Relativity Of Space & Time In Buddhism

Time is measurement of change,
and timeless is Buddhahood,
which once attained is unchanging.

— Stonepeace | Get Books

As I understand it, the most important implication of Einstein’s theory of relativity is that notions of space, time and mass cannot be seen as absolutes, existing in themselves as permanent, unchanging substances or entities. Space is not an independent, three-dimensional domain, and time is not a separate entity; rather they coexist as a four-dimensional continuum of space-time’. In a nutshell, Einstein’s special theory of relativity implies that, while the speed of light is invariable, there is no absolute, privileged frame of reference, and everything, including space and time, is ultimately relative. This is a truly remarkable revelation.

In the Buddhist philosophical world, the concept of time as relative is not alien. Before the second century CE, the Sautrantika school argued against the notion of time as absolute. Dividing the temporal process into the past, present and future, the Sautrantikas demonstrated the interdependence of the three and argued for the untenability of any notion any notion of independently real past, present and future. They showed that time cannot be conceived as an intrinsically real entity existing independently of temporal phenomena but must be understood as a set of relations among temporal phenomena. Apart from the temporal phenomena upon which we construct the concept of time, there is no real time that is somehow the grand vessel in which things and events occur, an absolute that has an existence of its own.

These arguments for the relativity of time, subsequently developed by Nagarjuna, are primarily philosophical, but the fact remains that time has been perceived as relative in the Buddhist philosophical system for nearly two thousand years. Although I am told that some scientists view Einstein’s four-dimensional space-time as a grand vessel with inherent existence in which events occur, for a Buddhist thinker familiar with Nagarjuna’s arguments, Einstein’s demonstration of the relativity of time, especially through his famous thought experiments, is extremely helpful in deepening the understanding of the relative nature of time.

The Universe In A Single Atom: How Science And Spirituality Can Serve Our World
His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Please Be Mindful Of Your Speech, Namo Amituofo!

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