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Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

Being and Time as Action in Bhartŗhari and Heidegger

- A comparative Study
Part 2 - Heidegger’s Appropriation of Time and Being and Comparison
Kamalini Martin
The works of Bhartrhari and Heidegger show some startling parallels although they are
themselves widely separated in history, culture, presuppositions and viewpoints. Even more
startling is the fact that their commonality echoes certain facets of Biblical understanding as
well. Part I of this study briefly described aspects of Time in the Kālasamuddeśa of
Bhartŗhari’s Vākyapadīya, Kanda III. In this part, a summary of Heidegger’s thought of Time
from Being and Time to Time and Being is presented and a comparison is then attempted
between the two authors.

Summary of Heidegger’s thought

The pairing of Being and Time is characteristic of Heidegger’s thought. A-letheia and Logos
is a similar characteristic pair. The self-showing, that is, the true appearance of Being (being
as such, that is, the being that is in all beings) lies in the horizon of Time, according to the
early Heidegger. The ‘there’ of Being in Being and Time is later modified to ereignis, the
event of Appropriation in Time and Being. Heidegger has moved to a more dynamic
understanding both of Time and of Being but retains his pattern of inquiry. For the later
Heidegger, Being is nuanced to the ‘making-present’, the active presencing of reality 1. He
describes Logos2 as “what human beings are continually amid and what they are away from
all the same, absently present”. To hold Logos is grasp the revelation, the dynamic unveiling
of lethe, which is the oblivion or the abyss which hides Being. Logos is also the gathering (of
the many words) into one (the meaning of the gathered, as sentence). This unique
interconnection between Reality, Being, Time and Logos as Word is found in Bhartrhari also.

Lethe, the river of oblivion in Greek mythology that separates life and death, hides Being.
Heidegger increasingly tries to ‘return’ to grasp Being. In his opinion, it is form distinct from
content and concept distinct from intuition that ‘buries’ Being. Formal concepts brought in by
Plato and accepted thereafter are based on ‘eternal constancy’ of time that is, the
presupposition that time is always the same, eternally present. While this affords scientific
certainty and predictability, for example, the firm ground of physical laws, as well as logical
Heidegger, Time and Being, p. 6.
Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 138.
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

syllogisms that are universally valid, Heidegger wants to show that Being, not timeless empty
form must be the true substratum. Universal validity holds because being as such is the
common core of all (ta panta and, very specifically, Dasein), and not due to abstract thinking
that discards the content of existence in its assertions. Being as such is not representable in
the Kantian form of space and time and this is the problem of intentionality3.

Moreover this Being, being as such is the common ground that binds subject and object so
that the isolated Cartesian subject is ‘actually’ Being-in-the-world. Thus worldhood and
subjectivity are inextricably intertwined, and the distinction between realism and idealism
becomes irrelevant. Another effect of separating form and content is that the existential
essence is discarded and replaced by ‘example’. That is, the ‘ontic’ or the specific entity is
confused with the ontological, the true, universal ground of understanding. Neither Time nor
Being (nor, for that matter, Truth) are phenomenal ‘things’ and therefore cannot be mediately
represented by form and concept. Similarly, the un-representable time is represented as a
succession of ‘now’s, and thus the enduring, the lasting eternity is approximated to a
duration. Rather than separating form and concept, thought and feeling, Heidegger thus
pleads for immediate experiencing, and hence understanding, of Being, by being being. .

