The collapse of the continuity of experience into the present awareness event and the subsequent shift of focus from the continuity of experience to the experience of continuity raises a few interesting conceptual questions: First, there is the question concerning the ontological status of this "present" which encompasses "past" and "future." What is the present into which the continuity of experience folds? Where is it located? Buddhists and phenomenologists alike, I think, would respond that the "present" is this very moment in which the experiential "I" qua individual self defining itself or qua self-reflective philosopher self-consciously awakens to her/his existence (this would imply, of course, that there are an infinite amount of presents). The question concerning its metaphysical location implies a deeper pursuit of the beginning (methodologically and ontologically) and, subsequently, suggests an infinite regress. In addition, I do not think that the question of repeatability and reversibility is an issue because "[f]irewood, which becomes ashes, cannot return to become firewood again and a person, who has died, does not return to life." As the previous chapter has shown, Nishida's circular notion of time does not entail the possibility of repeating time but rather a creative transformation of one's own "past" existence qua being-in-itself, karmic residue, or created toward a new created and, most fundamentally, a radical criticism of the notion of an objective and objectively linear time. Finally, an evaluation of the arguments negotiating the linear or circular conceptions of temporality seems to be rather trivial, on the one side, and irrelevant for the present discussion, on the other. In this context, it will suffice to note that
Sartre and Nishida both emphasize the paradoxical nature of time in that the "past has already passed," "the future is not yet," and the present if "simply conceived of as a point on a continuous line, like a moment, ... does not exist and neither does time" (Nishida 1988, 9: 149). Or, as Sartre observes, "the past is no longer, the future is not yet; as for the instantaneous present, everyone knows it does not exist at all but is the limit of an infinite division, like a point without a dimension" (Sartre 1956, 159). In the light of this predicament, phenomenologists and Buddhists prefer an existential approach starting with the self-reflective "I" and examine the epistemological status of the two primary experiences of continuity as linear temporality and as present. It seems to be the agreement of most phenomenologists and some Buddhists that the linear conception of time is constructed by thetic consciousness which steps outside of its own existential predicament and, subsequently, assumes a standpoint outside of time. It is these two modalities of experiencing continuity and, subsequently, time, which have moved into the forefront of a theory of selfhood and selflessness. Of course, it can be objected, as it has, that even such an existential approach has its metaphysical presuppositions and is not as presuppositionless as assumed by Husserl and Nishida (Buddhists such as Nagarjuna and Dagen did not care too much about this, admittedly recent, problematic). This is not the place to negotiate the question of methodological primacy, to sort out whether the chicken preceded the egg; instead, since the project is to explore Dagen's notion of time, it seems to be most appropriate to follow his rather existential approach. It is the goal of this chapter to briefly explore the "experience of temporality" in the thought of representatives of phenomenology and Buddhism in order to fully extract Dagen's theory of selfhood within a comparative discourse.