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Time in Hinduism


Harold Coward


Whereas Christian conceptions of time feature a strong linear thrust, Hinduism sees time as cyclical. While Christianity and Western thought generally view time and the universe as having a point of beginning with its creation by God, Hindu thought sees the universe and time as having been going on beginninglessly (anadi). There is no notion of an absolute first creation or beginning to time. However, within this beginninglessness, there are cycles of creation usually thought of in terms of the seed-plant metaphor. Each cycle of creation begins from a seed which sprouts, grows, flowers, withers, and dies, but leaves behind (from the flower) a seed from which the next cycle of creation will arise. As in Christian accounts (e.g. Genesis), the passage of time is identified in the Hindu Puranas with the corruption of humans. As time passes, the dharma or righteousness of the first half of the cycle is used up so that, by the last half, injury, greed, hatred, delusion, disease, and old age arise due to the deterioration of dharma.

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