//!-- -->//

An open mind, an open question…


Concept of Time: Comparing Theravada Buddhism and Henri Bergson

You are here:
< Back

A comparative study between Theravada Buddhist and Henri Bergson’s
concept of time from Thai philosophers’ perspectives

Under a Creative Commons license open access


The problem of time has been fascinating thinkers since ancient times. Many philosophers (such as Plato, Aristotle, and Kant) and scientists (such as Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein) have tried to conceptualize and analyze time in many ways. There are two main concepts about time recognized as firstly, physical time that is objective and secondly, psychological time that is subjective and has a mind-dependent existence.

In Theravada Buddhist philosophy, the idea that time does not exist independently is quite significant. Although many Western thinkers (such as the names mentioned in the previous paragraph) were interested in investigating the concept of time, only some of them agree with the idea that time existence depends on the mind. Henri Bergson, a renowned French philosopher, is one among a few who supported the idea that time is mind-dependent since he suggested that real time, which he called “duration”, exists merely in our consciousness. In this study, the researcher has critically examined Buddhist and Henri Bergson’s concepts of time and sought to identify their similarities and their distinctiveness.

This research compared a basic concept from Buddhist philosophy, the concept of time, with Henri Bergson’s concept of time. The objective of this research was not to finalize the philosophical argument about the concept of time, but to attempt to come to a certain level of conclusion about the characteristics of time in Buddhism that have similar qualities as well as different qualities to the characteristics of time in Henri Bergson’s explanation based on Thai philosophers’ viewpoints.

© 2017 Kasetsart University. Publishing services by Elsevier B.V.


Time is what we use a clock or calendar to measure. We can say time is composed of all the instants or all the times, but that word “times” is ambiguous and also means measurements of time. Think of our placing a coordinate system on our space-time—the measurements we make of time are numbers variously called times, dates, clock readings, and temporal coordinates; these numbers are relative to time zones and reference frames and conventional agreements about how to define the second, the conventional unit for measuring time.

It is because of what time is that we can succeed in assigning time numbers in this manner. Another feature of time is that we can place all events in a single reference frame into a linear sequence one after the other according to their times of occurrence; for any two instants, they are either simultaneous or one happens before the other but not vice versa. A third feature is that we can succeed in coherently specifying with real numbers how long an event lasts; this is the duration between the event’s beginning instant and its ending instant. These are three key features of time, but they do not quite tell us what time actually is.

Literature Review

The problem of time has been fascinating thinkers long before and long after Henri Bergson. Many philosophers (such as Plato, Aristotle, and Kant) and scientists (such as Sir Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein) have tried to conceptualize and analyze time in many aspects. There are two main concepts about time that are distinctively recognized by philosophers and scientists which are firstly, physical time that is objective and exists outside of the human mind and is a part of the natural world and secondly, psychological time that is subjective and has a mind-dependent existence (Dowden, 2012, Weinert, 2013, pp. 7–84).

For Plato, time was related to regular physical events such as the motion of celestial bodies which are ideal instruments to measure time since their orbital periods are regular and eternal and therefore, can be used to identify human time such as the duration of one day (sunrise to sunset) and the duration of a month (lunar cycle) (Weinert, 2013, p. 9). Aristotle who was the first Greek philosopher to support the idea of subjective time since he suggested that there is no time without a soul (Aristotle, chap. 14). Similarly for Kant, time and the thought that perceived it cannot be separated (Ricard & Thuan, 2001, p. 138) which implies that time is mind-dependent and subjective.

However, Sir Isaac Newton defined time as an absolute entity which is real, not relative to or depending on others and therefore, mathematically true and objective. On the other hand, Rene Descartes, John Locke, and David Hume argued that time depends on the mind to acknowledge it (Weinert, 2013, pp. 17–20). Thus, for the latter group, it implies that time is subjective. Moreover, Albert Einstein’s discovery of the theory of relativity reveals the fact that physical time exists only in relation to the speed of the realm of its existence, which means that time is slower in relation to its containing object’s increasing speed (Weinert, 2013, pp. 62–73).

Concept of Time in Theravada Buddhist Philosophy

According to Buddhist Philosophy, time appears in our consciousness during the process of knowing, which consists of the existence of matter first, then, the interaction between matters, then, functions of our consciousness (our senses), then, the process of knowing that occur in our consciousness and finally, the feeling that occurs in our consciousness.

Time therefore, is subjective because its existence depends upon our consciousness to acknowledge it. Time is relative to our consciousness through our perceptions of the world via our senses (Bunnag, 2016, p. 89).

