Lama Anagarika Govinda

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana).Lama Anagarika Govinda

Discussion of Metaphysics / Philosophy of Lama Anagarika Govinda & Tibetan Buddhism. All is One (Akasa, Space) & Dynamic (Prana, Motion)
Lama Govinda Pictures & Quotes

The fundamental element of the cosmos is Space. Space is the all-embracing principle of higher unity. Nothing can exist without Space. .. According to ancient Indian tradition the Universe reveals itself in two fundamental properties: as Motion and as that in which motion takes place, namely Space. This Space is called Akasa .. derived from the root kas, 'to radiate, to shine', and has therefore the meaning of ether which is conceived as the medium of movement. The principle of movement, however, is Prana, the breath of life, the all-powerful, all-pervading rhythm of the universe,
(Lama Anagarika Govinda, 1969)


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Introduction to Lama Govinda

Lama Anagarika Govinda was a German who lived from 1898 - 1986. He spent over 20 years of his life as a member of the Kargyutpa Buddhist Order. Lama Govinda first travelled to Sri Lanka and Burma before studying in monasteries and hermitages in Tibet. During these years he received teachings and inspiration from the Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions. He held posts in various Indian universities and held exhibitions of his paintings, several of which he had made together with his wife, Li Gotami when still in Tibet.
This webpage is a discussion of quotes from three books by Lama Anagarika Govinda;
The Foundation of Tibetan Mysticism, Red Wheel/Wesier, 1969
Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, Mandala Books, 1977
The Way of the White Clouds, A Buddhist Pilgrim in Tibet, 1966

Lama Govinda writes in the preface of Creative Meditation;

I have been a citizen of two worlds, nourished from the great traditions of Western culture in my early youth, and sustained by the ancient and sacred traditions of the East, where I spent the greater part of my life.
It is hoped that this book will be a bridge between these two worlds, not as a manual or a mere source of information, but an incentive for others to cross the bridge in both directions. (Lama Govinda, 1977)

Lama Anagarika Govinda became a mediator between the East and West. In the last decade of his life he travelled to America, Canada and Europe giving lectures.
A Tantric Buddhist, Lama Govinda realised the importance of Space (Akasa) and Motion (Prana) as the Foundations of Eastern Philosophy and Dynamic Interconnection of Brahman. Western Physics (with its 'particles and forces / fields in Space-Time' ) has never correctly understood the Eastern world view (All is One, Interconnected, Dynamic). Recent discoveries of the properties of Space and the Wave Structure of Matter (Wolff, Haselhurst) demonstrates the dynamic unity of the universe from a logical / scientific foundation, thus bridging Lama Govinda's two worlds. Please see links on the side of the page.

We hope you enjoy the following quotations from Lama Govinda on Space (Akasa), Motion (Prana), Impermanence, Finite & Infinite, Reality, Free Will, Life & Death. If you read them with the wave structure of matter in space in mind you find that they actually make a lot of sense (rather than sounding very mystical and confusing!).

Geoff Haselhurst, Karene Howie



Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhist Quotations

Life has no meaning in itself, but only in the meaning we give it. Like the clay in the artists hands, we may convert it into a divine form or merely into a vessel of temporary utility. (Lama Govinda,1969)

Karma, in Buddhism, is a strictly psychological, not a metaphysical term. It has not the meaning of irrevocable fate or destiny, but of “action.” The definition of action, according to the Buddha’s words in Anguttara-Nikaya VI, 63, is, “Cetanaham bhikkhave kammam vadami,” (“Volition, O monks, is what I call action”). In other words, only where there is intention, i.e. consciously motivated exertion, can we speak of “karmic” action, and only such action has character-forming consequences, determining our inclinations and thus actions and reactions. Character is nothing but the tendency of our will, formed by repeated actions. Every consciously performed deed leaves a subconscious trace (samskara). It is like a path formed by the process of walking, and wherever such a once-trodden path exists, there we find, when a similar situation arises, that we take to this path spontaneously. This is the law of action and reaction which we call karma, the law of movement in the direction of least resistance, i.e. of the frequently trodden and therefore easier path. It is what is commonly known as the “force of habit.” (p256)

In early Buddhism the experience of space was recognised as an important factor of meditation, for instance in the Four Divine States of consciousness (brahmavihara), in which the consciously created feelings of selfless love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and spiritual equanimity are projected one after another into the six directions of space, namely the four points of the compass, the zenith and the nadir. These directions had to be vividly imagined, so as to make space and its penetration by the mind a conscious experience. In a similar way, space became the main subject of contemplation in the higher or more advanced stages of meditative absorption (jhana) until consciousness completely identified itself with the infinity of consciousness, in which the mediator becomes one with the subject of his meditation.

In Mahayana Buddhism, space played an even more important part in the development of religious art and its symbolism, in which a universe with myriads of worlds and solar systems and infinite forms of life and dimensions of consciousness was conceived- leading to the creation of new systems of philosophy, metaphysical speculation and a vastly refined psychology. The concept of time, however, was merely treated as a secondary, if not negative, property of existence- namely, as that on account of which existence was illusory, a passing show of transient phenomena.

It was only with the advent of the Kalacakra School in the tenth century A.D. that religious seers and thinkers realised the profound mystery which is hidden under the conventional notion of time, namely the existence of another dimension of consciousness, the presence of which we feel darkly and imperfectly on the plane of our mundane experience. Those, however, who crossed the threshold of mundane consciousness in the advanced stages of meditation, entered into this dimension, in which what we feel as time was experienced not merely as a negative property of our fleeting existence, but as the ever present dynamic aspect of the universe and the inherent nature of life and spirit, which is beyond being and non-being, beyond origination and destruction. It is the vital breath of reality-reality, not in the sense of an abstraction, but as actuality of all levels of experience- which is revealed in the gigantic movements of the universe as much as in the emotions of the human heart and the ecstasies of the spirit. It is revealed in the cosmic dance of heavenly bodies as well as in the dance of protons and electrons, in the “harmony of the spheres” as well as in the “inner sound” of living things, in the breathing of our body as well as in the movements of our mind and the rhythm of our life.

Both space and time are two aspects of the most fundamental quality of life: movement. Here we come to the rock-bottom of direct experience, which the Buddha stressed in his emphasis upon the dynamic character of reality, in contrast to the generally prevailing notions and philosophical abstractions of a static Atmavada, in which an eternal and unchangeable ego-entity was proclaimed. (The original concept of atman was that of a universal, rhythmic force, the living breath of life- comparable to the Greek “pneuma” – that pervaded the individual as well as the universe.) (p260-1)

Sorry! I had good intentions to write up more quotes relating to Buddhism - but there are lots of good quotes below - Govinda was very astute! (Karene)


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). The Principles of Space and Motion (Akasa / Prana)

According to ancient Indian tradition the Universe reveals itself in two fundamental properties: as Motion and as that in which motion takes place, namely Space. This Space is called akasa (Tibetan: nam-mkhah) and is that through which things step into visible appearance, i.e., through which they possess extension or corporeality. Akasa is derived from the root kas, 'to radiate, to shine', and has therefore the meaning of ether which is conceived as the medium of movement. The principle of movement, however, is Prana, (Tibetan: sugs), the breath of life, the all-powerful, all-pervading rhythm of the universe, in which world-creations and world-destructions follow each other like inhalation and exhalation in the human body, and in which the course of suns and planets plays a similar role as the circulation of the blood and the currents of psychic energy in the human organism. All forces of the universe, like those of the human mind, from the highest consciousness to the depths of the subconscious, are modifications of prana. (Lama Govinda 1969)

The fundamental element of the cosmos is Space. Space is the all-embracing principle of higher unity. Nothing can exist without Space.

Space is the precondition of all that exists, be it material or immaterial form, because we can neither imagine an object nor a being without space. Space, therefore, is not only a conditio sine qua non of all existence, but a fundamental property of our consciousness.
Our consciousness determines the kind of space in which we live. The infinity of space and the infinity of consciousness are identical. In the moment in which a being becomes conscious of his consciousness, he becomes conscious of space. In the moment in which he becomes conscious of the infinity of space, he realises the infinity of consciousness. (1969)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, The Foundation of Tibetan Mysticism, 1969


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Impermanence and Immortality, Lama Govinda Quotations

Life means giving and taking: exchange, transformation. It is breathing in and breathing out. It is not the taking possession of anything, but a taking part in everything that comes in touch with us. It is neither a state of possession nor of being possessed, neither a clinging to the objects of our experience nor a state of indifference, but the middle way, the way of transformation.
We are transformed by what we accept. We transform what we have accepted by assimilating it. We are transformed by the act of giving, and we contribute to the transformation of others by what we are giving. He who opposes this process of transformation will die the slow death of rigidity ... (Govinda, 1977)

Transformation contains both change and stability, plurality and unity, movement and constancy. It has the nature of life, namely, to connect organically the polar opposites, the stumbling blocks of logic, and to unite them in an all embracing rhythm. (1977)

If we want to have stability, we can find it only within ourselves, namely, as the stability of our inner direction (toward the center, toward enlightenment). This is not the stability of inertia, but the stability of dynamic movement. Therefore the Buddhist symbol of the 'stream' which one enters as soon as one has found that inner direction, and hence the designation of the 'stream-winner' for one who has entered the path toward liberation. Whether this movement comes to a standstill when the center is reached, or whether it is transformed into another, higher kind of movement, is of no importance; in either case the individual limitations, the cause of all our problems, would have ceased to exist. At any rate, the inner stability and integrity of one who has found his inner center is infinitely greater than that of a world experienced by unenlightened and spiritually undirected individuals, a world that Buddhists and Hindus alike characterise as samsara.
It is this samsaric world which has to be overcome and which is, as certain schools put it, an illusory world. This is not a negation of the reality of the world, but only of wrong values derived from or applied to a distorted reality. (1977)

