While reading MN 123, acchariyaabbhuttasutta, I have noticed something odd regarding the timing of the sutta that has made me doubt:
The conversation between the bhikkhus at the beginning of the sutta starts “after the meal, on return from alms-round”. Taken into the account that the bhikkhus don’t eat after noon, this means that the conversation starts at 12:00 pm at the earliest, and, let’s say, 3 to 4 pm at the latest.
Now, after a few exchanges, it is said that the conversation “was left unfinished”. Let’s call this moment “TIME 1”.
“Then, in the late afternoon the Buddha came out of retreat” and joined the group of monks in the pavilion. Late afternoon, I guess, goes from 4 pm to 5 pm approx. (Ñanamoli & Bodhi even translate “evening.”) Then the Buddha says: “Mendicants, what were you sitting talking about just now? What conversation was unfinished?” Let’s call this moment “TIME 2”.
If we assume that TIME 1 (“after the meal”) and TIME 2 (“late afternoon”) were quite separate in time, then why did the Buddha say “just now”? And how did he know a conversation was let unfinished some time ago?
If we instead assume that TIME 1 and TIME 2 were very close from each other --possibly, consecutive-- because, OK, the conversation could still take place sometime around the border time of 4 pm… then why does the sutta call the first time “after the meal, on return from alms-round”, and the second time “late afternoon”?
Furthermore, it seems as if the conversation were interrupted by the very entrance of the Buddha himself. So, at least it is assumed in both the translations by Ñanamoli-Bodhi and Thanissaro and, I would also add, Sujato’s. This would mean that TIME 1 and TIME 2 are closely consecutive.
So, maybe, “after meal” is just a vague way of referring to the afternoon or even to the evening… and TIME 1 and TIME 2 are indeed consecutive. Any feedback? Thanks.