Moreover, Buddhist philosophy suggests that time does not have real existence. It is only a concept with no inherent existence because it belongs to the relative truth of the world of experience from our consciousness. Each of our consciousness (or thought-moment) according to Abhidhamma (Narada Maha Thera, 1987, p. 215) consists of three phases, with the first phase called the occurring or genesis (uppada), the second phase is change or development (thiti) and the last phase is cessation or dissolution (bhanga). One consciousness is followed by another. The past is gone; the future has not yet to come. We live only for the moment of Now which is, thus, the transitional stage from the future to the past. Buddhist scripture states clearly that “Time is a concept derived from this or that phenomenon. And it does not exist by nature, it is merely a concept” (Narada Maha Thera, 1987, p. 216).

Furthermore, Buddhist philosophy suggests that time is mind-dependent because time has no existence outside of phenomena and their observers. Time must be perceived by a mind (consciousness) in relation to successions of events that occur to a particular system (that is, planes of existence, such as heaven, earth, or hell) (Promtha, 1988, pp. 54–60). It follows that without a mind to observe the changes of the conditioned things, the perception of time cannot be realized (Bunnag, 2016, p. 90).

Finally, the concept of time in Buddhist philosophy suggests that without the conditioned things, there will be no concept of time. The conditioned things related to time as witness to their unstable and changing condition which suggests that time does not exist separately from the conditioned things. This relationship does not mean that time is a quality of the conditioned things, but it indicates that time is only a concept invented by consciousness from perceiving the becoming process of the conditioned things. It follows that without the becoming process of the conditioned things, there is no time, and without time, there is no past, present, and future (Bunnag, 2016, p. 91). The only existence would be only the unconditioned things that exist beyond the concept of time (Promtha, 1988, p. 59).

Concept of Time in Henri Bergson’s Philosophy

Henri Bergson (1859–1941) was a Famous French philosopher and a Nobel Laureate whose theory of time relates directly to the idea of Freewill. Bergson distinguishes between two forms of time: pure time and mathematical time. Pure time has a real duration which is different from mathematical time that is perceived as discrete units. Pure time (real duration or lived consciousness) is continuous and indivisible. Mathematical time is divisible into small discrete units of second, minutes and so on, which do not reflect the flow of real time. Bergson also argued that experience viewed as a succession of separate states is no less an abstraction than time as measured by the hands of a clock. Both (the experience viewed as a succession of separates states and time measured by the hands of a clock) are fundamentally spatial. On the other hand, real duration or lived consciousness is a spatiotemporal continuum (a bundle of space-time continuity) which is indivisible and, according to Bergson, the flow of real time can only be known by intuition (Bergson, 2001, pp. 75–101).

Intuition is a kind of intellectual sympathy. It enables one’s consciousness to become identified with an object. Bergson explains that intuition “signifies …immediate consciousness, a vision which is scarcely distinguishable from the object seen, a knowledge which is contact or even coincidence (Stumpf, 1982, p. 371)”. Most important of all for Bergson, “to think intuitively is to think in duration (Stumpf, 1982, p. 371).” In intuition we comprehend the truth of things as a whole, as a complete process of the dynamic life of the spiritual consciousness. Intuition is a form of knowledge that reality is continuous and indivisible, and that reality is always changing.

This intuition is the means by which we come to know reality, that is duration or real time which is not a multiplicity of moments, nor is it an abstract eternity, but is a series of acts of direct participation in the immediate experience. That is, one must be more than an outside observer. One must be part of the awareness and of the actual object. Only in this manner can we know the real experience of duration. Bergson was certain that to “think in duration” was to have a true grasp of reality since such thought gives us a more accurate notion of time, real, continuous time, as compared with the mathematical time that is spatial and objective.

According to Bergson, real time cannot be analyzed mathematically. Any activity to measure time means generating a break or disruption in time. In order to try to understand the flow of time, the intellect forms concepts of time as consisting of defined moments or intervals. But to try to intellectualize the experience of duration is to falsify it. Real duration can only be experienced by intuition (Bergson, 2007, pp. 162–163).

In the intellectual representation of time, a succession of distinct states or events is presented as a spatialized form of time. Time is conceptualized as an ordered arrangement of defined events, rather than as an endless flow of experience in an indivisible continuity. The intellect analyzes time as having measurable duration, but the flow of real time can only be known by intuition. Bergson argues that intellect and intuition are capable of different kinds of knowledge. Scientific principles are intellectual, while metaphysical principles are intuitive. However, science and philosophy can be combined to produce knowledge that is both intellectual and intuitive. Such knowledge can unify divergent perceptions of reality.