The world as such is neither good nor bad; it produces criminals as well as saints, ignorance as well as wisdom, fools as well as Enlightened Ones. One may say that the number of fools is out of proportion to the number of the Enlightened, but this means that one mistakes quantity for quality. (1977)

A high degree of culture and insight are required to experience the eternal in transient forms, to see the timeless harmony in the momentariness of phenomena, to feel the infinite rhythm that pervades even the most insignificant forms of life.
It is the deadly sameness of machine-made things and of a life governed by technology which perverts the mind and kills the spirit. Infinite variety is the hallmark of the creative genius; sameness the hallmark of mediocrity and decadence. The symbol of the machine is the wheel. The machine-wheel is the symbol of Samsara, of ever-recurring birth and death, of the inescapable law of existence. ..But there is another wheel, an invisible one, which does not revolve but which radiates and pervades every form of life. It is the Dharma-Cakra and he who realises it, realises his universality and the infinite relationship of all things and forms of appearance, without denying their relative existence and value. (1977)

We live in a world of impermanence and instability, because we are blinded by tiny fragments to which we cling under the influence of unreasonable desires; and thus blinded we lose the great connections and inner relations which give meaning and harmony to the flux of life. If we could see the whole picture, the totality and completeness of relations, we would be able to see things and beings in their proper perspective. The change of movement- which until then could be conceived only under the negative aspect of impermanence (as the principle of destruction)- would reveal a consistency of rhythm, a stability of direction and a continuity of organic development and spiritual unfoldment which could restore to our world and life a higher order of permanence and value than ever conceived by intellectual abstractions and speculations.
We accept the unity of a thing in space, though it extends in various dimensions with various aspects and proportions. But we doubt a similar unity if it is extended in time (which is merely another dimension), where it likewise shows various aspects and properties, developing according to its inherent nature. (1977)

Our intellect & grasps this ultimate truth about things slowly, laboriously and piecemeal. It sees but one thing (and one aspect of it) at a time, and so always brings a feeling of incompleteness and limitation. But we have occasional moments of insight when something presented to our imagination will from its own character or from some exalted mood of our own, seem like a perfect and perfectly comprehended universe in miniature. (E.F. Carrit: What is Beauty? P.29)

This is what the great mystics of all times and the greatest artists have experienced. But whilst the latter can only achieve it in their most creative moments, the former, due to their complete inner detachment and their fundamentally changed spiritual outlook, have been able to dwell more or less permanently in this state. For them the impermanent world of ordinary mortals has disappeared, though they may live with them and extend to them their loving kindness, because they have found the central harmony and never can lose the conception of totality in that of the individual. They are the Siddhas who have achieved the magic power that transforms Samsara into Nirvana. They are the saints and sages who attained enlightenment. (1977)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Finite and Infinite, Eternity

Eternity and Infinity in the spiritual or religious sense are not mathematical values but experiences common to all people who have reached a certain spiritual maturity, and most of all the great leaders of humanity in the fields of culture and religion. (Govinda, 1977)

The Buddha never denied the eternal in man, but only the mistaken idea that it is identical with his ego or limited personality. This is what anatta (non-ego) means. (1977)

The question is not whether we are finite or infinite, mortal or immortal, but whether we identify ourselves with the infinite and imperishable or with the finite and ephemeral. This is the leit motif of all Indian thought and the common basis of Indian religiosity.
The impermanence of the world of birth and death (samsara) stands in contrast to the imperishable, all-embracing consciousness of enlightenment, in which the state of Nirvana, the liberation from the delusion of egohood is realised. We are not dealing here with a dualistic conception of the universe, but with one and the same reality, seen under two different viewpoints: the ego-conditioned and the ego-free. (1977)

Because the Buddha emphasised the practical aspects of religious life, avoiding philosophical speculations and theories, as well as unfounded and fanciful beliefs of supernatural phenomena, he did not live in a spiritual vacuum in which nothing existed beyond the given facts of our empirical world. His teaching rises from the very foundations of a metaphysical non-Vedic tradition, probably of Pre-Aryan origin, which recognised neither castes (varna) nor sacrifices (yajna) and insisted on the sacredness of life (ahimsa). (1977)

Our ego-centricity, our overestimation of ourselves and the feeling - or indeed the conviction- of having a separate existence, will in no way be lessened by the idea that there is no 'I in itself' or that we are only an aggregate of various qualities, forces, substances. On the contrary, the more we are convinced of it, the more uninhibited, unscrupulous and selfish we become in our actions, which in this case are nothing but "the rolling on of empty functions and phenomena. Though, we have thrown the old self out the front door (namely our intellect), it returns with doubled strength through the back door (our subconscious), because of the skepticism which does not recognise any higher values and to which "nothing is worth the effort. ...There is only one way to overcome our egocentricity, our ego-limitation, and that is the positive way of knowledge that we are the exponents of something greater and worthier than a mere complex of individual drives, subconscious chain reactions, dynamic-energetic quantas or other meaningless processes, functions and "aggregates of existence". It is the living way of experience that teaches us: the more we emphasise our imaginary selfhood and try to uphold it against all other forms of life we can partake of the freedom and completeness of our true nature, which is realised in the experience of our universality in the state of enlightenment. (1977)

The part receives meaning from the whole, but not vice-versa. If we detach the individual from his relation with the totality of the universe, he will be reduced to a meaningless illusion, a non-entity. If we see him in relationship to the whole universe, he becomes an exponent of cosmic reality (the Atman of the Upanishads). And if he becomes fully conscious of it, he becomes an Enlightened One, a Buddha. (1977)

Every analysis must be preceded by a synthesis, i.e. by the understanding of the greater universal background of each single phenomenon and its infinite relationship with all other phenomena. (1977)

Individuality and Universality

The danger in the West lies in the overemphasis of the this-worldly pole of individuality, of egocentric activity, of self-assertion and willpower. The danger in the East lies in the metaphysical, the negation of the value of individuality, which leads to passive dissolution in a formless unity. Both attitudes contradict the innermost law of existence, the one by denying universality, the other by depriving individuality of its value. (1977)

Only a person of great spiritual maturity and deep insight is capable of appreciating the true value of the finite in the uniqueness of its momentary appearance. (1977)

The undeveloped human strives after the finite for the sake of his own profit. The thinker strives after the infinite for the sake of his freedom. The Knowing One returns to the finite for the sake of his infinite love. (1977)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Life & Death, Lama Anagarika Govinda

Mystery of Life

Life has no meaning in itself, but only in the meaning we give it. Like the clay in the artists hands, we may convert it into a divine form or merely into a vessel of temporary utility.
If Confucius says that it is not truth that makes men great, but men that make truth great, we may modify this by saying: it is not life that makes men great, but men who make life great. Because life is everywhere; but only if it is centered in an individual focus does it gain the power and the capacity to become conscious of its supraindividual, all-embracing nature.
The great paradox of the mind: individualisation is necessary in order that it may become conscious of its universality. (Govinda, 1977)

Everything we try to hold on to, be it air or food, turns into poison. Exhalation and elimination are as important as inhalation and the intake of food. (1977)

Are not all cultural forms and traditions equally subject to the laws of transformation, of death and rebirth, if they are to survive? .. Religious or spiritual traditions tend to degenerate if they are kept too long in the same soil, i.e. without fresh stimuli, without exchange with or access to other forms of thought and temperament. (1977)

The Conquest of Death

From the objective point of view, we can speak only of the cessation of bodily functions and the decay of the physical organs that made them possible. But what happened to the forces that built and maintained them is quite another question. (1977)

The annihilation of the ego-illusion is no way identical with the annihilation of individuality. On the contrary, it is just the elimination of this impeding and narrowing illusion which makes it possible for us to see beyond the limits of our momentary self-hood, the focal point of our universally conditioned personality and to recognise the connections with previous and future forms of life. (1977)

For immortality does not consist in the preservation of our ego or our limited personality, but in the awareness of that great flow of reality in which our present life is only a fleeting moment. In this knowledge lies the liberation from death leading to the experience and realisation of immortality. (1977)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Time and Space and the Problem of Free Will

As long as we live in the past, we are subject to the law of cause and effect, which leaves no room for the exertion of free will and makes us slaves of necessity. The same holds good for what we call “Dwelling in the future,” which generally is only a state of reversed memory- a combination of past experiences, projected into the future. When, however, the past or the future are experienced in clairvoyant states, they become the present, which is the only form in which we can experience reality (of which the other forms are so to say “perspectively distorted reflexes”). Only while dwelling in the present, i.e. in moments of full awareness and “awakedness” are we free.

Thus we are partaking of both: the realm of law or necessity as well as the realm of freedom. Science- which is only concerned with that which has become, with the consolidated form, but not with the nature of reality or the actual process of becoming, and thus deals with a reactive rather than an actual world- can only conceive of a universe in which law or necessity governs supremely and exclusively.

Science, therefore, cannot be a judge in the question of determinism or indeterminism, or free will with respect to living things, i.e. “self-regulating and self-preserving” organisms endowed with consciousness- nor can philosophy be so long as it relies on scientific facts and methods, such as logical deduction, etc., which all belong to the same reactive world, to the same secondary time-dimension. Abstract reasoning will always lead to an extreme and one-sided result, by reducing the problem of a number of solid concepts and ideologically watertight compartments, which are shifted about on an artificial plane (which in reality exists as little as those conceptual units) and allow themselves to be neatly grouped either on this or on the opposite side of the equation, so that the result will always be either positive or negative, or at any rate a definite decision between the two sides.
The tacit assumption that the world which we build up in our thought is the same world which we experience in life (to say nothing about the world “as such”) is the main source of error. (Govinda, 1977, p.252)

The intellectual thinker generally believes he has reproduced reality in his thoughts, mistaking the foreshortening perspective of his two-dimensional logic for a universal law. The use of logic in thinking is as necessary and justified as the use of perspective in painting- but only as a means of expression and not as a criterion of reality. (p253)

1. The fact that we feel free and responsible for our actions, and that this innermost experience of free will is the conditio sine qua non of our very existence as conscious individuals. Without free will we would be reduced to the state of automatons and the faculty of consciousness would not only be superfluous but a positive hindrance.

