The Effects of Momentariness on Karma and Rebirth in Theravāda Buddhism

In Proceedings of the International Conference on Indian Cultural Heritage: Past, Present and Future. Bhubaneswar, India: Institute of Media Studies. pp. 01-05 (2017)


In the development of Indian Buddhism we begin to see a shift away from the early Buddhist epistemology based in phenomenology and process metaphysics toward a type of event-based metaphysics. This shift began in the reductionist methodology of the Abhidhamma and culminated in a theory of momentariness based in rationalism and abstraction, rather than early Buddhist empiricism. While early Buddhism followed an extensional model of temporal consciousness, when methodological reductionism was applied to the concept of time, it necessarily resulted in a cinematic model of temporal consciousness like that of the Sautrāntikas or in an idea of the tri-temporal existence of dhammas, like that of the Sarvāstivādins. It is in the accounting of the process of karmic rebirth that we can most clearly see the effects of this shift. The development of a theory of momentariness was incorporated into the Visuddhimagga by Buddhaghosa. In Buddhaghosa’s treatment of karmic rebirth, karma, particularly death-threshold karma, receives more emphasis in the process of rebirth than was previously found in the Suttas. The incorporation of “duration-less duration” via tritemporal existence by Buddhaghosa became necessary in order to explain karmic continuity in the rebirth process while retaining the concept of momentariness.

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Adam L. Barborich
Methodist Theological School In Ohio

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The Buddhist Conception of Time and Temporality.David J. Kalupahana - 1974 - Philosophy East and West 24 (2):181-191.
Time and Temporality: A Buddhist Approach.Kenneth K. Inada - 1974 - Philosophy East and West 24 (2):171-179.
The First Argument for Sarv Stiv Da.David Bastow - 1995 - Asian Philosophy 5 (2):109 – 125.

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