The Jewish new year of 5779 tempts me to think about the concept of time in various religions. I admire the vast cosmic views developed in Hinduism and Buddhism. Their ideas that the universe is continually created and destroyed over immense cycles of time fits perfectly with the insights of modern cosmology.
But neither Hinduism nor Buddhism have much of a concept of historical development. They take society as a given, and do not seek to transform it. They lack a vision of a human social utopia; a world living in peace and prosperity. That’s why they did not stimulate any social political protest movements as Western religions did.
The Buddhist and Hindu Scriptures are not about human beings struggling to improve themselves and their communities. I have difficulty relating to Gurus, Avatars, Demigods, forest sages or even great minds engaged in enlightened conversation devoid of references to actual social/political events and situations.
Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who became the Buddha, decided that all human suffering could be eliminated only by ridding oneself from all attachments to other human beings. He taught his disciples to chose to evade life and love, but he himself could not evade death.
Our Yom Kippur Torah reading teaches us the opposite: “I call heaven and earth to witness for you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants”. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
The opposite of death is birth. The opposite of life is not living, not loving, not hoping, not seeking improvement, and never becoming attached to anyone. Judaism teaches us that it is better to love and loose, than never to love at all.
As the Hebrew poet Shaul Tchernichovsky wrote: “Laugh, laugh at all my dreams, what I dream shall yet come true. Laugh at my belief in man, at my belief in you. Freedom still my soul demands, unbartered for a calf of gold.
“For still I do believe in mankind’s spirit so strong and bold. And in the future I still believe, though it be distant, come it will, when nations shall each other bless, and peace at last the earth shall fill.”
For more information about various religion’s concepts of time and their impact society’s values see pages 171-3 in my new book “Which Religion Is Right For You? a Kuzari for the 21st century.” Hadassa Word Press ISBN (978-620-2-45517-6)