2. The fact that we live in a world governed by laws which, though they restrict our freedom, give us an opportunity to regulate and to direct and plan our actions, thus bringing our behaviour in harmony with our surroundings.
We cannot change the law of causality, but as soon as we know that certain causes produce certain results, we are able to decide between several courses of action open to us. (p253-4)

The two apparently contradictory realms of freedom and necessity (ethos and logos, free will and law) have their meeting-place in the human individual. What appears as necessity from outside may be the most genuine expression of freedom, of free will, if it coincides with the inner law or nature of the individual. (p255)

Karma, in Buddhism, is a strictly psychological, not a metaphysical term. It has not the meaning of irrevocable fate or destiny, but of “action.” The definition of action, according to the Buddha’s words in Anguttara-Nikaya VI, 63, is, “Cetanaham bhikkhave kammam vadami,” (“Volition, O monks, is what I call action”). In other words, only where there is intention, i.e. consciously motivated exertion, can we speak of “karmic” action, and only such action has character-forming consequences, determining our inclinations and thus actions and reactions. Character is nothing but the tendency of our will, formed by repeated actions. Every consciously performed deed leaves a subconscious trace (samskara). It is like a path formed by the process of walking, and wherever such a once-trodden path exists, there we find, when a similar situation arises, that we take to this path spontaneously. This is the law of action and reaction which we call karma, the law of movement in the direction of least resistance, i.e. of the frequently trodden and therefore easier path. It is what is commonly known as the “force of habit.” (p256)


The Mystery of Time

Time and Space constitute the two greatest mysteries of the human mind. Deeper even than the mystery of space is that of time- so deep, in fact, that it took humanity thousands of years to become conscious of its implications. Apparently the human mind becomes first aware of space and much later of the reality of time. Even a child is more or less conscious of the reality of space, while the time-sense is practically absent and develops at a much later stage. The same happens in the development of human civilisation. The discovery of space, as an element of spiritual importance, precedes a similar discovery of time.
This can be explained by the fact that space-feeling is first and foremost connected with the movement of the body, where as time-feeling is connected with the movement of the mind.
(Time is a Mind conception of Motion)
Though space-feeling starts with the body, however, it does not remain at this stage, but gradually changes into a spiritual function, by creating a space conception which is independent from the body, independent of material objects, independent even of any kind of limitation: culminating in the experience of pure space or the infinity of space. Here we no longer speak of “conception,” because infinity cannot be conceived, mentally “pictured” or objectivated, it can only be experienced. Only when man has penetrated to this experience and has mentally and spiritually digested and assimilated it, can we speak of the discovery of time as a new dimension of consciousness.

In early Buddhism the experience of space was recognised as an important factor of meditation, for instance in the Four Divine States of consciousness (brahmavihara), in which the consciously created feelings of selfless love, compassion, sympathetic joy, and spiritual equanimity are projected one after another into the six directions of space, namely the four points of the compass, the zenith and the nadir. These directions had to be vividly imagined, so as to make space and its penetration by the mind a conscious experience. In a similar way, space became the main subject of contemplation in the higher or more advanced stages of meditative absorption (jhana) until consciousness completely identified itself with the infinity of consciousness, in which the mediator becomes one with the subject of his meditation.

In Mahayana Buddhism, space played an even more important part in the development of religious art and its symbolism, in which a universe with myriads of worlds and solar systems and infinite forms of life and dimensions of consciousness was conceived- leading to the creation of new systems of philosophy, metaphysical speculation and a vastly refined psychology. The concept of time, however, was merely treated as a secondary, if not negative, property of existence- namely, as that on account of which existence was illusory, a passing show of transient phenomena.

It was only with the advent of the Kalacakra School in the tenth century A.D. that religious seers and thinkers realised the profound mystery which is hidden under the conventional notion of time, namely the existence of another dimension of consciousness, the presence of which we feel darkly and imperfectly on the plane of our mundane experience. Those, however, who crossed the threshold of mundane consciousness in the advanced stages of meditation, entered into this dimension, in which what we feel as time was experienced not merely as a negative property of our fleeting existence, but as the ever present dynamic aspect of the universe and the inherent nature of life and spirit, which is beyond being and non-being, beyond origination and destruction. It is the vital breath of reality-reality, not in the sense of an abstraction, but as actuality of all levels of experience- which is revealed in the gigantic movements of the universe as much as in the emotions of the human heart and the ecstasies of the spirit. It is revealed in the cosmic dance of heavenly bodies as well as in the dance of protons and electrons, in the “harmony of the spheres” as well as in the “inner sound” of living things, in the breathing of our body as well as in the movements of our mind and the rhythm of our life.

Reality, in other words, is not stagnant existence of “something”; it is neither “thingness” nor a state of immovability (like that of an imaginary space), but movement of a kind which goes as much beyond our sense-perceptions, as beyond our mathematical, philosophical and metaphysical abstractions. In fact, space (except the “space” that is merely thought of) does not exist in itself, but is created by movement; and if we speak of the curvature of space, it has nothing to do with its prevailing or existing structure (like the grain in wood or the stratification of rocks), but with its antecedent, the movement that created it. The character of this movement is curved, i.e. concentric, or with a tendency to create its own center- a center which may again be moving in a bigger curve or circle, etc.

Thus, the universe becomes a gigantic mandala or an intricate system of innumerable mandalas (which, according to the traditional Indian meaning of the word, signifies a system of symbols, based on a circular arrangement or movement, and serves to illustrate the interaction or juxtaposition of spiritual and cosmic forces.) If, instead from a spatial point of view, we regard the universe from the standpoint of audible vibration or sabda, “inner sound,” it becomes a gigantic symphony. In both cases all movements are interdependent, interrelated, each creating its own center, its own focus of power, without ever losing contact with all the other centers thus formed.

“Curvature” in this conception means a movement which recoils upon itself (and which thus possesses both constancy and change, i.e. rhythm) or at least has the tendency to lead back to its origin or starting-point, according to its inherent law. In reality, however, it can never return to the same point in space, since this movement itself moves within the frame of a greater system of relationships. Such a movement combines the principle of change and nonreversibility with a constancy of an unchangeable law, which we may call its rhythm. One might say that this movement contains an element of eternity as well as an element of transiency, which latter we feel as time.

Both time and space (No!) are the outcomes of movement, and if we speak of the “curvature of space” we should speak likewise of the “curvature of time,” because time is not a progression in a straight line- of which the beginning (the past) is lost forever and which pierces into the endless vacuum of an inexorable future- but something that recoils upon itself, something that is subject to the laws of ever-recurrent similar situations, and which thus combines change with stability. Each of these situations is enriched by new contents, while at the same time, retaining its essential character. Thus we cannot speak of a mechanical repetition of the same events, but only of an organic rebirth of its elements, on account of which even within the flux of events the stability of law is discernable. Upon the recognition of such a law which governs the elements (or the elementary forms of appearance) of all events, is the basis upon which the I-Ching or “The Book of Changes,” the oldest work of Chinese wisdom, is built.

Perhaps this work would better be called “The Book of the Principles of Transformation” because it demonstrates that change is not arbitrary or accidental but dependent on laws, according to which each thing or state of existence can only change into something already inherent in its own nature, and not into something altogether different. It also demonstrates the equally important law of periodicity, according to which change follows a cyclic movement (like the heavenly bodies, the seasons, the hours of the day, etc.), representing the eternal in time and converting time quasi into a higher space-dimension, in which things and events exist simultaneously, though imperceptible to the senses. They are in a state of potentiality, as invisible germs or elements of future events and phenomena that have not yet stepped into actual reality. (p256-60)

This sameness- or as we may say just as well, this eternal presence of the “Body of the Law” (dharmakaya), which is common to all Buddhas, to all Enlightened Ones- is the source and spiritual foundation of all enlightenment and is, therefore, placed in the center of the Kalacakra-Mandala, which is the symbolical representation of the universe. Kala means “time” (also “black”), namely the invisible, incommensurable dynamic principle, inherent in all things and represented in Buddhist iconography, as a black, many-headed, many-armed, terrifying figure of simultaneously divine and demoniacal nature. It is “terrible” to the ego-bound individual, whose ego is trampled underfoot, just as are all the gods, created in the ego’s likeness, who are shown prostrate under the feet of this terrifying figure. Time is the power that governs all things and all being, a power to which even the highest gods have to submit.

Cakra means “wheel,” the focalised or concentric manifestation of the dynamic principle in space. In the ancient tradition of Yoga the Cakra signifies the spatial unfoldment of spiritual or universal power, as for instance in the cakras or psychic centers of the human body or in the case of the Cakravartin, the world-ruler who embodies the all-encompassing moral and spiritual powers.

In one of his previous books on Buddhist Tantrisim, H.V. Guenther compares the Kalacakra symbol to the modern conception of the space-time continuum, pointing out, however, that in Buddhism it is not merely a philosophical or mathematical construction, but is based on the direct perception of inner experience, according to which time and space are inseparable aspects of reality.

