The World Beyond Time

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Time, an energy of Krishna that completely controls us in the material world, has no influence in the spiritual world, Krishna's eternal abode. Attaining that world beyond time appears to be an at tractive proposition.

"Mai samay hoon," which means “Time I am,” was the catchy opening line of every episode of the famous Mahabharata serial that almost thirty years ago brought millions in India to the front of their television sets for an hour every Sunday morning for almost two years. The deep effect this serial had on the lives of the people of India can be gauged from the fact that the country practically came to a halt and almost nobody would miss the episodes that unfolded as they happened some 5,100 years ago. I was a young man then, and that opening sentence had a very mystifying effect on me. I could not understand who the “I” in that sentence was and how a person could be Time. I continued to harbor this mystery in the deep chambers of my heart, believing that someday it would be resolved from within. Even today the excitement of those words is just as fresh, as lively, and as interesting. I don’t remember having asked anyone the meaning, but I enjoyed living with this line in its mystery, its probable sublimity, and its ultimate liberation. It has been a journey that I have relished every bit of.

Defining Time

I grew up with the notion that time is very important. To do everything on time requires discipline, a desirable quality. But what is time? We might jokingly say that time is what a clock reads. But, more seriously, time is one of the seven fundamental physical quantities in both the International System of Units and the International System of Quantities. In an operational definition of time, a certain number of repetitions of one or another standard cyclical event (such as the passage of a free-swinging pendulum or the electronic transition frequency of Caesium atoms) constitutes one standard unit, such as a second. Though highly useful in the conduct of both advanced experiments and everyday affairs of life, this definition of time leaves aside the question of whether there is something fundamental called time that flows and can be measured. Time is often referred to as a fourth dimension, along with three spatial dimensions. Time has long been an important subject of study in religion, philosophy, and science, but a proper definition of time has consistently eluded everyone.

Whatever its ultimate meaning, time as we experience it every day has to be used fruitfully. Time is a great leveler; no matter who you are, you have only twenty-four hours in a day. Time is our greatest wealth. Colloquially, "Time is money." The great moral instructor Chanakya Pandita stated, "Even one moment of life spent cannot be regained for millions of gold coins. Therefore, what greater loss is there than time spent uselessly?"

Today many people have money, fame, and position, but no time. For a student, time assumes great significance during examinations. For an engineer, time is an important resource in planning a job. For a lover, time spent away from the beloved is torture. For a sprinter, much time is spent improving his time count by a split second. For a railway commuter, a few seconds decide whether he will catch his regular train or not. Life is governed by time, and yet time is slipping from our hands.

The Onslaught of Time

As time marches on, I see its effect on me and everybody around me. My body is getting old. It is changing, and so is everything around me. Old buildings fall, and new buildings rise. Ways of doing business have changed, ways of communication have changed, our value system has changed. The list is endless. I find it difficult to keep up with the technological development and change happening around me. I am at such a loss to handle the gadgets a small child uses with great ease that I feel I will soon be outdated. Eventually I may not be able to manage the information and the communication. Every time a new gadget comes to the market, I feel jittery, but the younger generation is happy. Every time a new invention hits the market, I feel uncomfortable when I have to come to terms with it. When relationships change, I have to manage, whether I like it or not.

We are busy. We do not have time. We have jobs to do, social commitments to fulfill, responsibilities to be shouldered, and therefore we have no time for other things. For many of us, life has become routine, monotonous, predictable, with no time for anything other than filling our bellies and gratifying our senses.

The Turning Point

My life went on like everyone else's till I came to Krishna consciousness, which brought new adventure, and life took a new turn, an unpredictable turn, with romance and newness at every step. It was then that the mystery of “Time I am" was revealed to me in the pages of Bhagavad-gita (11.32), where the Lord tells Arjuna,

kalo ’smi loka-kshaya-krit pravriddho
lokan samahartum iha pravrittah
rite ’pi tvam na bhavishyanti sarve
ye ’vasthitah pratyanikeshu yodhah

"Time I am, the great destroyer of the worlds, and I have come here to destroy all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain." Here Krishna unfolds to Arjuna one of His secrets – that He is time. The destruction of everyone except the Pandavas was part of His plan. Time is a great destroyer. It destroys everything; nothing can stand the onslaught of time. Nothing is spared. Nobody is spared. Great kings and emperors who ruled this world are gone. Also gone are great civilizations, with their buildings and their cultures. In their place, new things have come up.

Even something like iron, which is very strong and apparently unbreakable, meets its death with time. Its property to rust and therefore decay is born along with its great strength. We see that destruction and death are occurring around us, but the import of it all does not get into our brains till we come to the pages of Bhagavad-gita. The great mystery I carried within my heart was resolved as soon as I received the light of Bhagavad-gita through Srila Prabhupada unadulterated translation and commentary, which he rightly termed Bhagavad-gita As It Is.

In Bhagavad-gita (10.30) Krishna says, "Of subduers I am time." Whatever wealth we have will be taken away by God's agency of insurmountable time. Due to misusing God's property, materialistic societies end up in deprivation and poverty, whereas in the past, societies governed by rulers or kings who considered themselves God’s representatives and recognized God's overall proprietorship flourished and had material opulence far beyond anything we know today.

With every rising and setting, the sun takes one day of our life. The sun that gives life by its light also takes it away. Exempt from this rule, however, are those who utilize their time by discussing the topics of the all-good Lord (Srimad-Bhagavatam 2.3.17). By the chanting of the holy name of the Lord, as propagated by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, who is the Supreme Lord Himself, one can achieve transcendence in this very life. A sincere practitioner of spirituality sees the possibility of freedom from time and the three modes of material nature, which otherwise completely control everybody.

