(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest english language daily newspapers, on 10 February 2003.)
Beyond time and space
TIME AND tide wait for no man, so the saying goes. And Chanakya Pandit wrote that unlimited amounts of gold cannot purchase even a second of time gone by.
An elated J. Robert Oppenheimer, chief creator of the atomic bomb, thought it apt, after his fierce invention, to quote from a Gita verse ("Time I am, destroyer of worlds", 11.32).
Billions are spent annually on gerontology to learn the secret of prolonging life, in effect buying time. Some are utterly convinced deathlessness will be achieved by the year 2099 - for those with fat enough pocketbooks of course. Yet no amount of plastic surgery (a growing multi-billion-dollar annual industry), organ replacement or genetic manipulation has been able to arrest the seemingly inexorable flow of time.
For those convinced about transmigration and the eternality of the soul, time is still in perpetual motion. Its shameless march always causes shifting, aging, natural erosion, and transference of souls to different planetary systems and into different species (humans or higher preferred).
Time is often thought of as destiny, an inscrutable force never fully understood or even partially harnessed. Many think the future cannot be predicted. It was reported that immediately after Gandhi's assassination someone said, "The meaning of being Indian is to know that in the end the world will break your heart."
Who would have thought that a life like Gandhi's would end so abruptly and so brutally? Similarly, who at the time could have forecast the fall of the Roman, Ottoman or British empires? Yet the demise of all civilisations and their leaders relegates them to footnotes in history, ultimately to oblivion.
The stoppage of time, reversing or accelerating it, has been the subject of countless fictions and fantasies (such as H. G. Wells' "Time Machine") for centuries. But the Gita shlokas about the Lord's appearance and ability to alter time, to dissipate clouds, part the seas, water the deserts and crumble mountains have been with us since time immemorial; and He's always supporting the good.
The Bhagavata (2.3.17) speaks of "Ksanah", or time utilised for the purpose of meditation on God as freeing the practitioner from the ravages of age - a state all life-extension aficionados would love to attain.
In the spiritual world there is no time (no past or future), only an inconceivably jubilant and delightful present.