“Only in our minds we tend to separate the three dimensions of space and the one of time. We have an awareness of space and an awareness of time. But this separation is purely subjective. As a matter of fact, modern physics has shown that the time dimension can no more be detached from the space dimension than length can be detached breadth and thickness in an accurate representation of a house, a tree, or Mr X. Space has no objective reality except as an order or arrangement of things we perceive in it, and time has no independent existence from the order of events by which we measure it.” (Guenther, Yuganaddha, The Tantric View of Life, 1952)

Both space and time are two aspects of the most fundamental quality of life: movement. Here we come to the rock-bottom of direct experience, which the Buddha stressed in his emphasis upon the dynamic character of reality, in contrast to the generally prevailing notions and philosophical abstractions of a static Atmavada, in which an eternal and unchangeable ego-entity was proclaimed. (The original concept of atman was that of a universal, rhythmic force, the living breath of life- comparable to the Greek “pneuma” – that pervaded the individual as well as the universe.) (p260-1)

“We ourselves create mathematical time. It is a mental construct, an abstraction indispensable to the building up of science. We conveniently compare it to a straight line, each successive instant being represented by a point. Since Galileo’s days this abstraction has been substituted for the concrete data resulting from the direct observation of things… In reducing objects to their primary qualities- that is, to what can be measured and is susceptible of mathematical treatment- Galileo deprived them of their secondary qualities, and of duration. This arbitrary simplification made possible the development of physics. At the same time it led to an unwarrantably schematic conception of the world.” (Alexis Carrel, Man the Unknown)

Indeed it led to a science which was based on a “post mortem” of our world, on the static end-results of what was once alive, a world of facts and dead matter.

“The concept of time is equivalent to the operation required to estimate duration in the objects of our universe. Duration consists of the superimposition of the different aspects of an identity. It is a kind of intrinsic movement of things… A tree grows and does not lose its identity. The human individual retains his personality throughout the flux of the organic and mental processes that make up his life. Each inanimate or living being comprises an inner motion, a succession of states, a rhythm which is his very own. Such motion is inherent time… In short, time is the specific character of things… It is truly a dimension of ourselves. (Op. cit., p.157)(Govinda, p.262)

An experience of reality (and that is all we can talk of, because “reality as such” is another abstraction) cannot be defined but only circumscribed, i.e., it cannot be approached by the straight line of two-dimensional logic, but only in a concentric way, by moving around it, approaching it not only from one side, but from all sides, without stopping at any particular point. Only in this way can we avoid a one-sided and perspectively foreshortened and distorted view, and arrive at a balanced, unprejudiced perception and knowledge. This concentric approach (which moves closer and closer around its object, in order finally- in the ideal case- to become one with it) is the exact opposite of the Western analytical and dissecting way of observation: it is the integral concentration of inner vision (dhyana). (p263)

What does time mean from the standpoint of experience? Most people would answer: duration! But duration we have, even when there is no experience of time, as in deep sleep. The experience of time, therefore, is something more than duration: it is movement. Movement of what? Either of ourselves or of something within or outside ourselves.
But now the paradox:
The less we move (inwardly or outwardly) the more we are aware of time. The more we move ourselves, the less we are aware of time. A person who is mentally and bodily inactive feels time as a burden, while one who is active hardly notices the passage of time. Those who move in perfect harmony with the innermost rhythm of their being, the pulsating rhythm of the universe within them, are timeless in the sense that they do not experience time anymore. Those who move and live in disharmony with this inner rhythm, have existence without inherent duration, i.e., merely momentary existence without direction or spiritual continuity and, therefore, without meaning.

What we call “eternal” is not an indefinite duration of time (which is a mere thought-construction, unrelated to any experience) but the experience of timelessness.
Time cannot be reversed. Even if we go back the same way, it is not the same, because the sequence of landmarks is changed, and moreover, we see them from the opposite direction- or as in memory, with the added knowledge of previous experience. The experience of time is due to movement plus memory. Memory is comparable to the layers of year-rings in a tree. Each layer is a material addition, an addition of experience-material, which alters the value of any new experience, so that even repetition can never produce identical results.

Life- like time- is an irreversible process, and those who speak of eternal recurrence of identical events and individuals (as Ouspensky in his book, A New Model of the Universe) mistake rhythm or periodicity for mechanical repetition. It is the most shallow view that any thinker can arrive at, and it shows the dilemma into which scientific determinism is bound to lead. It is typical of the intellect which has lost its connection with reality and which replaces life with the phantoms of empty abstraction. This kind of reasoning leads to a purely stagnant and mechanical world-view, ending in a blind alley.

Whether the universe as a whole can change or not is quite irrelevant; important alone is that there is a genuine creative advance possible for the individual and that the past that is ever growing in him as a widening horizon of experience and wisdom will continue so to grow until the individual has reached the state in which the universe becomes conscious in him as one living organism, not only as an abstract unity or a state of featureless oneness. This is the highest dimension of consciousness.

What do we understand by dimension? The capacity to extend or to move in a certain direction. If we move outward, we can only do so in three dimensions, i.e. we cannot go beyond our three-dimensional space. The movement, however, which produces and contains these dimensions is felt as time, as long as the movement is incomplete or as long as the dimensions are in the making, i.e. not conceived as a complete whole. The feeling of time is the feeling of incompleteness. For this reason there is no time in moments of higher awareness, intuitive vision or perfect realisation. There is no time for the Enlightened Ones.

This does not mean that for an Enlightened One the past has been extinguished or memory blotted out. On the contrary, the past ceases to be a quality of time and becomes a new order of space, which we may call the Fourth Dimension, in which things and events which we have experienced piecemeal can be seen simultaneously, in their entirety, and in the present. Thus the Buddha in the process of his enlightenment surveyed innumerable previous lives in ever widening vistas, until his vision encompassed the entire universe. Only if we recognise the past as “a true dimension of ourselves,” and not only as an abstract property of time, shall we be able to see ourselves in proper perspective to the universe, which is not an alien element that surrounds us mysteriously, but the very body of our past, in whose womb we dream until we awake into the freedom of enlightenment. (p265-6)

That the gods of Buddhist iconography and their symbols and functions do not belong in the realm of metaphysics, but to that of psychology, has been correctly pointed out by C.G. Jung in his Commentary on the Secret of the Golden Flower. Speaking of the great Eastern philosophers, he says: “I suspect them of being symbolical psychologists, to whom no greater wrong could be done than to take them literally. If it were really metaphysics that they mean, it would be useless to try to understand them. But if it is psychology, we can not only understand them, but we can greatly profit greatly by them, for then the so-called ‘metaphysical’ comes within the range of experience. If I accept the fact that a god is absolute and beyond all human experiences, he leaves me cold. I do not affect him, nor does he affect me. But if I know that a god is a powerful impulse in my soul, at once I must concern myself with him, for then he can become important… like everything belonging to the sphere of reality.” (Jung, Psyche and Symbol, 1958)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Logic & Symbol in the Multi-Dimensional Conception of the Universe

From an interview with Prof. Heisenberg in Munich I gained the impression that modern atomic physics had outstripped our present mode of thinking to such an extent that the discrepancy between the consciousness of the average man, who uses the results of science, and the knowledge of the scientist, who makes them possible, is so great that this will become a great danger for Western civilisation and therefore in the end a danger to mankind which becomes more and more identified with this civilisation.
This discrepancy between the perfection and power of the means created from a higher dimension of knowledge and the level of consciousness of those using them, must in the end result in a schizophrenic civilisation in which man no longer controls these means because he no longer understands the powers at his disposal, but is controlled by them. (Govinda, 1977, p230-1)

For only the man who has conquered, gained this world spiritually, whose consciousness has reached this stage of knowledge is capable of using sensibly the forces derived from it without misusing their power. Only such a one is entitled to use them. (p231)

The new language thus resembles more the language of the poets than that of conventional scientists; and therefore in atomic science an idiom has been evolved in which one- as Heisenberg demonstrated by the example of the mutually exclusive theories of waves and particles respectively- though describing the actual facts, uses contradictory images.
As it is impossible to find out exactly the spatial position and the speed belonging to the time-dimension of an elementary particle, at the same time, one has, as Heisenberg says, “to use in atomic physics two mutually exclusive ways of description which, however, also complement each other, so that only by playing with the different similes or images an adequate description of the event is finally achieved.” (p232)

As Plotinus (the Alexandrian philosopher of the third century of our era) wrote in his letters to Flaccus:
“Truth, therefore, is not the agreement of our apprehension of an external object with the object itself. It is the agreement of the mind with itself. Consciousness, therefore, is the whole basis of certainty. The mind is its own witness. Reason sees in itself that which is above itself and its source; and again, that which is below itself is still itself once more.
Knowledge has three degrees- opinion, science, illumination. The means or instrument of the first is sense; of the second, dialectic; of the third, intuition. To the last I subordinate reason. It is absolute knowledge founded on the identity of the mind knowing with the object known.”

Intuitive knowledge is free from partiality or dualism; it has overcome the extremes of stressing subject or object. It is the vision of a world-synthesis, the experience of cosmic consciousness where the Infinite is realised not only conceptually but actually. (p233)

The more the inward progresses, i.e. the more we approach the inner center, the more universal becomes experience, and when reaching the center we realise the full range of our conscious being, the totality of universal consciousness. (p235)

It is important to stress this, for nothing would be more dangerous than a frivolous throwing overboard of the normal logical thinking appropriate to our world, in favour of seemingly profound paradoxes, as has become the fashion in some intellectual movements of our time (and not the least in modern art). Until we have achieved a clear cognition of the laws underlying our three-dimensional world it is useless to be occupied with a higher dimension (whose substructure is represented by those laws). (p236)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). The Conception of Space in Ancient Buddhist Art and Thought

According to Spengler, the conception of infinite space is an exclusively Occidental idea, a creation of the “Faustic” consciousness, entirely foreign to Greeks and Romans, as well as Indians and Egyptians. “What ‘infinite space,’ this creative interpretation of the experience of depth by us people of the Occident, and by us alone, tries to express, -this kind of dimension the Greeks called the Nothing, and which we call the All,- saturates the world with a colour, which neither the Greek or Roman, nor the Indian or the Egyptian soul had on its palette.”

India has produced quite a number of philosophical theories and definitions of space, a fact which in itself shows that the experience of space was strong enough to give rise to serious speculations, and to influence religious doctrines and practices to such an extent that it can hardly be said that Indians took a negative attitude towards the problem of space, as may have been the case with the ancient civilisations of the Mediterranean.

