MEDITATIONS ON TIME
By Dr Varanasi Ramabrahmam
Time plays a significant, influential and useful role in our lives. Our daily routine is time-based and time-bound. The origin, being and cessation of things, objects, events, thoughts and life systems are all time-related. All natural, man-made and man-initiated processes take place according to time and its passage. In all disciplines of learning time has a prominent role to play.
We ‘know’ what time is. Earth spins around itself and simultaneously revolves round the sun. Based on these movements, day and night are created and we experience and measure the passage of time. We know the extent of the passage of time by referring to watches, clocks and various time-measuring devices such as calendars, almanacs etc. The awareness of time through these means is not comprehensive and complete. Awareness of the nature of time is varied. Like divinity, time is multifaceted. Time has many forms, structures, natures and has been viewed, defined and understood variously.
We all lead stressful personal and professional lives with the associated pulls and pushes which at times strain us beyond our ability, capacity and capability. We long for calmness to bring peace of mind. We pray to the Almighty for peace of mind. Some of us who do not believe in God have our own ways of de-stressing ourselves. Thus in seeking peace of mind we desire and attempt to know the nature of the mind. Some of us take refuge in our Protector. We follow the path of spirituality. We listen to (sravana), meditate on (manana) and convert the insight thus gained by contemplation into experience (nididhyasana) about the Almighty or the Self. The Almighty and the Self are synonyms representing Divinity, our original self. The Self can also be taken as the natural or normal or original state of mind. We can thus know about the Self and merge our self in a chosen quality of the Self. We can reach a state of self-realisation and dwell in it and with it and as it.
As part of this we now try to know and be aware of the nature of time, time-flow as past, present and future, and time-transcendence. It is known to us through our beloved Sri Krishna Paramatma (His Lord the great-souled Krishna) that He is both time and time-transcendence. Sri Krishna famously said: “Aham kaalah asmi” (I am time) – see Bhagavad Gita 10, 30 and 33. To realise the nature of time-transcendence we must know time – its nature, structure, form and flow.
Time is of two kinds: physical and psychological. Time flows eternally transforming seconds into minutes, minutes into hours, hours into days, days into months, months into years, years into decades, decades into centuries and centuries into millennia. All this is physical time and its flow.
We tune into this physical time and the happenings within it by attaching ourselves to these happenings with an ego-centric mind as I, me and mine. Our tuning and attachment creates another dimension of time, a time-consciousness in us. This creation takes place in the wakeful conscious state of mind and is experienced in wakeful and dream conscious states of mind. This is called psychological time or time-space.
The eternal Self (paramatma) transcends both physical time and its flow. The Self exists in us as prajnanam (witness) and makes us aware of physical and psychological time and its passage. During those phases of awareness, Prajnaam as the see-er makes us experience our respective experiences.
We can not stop the flow of physical time. Psychological time however is experienced by us as past, present and future in different phases or conscious states of mind. It creates as it were a time whirlpool in us.
Our mental time and its flow is the series of rising and setting of various phases of mind – wakeful, dream and deep sleep – and the acquiring of knowledge, skills, thoughts, feelings, experiences etc, or the cessation of thought processes happening during those phases. “I, I am doing, it is mine, it has happened to me, I am hurt, I am happy, I am experiencing, etc.” – such thoughts, feelings and experiences exist in our awareness and create in us moods. When we learn these acquisitions create in us experiences which in turn become memories. And these memories remain with us.
These memories of events and things which happened a long time ago in terms of physical time, are stirred and activated in the present and elicit a corresponding emotion. According to these memories, we feel anger, lust, jealousy and so on, which can lead to a emotional disturbance in the present. Thus the remembrances and thoughts about past happenings and their impression on us form our psychological past. Because we do not have enough mental strength we cannot emerge from this past, which exists only in the psyche, and we thus torture ourselves and live only in the past.
The future too disturbs us. We fear, become anxious and pessimistically or optimistically imagine future events based on what has happened to us in the past, what we know and have experienced. Thus the future, that which we believe will happen, is simply a collection of our thoughts in the present as hopes, anxieties, doubts or fears. Thus when we analyse time, we realise that both our past and future are nothing but our thoughts in the present. If we can somehow manage to arrest these thoughts we can escape from this vicious circle of yesterday and tomorrow and live in the present.
We need to submit ourselves to Divinity by thought, word and deed. We then offer our self-consciousness and ego to the Lord and submerge ourselves in Him. When we do this, we avoid the thoughts relating to I, me and mine. These thoughts do not only pause for the present; they will permanently cease to arise in us. This cessation of thought-forms is time- or mind-transcendence.
By God’s grace we can transcend the psychological time flow which exists in us in the form of the flow of thoughts. The mind becomes calm and peaceful when we shed our ego and fill ourselves instead with insight about Divinity. By attributing everything to God’s will, we can live with equanimity, taking everything in our stride. The mind acquires the strength needed to face life. We will tackle all problems with courage and calmness. We will be rid of thoughts about the past or the future. We live in the present. We live in tranquility.
Ramabrahmam, V, Being and Becoming: A Physics and Upanishadic awareness of time and thought process, Ludus Vitalis, International Journal of Philosophy of Life Sciences, Vol. XIII, Number 24, 2005, pp.139-152.
Ramabrahmam, V., The Science of human consciousness, Ludus Vitalis, International Journal of Philosophy of Life Sciences, Vol. XV, Number 27, 2007, pp. 127-142.