Regarding the idea of freewill, Bergson suggests that the existence of time as duration may explain the indeterminateness of things. Time as duration may explain why indeterminate things may later be able to be determined. Things that can be determined may also become indeterminate. If real time or duration did not exist, all things could (theoretically) be determined simultaneously. The indeterminateness of things means that the outcome of some events may change, and that there may be freedom of action. Freedom can be experienced by direct intuition with real time or duration (Bergson, 2007, pp. 133–169).

A Comparative Study Between the Buddhist and Henri Bergson’s Concepts of Time from Thai Philosophers’ Perspectives

Is it possible to identify any common characteristics and understand the differences between the Buddhist concept of time and famous Western thinkers’ such as Henri Bergson’s philosophy? If Buddhist philosophy is not obsolete, there should be some common characteristics of time that are also recognized by thinkers from different periods of time, cultures, traditions, and beliefs, for example by the famous French philosopher Henri Bergson. The objectives of this research were: first, to critically examine the concept of time in Buddhist philosophy and this is presented in the “Concept of time in Theravada Buddhist philosophy” section; second, to critically examine the concept of time in Henri Bergson’s philosophy and this is presented in the “Concept of time in Henri Bergson’s philosophy” section; and lastly, in this following section, the researcher tried to identify the common and different characteristics between the two conceptual schools of thought.

This research aimed to add information to, but not to definitely conclude, the comparison between the Buddhist concept of time and Henri Bergson’s concept of time. The concept of time in philosophy has always been debatable, thus, the objective of this research was not to finalize the philosophical argument about the concept of time, but to merely attempt to come to a level of conclusion, based on documentary research and questionnaire surveys of Buddhist and Bergson’s scholars in Thailand. The results of this study could help by adding information and suggesting some debatable conclusions about the characteristics of time in Buddhism that have similar qualities, as well as the characteristics of time in Buddhism that have different qualities from Bergson’s explanations.

In addition, this research on the concept of time in Buddhist philosophy in comparison to Bergson’s could be beneficial to scholars who are interested in the philosophy of time because it could add new information from Thai philosophers’ viewpoints regarding Buddhist and Bergson’s concepts of time in relation to Western theories of time.


Descriptive analysis was applied based on documentary research and data gathered using the Delphi method (Cuhls, 2002). This research was qualitative, focusing on finding commonalities and differences from primary and secondary documentary research and from a questionnaire survey of expert opinions using the Delphi method.


Experts in Buddhist philosophy and experts in Henri Bergson’s philosophy answered different sets of questions regarding theories of time.

Participant group 1 A group of five experts in Buddhist philosophy

Participants group 2 A group of five experts in Henri Bergson’s philosophy

Data Collection

Research Procedures

1. Preliminary Research Documentary research was undertaken using available primary and secondary resources such as books and articles in library and electronic form.
2. Prepare questions about characteristics of time from Buddhist/Bergson’s perspectives A list was compiled of the researcher’s findings from reviewing philosophical theories of time.
3. Questionnaire survey sent to experts in Buddhist philosophy/Henri Bergson philosophy A survey questionnaire form was prepared and sent to five Buddhist experts/scholars and five Bergson experts/scholars for answers and comments.
4. Adjustment of the questionnaire based on experts’ feedback in accordance with the Delphi method
5. 2nd round of acquiring answers from experts in Buddhist philosophy/Henri Bergson’s philosophy The same 10 experts were interviewed with a new set of questions adjusted based on their answers to the 1st questionnaire.
6. Analyze data acquired from the experts’ answers.
• Process and categorize answers from experts.
• Compare which characteristics of time are similar and which are different.
• Conclude and analyze the findings

Data Analysis

This study involved qualitative research focused on documentary research, surveys of experts’ and scholars’ opinions using the Delphi method, and descriptive analysis of the data acquired from the survey based on the questions and answers in the scope of the following theories of time.

1. The structure of time

Question: Regarding the structure of time, whether time is represented by a single line or other forms, from Buddhist/Bergson’s perspective?

2. McTaggart’s argument

Question: Regarding the ‘McTaggart argument’, whether there is a temporal order to things from Buddhist/Bergson’s perspective and how would Buddhist/Bergson’s concept of time explain the ‘McTaggart argument’?