It cannot even be maintained seriously that the experience of the mere idea of “infinite space” is a peculiarly Western achievement or a characteristic of the “Faustic” soul or the “Faustic” consciousness, because the concept of the “infinity of space” is one of the fundamental ideas of Buddhism, which is all the more important as it derives its value not merely from philosophical considerations or intellectual speculations, but is based on direct spiritual experience, achieved by the systematic exploration of the human mind in the process of meditation.

The philosophical definitions which were evolved later on, though interesting in themselves, are of secondary importance in comparison to this experience. The infinity of space, which is frequently mentioned in the most ancient Pali texts as akasanancayatana, has retained its importance all through the Buddhist literature up to the present day, and it was known as one of the higher states of yoga-experience even before the advent of Buddhism, as the Buddha himself acknowledges when describing the yoga-exercises as his brahmanical teachers.

The word akasa itself is significant, as it is derived from the root kas, “to shine”. It implies an active, if not creative quality of space, something which is connected with movement, vibration or radiation (comparable to the former hypothesis of ether in physics). Even in the negative definition of the Sautranikas, who denied in the reality of space in contrast to other Schools of Buddhism, the idea of movement seems to have been instinctively associated with the concept of space, when they circumscribed it as the “non-existence of obstruction (or hindrances).

The Theravadins, who neither maintained nor denied the reality of the outer world, confined themselves to the psychological- and thus necessarily subjective- standpoint, and therefore arrived at a conclusion very similar to that of Kant, who declared space to be an element or a property of our mind. They defined akasa as a permanent mental element (nicca-pannatti), thus giving akasa a higher degree of (subjective) reality than matter, which is enumerated under the impermanent mental properties that have only a momentary phenomenal existence.

The Sarvastivadins, on the other hand, believed in the objective existence of space, and classified it as one of the three unconditioned elements (dharmas) out of their list of 75 existing dharmas, of which 72 were conditioned, while the remaining two unconditioned elements were equivalents of nirvana, namely the conscious (pratisamkya) and the unconscious (apratisamyka) cessation of passion. Thus, space and nirvana were the only lasting elements, and therefore a kind of higher reality. The fact that they could not be described in positive terms does not weaken their reality, because all positive qualities belonged to the world of conditioned elements, having no independent reality. The positive value which space had in the minds of the early Buddhists could not have been demonstrated better than by its association with nirvana.


We can observe a striking parallelism in the development of modern Western civilisation, in which, according to Spengler, pure, active space appears as the essence of real being (“wahres Sein”). It is being, pure and simple. Objects of sense-perception, therefore, appear as facts of secondary value- we significantly speak of them as space-filling objects, thus assigning to them their relative rank- and with regard to the act of understanding and judging Nature, these sense-perceptions are felt as questionable, as appearance and hindrance which must be overcome if, as a philosopher or a physicist, one wants to discover the real essence of being. The Western skepsis never turned against space, but always against concrete things only. Space is the higher concept- force is only a less abstract expression for it- and mass appears only as its counter-concept, i.e., as that which exists in space.
This is exactly what happened in the history of Buddhist philosophy. Its skepsis never turned against space, but always against concrete things, which we regarded as illusory and unreal, together with all the other sense-perceptions. (Govinda, 1977, p236-9)

Infinity is the key-note of the Mahayana (p239)

The Mahayana conceives of numberless world-systems, peopled by an infinite number of beings, existing in unlimited space, penetrated by gigantic forces. Even modern astronomy has not been able to paint a more comprehensive and gigantic picture of the world. (p239)

Among all these symbols, however, space had become the most important, and it could be said that in the West since the days of the Renaissance the conception of God became more and more similar to the idea of pure, infinite space in the minds of all culturally important men, then it may be said that for similar reasons the concepts of space (akasa) and nirvana became ever more closely related, the more the ideal or the inner experience of infinity took possession of the Indian, especially the Buddhist mind. (p239)

The “infinity of space” (akasanancayatana) and “no-thingness” (akincanyayatana) are thus of equal value as expressions of space-experience or as objects of intuitive consciousness. If, however, the consciousness of the infinity of space itself becomes an object of meditation, the experience of the infinity of consciousness (vijnanancayatana) arises. In other words: if infinity becomes conscious, it reveals the infinity of consciousness. (p.243)

If Spengler says that the “pure, infinite space represents the profoundest symbol of the Occidental soul,” then it can be said that this is equally true with regard to the Indian soul. (p.243)

On account of the much greater effort which was necessary to produce, to spread, and to preserve written documents in those days- when writing and reading were not yet commonly practiced , but reserved for a small elite, and then only for matters of great importance- we can safely say that the literature which survived centuries or even millenniums can claim to be more representative of the best that was produced in those times, than most of what is printed in our time. (p.246)

The Buddhist recognises reality as dynamic, and not as a static condition. “As long as the world is statically conceived, it has no reality behind it, it is Maya; the world must be grasped as it ‘moves about,’ as it becomes, as it passes from one state of being to another. When this movement is arrested, there is a corpse.” (Suzuki, Essays in Zen Buddhism, Vol III, p.290)

To the Buddhist the world is a process of becoming, not a state of being. Becoming, however, is not unqualified change, but the very essence of life and growth, namely organic development; therefore, only an organic kind of logic can deal with it. The elements of such a type of logic are not derived from the bodies of a three-dimensional world, represented by unchangeable units or concepts, but rather from the inter-relationship of various movements or living forces, which can only be expressed by symbols and analogies. (p.247)

“Our mathematical and chemical formulas and symbols will probably appear as ‘unmeaning gibberish’ to later civilisations, and our theories about the universe as childish as medieval speculations appear to us.” (Waddell, Lamaism) (p.248)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). The Problem of Past and Future

Both Time and Space are the outcomes of movement, the characteristic of life, from its highest spiritual manifestations down to the simplest physical phenomena. By intellectually separating time from space, and both of them from the experiencing subject, we arrive at an abstract concept which has neither vitality nor reality. In order to imbue it with a semblance of movement, we divide it into past, present and future, out of which neither the past nor the future seem to possess actual reality. The present, however, according to this division, is, merely the dividing line between the past that is no more and a future which is not yet: it is a point without extension, without dimension, and therefore without the possibility of movement. Yet we feel the present as the most real aspect of time, the only point in which movement is possible.

Consequently some modern thinkers try to cut through the Gordian knot by declaring that there is no time and that the only solution to the riddle of life consists in living exclusively in the present, treating the past and the future as non-existent and illusory. In this way they arrive at their concept of spontaneity as the only true principle of life, forgetting that spontaneity is built on practice; in other words, that it is a product of long repeated actions in the past, actions that have been carried out consciously and deliberately over a long period, and which have become so ingrained in one’s nature that they need no further decision or effort of will.

The wonderful instincts of animals (which by far outdo our cleverest logical operations) are based on this accumulation of past experience, and the same holds good of the human genius, the man of unerring “spiritual instinct” (which we call “Intuition”), or the virtuoso, whose technical perfection is the fruit of years of intensive practice, and whose accomplishments have become part of his subconscious or unconscious nature. In spite of popular belief, a genius does not fall from heaven- except from the heaven of his own making. Even the Buddha, according to Buddhist tradition, had aeons of practice on the Bodhisattva Path behind him, before he became a Buddha, a Fully Enlightened One. (Govinda, 1977, p268)

Mozart composed minutes at the age of four, while Beethoven- had composed three sonatas even before he had reached this age. To explain this through the hereditary factors and combinations of chromosomes is as unconvincing as explaining the human mind as a product of the brain. The brain is as much a product of the mind as the chromosomes are a product of forces about whose nature we know as little as we do of what we call gravitation, light or consciousness. The more we try to reduce the world into a play of cause and effect instead of seeing the infinite inter-relationship of all phenomena, and each individual as a unique expression and focalisation of universal forces, the further we get from reality.
However, even if we admit that all the powers and faculties of the universe are within us, unless we have activated them through practice or made them accessible through training they will never become realities that influence our life. They will neither appear nor materialise effectively if we merely rely on the potentialities of our “unconscious mind,” as the mediocre products of modern worshippers of the “unconscious” amply demonstrate in all fields of art and thought.

Just because the depth-consciousness (which I think is a better term than the “unconscious”) contains an unlimited wealth of forces, qualities, and experiences, it requires a well-ordered, purposeful and trained mind to make use of this wealth in a meaningful way, i.e. to call up only those forces, contents of consciousness or their respective archetypal symbols which are beneficial to the particular situation and spiritual level of the individual and give meaning to his life. “A more perfect understanding of the dynamic potentialities of the unconscious would entail the demand of a stricter discipline and a more clearly conscious direction,” as Lewis Mumford said in his review of C.G. Jung’s Remembrances.

As a reaction against the overintellectualisation of modern life, the chaotic excesses of certain modern artists and writers may be understandable, but as little as we can live by the intellect alone, can we live by the “unconscious” alone. Nothing of cultural or spiritual value has ever been produced in this way.
Those who think that any conscious effort or aspiration is a volition of our spontaneous genius, and who look down upon any technique or method of meditation or the fruits of traditional experience as below their dignity, only deceive themselves and others! We can be spontaneous and yet fully conscious of the forms and forces of tradition. In fact, all culture consists in a deep awareness of the past. Such awareness, however, should not be confused with a clinging to the past of with an arbitrary limitation of its forms of expression: on the contrary, full awareness and perfect understanding free us from the fetters of the past, without thereby losing the fruits of our former experiences. We do not free ourselves from our past by trying to forget or to ignore it, but only through mastering it in the light of higher, i.e. unprejudiced knowledge.

If we allow the past undissolved and undigested to sink into the subconscious, the past becomes the germ of the uncontrollable- because unconscious- drives and impulses. Only those things which we have perfectly understood and consciously penetrated can be mastered and can have no more power over us. The methods of healing employed by modern psychotherapy as well as by the most ancient meditation-practices are based on this principle. Even the Buddha attained his Enlightenment only after having become conscious of his complete past. This past, however, included the past of the whole universe. By becoming conscious of it, he freed himself from the power of hidden causes.

