Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

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Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:14 am

I wanted to open up a space where people can ask their strangest, most specultative questions and get some answers from the Sutra, Abhidharma, and Tantra experts on here. Or at least some good speculations from fellow Dharmadorks and closet Jedi masters.



One thing I've always been sort of baffled by--how is it that, if time and space are as fabricated/elastic/relative as even Western physicists admit, even very "nondual" aspects of Tantra and Prajnaparamita are very much time-oriented, space-limited, and for lack of a better word sort of anthropocentric?

To put it into some examples:

Why can't Buddhas emanate forms "backwards" through time? I.E. If I'm really taking the result as the path, why can't the future perfect omniscience of my mindstream instantaneously...accomplish all dharmas for me right now? (or is that just what the innermost secret guru really is?)

This question is a big one for me: Is there any mention anywhere that you could have had like 100,000 lifetimes in the equivalent of a single second of "real time." Like could I have been an Indra, a hell being, and fourteen thousand arthropods between dying in 1950 and being reborn in a human body in 1986?


Because once you get into the mathematics of infinity...it doesn't really matter, right? The Sutras say every single point in space you've lived and died innumerable times, so why does it not follow that between any two lifetimes, I could have an infinite amount of rebirths in other lokas and dimensions?

If there are infinite universes and types of beings etc. (or at least, 84,000--not that that number is literal) why are Buddhas always imagined and depicted as like carbon copies of Shakyamuni, robes and usnisa and all? Why don't we hear about like...jabba the hutt Munis and giant cubic psychadelic form-deity Munis? I've heard the dharma was expounded to alien/otherworldly beings in really equally alien ways (like the scent-absorbing dharma beings). It makes me wonder if my refuge tree should include some Buddhas that look like glowing slugs or Chewbaccas.


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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby smcj » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:57 am

Why can't Buddhas emanate forms "backwards" through time?

Actually the seminal Buddha Nature text "Uttaratantra" was said to be composed by the next buddha, Maitreya, not Sakyamuni.

I.E. If I'm really taking the result as the path, why can't the future perfect omniscience of my mindstream instantaneously...accomplish all dharmas for me right now?

Think of your enlightenment as like your being 'a little bit pregnant', only you need to practice in order to bring it to full term. Asanga, the human author of the Uttaratantra, practiced for 12years before Maitreya appeared to him, whereas Asanga asked where he'd been all that time. Maitreya said that he'd been there all along, but only now had Asanga purified enough karma to see him.

(or is that just what the innermost secret guru really is?)

I don't know.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:15 am

Regarding all this stuff about dimensions and infinity:
MN 63: Culamaluhkya Sutta wrote:"Therefore, Maluhkyaputta, remember what I have left undeclared as undeclared, and remember what I have declared as declared. And what have I left undeclared? 'The world is eternal'—I have left undeclared. 'The world is not eternal'—I have left undeclared. 'The world is finite'—I have left undeclared. 'The world is infinite'—I have left undeclared. 'The soul is the same as the body'—I have left undeclared. 'The soul is one thing and the body another'—I have left undeclared. 'After death a Tathagata exists'—I have left undeclared. 'After death a Tathagata does not exist'—I have left undeclared. 'After death a Tathagata both exists and does not exist'—I have left undeclared. 'After death a Tathagata neither exists nor does not exist'—I have left undeclared.
"Why have I left that undeclared? Because it is unbeneficial, it does not belong to the fundamentals of the spiritual life, it does not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. That is why I have left it undeclared.
"And what have I declared? 'This is suffering'—I have declared. 'This is the origin of suffering'—I have declared. 'This is the cessation of suffering'—I have declared. 'This is the way leading to the cessation of suffering'—I have declared.
"Why have I declared that? Because it is beneficial, it belongs to the fundamentals of the spiritual life, it leads to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to peace, to direct knowledge, to enlightenment, to Nibbana. That is why I have declared it.
"Therefore, Maluhkyaputta, remember what I have left undeclared as undeclared, and remember what I have declared as declared."

