The Notion of Time in Buddhism

It needs to be stressed that Buddhism takes a very different stance on the notion of time and its effect on sentient beings. In Christianity there is a triadic-understanding: a person is born at one particular junction in time-based reality, then undergoes a certain trial-based system in which he/she must perform in a moral manner to be made worthy of entering into—eternal life in which they depart from this world in order to enter eternally into God’s “heaven”. So it’s essentially going from point A to point B in a linear fashion with no other variables interfering. From the Buddhist stance, one’s purported lifespan has always been ongoing in an unending cyclic-fashion. The wheel of samsara spins in a diurnal manner and there is no escape from it since one consistently becomes reborn again and again into one of the six realms of impermanence—hence the problem is how to bring this cyclic-existence to a final and successful conclusion. In this model of time, the mind-stream of sentient beings is beginningless, quelling any notion of linear time with a predestination in mind. So for a Buddhist, linear time is not real and is non-existent (except in relative fashion). Ch’an Master Hui-neng goes even further:

In this moment there is nothing that comes to be. In this moment there is nothing that ceases to be. Thus there is no birth-and-death to be brought to an end. Thus the absolute peace in this present moment. Though it is at this moment, there is no limit to this moment, and herein lies eternal delight.

This is of vital import for the adept of Unborn Mind Zen, wherein the time-bound mind is forever transcended since one is bracketed by the Unborn and Uncreated—IT is never touched by any conceptual notions of time in any way shape or manner. The words of the Romantic Poet William Blake comes to mind here—Energy is Eternal Delight, meaning that the very Primordial Life-Source is boundless in scope.

Perhaps Zen Master Keizan from the Transmission of Light states it all best:

This is not unchanging, yet it is not moving. It has never been void; there is no question of inside or outside, no separation of absolute and relative. Realize that this is your own original face: even if it appears as ordinary or holy, even if it divides into objective and subjective experiences, all comes and goes completely within it, all arises and vanishes herein. It is like the water of the ocean making waves; though they rise again and again, never is any water added. It is also like waves dying away; though they die out and vanish, not a drop is lost.

It’s all a matter of waking up from the Dream of Time-based reality as superbly stated by the Mystic Meister Eckhart:

Waking up from the dream means realizing that nothing ever happened. With Enlightenment there is no history. It has been burned out of existence. Time itself has been destroyed.

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