In Time and Being, Being is introduced through an indeterminable ‘It’ which gives itself and
in the giving, withdraws to ‘let be’. ‘It’ is both Being and Time, He continually emphasizes
that ‘It’ is not an entity, and thus cannot be represented or thought through normal conceptual
form. “Presence determines Being in a unified way as presencing and allowing-to-presence,
that is, as unconcealing… [Seindes, Dasein, being] receives as a gift the presencing that It
gives by perceiving what appears in letting-presence.”4. But ‘Not every presencing is
necessarily the present.’5, there is always a threefold aspect of presence. Thus, presencing
prevails in the present, in the past, in the future. The holding together is also a with-holding6
that is, a holding apart. This joining separation of the three aspects, a unifying of three
‘dimensions’ which open new views, constitutes a four dimensional time-space. Here
dimension is not a reference or standard for measurement but an opening of a ‘view’. This
clearing (visibility) is the exploded unity of the three ‘ek-stases’ of Being and Time. Being
certainly ‘appears’ here, but the appearance is brought in by a strenuous appropriation. “What

Wood, The Deconstruction of Time. p. 138.
Heidegger, Time and Being, p. 12
Heidegger, Time and Being, p. 13.
Heidegger, Time and Being, p. 16
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

determines both, time and Being, in their own, that is, in their belonging together, we shall
call: Ereignis, the event of Appropriation”7. Thus Being and Time are not entities or even
‘matters’ that occur independently which are then put together by a relation named ereignis.
Being and Time appear as themselves, in their ‘own-ness’ only when seen in their dependent
belonging to each other. Again ereignis is not an event in the sense of an occurrence or
happening, but “the extending and sending which opens and preserves”8. Further, ereignis as
“Appropriating makes manifest its peculiar property, that Appropriation withdraws what is
most fully its own from boundless unconcealment”9 and hence preserves it. Being as such
(Sein) withdraws from the place of unconcealment, true time-space, by giving itself, being
(existence) to being (seindes, the entity) and thus permits the being to be…present…there. I
find this interpretation a most striking and marvelous exposition of the very first spoken
words in the Bible, “Let there be…” (Gen. 1:3,5)10, which is also impressively taken up in
John 1:1-411. This cosmological implication of Logos is also taken up below.

To conclude this section, as I understand this ‘thematic’, Being can only be understood by
attending to the experiencing of being, so also time by the letting time be the true and
dynamic unity of past, present and future that determine being in each case.

The above description sounds entirely different from Bhartrhari’s Kalasammudesa, and
indeed it is. Five points were discussed in Part I. These have been retained as points of
departure but the emphasis is shifted. There is no one-to-one correspondence but rather a
study of patterns of similarity/contrast.

Time, Action and power

Heidegger, Time and Being, p. 19
Heidegger, Time and Being, p. 20.
Heidegger, Time and Being, p. 22.
KJV translation, 1:3 : “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light” is followed in 1:5, by
the controversial statement of time duration. In a Heideggerian interpretation this ‘day’ is the opening of a
temporal dimension for the existence of the new being, light. This dimension does not measure duration but
provides the true time-space, the ground for the appearance of light.
KJV translates the original Greek which is even more gripping, though Heidegger himself explicitly
rejects this Johannine notion of Logos in his Introduction to Metaphysics, p.133-4,143
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

Bhartŗhari identified the notion of time with power (shakti), not as the real, eternal substance
according the Sāņkhya-Yoga system. Time is a creative power of shabdabrahman and thus it
is responsible for creation, destruction, and continuity of every thing in the cosmos. Here
Bhartrhari is attempting to ‘define’ Time, that is, answer the question what is Time? Later
this question is seen to be unanswerable. (k.62), but it seems to be evident that for Bhartrhari,
what ever it is, it is intimately connected with activity (k.12). In Western thought patterns, the
difference between cosmological and psychological time has been recognised. Heidegger,
following on from St. Augustine, Kant and Husserl (and perhaps Nietzsche) strongly prefers
psychological time. Bhartrhari too recognises this (k.69, purely mental constructions of time),
but his work tends more towards ‘objective’ physical observations, chiefly rhythmic seasonal
events in nature, and their ‘right’ ‘expression’ in grammatical speech. Being, Language and
Time are tightly integrated and his whole focus is the ‘oneness’ of all in Brahman.

