Kamma; Is it linear or apart from 'time'?

Time is a condition to which we humans, and our observable universe, are subject. It is the condition which supports the force of entropy (the breakdown of all aggregates).

However, advanced states of meditation, can show that time is not reality as it really is - that time is conditioned and related to existence in physical form.

Logically then, linear time is required for linear Kamma.

My question then is; is kamma restricted to our perceived/conditioned reality. When all fuel is exhausted, kamma disappears? Nibbana is non-linear. No aggregated existence, no entropy, no suffering?

I realise that there are many unknowable questions… and this may be one of them. But there is something that keeps pulling me back here that I think is fundamental to right view, which I am struggling to identify. If anyone could shed some light on this from the Buddhas teachings I would be most grateful :slight_smile:



That is my understanding, yes.


To extrapolate -
Then Nibbana is both nothing and everything simmultaneously?
Both emptyness and fullness.

1 Like

It has long seemed to me that once we move past this

and move into extrapolation like here

that we begin to overly complicate things.

Which is not a helpful answer, I know. I wish I had the appropriate words. :disappointed:


Thanks Nadine :slight_smile:


I don’t have an answer to your question Mara, but I have this quote from a popular science TV programme called Order and Disorder that is an interesting aside, and may help those without a science background to answer your question. I hope that it is not out of place.

Boltzmann saw what Clausius could not: The real reason why a hot object left alone will always cool down. Imagine a lump of hot metal. The atoms inside it are jostling around. But as they jostle, the atoms at the edge of the object transfer some of their energy to the atoms in the surface of the table. These atoms then bump into their neighbours, and in this way the heat energy slowly and very naturally spreads out and disperses. The whole system has gone from being in a very special ‘ordered’ state, with all the energy concentrated in one place, to a disordered state, where the same amount of energy is now distributed amongst many more atoms. Boltzmann’s brilliant mind saw that this whole process could be described mathematically.

“Boltzmann’s great contribution, was that, although we can talk in rather, sort of, casual terms about things getting worse and ‘disorder increases’. The great contribution of Boltzmann is that he could put numbers to it. And so he was able to derive a formula, which enabled you to calculate the disorder of the system.”

S=klogW … This is Boltzmann’s famous equation. It would be his enduring contribution to science. So much so, that it was engraved on his tombstone in Vienna. What this equation means in essence, is that there are many more ways for things to be messy and disordered than there are for them to be tidied and ordered. That is why, left to itself the universe will always get messier. Things will move from order to disorder. It’s a law that applies to everything. from a dropped jug to a burning star. A hot cup of tea, to the products we consume every day. All of this is an expression of the universes tendency to move from order to disorder. Disorder is the fate of everything. Clausius had shown that something he called entropy was getting bigger all the time. Now Boltzmann had revealed what this really meant. Entropy, was in fact a measure of the disorder of things.

“Energy is crumbling away, it’s crumbling away now, as we speak. So the 2nd law is about entropy increasing. Which is just a technical way of saying ‘things get worse’.”

In the end, there is no escaping entropy. It’s the ultimate move from order to decay and disorder that rules us all. Boltzmann’s equation contains within it, the mortality of everything, from a china jug to a human life, to the universe itself. The process of change and degradation is unavoidable. The 2nd law says that the universe itself must reach a point of maximum entropy, maximum disorder. The universe itself must one day die.

If everything degrades; if everything becomes disordered, you might be wondering how it is that we exist. How exactly did the universe manage to create the exquisite complexity and structure of life on earth. Contrary to what you might think, it’s precisely because of the 2nd Law that all this exists. The great disordering of the cosmos gives rise to it’s complexity.

It’s possible to harness this natural flow from order to disorder; to tap into the process and generate something new. To create new order - new structure. It’s what the early steam pioneers had hit upon with their engines, and it’s what makes everything that we deem ‘special’ in our world - from this car, to buildings, to works of art - even to life itself.

The engine of my car, like all engines, is designed to exploit the 2nd law. It starts out with something nice and ordered, like this petrol - stuffed full of energy, but when it’s ignited in the engine, it turns this compact liquid into a mixture of gases 2000 times greater in volume, not to mention dumping heat and sound into the environment. It’s turning order into disorder.

What’s so spectacularly clever about my car is that it can harness that dissipating energy. It can syphon off a small bit of it and use it for a more ordered process; like driving the pistons that turn the wheels. That’s what engines do, they tap into that flow from order to disorder and do something useful.

But it’s not just cars. Evolution has designed our bodies to work thanks to the very same principle. If I eat this chocolate bar packed full of nice ordered energy, my body processes it and turns it into more disordered energy, but powers itself off the proceeds.

Both cars and humans power themselves by tapping into the great cosmic flow from order to disorder.

“Although overall the world is falling apart in disorder; it’s doing it in a seriously interesting way. It’s like a waterfall that is rushing down, but the waterfall throws up a spray of structure and that spray of structure might be you or me or a daffodil, or whatever. So, you can see this unwinding of the universe - this collapse into disorder can, in fact, be constructive.”


Where does this view of time come from? At least since Kant the majority opinion in the West has been that perception of time passing is an a priori judgement - something that we supply to experience in order to make sense of it. Along with other concepts like space and causation.

Hmmm. I can imagine that one loses any sense of time passing in deep samādhi, because time is perceived relative to regular processes such as days or breaths. Turning this epistemological shift into a metaphysics seems ill conceived.

I’m not sure what you are contrasting the perception of time with? What do you mean by “reality as it really is” and why do you associate this with isolating yourself from sensory experience? What is so “real” about meditative experience? Is it not rather unreal?

Indeed what do you mean by reality? I keep seeing this word and I don’t know what it means. What is the Pāḷi term that you are translating as “reality”?

What do you mean by “existence in a physical form”? As contrasted with what? Is there some other kind of existence?

According to modern physics, time is always linear, though it can pass at different rates in different frames of reference. Time has a direction because of entropy. The early universe was low entropy and entropy always increases over all. There is no other kind of time.

As far as the Pāli suttas are concerned they betray no awareness of the metaphysics that appear to underpin your questions. The Iron Age people of the Ganges valley spoke of time in terms of the past, future, and present. Actions done now cause consequences in the future. Time is entirely linear there too.

Nibbāṇa is extinction. One cannot play the game of speculative metaphysics with nibbāṇa - the tathāgata passes beyond explanation (avaykata) when he dies. No answer is possible, according to the tradition.

For these and other reasons your questions are not properly constructed questions and are impossible to answer on their own terms.

1 Like

Thank-you for this. I am definitely on my L plates (learner) with the Pali Canon. As yet, while I remember specific teachings, I can’t recall which Suttas they are from, apart from just a few.

Yes I see that you are correct. I’ll move this thread to ‘Discussion’
Thank-you for your time and interest. :grinning:

Metta :anjal:

1 Like

At least since Kant the majority opinion in the West has been that perception of time passing is an a priori judgement - something that we supply to experience in order to make sense of it. Along with other concepts like space and causation.

Saying that the perception of time passing is an a priory judgement doesn’t appear to make any sense to me because a perception is not a judgement.
I think you mean that for Kant time and space are a priory intuitions (not judgements). Also, they are for Kant the very conditions for experiencing the phenomenal world (as opposed to the Ding an sich); rather than something the subject supplies to experience. Since experience is not possible outside the categories of time and space, these are not something you supply to experience.