Progress and Free Will: On the Buddhist Concept of “Time” and Its Possibilities for Modernity


  • Bart DESSEIN Ghent University, Belgium



time, karmic retribution, knowledge, meditation, Buddhist modernity


An even only cursory glance at the way Buddhism is experienced, interpreted, and lived in the contemporary world––both Western and Oriental––reveals Buddhism’s multiple “modern faces”. This paper does not intend to describe all or even a selected group of these many faces, but attempts to contribute to our understanding of how peculiar developments within Buddhist philosophy have made it possible that such a variety of “Buddhist modernities” could develop. It is shown that it is the peculiar Buddhist interpretation of the concept of time that has provided the basis on which the various modern features of Buddhism could build, because the Buddhist interpretation of time contains an aspect of progress and free will. It is suggested that these two aspects increased the prominence given to the individual adept in the Mahāyāna. The article then claims that it precisely are the ideas of rationality, progress and individualism that are also characteristic for the modern world that contain the possibility for Buddhism to develop its multitude of modern faces.



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Author Biography

  • Bart DESSEIN, Ghent University, Belgium
    Professor Chinese language and culture


Armelin, Indumati, trans. 1978. Le Coeur de la loi suprême. Traité de Fa-cheng.



29. 02. 2016

How to Cite

DESSEIN, Bart. 2016. “Progress and Free Will: On the Buddhist Concept of ‘Time’ and Its Possibilities for Modernity”. Asian Studies 4 (1): 11-33.

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