[Advaita-l] Truth regarding Space and Time

Sriram Krishnamurthy asksriramjobs at gmail.com
Thu Sep 13 07:49:51 CDT 2007

*Benedictory discourse delivered, in Tamil, at Chennai on 20.11.1986)

**Dikkaalaadyanavacchinna-anantha-cinmaatramoortaye |
Svaanubhootyaika-maanaaya namassaantaaya tejase ||

(Salutation to the tranquil effulgence of the form of eternal consciousness
unlimited by spatial direction, time etc., the sole valid means of knowing
which is self-experience.)

In the Chandogya Upanishad, it is said:

Naalpe sukhamasti

(There is no happiness in that which is small.)

Yo vai bhooma tat sukham

(That which is big is blissful.)

What is the meaning of 'big' and 'small' in the present context? The answer
is contained in:


Every object in this Universe has a delimitation of the form, "It is found
here, but it is not found there". However Brahman, which is Bhooma (big), is
devoid of any spatial delimitations. Whatever place you conceive of, it is
there. Therefore, there is no area where it is not. It is beyond Dik or
spatial direction. Strictly speaking, spatial direction cannot be specified
in an absolute sense. For a man in Madurai, Madras lies in the northern
direction. However, for a man dwelling in Visakhapatnam, Madras lies to the
south. If it be asked, "Per se, does Madras lie in the northern direction or
in the southern direction?" the answer would be "It is in neither. It
exists. That is all." If we proceed to Visakhapatnam, relative to us, Madras
is in the south. On the other hand, if we were to go to Madurai or
Tirunelveli, the direction of Madras, relative to us, would become north.
Therefore, Dik or spatial direction is something that is relative. Even in a
relative, rather than an absolute sense, Brahman cannot be specified as
existing in the northern or southern direction.

The case of time is similar to that of spatial direction. With respect to
some specific delimiting factor, we speak of a day. What exactly is a day?
It is something we determine with reference to the movement of the sun. We
now see the sun rising. The time interval between our current and next
sighting of the rising sun constitutes a day. When the rising sun is next
seen, the next day begins. If this be the case, what is the position if we
do not sight the sun? In other words, what is time, measured in terms of a
day, independent of the observed movement of the sun? Time exists but the
question, "What time is it?" cannot be answered without reference to
something like the movement of the sun. Hence, a measure of time, such as a
day, loses its significance without reference to some delimiting factor. A
day is thus something relative and not absolute. Thirty days constitute a
month and 365 days, a year. As other measures of time, such as a month and a
year, are based on a day, they are also not on a firmer footing than a day;
they too have meaning only with reference to some delimiting factor.

Time, space and objects are all conjectured by the mind. After all, but for
our defining temporal terms, such as day with reference to the apparent
movement of the sun in the sky, time would not be discernible as it is now.
Similarly, but for our defining directions, as for instance, north with
respect to the pole star, spatial direction would lose its value. As far as
objects of the Universe are concerned, the answer to the question, "Are they
limited by time?" is "Yes"; everything is limited by time. For instance, we
make statements, such as, "We were born on this day. One day or the other,
we will die. At present, we exist."

If we consider the case of the body or some other object, it is clear that
it did not exist prior to its origination at a certain point in time and
that on some day, it will perish; thereafter it will cease to be. It is only
between its origination and destruction that it appears, to an observer, to
exist. That is to say, all objects are delimited by time.

What is consciousness or Brahman like? Before the birth of Rama, there was
the Krita Yuga. Now the Kali Yuga is in progress. Brahman is not limited by
any such periods of time. It exists and that is all. The question, "When
does is exist?" is inapplicable to Brahman, which is beyond time. Whenever
point of time you conjecture, Brahman does exist at that time. Did it exist
before the Krita Yuga? It did. It was there at the time of Rama, it is there
now and it shall be there even tomorrow. So it was said:
Brahman is beyond the limiting influence of spatial direction and time and
objects. However, though beyond space and time, it is not a void or an inert
entity. It shines in the form of consciousness. If one were to get the
direct realization of this entity, one will attain the summum bonum of life.
This is what the scriptures say.

Experience too is like that. The more absorbed we become in Brahman, the
more does it seem, "So many things take place in the universe. All this is a
mere illusory sport." If the world be a mere illusory sport then what object
is good and what is bad? For a person who has desire for the objects of the
world, any object will seem to be good or bad depending on whether he sees
it a source of his joy or sorrow. On the other hand, for one who is devoid
of attachment and aversion and whose mind is focused on the Self, the
position is, "I am the witness. That is all." If such a person were asked,
"Do you get happiness or unhappiness on account of the world?", he would
answer, "I see no reason to either laugh or weep over anything. I merely
witness what comes before my eyes and do not even make an effort to
experience anything."

We aspire for this state. Shankara Bhagavatpada has said that if we obtain a
Sadguru, receive his teachings and follow the means prescribed by him, we
too can attain it. *

Source : His Holiness Sri Abhinava Vidhyatheertha Maha Swamigal, the 35th
Shankaracharya of the Sringeri Guru Parampara.

|| Om Tat Sat  ||

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