Physics and Buddhism

:thinking: Hmm. Per DN33:

There are sentient beings who desire what is present. They fall under the sway of presently arisen sensual pleasures. Namely, humans, some gods, and some beings in the underworld.

This is the first kind of sensual rebirth.

It seems that, conventionally, the present is experienced as evident, as in, “I live for chocolate.” Later, the Buddha gives a very useful definition for all:

Or you might discuss the present:

‘This is how it is at present.’

Would you say a bit more about the expression of time? I haven’t quite understood–the Buddha’s teachings about time seem to be universally applicable to monastics as well as laity.

Time is one of those topics that buddhism doesn’t explain much about. However, from the information available in the EBTs, we can get an idea on the expression of time.
Biddhism discusses about time but it lacks a direct definition. Blessed One’s teachings teach us samsara is something which has no ends.

Anamataggoyaṃ bhikkhave, saṃsāro. Pubbā koṭi na paññāyati
Mendicants, transmigration has no known beginning. No first point is found
Hereby we can assume time has no ends, since saṃsāra ia a spending of time.
As we can find in buddhism, the present is rather discribed as dependantly originated (paccuppanna).
(atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ) the present is paccuppanna. A moment of existence is smaller than the conscious moment. Unmindful minds are not capable of seeing this process where the mind recognizes the process as a permanent existance. But the reality is impermanence: the continuous changing. Thus it would take more than the conscious mind to grasp the moment. We are not normally oriented to this type of dimension in the nature of a moment of existence. Therefore, our expectation is permanence where we experience impermanence due to the unique experiential process termed pratityasamutpada/ paticcasamuppada, translated as dependent or relational-origination. There should be some word to explain this difference of the expectation and the reality: time.

Time is not an ideal(paramatta)
Generally, the experience of impermanence can be felt as time. From the Buddhist stand-point, experiential events do not take place or flow in time. Rather, it would be more accurate to say that events flow as time, thus denying any primacy to an absolute status of time.

The concept of time (kala) is a general concept which is used in the ordinary conventional sense, such as, variations of clock time or the psychological nature of time.


Fascinating. I am learning new (and long words)! :pray:

As I read the teachings, the Buddha considers atītānāgatapaccuppannaṃ (past, future, or present) independently of DO, which is somewhat different than what you have described as “present being dependently originated”. For example, in SN18.21, the Buddha explains truly seeing in the context of past, future or present:

“Rāhula, one truly sees any kind of form at all—past, future, or present; internal or external; coarse or fine; inferior or superior; far or near: all form—with right understanding: ‘This is not mine, I am not this, this is not my self.’

However, you do clarify later that conventional thinking is coarse and sloppy about the experience of the present, so I think we share an understanding:

I think we could explain to the unmindful how our minds work using analogies like barcode scanners:

  1. Barcodes are raw sensory input, meaningless without interpretation. When I press the trigger on a barcode scanner and it beeps, we have a sight in the sense field: rūpāyatanaṃ . The barcode scanner has scanned “A0007”.
  2. A barcode leads us to lookup tables (A0007 => “Tomato 7 of 9”) that give us the corresponding understanding of the barcode. This is dhammāyatanaṃ
  3. And from here feelings can emerge, etc.

We can say that these are sequenced in time and that the barcode lookup table could actually be considered to be a representation of consciousness and even identity (i.e., my barcodes are the same as your barcodes, but my table is different than yours).

It’s also used in terms of right action:

The Realized One knows the right time to speak
tatra kālaññū tathāgato (I’m guessing here since I don’t know Pali)

From this I understand that the suttas consider time independent of suffering or extinguishment. Time in the EBTs is simply defined as a context for discussion.


kālaññū- one who knows the right/proper time,
Here it is an adjective to the word tathāgato (the enlightened one/ the buddha)


Probably scientific theories can be used to support many different types of religions and spiritual movement. For example I found that this physicist, who seems quite distinguished, in deeply involved in transcendental meditation:

Perhaps in the end justifying one’s religion with trendy science is just a marketing tool. Deepak Chopra does that with quantum healing, I saw a Buddhist teacher often mentioning that he is a friend of a friend of Stephen Hawking…

Isn’t religion about ethics, the human heart, happiness, what happens after death etc (so generally speaking the world of the mind), whereas physics has absolutely nothing to do with all these things, since it is about the material world?


There’s a description and etymology of “time” here - Akalika

The most complete (the only) explanation of kālaññū that I’ve found in the suttas was AN 7.68

And how are they one who knows the right time? It’s when a mendicant knows the right time: ‘This is the time for recitation; this is the time for questioning; this is the time for meditation; this is the time for retreat.’

So “time” is for different events (it’s also starting and ending events) – perhaps like space distinguishes different things.


For me, Buddhism has become the science of the heart. The mathematical rigor of the EBT’s axioms and derivations has been profoundly and consistently applicable to what is sensed, understood, spoken, done, earned, attempted, considered and realized in this impermanent material or immaterial world.

I also love physics for many of the same reasons. Physics taught me how observation changes the world, that form is a convenient illusion and that we are all entangled.

:heart: Glossology could use a “sujato” column effective immediately.