Deconstruction East and West

Impermanence: The Emptiness of Time and the Timeless

 

Link To Article

EDITOR’S NOTE: This essay by Susan Kahn is about how to realize the self as empty by realizing that time is empty. Susan challenges the notion that there is a transcendent realm of timelessness, and she argues that such a notion contributes to a sense that we exist as a separate, independent entity.  So often, we think of ourselves or the past as somehow frozen beyond time.

This kind of conception helps keep the sense of the inherent existence of the self alive.  It closes us off from the wonderful dynamism and creativity in life.  But if we see how time is empty (and Susan shows this in several unexpected ways) we can more easily realize that the self is empty. See more of Susan’s writings on her Emptiness Teachings website.

-Greg Goode


 

4 Responses to “Impermanence: The Emptiness of Time and the Timeless”

  1. Greg Goode

    Way to go, Susan! We’ll look forward to another article one of these days. Lots of stuff coming up, including a newsletter, an interview with Karl Brunnholzl from the Kagyu tradition, and a series called “Five Helpful Western Books to Start With.” Stay tuned!

    –Greg

    Reply
  2. mesocosm

    One of the most interesting discussions of this topic that I’ve seen is Daniel Cozort’s presentation of the idea of disintegratedness, which is held by the Gelukpas to be one of the so-called unique tenets of the Prasangika-Madhymaka.

    The question is this: how do karmic imprints travel from life to life, if there is no truly-existent mind basis that serves as a repository to the seeds?

    The answer offered by Jang-gya-rol-pay-dor-jay is that when phenomena cease, they do not do so ultimately, or in a final sense. Things that happened in the past are not inherently non-existent in the future.

    Because past events are not inherently non-existent, the mere fact that they used to exist but now no longer exist – their “disintegratedness” – can serve as a substantial cause for future events.

    On that basis, some Prasangikas assert that actions, having ceased, may still serve as the cause of future events, and thus karmic effects are produced in the future by the mere discontinuation of our present actions.

    Anyway, time is one of the great keys to unlocking emptiness, and thanks for treating it thoughtfully.

    Reply
  3. Susan Kahn

    I enjoy this topic and would like to play devil’s advocate to help for me to clarify your perspective.

    “Considering that without a body there is no consciousness, you must also state what kind of specific knowledge of itself this consciousness possesses!” Nagarjuna (I realize that you agree with this.)

    If someone has dementia for example, what karmic continuum then gets transmitted? When conventionally existent physical conditions are no longer present, how can the change serve as a substantial cause for future individual karmic events?

    Thanks for the discussion….Susan

    Reply

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