have intellectual/emotional/spiritual growth to do, and learn from that growth and share that knowledge. Putting off that growth is a mistake.

  4. It means that we always put things off today and wait till tomorrow cuz we think we have time for that. Then eventually you get to a point in your life when you wish you had done many things earlier on in your life cuz it’s all coming to its finally and it’s too late to do the things you wished.

  5. To me it means that you could die in the next instant: heart attack, freak accident, whatever. A friend’s father who was active tripped over backwards while playing tennis (he was in very good shape) and hit his head on the hardcourt and was instantly comatose and died. Another’s mother was violently slaughtered. Another was

    So don’t put off the important things that you think you’ll have the time to do/deal with later. Live in the moment, live in the now do not waste time on that which is beyond your control/impact and do not be mean: you may not have time to apologize. Live each moment like it’s your last. Do not put off making time to spend with loved ones — they may not have time either.

    For me it’s a more succinct way of saying “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” but with the imperative of do it NOW not later.

    I’ll get married later (I still have time)
    I’ll have kids later (I still have time)
    I’ll make that up to them later (I still have time)

    The trouble is, you think you have time.

  6. Understanding the nature of time is an essential Buddhist principle. Time was born in the Big Bang, according to astrophysicists, and beyond (not before) that event, it has no meaning. Time is a conceptual framework relating to the observed dynamics of change in the physical world. The differences between observation A and observation B is what we perceive as time. But, as Einstein has shown, it is relative and therefore dependent.

    The past is simply the sum of one’s memories, which are mental re-presentations of an experience one is still clinging to. If you suffer total amnesia, guess what else is obliterated? The past. Being dependent on memories, which are mental constructs, the past is also conceptual.

    The future is a projection of this process into the looming unknown and is also, obviously, a product of one’s imagination.

    The present, however, is not dependent on one’s mental conjuring. While the past can be forgotten and the future never arrives, the present never goes away, which makes it timeless. Infinity is not a never-ending supply of minutes, but rather no time at all.

    So you actually do have time, but it is only a superstructure of thought and illusory in the face of the Absolute. Enlightenment is identification with the timeless Absolute rather than the time-bound relative. According to Buddhism, sentient beings are already always enlightened. The trouble is, you think you have time.

  7. This was posted by a FB friend last night and I found it on my wall this morning. It may not be an actual Buddha quote and may not have meaning for everyone, but it was a strong message for me this morning in dealing with a very important relationship issue that I have been avoiding with my father. So, sometimes the most simplistic of ‘deepity’ does have value.

    • Like many things, it’s what we make of it. The quote’s presumably meant to remind us not to waste time and to make use of the time we have available to us, and that’s how we should use it. If you take it to mean that, then it’s obviously useful.

      Now think about improving your relationship with your father: the trouble is, you think you have time. Now it’s maybe not so useful. You don’t have time to improve things? Well, maybe, maybe not. I suppose this is what they mean by “over thinking” :)

    • Well, in this case I don’t think there is an orignal quote, and that Jack wasn’t quoting the Buddha, but expressing a Buddhist concept in his own words. He may have had in mind the words of the Zen teacher Dōgen: “Life and death are of supreme importance. Time swiftly passes by and opportunity is lost. Each of us should strive to awaken. Awaken! Take Heed! Do not squander your life!”

        • Well, literally appamādo amatapadaṃ is “Conscientiousness is the path to the deathless,” which strikes me as being rather different from “don’t waste time.”

  8. I’ve thought of this one ever since I read it on a meme on Facebook; and did question whether it came from the Buddha.
    No matter, it got me thinking a lot.
    It was very striking, though and has made a difference ever since I read it.
    To me, it feels like we are constantly considering time, and allow it to control us a lot. We use time to not finish through with things, to put things off OR to use it to punish us and rush around like chickens with our heads cut off. What if we took out the use of time so much? I think we have to live in reality, and we live in time, but we could use it in a more positive way? Or not allow it to enslave us?
    Just my ten cents worth.

  9. I’m really glad I found your blog, because I was very suspicious of that quote when I saw it floating around on Pinterest, as much as I liked it.

