The set passage “如是我聞一時佛在 . . .” occurring at the opening of Buddhist sūtras has traditionally been understood in Chinese Buddhism as, “Thus have I heard. One time, when the Buddha was staying at . . .” In this interpretation, “one time” is associated with the phrase following it, rather than with the four-character phrase, “thus have I heard.” In recent years, there has been an increasingly dominant trend in Indian Buddhist studies to interpret the expression “one time” as being associated with both the phrase preceding it and the phrase following it. In this interpretation, it is understood as “Thus have I heard at one time when the World-honored One was staying at . . .” These discussions of Indian Buddhism implicitly assume that there has never been a similar theory in
When “one time” is associated with “I heard,” it is explained as referring to “the time when the sūtra was heard.” On the other hand, when “one time” is associated with “the Buddha resided at,” it is explained as referring to “the time when the sūtra was spoken.” In several important Tang dynasty commentaries, “one time” is understood to refer to the time in which the sūtra was both spoken by the Buddha and heard by his disciples such as Ānanda. This interpretation, in which “one time” is taken to modify both the time of hearing and the time of speaking, shares basic commonalities with ideas found in eighth century Indian commentarial literature.
thus have I heard; one time; Kumārajīva; tongxu