Bhartrhari conceived of the reality as one and unchangeable, but as differentiated into many
with the active power of time. The differentiation is seems to be ‘real’ from a normal human
viewpoint but ‘unreal’ from an Absolute or Divine viewpoint. Bhartrhari focused on the
‘many’ as ‘types’, and time as a feature of birth, growth and death of each of the many. He
thereby included Nature, Man and God and hence cosmogony in his discussion. Heidegger
explicitly sets aside all references to theistic genesis12. Creation, for Heidegger, is a ‘coming
to presence’, not an act of making13. Time is not related to power as enabling (external)
change for Heidegger, nevertheless there is clearly a dynamic feature in Time and Being.

Time as Word in Action: linking Being and knowing (meaning)

Reality as revealed through Logos (language rather than logic) is a common theme for both
authors. But Logos is not divine for Heidegger (as I understand, since Being is not ‘ultimate’
but the most essential reality of beings). Sabdatattva is divine for Bhartrhari, but ‘becomes’
differentiated in the world as we know it, through time. The notion of the Word as in
interpretation is also tantalizingly similar and dissimilar (something like syntax vs. semantics
in a sentence). Logos as legein14, the gathering into comprehension and the sphota theory also
show similarities. Although Heidegger refuses to use genesis in the Biblical sense, Logos is
nevertheless intimately connected to physis, nature manifested as reality. Existential being
‘is’ what ‘makes’ true. This making is not an act as in general philosophical understanding, a
Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 7-8
Martin Heidegger and Eugene Fink, Heraclitus Seminar, p.7
.Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics, p. 131
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

contingent happening preceded by cause and succeeded by time but an “enowning” or


Action and Causality

Bhartrhari introduces a remarkable image of time as an (inner) ‘instigator’ in k.16 and 17.
The inner urge is eternal action, nityā kriyā. But time is differentiated into sequence, and
sequence into concepts of contingency and causality. Thus ‘making’ is an act that
differentiates the states of a substance and also the states of time. It is this notion of making
which is critical to Heidegger’s differentiation between the present-at-hand ‘things’ produced
by mechanical techne and the ready-to-hand entities which take on a ‘being’ through their
‘use’ and the being of nature, which includes all ‘natural’ life, most specially, the human
being. Thus in the context of the being of humanity, making is rejected in favour of ‘coming
to presence’.

Dasein is neither made nor caused but ‘given’ existence in a special way. Dasein belongs to,
and actively owns being unlike produced artifacts. Time is an existential constituent of being
and as such is active in being as presencing. (The word ‘in’ must not be construed spatially).
This distinction in levels of being is not in Bhartrhari. He also integrates cause, act and effect
into one. Belonging is true Inherence (k.18). From his view, aligned with the Absolute, it is
the stability and immutability of the eternal ‘now’ that holds the ever-changing, that is, ever-
active reality as relatively unreal.

Time as differentiator and differentiated :Shifting emphasis

a) Is Being determined by Time or Time by Being?
Bhartrhari’s linkage of eternal oneness of time with sequence and differentiated time is
entirely different from Heidegger’s ‘there’ in Being and Time and event in Time and Being.
In fact, Heidegger does not attempt to answer ‘What is time?” Time cannot be predicated for
him. But he does struggle throughout his works with the identification of the antecedent and
the consequent - which is the above subtitle. Again, this is not a question of causality but of
authority and power : within the pairing, which one is less conditioned by the other?. To
understand this possibly insoluble matter, I take recourse to an attempt to trace Heidegger’s
train of thought in explicating time in his two works. Two illustrious thinkers who have
certainly influenced and shaped Heidegger’s thought are St. Augustine and Heraclitus.
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

Ricouer calls Heidegger Augustine’s “relay station” in this “matter”15. Indeed Heidegger’s
debt to Augustine is clear16. The two authors Augustine and Bhartrhari are close both in
historical position in time, and in spirit. Augustine’s acute analysis of the contrast between
time as present and time as passage remains valid in current Western philosophy and
science17. His great contribution is the notion of intentio with its attendant antithesis of
distentio animi which is “slowly and painfully sifted out from the major aporia with which
Augustine is struggling, that of the measurement of time”18.

