“Time” as a Paper Topic

As part of the second year philosophy class we need to write a term paper. This time our instructor, Khenpo Sherab Dorje, and translator, Catherine Dalton, gave us a wonderful opportunity to choose our topic from the text we are studying, Madhyantavibhanga by Maitraiya, and to analyze it through our own unique perspective and original ideas instead of copycat the ideas of the philosophical texts.
I thought it was a great chance to write about a topic that I am not forced to write about, but to develop my thoughts about a topic that really interests me and that has had an important influence on me through listening and reflecting on it.
Therefore, for my paper topic I choose “time.” In class one day we had a discussion on that topic, and that teaching had a great impact on me. My reflections on time floated in my mind for days, and that is why I would like to share these thoughts with more people.
Through my understanding and what we discussed in class, ‘time’ is totally a mental and a social construct agreed upon by human beings so that people can have a common framework and point reference so societies can function. Time does not have any real or apparent existent of its own. Yet time is very important as it is a reminder of impermanence, therefore a countdown to death but also a countdown to enlightenment.
From the moment we are born the moment of death draws ever nearer. We people have the tendency to live our lives as if we are going to live for ever, accumulate lots of wealth, to develop attachment to people we like, to attain some state of happiness and then we cling so much to it that we are afraid to loose it. But none of this is going to have any lasting value apart from our spiritual practice. Therefore we must make the most out of our time in this incarnation, and prepare by decisively making the decision to use the remainder of our time until death in a useful and beneficial way for oneself and beings. With the right motivation, which is the wish to liberate all sentient beings from the sufferings of samsara and establish them in perfect Buddhahood, and with the correct conduct, a Bodhisattva-to-be practices the Dharma with patience and diligence even for three incalculably long eons.
And this made me stop and think. Three incalculable eons is too long! The more I study the Bodhisattva’s five paths that lead to enlightenment and the number of stages and subdivisions that one has to transgress, I just feel more and more discouraged and fearful of time. So once I told a Khenpo how I felt about it, and the Khenpo wisely replied, “oh, having to endure three incalculable eons is far too long. Therefore I prefer to endure immeasurable suffering endlessly forever!” And then it really dawned on me that indeed three incalculable eons is a long period of time, but it is definitely better than suffering endlessly for eternity. Khenpo encouraged me by saying “For example, when we were kids, the thought of university, seemed to be very far away. We were thinking, sitting through all those classes, from elementary school to high school and so on, seemed endless. But then the time comes and we do go to university and when we look back, it seems time passed really quickly after all.”
I just wanted to share these thoughts, because there might be other people who are also discouraged by the thought of time of time.

~Zeta from Greece

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