From saṃyama on the instant, and on the two sequences of instants, comes knowledge-born-of-discrimination
Just as the ultimate particle of matter is the atom, so the ultimate particle of time is the instant. Alternatively, an instant is (definable as) the time taken by an atom to pass from one point to the next one.
A sequence is continuity of the unbroken flow of the instants in it. There is no real aggregation of the two: instants and their sequence. Hours and days and nights appear from mental aggregation.
This time is empty of reality and has been set up by the mind, according to the nature of the words used. To the extravertive view of the people of the world, it merely seems to have reality. But the instant (itself) does have reality, being the support of the sequence. The sequence is essentially a continuity of instants.
From saṃyama on the instant, and on the two (future and present; see under III.15) sequences of instants, comes knowledge-born-of discrimination. The commentary explains at length the instant and sequence: (Just as) the ultimate particle of matter from which no further subtraction can be made is the (ultimate) atom, so the ultimate particle of time smaller than the diminutions of the divisions set up by the world such as days and nights, until nothing more can be ground away is the instant which is an existent thing.
Or Alternatively, an instant is (definable as) the time taken by an ultimate atom in motion to pass from one point to the next one. The meaning is, that all time is instants.
The sequence – of instants – is the continuity of the unbroken flow of these instants in it: a flow, a continuity, which is unbroken, invariable, like a natural tendency of the instants in it. There is no real aggregation of the two: instants and their sequence, because there is no such thing as an instantaneous sequence, and an instant itself is but a single thing, so there can be no aggregation of them, no bringing together.
(Opponent) But if there is no aggregation of instant and sequence, how is it that the months and years and so on do in fact pass by?
(Answer) He replies: The hours and days and nights arise from mental aggregation (buddhi-saṃhāra). From a mentally conceived aggregation of instants and sequence, assumed by the mind from the assumption of, or relationship with, various positions, (taken) by the sun and other bodies. Thus time-difference is set up by the mind (buddhi).
For one whose mind (manas) is calm, flowing peacefully in a stream of the same idea, whose mind-sattva is established in the one-pointed state – though he has experience of time, an instant and a thousand ages are equal. This is not so in the extravertive mind. Then in dream too, in half an hour one’s mind imagines that one has made a journey of several thousand leagues, which would take a full year to accomplish. Thus the aggregates of time are set up purely by the wonderful variety of mind (buddhi).
Even one who holds that there is an eternal absolute time apart still himself determines fastness and slowness etc. in accordance with the measure of some action, so that he cannot produce anything to indicate the existence of absolute time. The yardstick applied to an action whose measure is not yet known is, some action whose duration is already established; for instance (we say), ‘He will sleep until the cows are milked’ or ‘He will study till the rice is boiled’. This is all that time is. Even if there were some eternal absolute (time), there could be no relation with that immutable, and it could not provide any firm basis against which to measure anything else.
(Opponent) It is time-in-action that is the firm basis for determination.
(Answer) Since it too would be acting, there would have to be something to determine its acting, and that would have to be done by some other time acting to determine it. And that would need yet another, so there would be an infinite regress. Moreover, if it were acting, it would follow that it was not eternal.
(Opponent) Let it be that time is what is measured simply by its operation.
(Answer) Other things too are measured simply by their operation, and there is no need to suppose time to be different. So it will have to be that time is simply action (as we say).
(Opponent) Well, time makes the determinations simply by the fact of existing.
(Answer) Everything else exists equally, so it should be just the same.
(Opponent) Your ‘action-time’ too is a mere logical construct (vikalpa).
(Answer) No, because everyone accepts the fact of action. When it is said ‘slowly’ or ‘quickly’, the idea is that it has been done with slack, or skilful, effort, and there is no reference to some outside time. So he says: This time in the shape of years and so on is empty of reality and has been set up by the mind according to the quality of the words used: moment, blink of an eye, day, night and so on are verbal constructs to which it conforms. To the extraverted view of people of the world it merely seems to have reality.
But the instant does have reality, it is actual, as is inferred from the fact that it is different in kind, being the support of the sequence. The sequence is essentially a continuity of instants, being caused by the idea (buddhi) of an unbroken flow of instants.
Yogin-s, experts in time, declare it to be that. Two instants do not occur together, nor is a pair of them a sequence, because it could not exist simultaneously with them.
Sequence is immediate proximity of the following-on of the later, future, instant from the one that precedes it. Each one instant is present, with the earlier and later instants absent, and therefore there is no aggregation of them. But what are called instants gone, and instants yet-to-come, should be taken as being changes. At each instant the whole world experiences a change: all those qualities (dharma) are manifest as that instant.
Yogin-s, experts in time, declare it to be that instant. Two instants do not occur together so that they could be taken as an aggregate, for it is impossible for two instants to arise together in one possessor (dharmin). When the month Caitra begins, it begins at a single instant. Two instants do not occur together, nor is a pair of them a sequence. Why not? Because it could not exist simultaneously with them with the instants.
Sequence is immediate proximity of the following-on of the later, future, instant from the one that precedes it. Immediately proximate following-on of the later, future, jar from the clay lump would be a sequence. But a jar made of the clay lump on one potter’s wheel is not in sequence with a clay lump on a different wheel.
Each one instant is present, with earlier and later instants absent; the earlier and later, past and future instants are not there, because it is simply the nature of the dharmin-possessor of the earlier and later: the dharmin is manifest as the present instant only. Therefore there is no aggregation of them, no aggregation of the instant and sequence.
But what are called instants gone and yet-to-come, past and future, should be taken as being changes of the dharmin, should be explained as changes of the dharmin. At each instant the whole world experiences a change: all those qualities (dharma), all things are manifest as that instant, manifest as the present instant.
When it was said above that there is no sequence from the past instant, the purpose was to rule out a sequence of sequences of them. For a sequence of sequences of instants entails reality of a sequence of instants, inasmuch as a sequence must be of a reality. And so to say ‘From samādhi on the sequence and its instants’ would not have been appropriate.
Therefore From saṃyama on the instant and on the two sequences of instants there is direct experience (sākṣātkaraṇa) of them, and from that, knowledge-born-of-discrimination. Inasmuch as all things are reckoned in instants and their sequences, when he discriminates these, he knows everything.
A particular field of the (omniscient) knowledge is now described.