    It is definitely a fortune-cookie saying. I agree with you that it is ambiguous, but I also had this instantaneous response to it, personally. For me it says I don’t have time to wait for things to happen to/for me, that I don’t have time to do nothing, or time to spend frivolously on things that aren’t important. I don’t know if that’s the same thing as “time to waste,” necessarily, and it didn’t carry a sense of urgency for me. But I don’t know that I would have had this response if I hadn’t already suspected all of this. A person that is burdened with urgency and a feeling that there is no time at all would probably get a much more sinister message.

  10. the answer is in the very sentence be it the original Buddha’s thought or not. “The trouble is you think you have time”. “THINK.” Once you start THINKING you have time or thinking about time, delaying things and putting them in the perspective of time instead of doing them right away, you are already late.

  11. When the nurse called & asked if I was on my way to the hospital since my mother was very close to death, I flew up the freeway at 119 mph. Through the adrenaline and fear, I heard my mind say “There is no more time.” In a flash, I saw that I live half-heartedly, holding back, because, like a chronic procrastinator, I don’t push myself to really “go for it” until it is deadline time. I was lucky that day and arrived minutes before she died and was blessed to receive and give communication with her. I am profoundly sad, however, that my mind has succeeded in deluding me again since then and I have resumed my familiar spot waiting in the corner of my life. This thread has sparked a desire to inquire within as to what fear causes me to think that procrastinating to live and relate fully is in my best interests. Blessings to you, Bodhipaksa, and all for triggering this remembrance and desire to free myself.

  12. I’ve heard similar sentiments from other buddhist teacher’s. I take it to mean that we think we have plenty of time so we can put off spiritual pursuits. The reality is we don’t know how much time we have and even a long life flies by very quickly. Thus, we need to apply ourselves diligently right now and not procrastinate if we wish to make meaningful use of our fortunate rebirth as a human who has encountered the Dharma and has enough leisure with which to practice it. It’s pretty straightforward really (at least once you understand the context)

    • The thing is, there has to be a context. “The trouble is, you think you have time for…”

      I suppose the quote leaves the “for…” to your imagination, but it just doesn’t work for me as it stands.

      • The quote, I think, is quite masterfully crafted. At first glance it conjures a meaning like you’ve interpreted. That our troubles stem from being idle in the face of a ticking clock that whittles away our lifetimes, enforcing a sort of anxiety towards spending time reaching enlightenment. But at a deeper look, there is a more pertinent meaning in quite the opposite tone. That all of our troubles stem from this notion that the past and the future are real things; that we spend our lives striving to some future or clinging to some past, that we spend our lives striving away from what is. That is the true problem, and a concept of time is at its core. Enlightenment is not a process that must be achieved over time, it is a state of awareness, it is an instantaneous choice. As they say, a cave can remain in darkness for thousands of years, but it is still lit in an instant.

        “Enlightenment is absolute cooperation with the inevitable.” – Anthony de Mello.

        Great work on the Fake Buddha quotes b.t.w., super valuable resource to have online! Keep it up!

  13. “Strike while the iron is!” — is a similar type of saying that I actually did find in a fortune cookie — once you are gone the iron is not…

  14. I agree with the interpretation of the Buddhist proverb: if we admit we,
    haven’t time to waste,” then the question becomes one of priority. Despite our most reasoned attempts our priorities constructively, ultimately that same set of priorities gets ordered by fate.

  15. This puts me in mind of two of my favorite Buddhist proverbs/aphorisms (gee, at least I hope they’re genuinely Buddhist) about time:

    Live every day like your hair was on fire. (I’ve seen this attributed to Wumen Huikai)


    Sitting silently, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself. (I’ve seen this attributed to Basho)

    • The first one is based on something the Buddha is reported to have said: “Just as when a person whose turban or head was on fire would put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness to put out the fire on his turban or head, in the same way the monk should put forth extra desire, effort, diligence, endeavor, undivided mindfulness, & alertness for the abandoning of those very same evil, unskillful qualities.” That’s in the Maranassati Sutta. You’ll notice that the Blessed One tended not to be pithy…

      The same image is found, more concisely, in the Theragatha, although there of course it’s not spoken by the Buddha: “…as if his head were on fire,
      a monk should live the wandering life — mindful — for the abandoning of sensual passion.”

