Was the Buddha Omniscient?
"Reverend Nagasena, was the Buddha Omniscient?"
"Yes sire, the Blessed One was omniscient, but knowledge and vision were not constatntly and continuously present to the Blessed One. The Blessed One's omniscient knowledge was dependent on his adverting his mind. When he adverted it he knew whatever it pleased him to know."
The Questions of King Milinda, Edited by N.K.G. Mendis, Buddhist Publication Society, p75
It seems that concepts of past, present and future, and of existent and non-existent, don't really effect an enlightened being.
No, it seems "The Blessed One's omniscient knowledge was dependent on his adverting his mind."
You can't advert your mind to what doesn't exist. Things in the future don't yet exist so it's not possible to know about them, unless of course you can time travel to the future.
Greg understands all this just fine, and I'm sure his grasp of Dependent Origination is better than many people on this forum. This is not even to speak of the fact that Dependent Origination points to ones ability to predict the outcome of the cycle of Samsara.
Although things in the future do not yet exist, their causes *DO* exist in the present. Furthermore we can see where these present causes have come from by looking at the past, which also doesn't exist, and through this we can project the likelihood of things occurring in the future. Some of these occurrences are absolute, for example an object in space moving in one direction will never change direction unless it collides with something. Thus although we do not "know" the future of this object, because we can see where it has been and where it is, we also know where it is going. Since we can see the area around it, we know there is no force that will interfere with its trajectory, and so can actually predict with 100% accuracy a future event of its being in a certain place at a certain time. Although this is often described as "physics" and "math", it is actually an act of predicting the future.
The same thing applies to all karmic causes and conditions whatsoever, on a material, energetic and mind level.
I had my first prescient dream when I was 10, and the dream was a totally accurate representation of what was going to happen the next day. The reason this was possible is because all the forces that were in motion to create that event were already heading in that direction, and because there were no forces that arose to obstruct that event from manifesting, it actually manifested as I saw it in my dream. I am not saying I am someone special because of this, many people have such dreams, even very ordinary people who have never had any spiritual inclination in their life or even considered that prescience might be possible. However it means that somehow my mind had unconsciously grasped these forces and was able to create a dream wherein I could see how those forces were going to come together.
Another example is that Greg says he is a behavioral psychologist. Such a science is only possible because we are able to look at present situations and past actions and predict a future course of action. Therapy is possible because we are able to predict that performing a series of physical, mental or emotional actions can result in a reduction of stress and delusion.
One final example is the process of gestation and birth. We can predict with great accuracy these days the period of time in which a woman will give birth. We can predict how a fetus will grow in the womb. Because of our understanding of this causal process, we can even interfere with it and generate different outcomes by manipulating DNA, giving a child blue eyes or black hair or whatever we want. We can do this because we understand the forces at play in the present as a result of past observation, and are able to take what is in the present and redirect it so that we obtain a desired future outcome. We can also do nothing, but still we can know with great accuracy the effect of doing nothing will have on that childs development and birth.
In essence, prescience is just math. A + B = C, as long as the "X" factor does not interfere. The "X" factor is the general unknown, its the acceptance of the fact that one can never have every fact in ones mind at one time and therefore although you can predict some futures with 100% accuracy for a limited duration, the vaster the scale of time you work on the more difficult it becomes to predict the future with such accuracy. However because it amounts to being math, if you understand the forces at play, you can predict outcomes in many areas of life.
If you wish to deny this, then you must also deny and denounce all forms of science whatsoever, since all science is based upon the ability to accurately predict outcomes, otherwise its not a science. You can resort to claims about nothing existing or time not existing or whatever, but our discussion is about the relative Siddhi of seeing the future and being all knowing in terms of relative existence.
From the absolute standpoint, anyone who realizes the true nature of reality in themselves becomes a Buddha and obtains omniscience. Why? Because if you know the true face of reality and abide in that, then you also understand the true nature of every phenomenal appearance whatsoever and have totally transcended the three times. In that sense you are all knowing because there is nothing which can appear to cause you delusion, confusion, ignorance or distraction. In essence, there is nothing in the universe you do not comprehend from the ultimate level and view, and so are omniscient in regards to all phenomenal appearances and the true nature of all beings. Since all relative knowledge is only a dream like appearance anyways, from the ultimate point of view there are no facts to learn, remember, or calculate with. So wondering whether or not a Buddha knows rocket science is totally moot, a Buddha knows all there is to *actually* know and in that sense is omniscient. Factual knowledge is the food of a deluded mind. Since there is nothing of substance to know outside of a Buddhas realization, there is no basis for forming an argument for or against a Buddha knowing worldly facts, since those facts never existed in the first place, and this is regardless of whether or not a Buddha would know such facts. Even if they did, they would place little to no importance on them and only use them as skillful means to guide others to liberation, and would only seek such facts if it were to be of use to a sentient being achieving realization.