Investigation of Time

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Return to main page "Mulamadhyamakakarika: Verses from the Centre" for information and links.

(return to list of Contents & Translation of "Mulamadhyamakakarika: Verses from the Centre")

Chapter 19. Investigation of Time

(Time)

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།ད་ལྟར་བྱུང་དང་མ་འོངས་པ།

།གལ་ཏེ་འདས་ལ་ལྟོས་གྱུར་ན།

།ད་ལྟར་བྱུང་དང་མ་འོངས་པ།

།འདས་པའི་དུས་ནི་ཡོད་པར་འགྱུར།།

1. /da ltar byung dang ma 'ongs pa/
/gal te 'das la ltos gyur na/
/da ltar byung dang ma 'ongs pa/
/'das pa'i dus ni yod par 'gyur//

1. If the present and the future were contingent on the past, then the present and the future would have existed in the past.

Tsongkhapa: If both the present and the future were intrinsically existent, one could not pass beyond either of them. Therefore, if both the present and the future were contingent upon a time which is past, then both the present and the future would have existed in the past. Because if those two times were intrinsically existent, then their being contingent upon the past would also have the nature of intrinsic existence, and since such a nature would have to be unambiguously the case mi 'khrul pa at all times and places, it could never change into anything else. ... If those two times existed in the past time, then they too would be past, in which case one would be unable to posit a past, because, if the past and future are posited as such due to their being respectively past and future in relation to the present, if there were no present there could be no past either.

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།ད་ལྟར་བྱུང་དང་མ་འོངས་པ།

།གལ་ཏེ་དེ་ནི་མེད་གྱུར་ན།

།ད་ལྟར་བྱུང་དང་མ་འོངས་པ།

།ཅི་ལྟར་དེ་ལ་ལྟོས་པར་འགྱུར།།

2. /da lta byung dang ma 'ongs pa/
/gal te de ni med gyur na/
/da ltar byung dang ma 'ongs pa/
/ci ltar de la ltos par 'gyur//

2. If the present and future did not exist there, then how could the present and the future be contingent on it?

Tsongkhapa: If, having accepted the argument which has just been given, one now thinks that both the present and the future did not exist at that past time, then how could they be contingent on the past? They could not.

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།འདས་པ་ལ་ནི་མ་ལྟོས་པར།

།དེ་གཉིས་གྲུབ་པ་ཡོད་མ་ཡིན།

།དེ་ཕྱིར་ད་ལྟར་བྱུང་བ་དང།

།མ་འོང་དུས་ཀྱང་ཡོད་མ་ཡིན།།

3. /'das pa la ni ma ltos par/
/de gnyis grub pa yod ma yin/
/de phyir da ltar byung ba dang/
/ma 'ong dus kyang yod ma yin//

3. Without being contingent on the past neither can be established. Hence the present and the future times also do not exist.

Tsongkhapa: Following those who believe the past to be permanent, could it be that both [present and future] do not need to be contingent on it? But without being contingent on the past neither [of them] can be established. This is so, because [of the following reasoning]: (a) were such things as sprouts to have their own self-nature, they would be unable to pass beyond that [condition]; (b) but it is impossible to posit the present without taking into account its being contingent on the past; (c) and the future too must be indirectly contingent on the past, because it is posited as the future now due to its having not yet occurred. If those two times were not contingent on the past, they would not [have to] be contingent on anything else either. Thus, due to their not being contingent on anything, they would be as non-existent as the horns of a donkey. In this way contingency or non-contingency on the past cannot intrinsically exist. Hence both the present and the future times also do not intrinsically exist.

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།རིམ་པའི་ཚུལ་ནི་འདི་ཉིད་ཀྱིས།

།ལྷག་མ་གཉིས་པོ་བསྣོར་བ་དང།

།མཆོག་དང་ཐ་མ་འབྲིང་ལ་སོགས།

།གཅིག་ལ་སོགས་པའང་ཤེས་པར་བྱ།།

4. /rim pa'i tshul ni 'di nyid kyis/
/lhag ma gnyis po bsnor ba dang/
/mchog dang tha ma 'bring la sogs/
/gcig la sogs pa'ang shes par bya//

4. These very stages can be applied to the other two. Superior, inferior, middling etc., singularity and so on can also be understood [thus].

