Wednesday, October 2, 2019

A Buddhist Timeology

It is a little frustrating when we have an idea but we do not seem to have a suitable word to express it. I am thinking of a suitable word, a single word, for “philosophy/theory/study of time.” One finds “horology” but it is said to mean “the study and measurement of time” or “the art of making clocks and watches.” This may be indirectly related but this is not exactly what I want. I once used “temporalogy” but I am quite unhappy with it. One could use “timeology” but it is not particularly appealing either. One could perhaps use “Kālology” (from Sanskrit kāla “time”) but it can easily be confused with “kalology” (i.e. “the study of beauty; aesthetics”). But for the want of a better term, I will use here “timeology,” or specifically, “Buddhist timeology,” mainly for the sake of speculating about the Buddhist philosophies/ideas of time.
            For now, I am just collecting random Buddhist ideas that could be explored for studying the Buddhist concept of time. (1) Abhidharmically, time belongs to the category of “conditioned phenomena” (saṃskṛtadharma: ’dus byas kyi chos), and that too, to “aggregate consisting of impulses” (saṃskāraskandha: ’du byed kyi phung po). It is one of the 24 impulses dissociated from mind. One can elaborate here. (2) Speed, too, belongs to the same category. (3) Normally, time often means past, present, and future. The ontological status of time would be debated among various systems of Buddhism. (4) There is also the idea of a fourth dimension of time (i.e. dus bzhi mnyam pa nyid). (5) Some Buddhist systems propose the idea of the smallest units or moments of time. For Mādhyamikas, there is no such thing as unbreakable infinitesimal moment or span of time. This can be easily demonstrated. (6) Consider the idea of bya rdzogs kyi skad cig ma. This is completely contextual and variable. (7) One also should consider the ideas of hours, days, nights, weeks, seasons, years, decades, centuries, and various kinds of eons. (8) To my knowledge, Buddhism denies time as the agent of creation. Thus the idea that “time heals all wounds” may be acceptable as an expression but strictly speaking it would be a hollow statement. (8) Is there such a thing an auspicious time in Buddhism, for example, the birthday of the Buddha? There is such a thing. But it is not because of its special ontological status. Consider Klong-chen-pa and others in this regard. Trace Indian sources for it. There are various ideas of the suitable and unsuitable time for various kinds of activities and events. (9) Returning to the ontological status of time, perhaps the Sarvāstivādins or Vaibhāṣikas may posit that time is substantial (dravyasat: rdzas su yod pa). But for Sautrāntikas, it may simply be nominal (prajñaptisat: btags par yod pa). One may state that the Sautrāntikas posit “philosophical presentism” (i.e. the view that neither the future nor the past exist”). What is sure is that according to the Sautrāntikas, if something is existent, it must exist only in the present. The Mādhyamikas deconstruct all notions of time.  (10) One can indeed speak of a Buddhist philosophy of time or Buddhist timeology. In some Mahāyāna sources, time is considered to be one of the ten or so fields of expertise (mkhas par bya ba’i gnas). (11) One must also consider the ideas of speed and duration. (12) The ideas and practices of time-keeping and time-telling according to Vinaya sources should be studied. (13) Buddhist timeology would naturally include elements of astrology found in Buddhist sources. (14) Any other ideas related to the Buddhist ideas of time should be added here.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Buddhist Evolutionology

Apologies that I am using this neologism “Buddhist evolutionology.” Why am I using it? Because I need it. Should anyone else follow suit? No. The topic of the Buddhist concept of how external world of habitat and internal world of inhabitants, i.e. bhājanaloka and sattvaloka, originated and evolved, is fascinating. One does not have to believe what the Buddhist sources say. But one should, in my view, attempt to understand what they say or try to say. The venues of exploration are plenty. Here, too, as anywhere else, it will be desirable to look at the topic from both its diachronic and synchronic perspectives. What are the most archaic ideas of evolution that we can trace? How did these ideas evolve in due course at various times in history and in different places, systems, schools, and sources?
            Right now, I am working on the idea of secrecy in Buddhism. It just occurs to me that according to the “Buddhist evolutionology” suggested by Abhidharmic sources, which I am not giving them away yet, the psychology of secrecy is actually rooted in the psychology of privacy, the need for privacy is rooted in the psychology of guilt and shame, the psychology of guilt and shame is rooted in gender and sexuality. Interestingly, Buddhist evolutionology does not seem to ascribe the function of procreation as the primary function of gender and sexuality but rather what I call Buddhist bromatology (or Buddhist nutriology, Buddhist sitiology/sitology, and Buddhist alimentology). For better or worse (from the perspective of Buddhist soteriology), the evolution or distinction of gender has been directly attributed to the kind of nutrition that sentient beings take to sustain. Gender specific physical features evolved as a direct consequence of shifting from a much finer, lighter, and subtler form of nutriment to a grosser, heavier, and coarser form of nutriment. By the way, Buddhist nutriology speaks of four kinds of nutriment (i.e. kavaḍīkārāhāra: kham gyi zas; sparśāhāra: reg pa’i zasmanaḥsaṃcetanāhāra: yid la sems pa’i zas; and vijñānāhāra: rnam par shes pa’i zas). The intake of nutriment also has a direct consequence on the mode of excretion. Apparently, for example, there is no (and no need for) excretion if one can sustain on samādhic nutriment, for samādhic nutriment would produce no waste. Genitals thus evolved to function as apertures of excretion. There is nothing romantic about them. But what about sexual desire and sexual acts? Well, again according to Buddhist evolutionology, internal world of inhabitants evolves in a descending order and thus saṃsāric evolution is seen as a form of decadence and the hierarchy of the world is inversely proportional to the intensity and density of cognitional-emotional defilements (kleśa: nyon mongs pa) and detrimental karmic yields. It is the kāmarāga (sensual and particularly sexual desire) that propels the evolution of kāmadhātu, and not vice versa. In this regard, the evolution of sexual organs and sexual activities maybe seen as the actualization and manifestation of one’s sexual desire. One is, so to speak, born in the kāmadhātu to live out one’s kāmarāga (with all its implications). But obviously human beings in the kāmic sphere are not particularly proud of their kāmic desires and pleasures, kāmic organs, and kāmic activities. So, they prefer to keep these private and secret. The Abhidharmic evolutionology, in fact, clearly tells us that home or house was felt necessary and hence built, not primarily to protect oneself from other dangers but to protect one’s privacy, so that one’s kāmic activities can be performed and kāmic desire fulfilled in privacy and secrecy, without the peering or jeering eyes of onlookers besieged with all kinds of cognitional-emotional defilements. In short, at least according to Abhidharmic evolutionology, the need for secrecy is rooted in the need for privacy, and the need for privacy is rooted in one’s cognitional-emotional defilements, about which one is not particularly proud but rather embarrassed and ashamed of.