Actually the seminal Buddha Nature text "Uttaratantra" was said to be composed by the next buddha, Maitreya, not Sakyamuni.

Actually, the Scythian manuscript, from which Bailey inferred the author, refers to Maitreya-nātha, which does not necessarily refer to Maitreya Bodhisattva. That being said, the story which Xuanzang tells about Maitreya Bodhisattva dictating the text to Asaṅga says that it was dictated to Asaṅga in Tuṣita Heaven by the Bodhisattva. On the conventional level, this doesn't imply that he teaches Asaṅga from the future.

However, it's most ironic that you mention the Uttaratantra (i.e. Ratnagotravibhāgo Mahāyānottaratantraśāstram). Because it completely disrupts the conceptual view of the Buddha as being a some kind of silly historical and temporal phenomenon.

In fact, Nilasarasvati, I would recommend making your full time job studying the Uttaratantraśāstra. All your answers will be found - as well as infinite and ultimate delight. :sage:
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:07 am

Of all the texts I have to approach,
it's the one on the highest branch of the tree.

I still weigh too much to get up there. :thinking: Hopefully this madhyamikavatara diet will help me lose some weight.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby smcj » Fri Jun 21, 2013 4:21 am

However, it's most ironic that you mention the Uttaratantra (i.e. Ratnagotravibhāgo Mahāyānottaratantraśāstram). Because it completely disrupts the conceptual view of the Buddha as being a some kind of silly historical and temporal phenomenon.

I'm familiar with the text, although I will not say that I've studied it per se. I'm of the understanding that the text is on/about the Buddha Nature contained in sentient beings, not a treatise on how to properly view Sakyamuni, etc.

That's not to say that later authors, yogis and the like, didn't elaborate and expand on the idea. However my reading is from Tibetan sources, whereas yours seem to be Chinese. They both see to me to come to similar conclusions, but that's way beyond my pseudo intellectual abilities to discuss.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Zhen Li » Fri Jun 21, 2013 5:25 am

That's not to say that later authors, yogis and the like, didn't elaborate and expand on the idea. However my reading is from Tibetan sources, whereas yours seem to be Chinese. They both see to me to come to similar conclusions, but that's way beyond my pseudo intellectual abilities to discuss.

I have no clue what is in the Chinese.

I believe this is from Book 4, Verses 53-57 in the Sanskrit, (Fuchs' translation)
When Brahma, never departing from his palace, has manifested in the desire realm, he is seen by the gods.
This vision incites them to emulate him and to abandon their delight in [sensuous] objects.
Similarly, without moving from dharmakaya, the Sugata is seen in all spheres of this world by beings of karmic fortune. This vision incites them to emulate him and to dispel all their pollution.

By his own former wishing prayers
and the power of the virtue of the gods
Brahma appears without deliberate effort.
So does the self-sprung illusory kaya.

He moves from [Tushita] and enters the womb, gets born, and goes to his father’s palace.
He enjoys amusement and then seeks solitude, undergoes austerity, and defeats all evils.
[In Bodhgaya] he finds great enlightenment and shows the path to the citadel of peace.
The Muni, having shown [these deeds], becomes invisible to those of no karmic fortune.

There are other gems like this in there, and you are right, the commentaries expand much further, but I find the root text usually to be explicit enough in this point.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Jikan » Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:14 pm

And then the Bene Gesserit took over DharmaWheel.

I'd like a spice coffee to go... my stillsuit has a cupholder. You can keep the gom jabbar, thanks

#nothingtocontribute
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri Jun 21, 2013 3:11 pm

Jikan wrote:And then the Bene Gesserit took over DharmaWheel.

I'd like a spice coffee to go... my stillsuit has a cupholder. You can keep the gom jabbar, thanks

#nothingtocontribute


Shhhh.... :spy: The guild masters are listening.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby PorkChop » Fri Jun 21, 2013 10:31 pm

Nilasarasvati wrote:
Jikan wrote:And then the Bene Gesserit took over DharmaWheel.