Roughly paraphrased, Augustine’s concept of intentio with distentio animi means that the
more we focus on time in a present act, the inseparable do the past and future parts of the act
become. Augustine gives three examples, the last being the recitation of a psalm with long
and short syllables, the articulation of which needs attention, memory and expectation.
Augustine’s choice of the spoken word as a cause for mystery of measurement of the ‘unreal’
‘thing’ that is time is particularly similar to Bhartrhari’s exposition. Bhartrhari also says that
the three divisions of time i.e. present, past, and future, are not three different times but the
same single time that appears as three through its three powers. However for him sequence is
undeniable (past remains past and so on) whereas for Augustine, the three ‘aspects’ are
‘present’ together in the mind.

Like Bhartrhari, St Augustine also goes further, to extend this example to cover the creative
“And this which takes place in the whole Psalm, the same takes place in each several portion of it, and
each several syllable; the same holds in that longer action, whereof this Psalm may be part; the same
holds in the whole life of man, whereof all the actions of man are parts; the same holds through the
whole age of the sons of men, whereof all the lives of men are parts.”19

The ‘act’ appears in the enigma of time, and so does the human being as an individual and so
does the whole of human history : the enigma is the insoluble character of identity and
difference in time, past, present and future. This is the basis of Heidegger’s horizon20, the
‘there’, the true time-space where being as my being and by induction, Being as entire history
Paul Ricouer, Time and Narrative, Vol. 1, p.60
A lecture of Heidegger's, `Augustinus: Quid est tempus? Confessiones lib. XI', originally delivered at
Beuron in 1959 and quoted in a commentary, “The Confessions of Saint Augustine, book 11”, available online.
A conference on the themes presentism versus passage was held on 27-8th Sept.2000 at the London
School of Economics, available as Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement:50, “Time, Reality and
Paul Ricouer, Time and Narrative, Vol. 1, p. 7
St. Augustine, The Confessions of Saint Augustine, XI.28:38, The Project Gutenberg Etext, online
Heidegger quotes Augustine in Being and Time, §81, p. 479-480.
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

of being, ‘appears’. In this context, time is the differentiator as the place of act (the
underlying present), but as ongoing activity, time is differentiated by passage.

b) Measurement : what is measured? Time or action (or rest?)

Is time real is now subordinated to the quest is time-division real Bhartrhari discusses both
views, i.e, reality and unreality of measurement. Karikas 48, 58, 68-9 and 78 seem to indicate
that (exterior, unreal) divisions of time are for ‘practical’ purposes in ‘everyday life’, a
measurement in the human intellect only21. Karikas 63, 64, 70 and 71 indicate the contrary
since a real distinction in time is needed for real measurements like flow of liquid, for a
cognition of perceptions like ‘quick’, ‘slow’.

Augustine also discusses the usage of the words ‘long’ and ‘short’ as applied to time, and he
adds another aspect well known to Indian philosophy, that of the relative reality of the present
as compared to the past and future. Here his contribution is that past, present and future are
all ‘impressed’ on the mind, as an immediate living experience. In my opinion, this view of
the primacy of experience, that living sensibility and understanding of intuition is the
‘ground’ of ‘the event of appropriation’ and indeed, of the primacy of Being (existential
content) over form and concept is strikingly original. ‘What’ is measured lies within the
being’s state and grasp of its world but this ‘what’ is a meaning, not a number. That is to say,
it is only the ‘being’ that can understand the meaning of measurement at all, since an
‘external’ standard instrument which monitors and reads off numbers is by itself devoid of
meaning. Thus Heidegger’s rejection of ‘scientific’ or ‘abstract’ methods22.