      I don’t know whether the second quotation is by Basho or not…

  16. Thanks for clarifying that. This is a great service you’re providing. The same thing needs to be done for quotations in other areas, especially philosophy, history, politics and literature. There are all sorts of attributions being made on the internet that are just nonsense.

  17. the first thing that popped into my head on reading this for the first time was ‘be here now.’ Plus, the sort of negative approach of the sentence structure didn’t strike me as Buddhaesque.

    • ….same here guitargold, it triggered ‘be here now’ for me too….’the trouble is you think you have time’….so?…..I’ll be here later! Busy just now, being asleep….love ‘bhuddaesque’ and ‘deepity’……the joys of language. The FB meme triggered my question….why ?? if I say I wish to ‘be’ do I allow the flow of least resistance? More egowallow …..another newy!

      • When I read this quote – I felt a pressure in my chest. Am I not to focus on the Now? Am I not to be present? Am I “supposed” to be doing something and wasting my life by not doing “That”? This immediately did not feel like anything the Buddha would ever say. That’s why I Googled the phrase, asking who on earth said this? The only meaning I can find that feels right – is that Thinking within the abstract framework of Time – is our only Trouble. It pulls us out of the Now – out of our peaceful awareness – into a concept that somehow our life is not right – is in trouble – as it Is.

        • In other words… No – We do not have Time. Time is an abstract measure superimposed on existence. All we ever truly have is the present moment. If we think in terms of Time – and are so silly to believe that it is something we can Have or need to control by using it correctly – We surely are in trouble – and focusing outside the present moment – and therefore we are wasting they only life we do have.

  18. For me it’s an awesome but simple phrase.

    “The problem is, you think you have time.”

    It’s just about the common sense that we will have time to solve our problems later, that we will have time to ask for forgiveness another time, that we will have time to be happy later … and the problem is that we always think that we will have time.

  19. Once we get beyond the fact that the Buddha didn’t say it, which is obvious and shouldn’t take much intellectual exertion, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s ambiguity and lack of context are precisely what make it a bold, beautiful statement. It borders on poetic.

    “You think you have time” could be interpreted one of two ways. There is the obvious interpretation, that life is precious, that everything is temporary and you don’t have time to waste on meaningless activities that don’t make the world a better place. And a second, equally valid reading would imply that time in an illusion… that all you have is this moment, and that you must strive walk the the razor’s edge of the present in order to awaken.

    It’s the paradoxical nature of the statement that makes it so powerful.

  20. Not a big Kornfield fan. Curious if there is any context whatsoever for the quote as it appears in the book. But no curious enough to find out. Just surprised no one has pointed to the illusory nature of temporal experience yet.

    • Unless you bothered to read the TL;DR essay that serves as the first comment, if you go in for that sort of thing. You know, long-winded wordy arguments to state simple concepts, what’s the word, pontifications. I probably shouldn’t be on this forum…ta ta

  21. When a canoeing instructor says “the problem is we don’t have a paddle” do you need context? He’s a meditation teacher and he’s referring to the time it takes to get enlightened before we die… become extcinct …become an X-meditator … a deceased practioner… joined the choir invisable, as John Cleese might have said if the Monty Python Parrot sketch was about meditators.
    At which point we won’t be doing a whole lot more meditating.

    • So you’re saying the message of the quote is that we don’t have time to get enlightened? In that case we’re up the creek without a paddle…

  22. This quote doesn’t seem to be authentic Buddha. If you read Buddha you don’t find a man in a hurry. Buddhism seems to be all about slow steady practice, while this quote seems to imply action at a fast pace or you miss the bus..

    • And yet:

      “Endowed with two things, a monk lives in ease in the present life and is appropriately aroused for the ending of the fermentations. Which two? A sense of urgency and awe toward things that should inspire urgency and awe and, feeling urgency and awe, appropriate exertion. Endowed with two things, a monk lives in ease in the present life and is appropriately aroused for the ending of the fermentations.” (Itivuttika)

  23. Just saw this one posted by a friend today. Knew it had to be fake. Doesn’t sound like something Buddha would have said at all.