I'd like a spice coffee to go... my stillsuit has a cupholder. You can keep the gom jabbar, thanks

#nothingtocontribute


Shhhh.... :spy: The guild masters are listening.


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If I land a natural 20 does that mean I become Enlightened?
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Nilasarasvati » Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:00 pm

No, you attain a level up to the 2nd Bhumi.

Seriously though, why doesn't anybody want to speculate about Portugese-man-o-war gelatinous Munis?
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Jun 22, 2013 2:03 am

The word 'anthropos' is a Greek term for 'human' or 'man' but in the gnostic religions, had rather more significance as the 'primal man' or the true form of man. So it is interesting that you start this thread by wondering why Buddhism is 'anthropocentric'. It seems the modern imagination is really wedded to the notion that if there are other life-forms in the Universe, then they must be like the characters in the bar-scene in Star Wars. I think that is probably more anthropocentric, than the recognition of the human form as the logical expression of the principle of emanation. So this would imply that evolutionary processes are inclined to converge on a form something like the human. Of course we don't have any evidence one way or the other, but Simon Conway Morris' theories on 'evolutionary convergence' are suggestive of such an idea (see Life's Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe.)
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby smcj » Sat Jun 22, 2013 2:14 am

Context is everything. The section of the book that the quote comes from is about Buddha Activity. It is explaining how the formless Dharmakaya benefits beings by manifesting the two form kayas of the Sambogakaya and Nirmanakaya. No thought or effort is involved it is stated.

Seems less alarming when it is put that way, doesn't it? But my translation (tr. Holmes from Tibetan) does largely agree with that quote.

It should be noted that this is the most important text on Buddha Nature to come out of India, and that the ideas contained in it are found through what we take for granted as 'Dharma', such as we all have the seed of enlightenment within us, etc.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:06 am

It seems the modern imagination is really wedded to the notion that if there are other life-forms in the Universe, then they must be like the characters in the bar-scene in Star Wars. I think that is probably more anthropocentric, than the recognition of the human form as the logical expression of the principle of emanation


That just seems ludicrous to me. A step away from "A man's body is the logical expression of the principle of emanation" versus a Womans, or "an adult body is more logical" rather than a child. In what way is that logical? Five limbs a head a central nervous system do not a Buddha make. The starwars bar scene is actually rather tame, in my opinion; when you hear the descriptions of Angels in Judeo-Christian mythology and likewise wrathful deities in Tantra, they are anything but remotely "humanoid." They have thousands of eyes, hands, hooks, mouths--radiating burning swords!
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby PorkChop » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:53 am

Nilasarasvati wrote:That just seems ludicrous to me. A step away from "A man's body is the logical expression of the principle of emanation" versus a Womans, or "an adult body is more logical" rather than a child. In what way is that logical? Five limbs a head a central nervous system do not a Buddha make. The starwars bar scene is actually rather tame, in my opinion; when you hear the descriptions of Angels in Judeo-Christian mythology and likewise wrathful deities in Tantra, they are anything but remotely "humanoid." They have thousands of eyes, hands, hooks, mouths--radiating burning swords!


Reminds me of the Mahabarata.
Watched the animated Arjun last night.
Kept waiting for the scene with Krishna the charioteer showing Arjun(a) his full potential, never happened, much disappoint.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:59 am

!!! sounds disappointing. That was always the coolest moment in that whole story.

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Anyway.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby PorkChop » Sat Jun 22, 2013 5:46 am

That image is so much more serene than the descriptions i've heard/read of Krishna shoveling combatants into his fanged mouth saying, "now get in there and do your duty (dharma), it's already been decided."

