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Time in Buddhism

Return to Buddhism, Present Fresh Wakefulness, Now, Time, Eons, Kalpas, Three Times (Past, Present, Future), Samsara (Birth, Old Age, Sickness, Death), Infinity

“The Buddhist teaching about time is closely linked to the doctrine of IMPERMANENCE. What we see as the passage of time when analyzed in large segments becomes ungraspable when analyzed on the level of single moments of time. Nonetheless, when operating on the ordinary level of discourse, the Buddha taught about the passage of time on both the macrocosmic and microcosmic levels. Just as all beings are born, grow old, get sick and die, so too do entire world systems come into being, achieve stasis, decay, and cease to be. And every moment of thought can also be seen as coming into being, abiding, decaying, and disappearing.

The length of the process on the level of a world system is called a great aeon, or mahākalpa in Sanskrit. The length of a mahākalpa is calculated as follows: “Starting from a life span of ten years, for every hundred years the age of people increases by one year, and their height increases by one inch. This keeps on increasing until the life span of humans reaches a full 84,000 years. Then this is followed by a process of decrease in the same ratio. For every hundred years, there is a decrease of a year and an inch from the life span and the height of a human being, until his age reaches ten years again. One complete process of increase and decrease makes up one kalpa – 16,798,000 years. A thousand of these make up one small kalpa. Twenty small kalpas make up one medium-sized kalpa. Four medium-sized kalpas make up one great kalpa (1,343,800,000,000 years). Each of the four stages takes up twenty small kalpas – twenty kalpas for coming into being, twenty kalpas for dwelling, twenty kalpas for decaying, and twenty kalpas for going empty.” (EDR I)

“The very first kalpa [of a particular world system], of course, begins the cycle of coming into being, stasis, decay, and emptiness. Those four terms are explained as follows. A thousand small kalpas together make up a medium-sized kalpa. One medium-sized kalpa covers a period of coming into being. A period of stasis also spans twenty small kalpas, a period of decay is twenty small kalpas long, and a period of emptiness is also twenty small kalpas.

“‘But,’ you say, ‘I can't possibly conceive of that long a period of time.’ Well, if you can't grasp this concept, then I'll shrink the kalpa down a bit for you to enable you to understand. Let's discuss the life span of a person. A person's life span extends for several decades, and those years span the time of being born, the time of growing old, the time of sickness, and the time of death. Those four different periods of time are synonymous with the coming into being, stasis, decay, and emptiness of a world system.

“Then you say, ‘Well, I still don't understand – I still can't comprehend this idea.’ Well, we'll shrink it some more and talk about a single year's time. A year has four seasons: spring, summer, fall, and winter. Spring is the period of coming into being; summer is the period of stasis; fall is the period of decay; and winter is the period of emptiness. Do you see? In the springtime we prepare the fields for planting. The fields are planted with the intention that the plants will come into being. Seeds are planted in the earth, and the summertime, after the seeds have sprouted and the plants are flourishing, is the period of stasis. In the fall the plants reach maturity, and their harvest takes place in the autumn, just as the period of decay sets in. Then, with the coming of winter, after everything that grew from the earth has been harvested, there is a period of emptiness. The principle applies in the same way.” (FAS Ch5-6 115-117)

.” (Buddhism-AZ)

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time_in_buddhism.txt · Last modified: 2023/09/14 19:58 by