Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time : Follow-up question




http://www.flickr.com/photos/simpologist/16734948/





Question: (unedited)
What you told me is true. I just want to know how does buddhist philosophy explain the sensation of time? Since nothing is changing, that would mean that time could be described as a 4 dimensional static space and for each moment there would be a totaly different consciousness for each creature . But if you were to travel through infinite space you could also find a "past you"(since there are infinitely many things in infinite space) , so there would be no reason for time, that is, if space could hold all possible moments. So, infinite time and infinite space form a paradox. How is my consciousness structured so that it gives the illusion of time (and space) as it is perceived ?



My comment:
Hi,
There is a slight confusion here. I must have accidentally clicked the wrong button, a few moments ago. Also you should have received my message 24 hours earlier if not for the power failure at my place which completely wiped out my data. By the time power was restored, it was too late to reply. All right, let's get down to work.


I thought you told me that you were a simple man seeking simple answers. Now you are asking extremely difficult questions which I don't think I could find direct answers from the Buddhist scriptures. Just the same, I shall try my best to comment on your queries. But be forewarned; you might get more confused in the end; for sure I would.


Your first comment: " I just want to know how does buddhist philosophy explain the sensation of time? Since nothing is changing, that would mean that time could be described as a 4 dimensional static space and for each moment there would be a totaly different consciousness for each creature."


In fact everything IS changing. Only "change" is not changing. This is the first of the Buddhist trilogy of the phenomena of the world. Everything is changing such that nothing is permanent. Because of this impermanence, the whole nature of things cannot last forever. The only permanent thing is impermanence itself. Our consciousness is not a permanent unchanging entity. You have a good point in identifying that "for each moment there would be a totally different consciousness for each creature". The Buddha revealed that this consciousness is a process. It is not static; that is why we do not subscribe to the idea of a permanent soul. This consciousness is in a state of flux; each moment is a different entity in itself, and yet there is this continuity.


The Buddha described this continuing process as "neither totally different nor exactly the same". Our lives are actually a process of momemt-to-moment consciousness.


Your second comment: "But if you were to travel through infinite space you could also find a "past you"(since there are infinitely many things in infinite space) , so there would be no reason for time, that is, if space could hold all possible moments."


An astrophysicist explains the nature of time in relation to space, which I quote, "The light coming from distant objects in space is made up of a tremendous number of tiny particles called 'photons'. This light from our reference point, has travelled for millions and even billions of years. But from the standpoint of these photons travelling at light speed, TIME is zero. From the viewpoint of these photons, they just departed from the source less than an instant ago! Because time slows down the faster you go, and at lightspeed, time becomes zero. So no time passes for those photons....they just left the source as far as from their viewpoint is concerned. Because they travel at lightspeed, a magical clock onboard a photon, it would show no time has elapsed since its creation, no matter how long it seems to us!"


So, coming to your last comment, infinite time and infinite space form a paradox, seems to be quite true from the above scientific explaination. As the Buddha pointed out there is no beginning and there is no end....there is NO time!


Your last question: "How is my consciousness structured so that it gives the illusion of time (and space) as it is perceived?"


Precisely what the Buddha was trying to teach us. Our deluded mind through ignorance is being deceived to think that there is substance in us and the objects that we see. In the final analysis, the Buddha revealed the truth of this world, this life, and this universe.....They are all empty processes.

1 comment:

A true Malaysian said...

Justin,

This topic of 'time' is really confusing and hard to 'chew'. Just wonder is it so important to understand?

I read over a few times on the questions and your comments. My view on 'time' is that 'time' is a creation of human to identify 'consciousness' which is not permanent. So, to identify 'consciousness', time is measured by second, minute, hour, day, year and etc, etc, which in itself, can be defined otherwise than what we perceived.

Anyway, I better subscribe to a Chinese saying :-

"an inch of time is like an inch of gold, but an inch of gold cannot buy an inch of time"

So, make full use of time, while one still has it.

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