Ignorance is bondage, knowledge is liberation. So long as we are ignorant of the causes of the past, we are governed by them, and in so far they determine . The course of is “predestined” only to the extent of our ignorance.

“Fate is a very real aspect of our lives as long as we remain in ignorance, as real as the other aspect of freedom. What we call fate is the pulling and moulding of our lives from sources of which we are unconscious. Where there is the Light of consciousness all is freedom; wherever to us that Light does not penetrate is Fate. To the adept Siddha whose conscious enfolds the whole range of manifested being there is no fate at all.” (Sri Krishna Prem, The Yoga of the Kathopanishad, 1955)

Genuine meditation is an act of opening ourselves to that Light; it is the art of invoking inspiration at will, by putting ourselves into a state of intuitive receptiveness, in which the gates of the past and the present are open to the mind’s eye. But unless the mind’s eye is cleared of the dust of prejudice and selfishness, it will not be able to grasp the meaning of its visions, to assess their value or importance and to make use of them. Two people may hear the same symphony: to the musically untrained or uncultured mind it will be a mere noise, to the cultured or musically receptive it will be a revelation, an experience. Even the grandest and most sublime vision conveys nothing to the ignorant, or something that may be thoroughly misleading. (Herein lies the danger for those who use trance-inducing or consciousness-transforming “psychedelic” drugs such as Mescaline, LSD, or the like, without having the knowledge or the critical faculty to judge or to evaluate the resulting phenomena and experiences.)
When I spoke about the gates of the past and the present, which are opened in introspective meditation, I did not mention the future. Neither did the Buddha when describing the experiences of his Enlightenment. Why was that so? Because the future is essentially contained in the past and focalised in the present.

Jean Gebser, one of the most creative and stimulating thinkers of modern Europe- whose philosophy is the gigantic attempt to integrate the most advanced knowledge of our time with the spiritual sources of the past- defines evolution as the unfoldment in time and space of something that is already potentially existent in its essential features, though indeterminable in its individual realisation. The manner in which we accomplish this individual realisation is the task of our life and the essence of our freedom, which latter consists in our choice either to cooperate with the laws of our universal origin and to be free, or to ignore and oppose them, and thus to become the slaves of our own ignorance. The more we recognise this our origin, the more we are able to cooperate with it and thus with the universal law (dharma) of our inherent nature. And likewise: he who perceives the outlines of the past can recognise or foresee the structure of the future. (p271)

What is foreseeable are probably certain general conditions under which the future events take place, and these general conditions have as much stability or constancy as a landscape through which we drive. If we know the speed of our movement and the road or direction which we want to take, we can safely predict where we shall be at a certain future time and what landmarks we shall have to pass on the way. This then is not because it exists in a future dimension of time, but because we move in a certain direction under already existing conditions, or more correctly, conditions whose rate of change is so much slower than our own movement that we can regard it as a constant and, in this sense, existing factor.
Once we move in a certain direction, we are bound to meet certain events. But whether we move or not, and which direction we choose, this lies in our hand- provided we have the knowledge to foresee the results of our actions. This knowledge can only come from the past, from the remembrance of past experiences. (p272)

We cannot think of the future without reference to the past. If an astronomer can predict future events with accuracy, it is because of his knowledge of the past movements of heavenly bodies, from which he deduces certain universal laws. These laws are, in other words, the sum total of the past in its timeless aspect, in its everpresent potentiality, in the actuality of the present moment.
The past is ever present, but due to the momentariness and limited range of our ordinary individual consciousness (or rather that part of it which we use in our everyday life)- which can dwell only on one point at a time, and which therefore has to be in constant motion in order to convey a wide range of events, facts or objects- due to this momentariness we experience only that one point as present, on which our mind is focused, and all other points as past (or according to our expectation, as future). If we could see all the points simultaneously, the past would appear as another dimension of space. (p273)

The aspect of “being” is nothing other than the total aspect of becoming. There is no question of choosing between these two aspects, as to which is the more real or true. Both are ever united, and those who try to build a philosophy upon only one of them, to the exclusion or negation of the other, lose themselves in verbal play. Even if time, as we understand it, is an imperfect way of seeing things, the movement on which it is based and the consciousness which perceives it are real factors of immediate experience and profound significance.

If time is movement, and movement is not merely mechanical motion but an autonomous expression of individual life, then the future is not something already existing (or existing in an absolute sense), but evolving out of the pattern of individual movements. Even if the sum total of all these movements amounts to something like an eternal “Body of Reality” or whatever we may call the ultimate state of transcendental quietness, harmony and completeness, for which the Plenum-Void of Sunyata is perhaps the most adequate expression- the fact remains that each individual pattern has its own meaning and justification, and this consists in an inalienable experience of freedom, without which no individual life would be possible or would have been able to come into existence.

Though in the average sentient being this freedom may consist only in an infinitesimally small part of his conscious activity, it is sufficient to break the rigidity and monotony of mechanical law. Even if from the individual pattern of behaviour, the patterns of future events can be foreseen with a high degree of probability, we have to admit that probability is not certainty, not unalterable law, but merely the way of least resistance. (p274)

On the universal scale everything appears as law, on the individual scale law dissolves into mere patterns of probability. Law is the general frame in which individual movement, individual life, takes place. Just as a picture gets its meaning, i.e. becomes a “picture”, because it is related to a frame, so freedom has meaning only within the framework of or with reference to law.

Law, however, is the accumulated, crystallised past, the conscious as well as the unconscious memory, the sum total of past events or movements (or “emotions”), which in the individual condenses itself into form-tendencies which we call “character”. But since character is not something different from the individual, but that in which individuality consists, we cannot separate these two concepts and play the one out against the other by saying that because an individual acts according to his character, therefore there is no freedom of action. On the contrary, if an individual was forced to act against his character, he would be unfree. Freedom is neither waywardness nor lawlessness, but the expression of one’s inner law. Freedom and law do not exclude each other (as little as the picture excludes the frame or the frame the picture). Though the frame imposes a limitation on the picture, it strengthens it at the same time. In a similar way laws, though imposing limitations upon our freedom, not only strengthens it, but makes it possible. Freedom consists in the right application of laws, in making the right use of them, and this depends again of the degree of our knowledge or insight into the nature of things, i.e., into our own nature. It is only there that freedom can be found. To express one’s own inner law, one’s character, in one’s actions, is true self-expression, and self-expression is the hallmark of freedom. Freedom, like all spiritual realities is one of the great paradoxes of life, and like life itself it is beyond proof or logical definition.

The problem of freedom is closely bound up with the problems of the future. If the future were something existing, in the same way as the past, there would be neither freedom nor meaning in the unfoldment of individual life, no responsibility for our actions, no moral or ethical values: life would be reduced to the clockwork of a mechanical process which runs its course to an inevitable end or in an endless circle of blind necessity or predetermined action. No system of thought that believes in ethical values and ultimate freedom or liberation through individual effort and a certain measure of free will and insight, can subscribe to such a view. The Buddha himself rejected this fatalistic outlook of pure determinism in his emphasis on self-reliance and in his condemnation of Makkhali Gosala’s doctrine of predestination (Samannaphala Sutta 20).

The Buddha treated the past as an unquestionable fact, the present as the decisive time-element, but he never speculated about the future. Though he often spoke about the past, of previous existences as well as of previous world-cycles and of the Buddhas of the remote past, he never indulged in prophesies. This in itself is significant and shows that the past and the future cannot be treated on the same footing, or as possessing the same degree of reality. (p275-6)

“On the surface of our planet those dimensions are discerned through particular characteristics. The vertical is identified by the phenomenon of gravity. We are unable to make any distinction between the two horizontal dimensions. As for the fourth dimension, or time, it takes on a strange aspect. While the other three dimensions of things are short and almost motionless, it appears as ceaselessly extending and very long.
No concrete thing has only three spatial dimensions. A rock, a tree, an animal cannot be instantaneous. Indeed we are capable of building up in our minds beings entirely described within three dimensions. But all concrete objects have four. And man extends both in time and in space.” (Alexis Carrell, Man the Unknown, p.165)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). The Two Aspects of Reality, Lama Govinda

Since in an outward direction we cannot go beyond the three dimensions of what we call space from the standpoint of our usual consciousness, the only other direction in which we can move is inward, namely in the reverse direction of extension, i.e. in a direction which is completely different from that of physical time and three dimensional space: the direction towards the center and the origin of everything. If we- to use a simile- regard the horizontal as the direction of our space-time development or individual unfoldment, then the vertical represents the direction of our inner, concentrative absorption into the universal center of our essential being and therewith the process of our becoming conscious of the timeless presence of all possibilities of existence in the organic, all-embracing structure of the living universe. But while the horizontal, for all that we know- i.e. according to the laws of all spatial movement- has the tendency to move in an unimaginably big circle (which, therefore, appears to us like a straight line) or in a spiral, in which certain phases repeat themselves rhythmically, though without being identical, the vertical represents the central axis of this revolving movement, namely the timeless, ever-present origin, inherent in all living processes. It is what poetically has been expressed as the “eternity of the moment,” which can be experienced in a state of perfect inwardness or absorption, in which we turn toward the center of our own being, as realised in states of meditation and creative inspiration.

In a former work I have depicted both these directions in a diagram, in which the movement parallel to or following the periphery represents the space-time development of the individual, while the movement which runs at right angles or perpendicular to this in the direction toward the center indicates the ever increasing states of absorption or inwardness. The further this inwardness proceeds, i.e. the nearer it moves towards the center, the completeness and universality of consciousness is being realised.