  24. It seems to me that the saying is saying that whatever it is that you want to do, get right to it. Don’t sit around thinking you’ll get to it tomorrow, or later. That your life is passing you by if you don’t get on with it.

  25. From Zen Master Seung Sahn’s Temple Rules:
    In the great work of life and death, time will not wait for you.
    If you die tomorrow, what kind of body will you get?
    Is not all of this of great importance?
    Hurry up! Hurry!
    Blue sky and green sea
    Are the Buddha’s original face.
    The sound of the waterfall and the bird’s song
    Are the great sutras.
    Where are you going?
    Watch your step.
    Water flows down to the sea.
    Clouds float up to the heavens.

    • Or there’s this, from Kukai:

      You ask me why I entered the mountain deep and cold,
      Awesome, surrounded by steep peaks and grotesque rocks,
      A place that is painful to climb and difficult to descend,
      Wherein reside the gods of the mountain and the spirits of trees.

      Have you not seen, O have you not seen,
      The peach and plum blossoms in the royal garden?
      They must be in full bloom, pink and fragrant,
      Now opening in the April showers, now falling in the spring gales;
      Flying high and low, all over the garden the petals scatter.
      Some sprigs may be plucked by the strolling spring maidens,
      And the flying petals picked by the flittering spring orioles.

      Have you not seen, O have you not seen,
      The water gushing up in the divine spring of the garden?
      No sooner does it arise than it flows away forever:
      Thousands of shining lines flow as they come forth,
      Flowing, flowing, flowing into an unfathomable abyss;
      Turning, whirling again, they flow on forever,
      And no one knows where they will stop.

      Have you not seen, O have you not seen,
      That billions have lived in China, in Japan,
      None have been immortal, from time immemorial:
      Ancient sage kings or tyrants, good subjects or bad,
      Fair ladies and homely – who could enjoy eternal youth?
      Noble men and lowly alike, without exception, die away;
      They all have died, reduced to dust and ashes;
      The singing halls and dancing stages have become the abodes of foxes.
      Transient as dreams, bubbles or lightening, all are perpetual travelers.

      Have you not seen, O have you not seen,
      This has been man’s fate, how can you alone live forever?
      Thinking of this, my heart always feels torn;
      You, too, are like the sun going down behind the western mountains,
      Or a living corpse whose span of life is nearly over.
      Futile would be my stay in the capital;
      Away, away, I must go, I must not stay there.
      Release me, for I shall be master of the great void;
      A child of Shingon must not stay there.

      I have never tired of watching the pine trees and the rocks at Mount Koya;
      The limpid stream of the mountain is the source of my inexhaustible joy.
      Discard pride in earthly gains;
      Do not be scorched in the burning house, the triple world!
      Discipline in the woods alone lets us soon enter the eternal Realm.

  26. It seems clear that he is saying: The “trouble” refers to overcoming the notion, or illusion to some, that we have the past, which can be, until we learn to time travel, only a memory, while the future remains a dream, or all potentialities not yet experienced. (As Seth stated through Jane Roberts, “The Point of Power Is In The Present, or as Ram Dass, put it in another way…Just “Be Here Now”) In other words, the only thing anyone truly has is experienced in the the (eternally transient & transcendent) present moment.

      • Everyone thinks it’s clear what he is saying, and yet everyone thinks he’s saying something different…

        – Excellent observation. For me this is the perfect quote for everyone …and no one, depending on whether you want to take meaning from it or not. Frankly I do not care whether this is an ‘authentic’ Buddha quote or not. It certainly gave me pause and I was forced to think what this meant to me. Imagine a conversation:

        “The trouble is, you think you have time,” said the master.

        “I do not understand,” said the apprentice.


        For me this simple sentence can strike me differently depending on when I read/think about it.

        “The trouble is, you think you have time.” I should focus on the beautiful woman in front of me (as I put my phone away).

        “The trouble is, you think you have time.” I should start today instead of putting off that unpleasant task.

        “The trouble is, you think you have time.” Why am I woolgathering? I should go and hang out with my nephews (ages 3 & 5).

