Talking About Time
In the discourse ‘Come my Friend to Your True Home,’ Maharaj Charan Singh makes a clear statement which we might find disconcerting: “With the passage of time, whatever happiness we experience will inevitably be transformed into pain.”
This is then qualified by the Master as he goes on to explain that the passage of time also ensures that no one remains unrelievedly unhappy in this world. The fact is that our life stories, or karmas, work themselves out through the medium of time and we are caught in that constantly changing flood like logs of wood floating down a river:
Imagine the currents in a river. The movement of one brings several pieces of wood together, while the movement of another disperses them. Similarly, a wave of karma arises and within moments all our relationships are established: brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, friends and acquaintances. Another wave of karma comes and they all scatter, all in their own particular directions. Similarly, if we travel daily by train, we encounter many different passengers. They all get down when they reach their destinations, and when we reach our station we also disembark. Actually, we have no connection or relationship with any of them.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses, Vol.II
When unhappy situations resolve themselves, we are grateful for the passage of time, but when our days with someone we love are over, we are broken-hearted. In Buddhism, Path to Nirvana, the author makes the point that it was when Prince Siddhartha really awoke to our vulnerability to time and change that he was prompted to look for an escape:
It is recounted that it was the sight of old age, suffering, disease and death that turned Prince Siddhartha away from the pleasures of the world towards the path of enlightenment. Witnessing each of these common phenomena only once was enough for the highly pure and perceptive prince to be estranged from life’s transitory and perishable nature, and he at once made a firm determination to search for the state beyond change, decay and destruction – the state of deathlessness.
Although our human life is rare, invaluable, and endowed with immense potential, it is short and fragile.
K. N. Upadhyaya, Buddhism, Path to Nirvana, A Perspective
In a letter in Spiritual Gems, Maharaj Sawan Singh, writing in the middle of the twentieth century, explains time in its widest context:
All that has been created is bound to change and decay. There is dissolution of earth, planets, sun, and stars, but at very long intervals – too long for human conception. Who can say when this present planetary system was created? Prophets, yogis, and astronomers give their estimates, and the latter revise their estimates with every new discovery, but who can say how often this dissolution has been repeated? Only he who creates, knows it. Suffice it to say that for human beings sitting outside the eye centre, the time is infinitely long since the creation came into being and when it will disappear again. So there is nothing to worry about the next war or the atom bomb; this very kind of loose, vague talk was indulged in during and at the end of the Great War, and is also indulged in after floods, earthquakes, famines and plagues. The worry should be about the entry into the eye centre and meeting the Radiant Form of the Master, so that the Master is made a companion on whom reliance can be placed here and hereafter. He who has been connected with the Word cannot go amiss in catastrophe or peace. He has a place to go to and goes there, and is not lost.
He reassures the disciple, who must have written to him in a state of anxiety, by reminding him that the disciple of a true Master “has a place to go and goes there, and is not lost.”
As expressed in Buddhism, Path to Nirvana, “our human life is … endowed with immense potential” in that within this transient environment, whoever has been initiated by a true Master has been given the means to go beyond time. The writer continues:
We have the choice to uncover, develop and utilize this potential and thereby attain immortality, the very goal of this life; or to disregard, degrade and misuse it and thereby remain caught in the cycle of birth and death, wasting this life. Thus, we can go up or down, rise or fall, by using or misusing this life. Buddhism therefore emphasizes the need to be vigilant and to make sincere efforts to attain immortality and liberation, thereby fulfilling the highest possibilities of this human life.
Indicating the importance of vigilance and right effort in pursuing the path of the pure Dharma that leads to immortality, the Buddha says:
The life of a single day of a person
Who exerts himself to see the immortal state
Is better than the life of a hundred years of him
Who does not exert himself …
It is most comprehensively summed up by Maharaj Jagat Singh who writes as follows in this beautiful and memorable passage from one of his letters published in The Science of the Soul:
Time changes and will go on changing, but Nam does not change. The current of Nam goes on as usual. It is Nam which changes the times and brings about all changes. Till we are able to put our consciousness in Nam, we will be subject to changes, now happy and now miserable. That is why the saints repeatedly exhort us to withdraw our conscious attention from the nine doors of the body and fix it in Shabd. As we do this and our attention is withdrawn from the body and enjoys the bliss of Nam, we develop power of endurance and spiritual depth. After crossing the perishable states of Maya, we enter the eternal state of Nam and, freed from the cycle of births and deaths, are entitled to everlasting happiness.