Knowledge Brings Relief

What a relief this knowledge brings us! Death is not a catastrophic or an end-all event but a passage from one form of life to another. Strange as it may seem, I've considered that death will in some ways be a big relief. I won't have to keep myself updated on the latest technology, the latest gadgets, the latest financial knowhow, or the latest trend or news.

Time rules in the material world, where everything meets death and the concept of time exists. But there is a place that time does not affect, a place where there is no death – the spiritual world, where there is no influence of time, so no death, no schedules, no deadlines. Will it be uninteresting? Is permanence boring? These are some questions a materialistic mind asks. But the spiritual world attracts me. Krishna describes it as eternal and self-illuminating. It is a place where no one desires to return to the material world. Everything there exists in unlimited variety. Everything is conscious, eternal, and loving.

Vrindavan Calling

With this mystery solved, life has taken a different meaning. Away from the fast-moving world, Vrindavan, Lord Krishna's abode on earth, is calling. It is a place where time stands still. Though, externally, new buildings, other structures, and roads have arisen, internally Vrindavan remains same, the place of Krishna’s pastimes. Krishna never ages. He is always in His youthful form. He is the master of time, so it has no effect on Him. Though time has taken a toll on the decaying buildings of Vrindavan, it is a timeless place that Krishna brings with Him for His pastimes on earth.

The Yamuna River, now drying up and filled with garbage, was formerly clean and fully flowing. On its banks Krishna would play His flute. Now the forests and groves where Krishna performed His pastimes with the gopis and gopas are only a shadow of their past glory. The roads that now throw dust in the air with every passing vehicle are the same places where cows would raise dust in the evening when they returned from grazing. To see the real Vrindavan through its material covering, we need a mind purified of all material hankerings, a humble and prayerful heart, and the mercy of Lord Nityananda and Lord Chaitanya.

Krishna’s Pastimes

In His unmanifested pastimes, or aprakata-lilas, Krishna never leaves Vrindavan. Mother Yashoda waits every evening to see Krishna return with the cows and cowherd boys, the dust on His face making Him more and more attractive. The residents of Vrindavan are concerned that Krishna's feet may be hurt by the stones and pebbles on the road. The cows are in ecstasy when Krishna and Balarama milk them; their love flows as milk. They are the lucky ones who spend the greater part of the day with Krishna and Balarama. Krishna’s friends are no less lucky. They can ride on Krishna’s back, share their food with Him, and enjoy the whole day in His company.

Krishna eternally enjoys His various ages simultaneously. So His early childhood pastimes are also taking place. For example, although there is no shortage of butter and yogurt in their houses, He and His friends steal these from neighbors' houses. The boys' pleasure is heightened by the adventure of stealing and then eating. The elder gopis, who are Yashoda's contemporaries and victims of the boys' thievery, complain to Yashoda, but they are ecstatic because of Krishna’s naughtiness. They don’t really want to complain; they use their feigned irritation only as a ruse to see Krishna.

At the same time, Radharani is decorating Herself in anticipation of meeting the more grown-up Krishna. Her mirror seems to disclose Her mood, and She feels bashful. Krishna comes and sits behind her and combs Her hair, and Radharani enjoys seeing all this in the mirror. Time stands still. There is no hurry. Time cannot disturb Krishna and Radharani in Their pastime. Krishna then walks through the grove with Radharani, and the trees, the creepers, and the Yamuna are filled with ecstatic love. The Lord and His dearest have come, and all the devoted entities of the grove have put up their best. The grass below the divine couple's feet is flowing with tears of love. The couple's divine love is like an endlessly blooming garden.

Krishna’s Liberating Pastimes

All souls can reawaken their inherent blissful nature by hearing about and understanding the reservoir of love, Krishna. Once we are attracted to the beauty of Radha and Krishna, any so-called beauty of this world does not attract us. Though the pastimes of Radha and Krishna appear to be ordinary amorous affairs, a true understanding of them frees one from lust, covetousness, and false ego. Theirs is a pure love, without a tinge of mundane passion. By appreciating it, we can taste love in its pristine pure form.

Krishna’s unique pastimes can attract us all and purify our existence. A proper appreciation of them will pave the way for immortality, freeing us from the fear of death. I know that my body is moving inexorably towards death. I know that my friends and relatives are weakening and will also see an end. The only lasting relationships I have are with the Lord and His devotees. Everything else will go on in the same way, with or without me.

So let me focus on You, my Lord. You, the protector of the world, who gave me this life will also take it away. I have no complaint, because I am Your servant. My only request is that I would like to remember You always, including that moment when I leave this body. And if I am able to remember only You then, will You take me to Your world, where there is no effect of time? I know Your promise never goes in vain. O Lord, please help me remember only You at the end of this life, so that I do not have to return to this mortal world, where there is danger at every step. I fervently pray to You that when I leave this body, please come as Time at that very time and take me to Your abode.

About the Author: 

Indra Krishna Dasa

Indra Krishna Dasa (Indrajit Banerjee) was initiated by His Holiness Jayapataka Swami in 2005. He lives in Dubai with his wife and two sons.

He received a B. Tech in Civil Engineering from IIT Kharagpur in 1984 and an M. Tech in Structural Engineering from IIT Delhi in 1991.

He teaches Bhagavad-gita and directs dramas for the ISKCON congregation in Dubai, and conducts classes for the children there as well.