  27. I haven’t taken this quote in a spiritual way so much as a motivational way. I plan on getting it tattoo’d somewhere on me to remind me that I can’t keep postponing life and telling myself I’ll do something ‘later’.

  28. Whether the saying means much or not, it certainly would not have become the Internet meme it’s become if it read:

    “The trouble is, you think you have time.”
    – Jack Kornfield

    Attribution to the Buddha gives a “cred” it otherwise would never merit. If it were profound, would it need the false attribution?

  29. time is never something we can hold or touch or pass on to someone else. it doesn’t exist outside of our huge human intellect, so if we need or want something we should do it or take the next step towards it as any other carnal creature. maybe he meant to let you think and let you choose your interpretation…

  30. The best explaination you will get about what this means, in a Buddhist sense, is probably going to be alan watts explaining how time is a social institution on youtube.

    In my interpretation this aphorism could be restated less poetically as ‘time is an illusion, if you don’t turn your focus from thoughts about the future (especially worrying etc.) to the present you are in trouble.

    Even from a purely scientific perspective there is no thing, force or field etc in reality called time. Past and Future are human conventions to describe the way reality seems to progress linearly (what we call forwards in time) at a seemingly constant rate. Really time is only the measurement of a rate of change and that is why it’s relative. At the quantum level (in other words when we look more closely at what’s actually happening) it’s clear that time is not any sort of real force as quanta can be observing changing position in space instantly and do not observe and sort of rule of what we call time. If you think about what is actually occurring in reality we are using the reverberations of quarts crystals, predictable rates of radioactive decay (gamma radiation), and other steady patterns/rhythms with a layer of abstraction over top which is our convention of measuring the rotations of the earth relative to the orbit of the earth around the sun, and the corresponding light/dark cycles and ‘Seasons’.

    This is a problem because our concept of time prevents us from realizing a certain truth. As Korzybski showed us, we confuse the map for the territory; our social convention of 1 to 24’s and pointy sticks going around in circles gives us the impression that we are ‘in’ time.

  31. Pingback: Life’s Like an Hourglass, Glued to the Table – Vol. 11 | Words for the Weekend

  32. Jack Kornfeld states this quote on one of his CD’s but he never attributes it to the Buddha- he attributes it to Don Juan. Now, I do not know which “Don Juan” he is quoting: the fictional opera charecter, one of several Catholic philosophers, etc. – nor it what comtext – but he did not attribute it to the Buddha. In his discussion, the context is that the quote is a warning against procrastination – that we will have time to think, start doing good, putting things right with out lives LATER – when we should begin these things now. Hope this helps a bit.

    • Interesting, thanks. The Don Juan Jack referred to is almost certainly the character in Carlos Castaneda’s books. In fact in Journey to Ixtlan there’s this passage, where Don Juan says: “There is one simple thing wrong with you – you think you have plenty of time…If you don’t think your life is going to last forever, what are you waiting for? Why the hesitation to change? You don’t have time for this display, you fool. This, whatever you’re doing now, may be your last act on earth. It may very well be your last battle. There is no power which could guarantee that you are going to live one more minute.”

      I can see how this could be paraphrased as “The trouble is, you think you have time,” especially if quoted from memory. I’ve always assumed that the saying was a warning not to take for granted that there will always been time in our lives to do what’s most important. I’m not entirely serious when I say that I’m confused by what the saying means, except that if you think about it too much it’s like repeating a word over and over until it loses it’s meaning. The context from the Castaneda book is welcome, though, in confirming the quote is an exhortation to be mindful of impermanence, rather than the more metaphysical statements about the non-existence of time that some people have suggested it is.

  33. When I told my friend this quote was false because with rebirth we have limitless time. He had an interesting response: “Saying that there’s “no time” and “unlimited time”, in a deeper and subjective sense, means the same thing. If everyone had unlimited money, that would stop being a way of trading.”
    Even if it is fake I like this way of looking at it.

  34. Hello Bodhipaksa! Do you know if the quote (that i believe is also in that book by Kornfield)

    “those who are awake live in a constant state of amazement”

    i’ve heard it attributed to him, the buddha, and i’ve seen it in a movie a while back. where is this quote coming from? hehe. thanks for your time. you do great work here!