3. Reductionism of time and absolutism of time

Question: Regarding the arguments from the absolutism (of time) and reductionism viewpoints, is it possible to have a period of empty time from Buddhist/Bergson’s perspective?

4. Determinism and time

Question: Regarding determinism, how does time contribute to the determinism or indeterminism of the future, from Buddhist/Bergson perspective?

5. Presentism

Question: Regarding presentism, do Buddhist/Bergson’s concepts of time agree with the idea of Presentism?

6. Time travel

Question: Regarding the idea of time travel, does Buddhist/Bergson concept of time allow time travel? If either does, how do they explain it?

7. Time Relativity

Question: Regarding the theory of time relativity, does Buddhist/Bergson’s concept of time agree with the idea of the relativity of time and how do they explain it?


A qualitative approach was taken to analyze the data. In total, seven different issues were listed as shown in the previous section. From these, data were gathered from the experts who had answered the questionnaire in the first round and were interviewed in the second round for more in-depth answers (see Table 1 List of main findings).

Table 1. List of main findings

Theories related to time Buddhist experts Bergson experts
1. The structure of time: What shape can represent time? Time is an illusion/shapeless Time has no beginning and no end/shapeless
2. The McTaggart argument: Is temporal order real? No, not real. It is the dependent co-origination that causes order of events not time. Yes, duration is authentic/perceived by consciousness
3. Reductionism and absolutism of Time: Is empty time possible? Yes, there is empty or no time when the mind is emptied It is possible, without consciousness
4. Determinism and time: How does time contribute to the future? Karma not time determines the future. Duration is creative evolution, the future is not pre-determined.
5. Presentism: Do you agree with presentism? The present moment is real but not static No, duration is not static
6. Time travel: Is it possible? Only the mind can experience the past and foresee the future. Time is not static, time itself moves but duration is irreversible.
7. Time relativity: Do you agree to the idea? Time is not real but can be relative to each realm of existence that each consciousness can perceive. Yes, time is relative to consciousness


To enable the researcher to compose a list that could be referred to for continuing research into the vicinity of the philosophy of time, any similar or different ideas were noted for they could later serve as guidelines in preparing a set of questions for further research into the subject.

1. The structure of time

It is natural to think that time can be represented by a line. But a line has a shape. What shape should we give to the line that represents time? Consider the question of whether time should be represented by a line without a beginning. Aristotle (Aristotle, chap. 11) has argued (roughly) that time cannot have a beginning on the grounds that in order for time to have a beginning; there must be a first moment of time. However, in order for that first moment of time to be counted as a moment, that allegedly first moment would have to come between an earlier period of time and a later period of time, which is inconsistent with its being the first moment of time (Aristotle argues in the same way that time cannot have an end).

To answer the question of the structure of time, Buddhist experts explained that time is an illusion, and thus it is shapeless because it is not real. It does not physically exist as a substance but can only be conceptually perceived through the changes of things or events. Similarly, Bergson experts agreed that time has no beginning and no end and, thus could be shapeless. Bergson described “….the flux of time is the reality itself, and the things which we study are the things which flow” (Bergson, 2014, p. 374).

2. McTaggart’s argument

In a famous paper published in 1908, McTaggart argued that there is in fact no such thing as time, and that the appearance of a temporal order to the world is a mere appearance. McTaggart’s argument against the reality of time has been by far the most influential in the study of time.

McTaggart begins his argument by distinguishing two ways in which positions in time can be ordered. First, he says, positions in time can be ordered according to their possession of properties like being two days future, being one day future, being present, being one day past, and so on (these properties are often referred to now as “A properties”). McTaggart calls the series of times ordered by these properties “the A series.” However, he says that positions in time can also be ordered by two-place relations like two days earlier than, one day earlier than, simultaneous with, and so on (these relations are now often called “B relations”). McTaggart calls the series of times ordered by these relations “the B series” (McTaggart, 1908, pp. 457–464).

However, McTaggart argues that we never resolve the original contradiction inherent in the A series, but, instead, merely generate an infinite regress of more and more contradictions. Since the supposition that there is an A series leads to contradiction, and since (he says) there can be no time without an A series, McTaggart concludes that time itself, including both the A series and the B series, is unreal. It follows that, according to him, all appearances suggesting that there is a temporal order to things are somehow illusory (McTaggart, 1908, p. 473).