Consciousness thus proceeds from the more limited to the more comprehensive, from lesser to greater intensity, from lower to higher dimensions, and each higher dimension includes the lower ones by coordinating its elements in a wider and more intricate structure of relationships. The criterion of a consciousness or recognition of a higher dimension, therefore, consists in the coordinated and simultaneous awareness of several directions of movement or extension within a higher unit, without annihilating the features which constituted the character of the integrated lower dimensions. This may be illustrated by the simple fact that the two-dimensional square is not annihilated in the three-dimensional cube. (Govinda, 1977, p278-9)

“Origin,” however, does not mean a beginning in time, but the ever-present origin (sahaja), in which sense the much misunderstood terms sahaja-kaya and Adibuddha have been used in the terminology of the Kalacakra School of medieval Buddhist philosophy (about tenth century A.D.). Sahaja-kaya means literally the “inborn”, “Innate” body, that is, the natural universal body, the embodiment of universal order (which is also expressed in the term dharma-kaya), underlying every individual consciousness, but realised only by the Enlightened Ones who are fully awakened to their inner reality and are, therefore, called Buddhas. Adibuddha, which literally means “first, foremost or original Buddha,” has similarly nothing to do with a sequence in time- and can, therefore, not be regarded as a kind of God-Creator from which the universe had sprung (as many scholars have surmised), but represents the ever-present dynamic principle of enlightenment (bodhi-citta: the urge for the realisation of enlightenment) at the center of every form of consciousness, from which time (kala) and space (symbolised as cakra) emerge.
In other words: we do not live in time, but time lives within us: because time is the innermost rhythm of our conscious existence, which appears outside of ourselves as space and materialises in the form of our body and its organs. From this point of view we may say that the body is the crystallization of our consciousness, namely, the sum total of former volitions, aspirations and actions of our conscious mind (what is called karma or consciously motivated “action” in Buddhism).

It is remarkable that Gebser-though coming from a different cultural background and starting from entirely different premises- arrives at similar conclusions and finally even at a world-view in which Eastern and Western thought become equal partners- equal, because each of them has attained to the same fundamental insight in his own way. Gebser expresses this in the following words: “The body (in so far as we conceive it also in terms of space) is nothing but solidified, coagulated, thickened, materialised time, which requires space, for its unfoldment, formation and materialisation, because space represents a field of tension, and due to its latent energies it is the medium or carrier of the active time-energies, in which both these dynamic principles, the latent one of space and the acting one of time, condition each other.” (Gebser, 1953)

We could also say: space is the possibility of movement, time the actuality or the realisation of movement; or, space is externalised, objectified time, time projected outward. Time, on the other hand, is the internalised, subjectivated space- the remembrance and inner transformation of spatial movement into the feeling of duration or continuity. Time and space are related to each other like the inside and the outside of the same thing. Reality comprises both and simultaneously goes beyond both of them. Those who experience this reality live in a dimension beyond the space-time continuum and experience the universe as a timeless body. This is the ultimate teaching of the Kalacakra philosophy.

Here we may be reminded of Fa-tsang’s interpretation of the message of the Avatamsaka Sutra, according to his monograph called ‘The Meditation by which Imagination Becomes Extinguished and One Returns to the Source’:

“There is one Mind which is ultimate reality, by nature pure, perfect and bright. It functions in two ways. Sustained by it, the existence of a world of particulars (extended in space) is possible; and from it originates all activity (extended in time), free and illuminating, making for the virtues of perfection paramita. In these two functions which we may call existential and moral, three universal characters are distinguishable. Existentially viewed, every particular object, technically called anuraja, “particle of dust” (the smallest possible unit or atom, as we would call it nowadays) contains in it the whole Dharmadhatu (ultimate reality). Secondly, from the creational point of view, each particle creates all kind of virtues (or “qualities”, in a more general sense); therefore, by means of one object the secrets of the whole universe are fathomed. Thirdly, in each particle the reason of Sunyata (the incommensurable element of metaphysical reality, in contrast to its phenomenal or formal elements) is perceivable.” (Explanations in brackets are Lama Govinda).

Sunyata is that incommensurable element of metaphysical reality which, in contrast to its phenomenal or formal elements, can only be circumscribed as “emptiness from all conceptual designations,” similar to “space” which included and contains all things and movements and is at the same time contained in them. Sunyata is, so to say, the spiritual space whose emptiness (this is the literal explanation of Sunyata) makes possible the wealth of forms and activities and the freedom which exists prior to any law (“at the first step we are free, at the second we are slaves”), the purity and liberty of action of the Origin. (p281)

We preserve the whole and the whole preserves us.” (Gebser, 1953)
Sunyata is the emptiness of all conceptual designation, because it is the essence of the whole, which lies hidden in the center of each individual, in the innermost depth of our consciousness, which Fa-tsang calls “the Source”. Time and Space, therefore, extend between this timeless and spaceless center and the infinity (or ultimate distance) which we experience in the expansion of space and the accumulation of time-remembrance, constituting the infinity in time-extension. Thus time does not move from the future (as if it were existing there already) into the past- as it would appear if time had independent reality, instead of being a property of things or the intrinsic nature of living beings- but it is, as Bergson puts it, “the continuous progress of the past,” from the center of all being, as we might say, “which gnaws into the future and which swells as it advances. The piling up of the past upon the past goes on without relaxation. In reality, the past is preserved by itself, automatically. In its entirety, probably, it follows us at every instant. Doubtless we think with only a small part of our past, but it is with our entire past, including the original bent of our soul, that we desire, will and act.” (Bergson, Creative Evolution)

Here again we see that the future does not play any role in the actual process of time, and why the entire past has to be raised into the light of consciousness, before the control of desire, will and action can be achieved and perfect enlightenment can be attained. Enlightenment means to bridge the two poles of time- past and present- as well as the two poles of space: the near and far. The “here” of space and the “now” of time correspond to each other, like the infinite distance in space and the infinite past in time. In other words, both time and space swing between the poles of ultimate nearness and ultimate distance. (p282)

The real time, however, is more than all our conceptual ideas about it, but, as Klages metaphorically and profoundly expresses it, is “the pulsating of eternity.”
Thus it depends on the nature of time which we create through the inner rhythm of our life and the depth of our consciousness, whether we are mortal or immortal. Those who live in the illusory time of their peripheral consciousness, of their intellect, and in the space-time continuum of an assumed external world, identify themselves with what is mortal. Those who live in harmony with the pulse of eternity, identify themselves with what is immortal. They know that the whole of eternity is within themselves. In this connection, the words of another modern writer will gain special significance: “It may be we shall find our immortality not in some miraculous proof of survival after death, but in some changed apprehension of the nature of time.” (From unpublished book by Elise Aylen, The Sea of Glass)
Consciousness is the primary and space-time a secondary quality of reality. The movements and conformations within the all-embracing depth-consciousness (alaya-vijnana)- which modern psychology has rediscovered, but at the same time degraded into the concept of the unconscious*- appear as the notions of time and spatial extension to the individual mind, who separates the various phases of movement and momentarily appearing forms, thus limiting his vision and breaking up reality into transitory phenomena. These phenomena, though not real in the ultimate sense, are not to be dismissed as mere hallucination, because they do not appear without causes, and these causes are the expression of an inherent order, the immanent law of reality. In other words, these phenomena have a relative reality, and only for those who take them as ultimate truth do they turn into a misleading illusion (samsara).

For those who are caught up in their individual past, because they cling to isolated aspects without seeing the whole picture of the interdependent origination of all phenomena, the future will appear as fixed and unalterable as the past, and indeed, by clinging blindly to those aspects, they themselves produce such a future. In this way an endless cycle of cause and effect, birth and death is created, from which there is only one way that leads out of this vicious cycle: the “letting-go,” the giving up of all entanglements through craving or possessiveness, which again and again entraps us in the ephemeral, in the chain-reactions of cause and effect, and which prevents us from seeing and realising the all-embracing wholeness and universality of our true nature.

Liberation from those entanglements is possible only “if we are ready to accept that the whole of our human existence, i.e. all levels of our consciousness, which form and support our present as well as our coming consciousness, should be integrated into a new reality. This requires the full depth of our past, which we must experience over again in a decisive sense. He who denies or condemns his past, deprives himself of his future. This is true for each single human being as much as for humanity.” (Gebser, 1953)
For the wise, who have penetrated the realm of ultimate causes, down to the ever-present origin, who have raised into the light of full awareness what to others appears as the dark realm of the past- of them is true what Asvajit said of the Buddha, when asked to sum up the quintessence of the Buddha’s teaching: “The causes of all cause-originated things have been revealed by the Tathagata (the Buddha), and also their cessation. This is the teaching of the Great Ascetic.”

The liberation from the power of those causes lies in the recognition of their true nature. As long as they are seen under the aspect of time (i.e. incompleteness) or, more correctly, under the aspect of temporal and spatial isolation, and not in their dynamic and ever-present relationship, we fail to understand the profound significance of the law of Dependent Origination (pratityasamutpada), proclaimed by the Buddha, which is far more than the proclamation of a merely mechanical law of causality, as superficial observers are apt to think.

Even Ananda, the Buddha’s closest disciple, seems to have been in danger of this misconception when he proudly proclaimed how self-evident and easily understandable the Pratityasamutpada appeared to him; whereupon the Buddha rebuked and warned him: “Do not speak thus, Ananda; do not speak thus! Deep is the Law of Dependent and Simultaneous Origination and profound is its appearance. It is because people do not perceive and realise this Dharma, that they are overwhelmed by suffering and unable to free themselves from the rounds of rebirth and death.”

The idea of causality appears simple to those who are accustomed to think in terms of abstract logic and mundane commonsense. This kind of causality presupposes a temporal and unchangeable course of events, a sequence which is fixed and foreseeable. The Pratityasamutpada, however, does not depends on any temporal sequence (though it may unfold in time), but may just as well be understood as the simultaneous cooperation of all its factors, each link representing the sum total of all the others. Or, if we want to express this from the standpoint of time: each form of appearance is based on an infinite past and thus on an infinity of causes, conditions and relationships, which does not exclude anything that has been or ever will come into existence. This is the basis of Rilke’s pyramid of individual consciousness (mentioned previously).