Time in action (How does Time work?)

Time functions with its two prominent powers called pratibandha and abhyanujņā. These are
the powers through which the sequence in the manifestation is brought about. Thus ordering
or making a sequence is also one of the powers of time. Time is determined by the action and
also an instrumental cause of the activities, in particular that of bringing into order. There is a
startling similarity here between this unique and original contribution of Bhartrhari, and
Heraclitus fragment 30 which is discussed at length by Heide gger in the context of time23:

Sharma, The Kālasamuddeśa of Bhartŗhari’s Vākyapadīya ,p. 84, 101.
This is described in detail with respect to both space and Time in Being and Time. For example, § 23
describes directionality and deseverance in spatial understanding while §81 explicates the care-structure,
datability and significance of time.
Heidegger and Eugene Fink, Heraclitus Seminar, chapter 5.
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram
Fragment 30 : κόσμον (τόνδε), τὸν αὐτὸν ἁπάντων, οὔτε τις θεῶν, οὔτε
ἀνθρώπων ἐποίησεν, ἀλλ᾽ ἦν ἀεὶ καὶ ἔστιν καὶ ἔσται πῦρ ἀείζωον,
ἁπτόμενον μέτρα καὶ ἀποσϐεννύμενον μέτρα.24

Several interpretation of this are available online and I have attempted the following as a
possible candidate: “This world order (cosmos as cosmic harmony, proportion and rhythm),
-which- is the same in all things was not a poiesis (poetic bringing forth, that is, an expression
of a mind such as a song or beautiful idea) of any god (member of Greek pantheon) or man
but was ever, is, and ever will be, an ever-living fire, kindling and quenching in measures.
Even this sentence can be further interpreted in many ways”. In my opinion, it is important to
note that the subject under discussion is order, not the things themselves. Order refers both to
power and authority, (permission and prohibition) and beauty (dear to Greek outlook). Here
Heidegger’s discussion indicates that cosmic harmony is ‘seen’ by the stamping, that is,
imprint, impression of identity, oneness, in the difference of the phenomenal creation (all
creatures, things in space and time). This order, identity underlies creation as living ground,
ground that is eternal, even though de-finite (de-terminate) parts of it come into and go out of
existence. Fire is used as the image to manifest the idea of the continual presence of eternal
life within which ‘measures’ are kindled and quenched, thereby taking on aspects of the was,
is, and will be in time. Heraclitus speaks of the transformations of fire as apparent change.
The true inner core of all things is the common identity which is ever living. As this inner
core, fire is the enabling (timeless) time that allows changing time to appear25.

Order, Logos, Fire, Time (each is a different aspect of the One Eternal Reality) reveals Being.
Neither revealer nor the revealed is prior or posterior to the other. Cosmic order seen in the
infinite to the infinitesimal is Logos. Logos brings forth, brings to appearance (reveals) and
brings together (gathers into one). Logos calls, enables and opens as well as reveals. Logos is
Wisdom, Truth, Light, Life. No wonder ‘it’ is un-re-presentable, unthinkable.

At first sight Bhartrhari and Heidegger are widely separated. What has Dasein or ereignis to
do with pratibandha and abhyanujņā? While space and time are intuitively functions of
measurement, Heidegger seems to reject this ‘ordinary’ understanding. So also Bhartrhari

Héraclite, Heraclitus.mht, available online
This is an interpretation by Eugene Fink in Martin Heidegger and Eugene Fink, Heraclitus Seminar,
p. 57-60.
Kamalini Martin
Dharmaram Vidya Kshetram

certainly does not speak of en-owning being or appropriating time. However there are
numerous subtle similarities. This essay is a brief and very preliminary effort to bring out
similarities and contrasts. One is invited and challenged to see Logos here - life, light, truth
and order, underlying and uniting both views, so different in heritage, training and outlook.

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