In response to the question of whether temporal order is real, Buddhist experts agree with McTaggart’s claim that temporal order is an illusion. According to Buddhist philosophy, there is no such thing as temporal order, but there are successions of events which are all caused by the law of dependent co-origination. On the contrary, Bergson experts disagree with McTaggart’s idea by announcing that duration has authentic existence and the temporal order of things such as the past, the present and the future is real. Bergson claims that “What I call ‘my present’ has one foot in my past and another in my future. In my past, first, because the moment in which I am speaking is already far from me; in my future, next, because this moment is impending over the future: it is to the future that I am tending, and could I fix this indivisible present, this infinitesimal element of the curve of time, it is the direction of the future that it would indicate (Bergson, 2010, p. 177).”

3. Reductionism and absolutism (of time)

According to this view (Markosian, 2014), all affairs that appear to be about time can be reduced to situations about temporal relations among things and events. For philosophers such as Aristotle and Leibniz, time does not exist independently of the events that happen in time and thus, there could not be any period of time without change. This view is typically called “Reductionism” (with respect to time). It follows that time is by definition nothing more than a system of temporal relations among things and events, so that the idea of a period of time without change turns out to be incoherent.

However, Plato, Newton, and others, presented their views of time as being that it is like an empty container into which things and events may be placed; but it is a container that exists independently of what (if anything) is placed in it. This view is called “Absolutism” (of time). Thinkers of this absolutism of time such as Sydney Shoemaker suggest that there are possible circumstances in which it would make perfect sense to postulate periods of empty time, and even to claim to know just how long those periods are (Dowden, 2012). Buddhist experts agreed with the idea that there can be a period of empty time. According to Buddhist teaching, Buddhists must try to escape “Samsara” by emptying their minds and this is the way to transcend all suffering. When their minds are emptied, there is only one concentration, one focus, one mind, and one emptied time (the one time that is perceived by the consciousness—not the external time).

Similarly, Bergson experts claimed that Bergson relates time with consciousness and therefore, according to Bergson, a period of emptied time may be possible if there is no consciousness to perceive time.

4. Determinism and time

Determinism is the conceptual thinking that the world is governed by determinism on the condition that “if and only if, given a specified way things are at a time t, the way things go thereafter is fixed as a matter of natural law.” It is probably true that under the assumption of determinism, one might say that given the way things have gone in the past, all future events that will in fact happen are already destined to occur (Hoefer, 2016).

According to Buddhist experts, time and the concept of determinism are two separated ideas. Buddhists talk about Karmic determinism which means our past conducts determine the possibility of our present and our future moments. It is our Karma, not time, that determine our future.

According to Bergson experts, he disagreed with the idea of determinism. Bergson was one of the process philosophers. All process philosophers have rejected determinism and Bergson was no exception. Determinism is incompatible with process philosophy because it has no room for creative evolution. As mentioned above, one characteristic of duration is creative evolution. If creative evolution is true, then determinism must be wrong. According to Bergson, determinism is the only philosophical doctrine which can be derived from attempts to explain human action in rational language. Denying freedom, determinism is not true to the immediate experience of the fundamental self in the process of living and action. As Bergson said, “Freedom is the relation of the concrete self to the act which it performs. This relation is indefinable, just because we are free. For we can analyze a thing, but not a process: we can break up extensity, but not duration” (Bergson, 2001, p. 219).

5. Presentism

Presentism is the view that only present objects exist. More precisely, it is the view that it is always true that only objects that presently exist, really exist. What is meant here by ‘present’ is temporally present, as opposed to spatially present. According to presentism, if we were to make an accurate list of all the things that exist, there would be not a single non-present object on the list. Thus, you and the pyramid would be on the list, but neither Socrates nor any future grandchildren would be included since Socrates’s body ceased to be present—thereby going out of existence—shortly after he died, and your grandchildren have not been born yet. And it’s not just Socrates and future grandchildren, the same goes for any other alleged object that lacks the property of being present. All such objects are unreal, according to presentism (Bourne, 2006, pp. 39–40).

According to Buddhist philosophy, the idea of the present moment is a state of mind that is real but not static. Without defilements, it is when we meditate and concentrate on the present moment of the mind; we contemplate on the mental state that is without greed, hatred, and delusion. The Buddhist present moment is considered real but not permanent and always in a continuous state of occurring, changing and cessation.

According to Bergson’s philosophy, Bergson’s concept of time does not agree with the idea of presentism. Duration, according to Bergson, is the succession of qualitatively heterogeneous psychical states, all melting together in a unity which nonetheless discloses intensive multiplicity and thus, is not static. Real time is “a real duration, the heterogeneous moments of which permeate one another” (Bergson, 2001, p. 110).