One thing I did learn from the movie that I didn't realize, was how much it was about Arjun(a) getting over his fears.
In the Pali canon, when the Buddha lists the occupations that one should do well if one is employed as such is as an archer in the king's army.
I wonder if this is a direct shout-out to Arjuna and I have to think that the Buddha himself understood the reality of those living in samsara - where a government that does not protect the people is doomed to failure.
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby lobster » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:59 am

What a great thread for the multi dimensional dancing dakinis . . .

The myriad forms of the enlightened aliens, the more than 3 dimension beings and so on are hard to comprehend.
In some expressions even the Sith are good guys . . . (far too advanced for most of us . . . especially me) :alien:
http://youtu.be/8Q_GQqUg6Ts
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jun 22, 2013 10:10 am

PorkChop wrote:
Nilasarasvati wrote:That just seems ludicrous to me. A step away from "A man's body is the logical expression of the principle of emanation" versus a Womans, or "an adult body is more logical" rather than a child. In what way is that logical? Five limbs a head a central nervous system do not a Buddha make. The starwars bar scene is actually rather tame, in my opinion; when you hear the descriptions of Angels in Judeo-Christian mythology and likewise wrathful deities in Tantra, they are anything but remotely "humanoid." They have thousands of eyes, hands, hooks, mouths--radiating burning swords!


Reminds me of the Mahabarata.
Watched the animated Arjun last night.
Kept waiting for the scene with Krishna the charioteer showing Arjun(a) his full potential, never happened, much disappoint.
Want to send a link to the movie or give the full title please??? :smile:
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One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Questions: Time, Space, Infinity, Sci-Fi, and Tantra

Postby wisdom » Sat Jun 22, 2013 11:25 pm

Time is demonstrated as basically an empty appearance of the mind by Nagarjuna. Although the discourse itself is long, in his commentary on the Maha Prajnaparamita Sastra he says:

The Sastra observes that it is precisely in order to remove the wrong notion of eternalism in regard to time that the Buddha has used the word "samaya" and not "kala" for time. Samaya is a derived notion. So it does not give room for misunderstanding (generally). In the teaching of the Buddha mostly samaya is used and it is only rarely that kala is used.

Space and time are not substances. There is nothing like an absolute time which remains as a reality apart from the successive events. Time and space are derivative notions, modes of reference. They refer to the arising and perishing of events which constitute the organic, dynamic course of the world of the determinate. We perceive the course of events, give the name "time" to this universal order of succession and draw the distinction of past and future, the remembered and the anticipated, the "not any more" and the "not yet", in contrast with that which is here, now, in the present. We perceive again the many different contemporaneous events constituting a totality, a togetherness, and give it the name "space", the "container of all" and draw the distinction of directions within it. As the Sastra observes, not only space and time, but in fact all the categories of understanding are derived notions, notions derived from the distinctions perceivable within the composite whole of interrelated events. The course of events, the conditioned becoming, is fundamental and it is on its basis and as referring to it that these notions are derived. They do not refer to any specific ultimate substances.


In this sense Samaya and Kala are both words that designate time. According to the text the difference is that Samaya refers to time as a concept, whereas Kala refers to time as some kind of existing substance. The Buddha therefore chose the word Samaya in most cases since it does not point to the absolute reality of a thing called "time". Hence there is no past into which a Buddha could travel since time is purely a conventional creation of the mind.

Furthermore from the view of the ultimate nature of reality, Buddha is present at all points in time, therefore to think that there could be a point in time or space where the Buddha Nature is not all pervasive, immanent and transcendent, and so forth, is to believe that somehow there is a gap within ultimate reality where the Buddha Nature is not to be found. However at least from the Dzogchen point of view its taught that there are no such gaps to be found and that the Buddha Nature is all pervasive, everywhere and in all things, and so even if there were such a thing as a "past" there would be no need for a Buddha to travel to it since the Buddha is already present in all three times.

As far as seeing alien beings during refuge, I personally see no harm in it as long as it doesn't become a distraction. If we can have compassion and a desire that even strange life forms have liberation, I can only see that as being a cause of merit and positive karma and as an extension of pure view towards any and all sentient beings.
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