DJ Trump and the Sarvāstivādin Theory of Momentariness…

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Reflections in the back seat

For those of you who are not in the process of pursuing a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies, let me explain that the Sarvāstivādins were a large Abhidharma-era group that split off from the mainstream Theravādins after Asoka’s third Buddhist Council at Pataliputra c. 250 BCE, over their insistence that ‘everything exists’, i.e. ‘sarvam asti‘ (or something like that, my Sanskrit sucks), while the Theravādins preferred a bit more ‘discrimination’…

And part of that theory of everything was an atomistic conception of time: atoms, of both time and matter, and classifiable as either: (1) states of consciousness (citta); (2) mental ‘concomitants’ (cetasika); (3) corporeality (rūpa); plus (4) nirvāna. According to the Sarvāstivādin conception of time, these could exist equally well in the past, present or future. For their part the Theravādins only acknowledged the present, albeit in successive moments…

This can be problematic, though, for as Edward Conze noted: “If a thing’s being coincides with its strict presence, the world will be nearly annihilated, for the present is a point almost without duration. Just when a dharma is, it has already ceased to be.” Ouch. Then there are repercussions to the theory of karma and its after-effect of retribution. After all, how can there be an after-effect if there is no ‘after’? Hmmm…

For us Americans who are Trump resisters, though, this is good news, that time is discrete, not continuous, because it may require just that precise definition if Donald Trump is to be formally charged for crimes committed under the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (SDNY). Currently they are only hamstrung by one little detail: a sitting President cannot be indicted, supposedly. Double ouch…

But the statute of limitations on those crimes will expire before the next term ends. Thus we are in the absurd situation where the only way that Donald Trump may avoid prosecution for serious crimes is by being re-elected President; or that is the common view, and something that would raise many a loose hair on the tough skins of our Founding Fathers, I’m sure, BUT: I beg to differ on that opinion. For Trump’s two terms are discrete, not continuous, i.e. one has to end before the next begins…

Thus there is a brief moment, however small, when DJT’s first term has ended and his second one has yet to begin, theoretically (and may God forbid that this will even go so far as to be possible, much less actual). And at that precise moment SDNY should indeed be able to arrest him (or serve him papers, as the case may be).

The only problem is how to write it all up. For the 20th Amendment to the US Constitution merely reads: “The terms of the President and the Vice President shall end at noon on the 20th day of January,” which, not coincidentally, is the exact same moment at which the next term begins. So someone who is not a big fan of the Sarvāstivādins, or a mathmetician, or a philosopher, might legitimately be excused for thinking that the two terms are continuous, with no break between them…

So this could indeed provoke a Constitutional crisis, in that SDNY would certainly be within their rights to arrest an ex-President at the exact moment when the first term has ended, no matter that in the next moment that would not be the case. So in effect the two offices—the Presidency and SDNY—would have competing claims on him at that moment. So by my reckoning, the SDNY claim should take precedence simply because there is no reason why it shouldn’t. These are serious crimes, after all…

The two terms are not continuous; they are discrete, and that is obvious. But a higher court might see it otherwise, especially one with Trump and GOP-installed judges. And the rule that a sitting President cannot be indicted may not be binding, anyway, if it is only an opinion. And then there’s always the chance that I could be totally full of BS; that happened once before. It is a matter of fact, though, that the 20th Amendment has never been challenged, one of the few in that category…

As a Buddhist, though, I probably shouldn’t even be involved—as a Buddhist. But am I defined by my Buddhism? I’m not wearing saffron robes, now, am I? And I’m a Democrat, also. So as long as I’m not carrying a sign that reads ‘Buddhists Against Trump’, then no one should take issue with my involvement, should they? After all, I was one of the few who urged patience on the Buddhist ‘resisters’ who protested before Trump even served his first day in office, many of whom might not have even voted…

And God forbid that it should even come to this. I mean, who in his right mind could vote for Trump after all that we’ve been through in the last two years? But it could be fun to watch. After all, a legal challenge might only occur after the fact. So it could almost be worth re-electing him just to see if SDNY will be there at the inauguration waiting to nab him right at high noon, the moment of his glory. Huh? WTF? What did I just say? On second thought I’ve got a better idea: impeach the m*therf*cker…