The other day I visited Sita Ma. I looked into her eyes and felt almost as if time had stopped and exploded. Completely overwhelmed and with much reluctance I came away, laughing and crying. Can you talk about the moment when time stops, when I feel as if everything is rushing at me and at the same time, away from me, all in a split second which also seems like a lifetime and leaves me feeling like a small child?
Prem Sono, the question about time and its stopping is immensely complex. For centuries philosophy has been trying to figure out what time is. There have been many different standpoints, but none of them seems to be supported by logic and rationality.
The ordinary idea of time is that it is like a river that is flowing by your side. That which has passed is the past; that which is passing is the present; that which is going to pass is the future. It is if time is a flux, a movement, and you are standing still and time goes on moving.
But it is not true that you are standing still. Once you were a child, now you are young, now you are old, now you are dead. You are not standing still; you are continuously changing. Because of this fact there have been philosophers who propounded a second theory, that time is static, it is always the same; what changes is you. You are the flux from childhood to youth, from youth to old age, from old age to beyond. Because you cannot conceive your own changing process, it is so subtle and so quick, you project it on time.
Nobody knows what time is, where time is. Nobody has ever seen it, nobody has ever touched it. Nobody has ever come to grips with time and its existence.
Then three hundred years ago science became interested in what time is, because philosophy had not given any satisfactory answer. Science came to a point where it needed an answer about time. Without it, its many hypotheses remain simply hypotheses. It was a gap that had to be filled.
Albert Einstein proposed something which has been temporarily accepted. In science, nothing is accepted permanently – because one never knows, tomorrow somebody else may bring a better hypothesis. So science is always hypothetical. That is the beauty of science and that is the ugliness of religion. Because religion goes on insisting that whatever is written in the Holy Scriptures is true and true forever, no change is possible. How can there be any change when the holy scriptures of all the religions are written by God?
Science has a more significant attitude. Everything is, at the moment, hypothetically right. Nobody can say anything about what will happen the next moment. That is the meaning of relativity: when we say something is true, it simply means that relatively it is true. In comparison to other hypotheses, this hypothesis is relatively true. But tomorrow somebody may introduce some new hypotheses, and in comparison to them it may no longer be true. Something new may become true – but that too will remain only hypothetically true. Science is very honest.
Albert Einstein stated something very great about time, that it is only a dimension of space. We have always known that space has three dimensions; Einstein added the fourth dimension to space, and it fits very well with his physics and it fits very well with all that has been discovered, taking it as a hypothetical truth. So many things, so many discoveries, so many inventions and they all prove reflectively the truth of the hypothesis.
If time is only a dimension of space – and you never ask whether space is moving or static, nobody ever asks. Space is always there, the same. It is the same sky, it is the same space; things in it may change but space remains unchanging. And if time is also a dimension of space that means it does not change at all.
You are saying that you felt in a moment as if time had stopped. Those moments are great, tremendously great, when you experience that time has stopped. In fact, time is always in a state of being the same. It is not a flux; it is not a river – the old idea.
Time is always present – never past, never future. Things go on passing, disappearing, new things go on coming, but time itself is only a dimension of space, absolutely static. So when time stops for you, it is not time that stops; what stops is your mind.
Your mind is in a constant flux – so many thoughts, so many ideas, so many imaginations and dreams and projections, and they have all stopped. Because your mind stops, suddenly you realize time has stopped.
But in fact the stopping of the mind only reveals to you the reality of time. It is never moving, it is unmoving. It is just here, it is just now. It has never changed, and it will never change. Everything in it changes, but time itself remains absolutely unchanged.
The moment your mind stops moving, suddenly you realize that time has stopped. So it is significant to understand that it is your mind that has stopped, not time.
Krishnamurti used to say again and again, “Mind is time.” This is a strange statement, particularly for those who do not understand the state of no-mind. Because when the mind disappears, time also disappears – time that you used to think of as a flux – stopping of the mind is a revelation which appears to you as a stopping of time.
But as you grow more and more meditative and your mind becomes more and more silent, you will become aware that as your silence, your peace, your mindlessness is growing, time is disappearing.
When the mind is absolutely still, there is no time. That means there is nothing which you can think of as changing, nothing visible that you can conceive of as time. Hence the ancient most treatise on meditation says that those moments when time stops are the moments when you experience meditation. And those are the moments which have given an inclination, a vision, a glimpse of something beyond the mind. Looking at a sunset, you are so absorbed that the mind stops at the beauty of the sunset. Suddenly there is no time.
Time is a reflection of your mind. You can watch it in many ways. When you are miserable, time passes very slowly – strange, why should the time pass so slowly? And when you are happy and joyous, time passes fast.
There is a statement in the Bible which says, Those who are thrown in the darkness of hell will remain there forever. One of the great agnostic thinkers of our times, Bertrand Russell, has written a book, Why I am Not a Chistian, and he insists on that point very much. And logically – and he was a logician and a mathematician – you will be convinced when you look at his argument.
Bertrand Russell accumulated all the facts which made him decide not to be a Christian. He was born a Christian, he belonged to a large family, and he himself had the title of Earl – a very respectable man, a Nobel prize winner. One of the points is that this is absolutely unjustified.