6. Time travel

Is time travel possible? This is presumably a matter of empirical science but a further question which would fall inarguably under the heading of philosophy, is whether time travel is permitted by the laws of logic and metaphysics. Many scientists and philosophers from Einstein, Schrodinger, and Stephen Hawking to Gilles Deleuze have suggested that the actual laws of physics are in fact compatible with time travel.

According to Buddhist experts, time travel is not physically possible for a being or an object, but the past and the future can be mentally acknowledged. We can know the past and foresee the future with our powerful mind that can be trained through the process of meditation. Travelling from one place to another or from one realm of existence to another such as from earth to heaven and to hell is also physically possible through the practice of meditation (Mehm Tin Mon, 2002, pp. 392–393; Narada Maha Thera, 1987, pp. 439–440, 454).

According to Bergson experts, he explained that time itself travels. Duration is not static, but continuously changing and becoming. As Bergson (2014, p. 374) said, “The flux of time is the reality itself, and the things which we study are the things which flow.” However, for Bergson, time cannot travel backward, since “….consciousness cannot go through the same state twice” (Bergson, 2014, p. 5). Therefore, “That is why our duration is irreversible. We could not live over again a single moment” (Bergson, 2014, p. 6).

7. Time relativity

Einstein’s theory of relativity has had the biggest impact on our understanding of time. But Einstein was not the first physicist to appreciate the relativity of motion. Galileo and Newton would have said speed is relative to a reference frame. Einstein would agree but would add that durations and occurrence times are also relative. What’s happening here is that Einstein is requiring a mixing of space and time; Minkowski said it follows that there is a space-time which divides into its space and time differently for different observers. One consequence of this is that relativity’s space-time is more fundamental than either space or time alone (Weinert, 2013, pp. 154–155; Whitrow, 1991, pp. 172–176).

Time is relative in the sense that the duration of an event depends on the reference frame used in measuring the duration. Accurate clocks do not tick the same for everyone everywhere. Each object has its own proper time, and so the correct time shown by a clock depends on its relation to speed and gravitational influence. Relative to clocks that are stationary in the reference frame, clocks in motion run slower, as do clocks in stronger gravitational fields. In general, two synchronized clocks do not stay synchronized if they move relative to each other or undergo different gravitational forces. According to this theory, clocks in cars driving by your apartment building run slower than your apartment’s clock (Weinert, 2013, pp. 155–156).

According to Buddhist experts, although time is not real and is non-existent, the Buddhist concept of time recognizes the relativity of time to the mind or consciousness (or Chitta) according to each realm of existence (as a reference frame). By describing the differences of the duration of one day according to each realm of existence, one day in Cātumahārājika Heaven, for example, is equal to 50 years on earth (Mehm Tin Mon, 2002, p. 199).

According to Bergson experts, Bergson (as cited in Reck, 1972, p. 200) agreed to the idea of time relativity because he maintained the connection between time and consciousness as the most essential when he claimed that mathematics could not express real time and finally found “pure unadulterated inner continuity, continuity which was neither unity nor multiplicity, and which did not fit into any of our categories of thought”. He distinguished inner time as “A qualitative multiplicity, with no likeness to number…, the moments of inner duration are not external to one another” (Bergson, 2001, p. 226).

Conclusion and Recommendation

This study critically examined the concept of time in Buddhist philosophy as well as the concept of time in Henri Bergson’s philosophy and was able to identify some common characteristics between the two concepts. It suffices to say that Buddhist philosophy is not obsolete because it exhibits similar characteristics of time that are also recognized by thinkers from different periods of time, cultures, traditions, and beliefs such as Henri Bergson. The ultimate goal of being able to identify the common characteristics from all Western schools of thought and the Buddhist concept of time is a long-term task that requires more research. This study took an important first step by creating a practical list of relevant points that could be referred to when conducting future research.

This research can be considered as a beginning and may be used for establishing a base set of assumptions for further study into the area relating to the comparative study of the philosophy of time between Buddhist and Western philosophers’ concepts of time. For future research opportunities, a practical next step for continuing this study would be to find out which philosophers are most commonly mentioned and are most significant in the philosophy of time and to conduct a comparative study of their view with the Buddhist concept of time.


This research project was funded by Mahidol University (TM90/2557) under the Talent Management Program 2014.


Content retrieved from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2452315117300140.

Table of Contents