    • It’s in Buddha’s Little Instruction Book, but I don’t know where Jack Kornfield got it from, or whether he wrote it himself. I’m sure it’s not from the Buddha.

      • my friend (we have a dharma study and support group) on fb shes arguing its in the Pali Tripaka. i asked her what part. she doesnt know. however i dont remember it in there. Thankyou for your prompt reply

          • =) agreed as i’m still looking for a teacher, i trust the scriptures b/c they give tremendous insight. thanks again and have a wonderful day!

  35. Fits right in with my way of thinking and living…what i notice is that even the most intelligent folks who lack a background in the tenets of eastern philosophy would find that Kornfield quote hard to comprehend in its fullness..for me it harks back to the Death meditation I was taught as an earnest seeker a long time ago…that 1) death is certain 2) the time of death is uncertain and 3) when you die, you are nothing but your consciousness – you leave everything else behind. Your coffin ain’t got pockets, as the Irish saying goes. SO!!!! Once you accept this, how do you choose to live? This is why Death Meditation had such an impact on me and why I still use it when my priorities get screwed up. My highest desire is freedom from suffering — and if i waste my time in the usual mundane ways of mankind, that might continue to be nothing but an ideal. Om!

  36. It should say….The trouble is you think.
    Although time is supposed to overwhelm ordinary human
    beings, yet the one who has attained enlightenment is
    able to bring time under his control. Just as he
    overwhelms Maara, the evil one, even so does he
    overcome time. He is said to overcome time, not
    because he attains to a state of permanent existence
    (as it wad advocated in Mahaayana),(25) but because
    of two important reasons. First, with the complete
    eradication of craving and attachment, he no longer
    has any longing for existence or anything associated
    with it Hence, dying or ‘fulfilling time’
    (kaalakiriyaa) never worries him, as it does the
    ordinary man. Secondly, he has put an end to
    continued becoming (bhava). Thus, immortality (Paali,
    amata; Skt. a.mrta) in early Buddhism becomes a
    synonym of no-rebirth (a-punabbhava).(26) He who has
    overcome the process of becoming also overcomes time,
    because there is no time apart from the process of
    becoming.- David J. Kalupahana
    Philosophy East and West 24, no. 2, APRIL 1974.

  37. Claiming that this is an inaccurate quote only goes to prove one thing; At this point you no very little about spirituality at all. You simply lack understanding of what the Buddha is teaching, and for some reason you fail to embrace the power of truth.

    • Whether the quote is accurate or not is a separate issue. The point is that it’s misattributed and isn’t something the Buddha said.

  38. The historical Buddha Shakyamuni (Gautama Siddartha),may well have said this very sentence in the language he spoke at the time (probably Pali), but what your trying to say to us all, is it is not record that he said this.
    But the very sentence helps people come to grip with the impermanence of the Body & its illusory self, second by second or whatever unit of human concept we apply (plank time being the shortest moment conceptualised) and actually do something useful towards becoming enlightened in this life now (or revealing our inherent Buddha Nature) before the next rebirth, whether it be human, animal, hungry ghost or whatever!

  39. The truth is, we create time. We are finite beings, and we create a finite amount of time. In the cosmological context, we are smaller than a fleck of dust – the trouble is, we think we’re these immortal creatures that have all this time – thus we have the apathy of an immortal to boot. This quote helps me internalize my own mortality, and so my moments shine brighter.

    Sorry to see this is not a real Buddha quote. Makes it difficult to use in an honest way.

    • Why would the quote being from Jack Kornfield rather than the Buddha make it any more difficult to use on an honest way, Pythagoras?

  40. Personally, I like the Evening Gatha. I’ve heard it in American Soto-Zen schools. I cannot seem to find it’s origins (presumably Japanese?). It seems worded in a way that indicates it may be a translation.

    Let me respectfully remind you
    Life and death are of supreme importance
    Time swiftly passes and opportunity is lost
    Each of us must strive to awaken; Awaken!!
    This night your days will have diminished by one
    Take heed; do not squander your life.”

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