[a-b: this means that you could say the same about past and future in relation to the present and present and past in relation to future as you can of present and future in relation to past as Nagarjuna has just done in v. 1-3.]

Tsongkhapa: To understand how the past and future’s contingency on the present and the past and present’s contingency on the future are likewise not intrinsically existent, the very stages of reasoning already used to refute the intrinsic existence of the [present and future’s] contingency on the past can be applied to the arguments on the intrinsic existence of contingency on both the other two times of present and future. [Verses 1-3] could then be altered as follows:

If the past and the future
were contingent on the present,...
...Hence the past and the future times
also do not exist.
and
If the past and the present
were contingent on the future,...
...Hence the past and the present times
also do not exist.

These very stages in which the three times have been analysed can lead to an understanding of how all tripartite divisions and relationships can be explained: superior, inferior and middling; skillful, unskillful and unspecified; arising, abiding and ceasing; inner, outer and central; the three realms [desire, form, formless]; training, beyond training and neither; singularity, duality and multiplicity [?].

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།མི་གནས་དུས་ནི་འཛིན་མི་བྱེད།

།གང་ཞིག་གཟུང་བར་བྱ་བའི་དུས།

།གནས་པ་ཡོད་པ་མ་ཡིན་པས།

།མ་བཟུང་དུས་ནི་ཇི་ལྟར་གདགས།།

5. /mi gnas dus ni 'dzin mi byed/
/gang zhig gzung bar bya ba'i dus/
/gnas pa yod pa ma yin pas/
/ma bzung dus ni ji ltar gdags//

5. Non-dwelling time cannot be apprehended. Since time which can be apprehended, does not exist as something which dwells, how can one talk of unapprehendable time?

Tsongkhapa: One might argue that time is inherently existent because it is something other than moments, seconds, minutes, day, night and so on. If "time" dwelled as intrinsically different from moments and so on, then although [in theory] it could be apprehended as something distinctive through moments and so on, "time" [as such] could not dwell in its own right as something apprendable through moments and so on. Therefore, since it does not dwell in such a way, time cannot be apprehended through moments and so on which are intrinsically different from it.

[But it might still be objected:] Permanent time does exist and is evident from moments and so on:

Time brings things to maturity;
Time brings people together;
Time awakens one from sleep;
It is extremely hard to go beyond time.

Why could there not be something with such characteristics? But a time which can be apprehended and made evident by moments and so on does not exist as something which dwells in its own right, because if it did exist as intrinsically different from moments and so on, it should be able to be known [as such] whereas in fact it cannot. ... Since such time is unknowable through any valid way of knowing, how can one talk of that unapprehendable time by means of moments and so on? One simply cannot.

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།གལ་ཏེ་དུས་ནི་དངོས་རྟེན་ཏེ།

།དངོས་མེད་དུས་ནི་ག་ལ་ཡོད།

།དངོས་པོ་འགའ་ཡང་ཡོད་མིན་ན།

།དུས་ལྟ་ཡོད་པར་ག་ལ་འགྱུར།།

6. /gal te dus ni dngos rten te/
/dngos med dus ni ga la yod/
/dngos po 'ga' yang yod min na/
/dus lta yod par ga la 'gyur//

6. If time depended on things, where would time which is a non-thing exist? If there were no things at all, where would a view of time exist?

Tsongkhapa: Some might say: Although it is indeed true that permanent time does not exist, time configured in dependence upon conditioned things such as forms is what is denoted by the expression "moments and so on." Where would time which is a non-thing, i.e. which is intrinsically different from such things as form, exist? If, since [such time] could not exist, time is posited in dependence upon things such as form, and when, for the reasons already given and explained, there were no things at all which inherently exist, where would an inherently existent view of time configured on [things] exist? It could not exist.

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།དུས་བརྟག་པ་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་སྟེ་རབ་ཏུ་བྱེད་པ་བཅུ་དགུ་པའོ།།

/dus brtag pa zhes bya ba ste rab tu byed pa bcu dgu pa'o//