Great Time

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Great Time

Regarding the difference between the ordinary Mahayana, and the Vajrayana path, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso teaching on Chandrakirti's "Entrance to the Middle Way" (Shenpen Osel #13) explained that: 

"In order to progress along the entire mahayana path from the beginning through all of the ten grounds to the level of enlightenment, it is explained variously that it takes either 3 times 10 to the 59th [power] eons, 7 times 10 to the 59th  eons, or 37 times 10 to the 59th eons. So it takes quite along time.

Questioner: How long is an eon?

Rinpoche: An eon is the period of time it takes for a universe to come into being and then disintegrate again. But the point is that at the same time one is progressing on this path, one has great loving kindness and compassion for others and is doing wonderful things to benefit others.

It is explained that it takes a very long time to progress along the mahayana path but the fact is time does not really exist; it is not real. There is no such thing as time. In the explanation of the sixteen emptinesses, this is called the emptiness of that which is imperceivable -- the emptiness of the three times.  It was to assuage people’s discouragement at thinking that it would take such a long time as 3 times 10 to the 59th eons to attain enlightenment that the emptiness of time was taught.

When people realize that there is really no such thing as time anyway, they do not get discouraged. In fact, a short period of time and a long period of time are fundamentally the same. They are just like time in a dream. In a dream it does not matter if you think it is a long time or a short time; there is really no difference at all between them. None of these conceptual notions have any reality. The Buddha said that an eon and an instant are of the nature of equality. ... ."

  • CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks for Sat., Sept 8, 2001, "It's About Time -- Inside the 4th Dimension" -- Does Time really exist?

  • Visit the note on "watches of the night"  in chapter 14 of Acts of the Buddha for an explanation of the way daily time was kept in pre-industrial India.


People of like mind try and keep together in the flow of time that is generally perceived.  The various ancient traditions follow the moon's phases in conjunction with the earth's yearly journey, and so we say they use a solar-lunar calendar. Yet, since the lunar cycle does not fit perfectly into the year's cycle, a number of so-called Lunar Calendars are in use around the world. 

One solar-lunar calendar currently in use by those who do not follow the Western one for their religious or ritual purposes is the Tibetan one.  It has missing days and sometimes, doubled monthsAlso, there is more than one Tibetan tradition for calculating the calendar.  

When there is an anniversary, it is usually celebrated in the second of any doubled month.  For example, Losar (Tibetan New Year) can fall on a different day for the various denominations since it might occur in a doubled month, or for another reason. 


Day of the Week   Planetary Ruler Tibetan day -- named after ruling planet 
Sunday    Sun   Nyima
Monday  Moon  Dawa
Tuesday  Mars  Mig-mar
Wednesday  Mercury  Lhakpa
Thursday Jupiter  P'hurbu
Friday  Venus Pasang
Saturday  Saturn  Penpa

Snow Lion Publications has graciously made available its Tibetan Buddhist calendar with special practice days, anniversaries and Buddhist holidays. Click


  See also, Eclipse for more concerning astrological phenomena.

  • Phases of the Moon: in Buddhism, and out.
  • Perpetual calendar (The 14 or so possible Western calendars.)
  • Wisdom Tibetan Art Calendar with 13 tangkas to delight and inspire,  US $26.

     Others available at Namse Bangdzo:

    • Samye Ling/Rokpa Tibetan Calendar has daily animal signs & elements, conversion tables for the USA and Europe. 4”x7”, $7.95.
    • Sacred Images of Tibet, $12.95
    • Tibetan Voices, by the SEVA Sight Program $13.95
    • The Spirit of Tibet, $12.95.


Notes: "Great Time" rendered into Sanskrit is Mahakala.  Kalachakra (Cycle of Time) is a highest level of tantra, and the name of the deity featured in it.

In the traditional Indian (ie., Hindu) cosmological system from which Buddhism developed, there are kalpa (eons) composed of yuga (ages.)  The length of a kalpa -- the life of a universe -- is often given as 4, 320, 000 years.  See also, Numbers.

*Ruler or Ruling are expressions that, when used in astrology, have the simple meaning of "the measurer" as in a "measuring stick," and by extension, "meting out."

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