But when the past is realised in its all-encompassing completeness, it loses its time-quality and is converted into something which we can only call a higher dimension of space, for the simple reason that all that apparently has happened in time is seen or sensed simultaneously, and therefore experienced as timeless presence (in contradiction to the mere concept of the “present,” as something in-between the past and the future). If this were not so, the causes of an infinite past would be forever beyond our control, could never be reached or modified, and still less neutralised. They would go on forever with unfailing necessity. But by raising them again into the present, the ‘one-after-another’ is transformed into ‘the-one-within-the-other,’ a relationship so beautifully and profoundly described in the Avatamsaka Sutra in the vision of Maitreya’s Tower (representing the universe), in which all things reflect and penetrate each other as well as the experiencing subject, without losing their respective individuality. Thus the universe and the experiencer of the universe are mirrored in every phenomenon, and therefore, nothing can be said to “originate” or to be “destroyed” in a final or absolute sense. What is destroyed is only our dependence on any single phenomenon or motive.

The perfect mutual interpenetration of forms, processes, things, beings, etc., and the presence of the experiencing subject in all of them- in other words, the simultaneity of differentiation and oneness, of individuality and universality, of form and emptiness- is the main thesis of the great Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, who lived in the second century of our era. His philosophy of the “Middle Way” consists in a new orientation of thought, freed from the rigidity of the concept of “substance” or that of a static universe, in which things and beings were thought of as more or less independent units, so that concepts like “identity” and “non-identity” could be applied to them and form the basis of discursive thought. Where, however, everything is in flux, such concepts- and a logic derived from them- cannot be adequate and, therefore, the relationship of form to emptiness and vice-versa cannot be conceived as a mutually exclusive nature of as absolute opposites, but only as two aspects of the same reality, co-existing in continuous co-operation. Because “form” (rupa) must not be confused with “thingness” or materiality, since each form is the expression of a creative actor or process in a beginningless and endless movement, whose precondition, according to Nagarjuna is precisely that mysterious “emptiness” (or “Plenum-void,” as it has been aptly called) expressed in the term Sunyata.

In this experience of timeless reality beyond the realm of opposites, the relative is not annihilated in favour of the absolute nor is the manifoldness of life sacrificed to an abstract unity, but the individual and the universal penetrate and condition each other so completely that the one cannot be separated from the other. They are as inseparable as time and space, and like these they represent two aspects of the same reality: time is the dynamic aspect of individual (and therefore incomplete) action and experience; space is the sum total of all activity in its ever-complete and therefore timeless aspect. (p286-7)

Transiency is as necessary to immortality (or to the experience of eternity), as the body is to the soul, or as matter is to mind. And in saying so, we might note that these are not irreconcilable or totally exclusive opposites, but rather the extreme points in the amplitude of the swinging pendulum, i.e. parts of the same movement. By becoming conscious of the inner direction and relationship of our transient life, we discover the eternity in time, immortality in transiency- and thus we transform the fleeting shapes of phenomena into timeless symbols of reality.

Liberation is not escapism, but consists in the conscious transformation of the elements that constitute our world and our existence. This is the great secret of the Tantras and of the mystics of all times. Among modern mystics nobody has expressed this more beautifully than Rilke, though few may have recognised the profound truth of his words, when he said:

“Transiency hurls itself everywhere into a deep state of being. And therefore all forms of this our world are not only to be used in a time-bound (time-limited) sense, but should be included into those phenomena of superior significance in which we partake (or, of which we are part). However, it is not in the Christian sense, but in the purely earthly, profoundly earthly, joyfully earthly consciousness, that we should introduce what we have seen and touched here, into the widest circumference. Not into a ‘beyond’ whose shadow darkens the earth, but into the whole, into the universe. Nature, the things of our daily contact and use, all these are preliminaries and transciencies: however, they are, as long as we are here, our possession, our friendship, participants of our pain and pleasure, in the same way as they were the trusted friend of our ancestors. Therefore we should not only refrain from vilifying and deprecating all that which belongs to this our world, but on the contrary, on account of its very preliminary nature which it shares with us, these phenomena and things should be understood and transformed by us in the innermost sense.- Transformed?- Yes, because it is our task to impress upon ourselves this preliminary, transient earth in so deep, so painful, so passionate a manner, that its essential nature is ‘invisibly’ resurrected within us.” (Rainer Maria Rilke, Briefe aus Muzot, 1937)

This resurrection takes place in every act of retrospective insight and spiritual awakening, as we have seen in the process of the Buddha’s enlightenment. It is an act of resurrection, in which the ultimate transformation takes place and in which all causes come to rest in the light of perfect understanding and in the realisation of Sunyata, in which all things become transparent and all that has been experienced, whether in joy or in suffering, enters into a state of transfiguration. Then “all the worlds of the universe hurl themselves into the invisible as into their next deeper reality,” a reality that is ever-present within us, beyond space and time. (p289)

Lama Anagarika Govinda, Creative Meditation and Multidimensional Consciousness, 1977


Introduction - Lama Anagarika Govinda Buddhism Quotes - Space (Akasa) & Motion (Prana) - Impermanence - Finite Infinite - Life & Death - Time Space Free Will - Logic & Symbol - Space in Buddhist Art - Past Future - Reality - Lama Govinda Links - Top of Page

Lama Anagarika Govinda - Tantric Tibetan Buddhism Religion - Metaphysics of Space and Motion (Akasa Prana). Lama Govinda Links / Metaphysics, Eastern Philosophy, Time

Metaphysics: Problem of One and the Many - Brief History of Metaphysics and Solutions to the Fundamental Problems of Uniting the; One and the Many, Infinite and the Finite, Eternal and the Temporal, Absolute and Relative, Continuous and Discrete, Simple and Complex, Matter and Universe.

Time - The Spherical Standing Wave Motion of Space causes matter's activity and the phenomena of Time. This confirms Aristotle and Spinoza's connection of Motion and Time, and most significantly connects these two things back to one thing Space. Movement, then, is also continuous in the way in which time is - indeed time is either identical to movement or is some affection of it. (Aristotle)

Cosmology -The supreme task of the physicist is to arrive at those universal elementary laws from which the cosmos can be built by pure deduction (Albert Einstein, 1954). The Wolff-Haselhurst Cosmology explains a Perpetual Finite Spherical Universe within an Infinite Eternal Space.

Capra, Fritjof - The Spherical Standing Wave Structure of Matter sensibly explains Capra's 'Tao of Physics'. Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism all correctly realised the Dynamic Unity of the Universe.

Eastern Philosophy: Buddha: Buddhism Religion: Nirvana - 'All phenomena link together in a mutually conditioning network.' The Wave Structure of Matter (WSM) explains Nirvana (Truth) Karma (Interconnection).

Eastern Philosophy: Chakras - On Resonance, Harmonics and the Seven Chakras. Pictures, Quotations, Chakra Information.

Eastern Philosophy: Hinduism - Hinduism (Hindu Religion) correctly realised that Reality / Brahman is One and Dynamic. On Space (Akasa) and Motion (Prana), Illusion (Maya), Ignorance (Avidya), rebirth / cycles (Samsara). Information and links on Hinduism, Hindu Religion.

Eastern Philosophy: Kama Sutra - 'Praised be the three aims of life, virtue (dharma), prosperity (artha), and love (kama), which are the subject of this work.' Kama Sutra (Kamasutra, Karma Sutra, Kama Shastra). Discussion and Quotes / Quotations, Pictures, Positions from Famous Indian Sexual Philosophy of the Kama Sutra.

Eastern Philosophy: Jainism - The Metaphysics of Space and Motion explains the Metaphysical Foundations of Jainism (Motion and Unity).

Eastern Philosophy: Kundalini - Discussion of the Philosophy and Metaphysics of Kundalini, the divine / cosmic energy that lies within every human being. When Kundalini is awakened we experience our true nature, Self as Universe.

Eastern Philosophy: Tantra Tantric Sex - 'Tantra' meaning to weave, web. Discussion of the Tantric belief that All is One and interconnected, Sex is a sacred and divine experience.

Eastern Philosophy: Taoism - Ancient Chinese Philosophy correctly realised that One Thing (Tao) must Exist to Connect the Many Things.

Eastern Philosophy: Yin-Yang - The Wave Structure of Matter explains the Balance of Opposites and Harmony in the Universe.





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'The scientist only imposes two things, namely truth and sincerity, imposes them upon himself and upon other scientists'. (Erwin Schrodinger)
Physics Prints Science Quote
'The laws of Nature are but the mathematical thoughts of God.' (Euclid)
Mathematics Mathematicians
'I am one of those who think like Nobel, that humanity will draw more good than evil from new discoveries.' (Marie Curie)
Scientists Inventors
'Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.' (Seneca the Younger)
God Religion Morality
'If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships - the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.' (Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR))
Famous Leader Politics
'Since philosophy is the art which teaches us how to live, and since children need to learn it as much as we do at other ages, why do we not instruct them in it?' (Michel de Montaigne on Philosophy of Education)
Education Educational
'The wise man must remember that while he is a descendant of the past, he is a parent of the future.' (Herbert Spencer)
Evolution Life Nature Ecology
'The Truth is far more powerful than any weapon of mass destruction.' (Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi)
Motivational Inspirational
'No one was ever yet a great poet, without being at the same time a profound philosopher. For poetry is the blossom and the fragrancy of all human knowledge, human thoughts, human passions, emotions, language.' (Samuel Taylor Coleridge)
Metaphysical Poets & Poetry
'In a time of universal deceit - telling the truth is a revolutionary act.' (George Orwell)
Literature Books Authors
'Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.' (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
Musicians Composers
'No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.' (Mary Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Women)
Women Feminism Art
'Fantasy, abandoned by reason, produces impossible monsters; united with it, she is the mother of the arts and the origin of marvels.' (Francisco de Goya)
Renaissance Fine Art Prints
'QUESTION: What do you get when you cross the Godfather with a philosopher? ANSWER: An offer you can't understand.'
Satire Humor Funny Jokes
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