Abstract

The question whether humans are the creators of their own lives within an either finite or infinite but nonetheless independently existing ‘time’ or whether the creative force of one’s life is restrained by a ‘time’ that is an inalienable part of this very life has permeated the entire philosophical and religious history of humankind. This article addresses Saint Augustine’s interpretation of time as developed in his Confessions and the interpretation given by his contemporary Buddhist counterpart Seng Zhao in the Zhao lun. It is argued that both Augustinus and Seng Zhao reinterpreted, albeit in a different way, a similar inherited cyclical time concept. Augustinus changed the cyclical time concept for a linear one, and he interprets ‘time’ as an objective reality for God, who created time together with heaven and earth, and as a subjective reality for humans: for humans, time can, by the pondering mind, only be regarded as ‘the protraction of the mind.’ Also, in Buddhist philosophy time has an objective reality, the cyclical mechanical process of karmic retribution, as well as a subjective reality: an individual has the power to stop this mechanical process, and, in this way, stop ‘time.’ The article shows how Seng Zhao develops the Madhyamaka concept of voidness, and goes beyond a mere objective-subjective dichotomy.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1529-1898
Print ISSN
0031-8221
Pages
pp. 157-177
Launched on MUSE
2015-02-02
Open Access
No
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