Because Christians believe in only one life, in his seventy years, how many sins can a man commit? If you commit sins from the day you are born, without sleeping, without eating, without doing anything else, just committing sins and sins and sins to the very last breath, still, how many sins can you commit?
In the first place it is not possible. You will need sleep – even sinners need sleep – you will have to eat food, you will have to earn your bread, you will have to take time for your bath, for changing your clothes, for shaving your beard. If you count, very little time is left in a seventy-year lifespan when you can commit sins.
Bertrand Russell himself says, “I have noted down how many sins I have committed, and I have also included the sins that I wanted to commit, but could not. Even if I am punished for those sins which I never committed but only thought about, then too the hardest and cruelest judge cannot send me to jail for more than four and a half years.”
For such small crimes an eternity of hellfire…? God seems to be insane. There should be some judgment. And he has omitted the point that the same is true for virtue: how much virtue can you do? – And for that little virtue that you do, eternal paradise? There has to be some limit. And neither are there sinners who need to be eternally in hellfire.
Do you understand what is meant by eternity, unending, forever? Just think what it means – forever – and your mind will feel tired. Wherever you go, go on, go on… it never comes to an end. Hellfire just for the few small sins that you loved somebody’s wife, you picked somebody’s pocket – eternal hellfire? And just because you donated to Mother Teresa’s orphanage and you made a hospital for the poor and opened a school for the poor, you will have eternity in paradise with all pleasures, joys – unending! Is there some measure, is there some justification?
The book was published nearabout seventy years ago, and in seventy years not a single Christian theologian has been able to answer Bertrand Russell. On all other points I agree with him, he is perfectly right – in fact not only he, nobody should be a Christian – but on this point I have a disagreement because it involves the concept of time.
Perhaps he was not aware that he was talking about time, and he should take note of it. I think the Bible is right and closer to Albert Einstein than Bertrand Russell, particularly on this point, because the fire in hell will appear as if it is eternal. Pain seems to make time longer. Time seems to be something like elastic, and very cunning: when you are in pain it goes on stretching longer and longer; and when you are blissful and happy, the moment you realize you are blissful it is gone.
But this happens not because of time; this happens because of the mind. When the mind is feeling blissful, time stops. And because time stops you cannot count how many minutes, how many hours, how many days… But when you are in misery your mind is running – so many thoughts, so many worries, so many anguishes – time becomes very long. In a certain way this means that miserable people live longer lives and happy people die sooner.
Meditation is the way to stop the very idea of time as flux. Meditation is a total stillness. Nothing moves. That’s why you felt for a moment that time had stopped. It was just something else that had stopped – it was your mind.
But this is our way of looking at things. You don’t even know your own face unless you look at it in a mirror.
When you see that time has stopped, watch immediately what is happening within you. Has the mind stopped? I am giving you a clue: whenever time stops, immediately find out if your mind has stopped. In fact the mind stops first, and then only do you discover that time has stopped.
Now you have a key in your hands: let your mind stop completely and time stops completely. You start living in a timelessness.
For example, I don’t know what date today is. When Anando or Neelam come for some signature from me, they immediately tell me the date, because I don’t know what date it is. What do I have to do with dates? I use my watch only when I come to talk to you, because I am afraid I may continue for eternity! The whole day I don’t look at the watch; I don’t need to.
I don’t know exactly… In the morning when I wake up it often happens that I forget whether it is morning. I have cut every day into two days: in the afternoon I sleep for three hours so when I wake up again the problem arises, is it morning or is it afternoon? From my inside no answer comes.
For almost thirty-five years I have lived in absolute timelessness. I don’t know when the new year begins and ends. To me, the day my ego disappeared, my mind became silent, the whole existence has become silent and still, unmoving.
And you are saying, Prem Sono, “At the same time… it seems like a lifetime and leaves me feeling like a small child.”
There are two things to be remembered about the experience of being a child. One is to be childlike, which is immensely beautiful. Jesus says: Unless you are born again just like a child…
But remember, he is not saying exactly as a child, but just like a child – something similar to the child’s consciousness. But that does not mean that you are as ignorant as a child; you are just innocent as a child, but not ignorant as a child.
Childhood has two dimensions: one is ignorance, the other is innocence. Both are mixed, but we have to make a clear-cut division. And we have two different words; when we say, “You should be born again like a child,” it is one thing, and when we want to condemn somebody we say, “Don’t behave in a childish way.” That childish way is not the way of “just like a child”; the childish way takes only the ignorant part of the child, and “just like a child” takes only the innocent part of the child. We are dividing the child into two different dimensions.
“Always remember – because one can forget, listening again and again to be just like a child”; you may start being childish, but that is not the meaning.
The little boy was putting his shoes on by himself for the first time, but he put his right shoe on his left foot and vice versa. When he had finished, he ran to his mother: “Look Mummy,” he said proudly, “I put them on all by myself.”
“That’s very good,” said his mother, “but I am afraid you have put them on the wrong feet.”
The little boy looked down, and then said confidently: “No, Mummy, these are definitely my feet.”
A reporter asked Ronald Reagan, “Mr. President, with all the problems in the world today, how do you manage to sleep at night?”
“I sleep like a baby,” replies Reagan. “I cry a little and I wet the bed.”
I don’t want you to be that childish.
From Satyam Shivam Sundram, Chapter 22
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