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.