The Value of Time
In this busy and hectic life of ours, in which time is so precious, how often do we take stock of our lives? Are we spending most of our time on activities and relationships that will keep us bound to the material plane, or are we investing our time to develop spiritually?
The mystics inform us that human birth is a precious and rare gift of the Lord, but one that comes with an expiry date. Warning us not to become sidetracked by worldly activities, they impress upon us the need to use our human form for the purpose for which it was given: God-realization. Do not become seduced by the glitter of the world, they say, since all that we see before us is perishable. Even our own body will one day turn to dust despite the countless hours we dedicate to its beautification and preservation. Whilst this message is constantly repeated, we turn a deaf ear to the Master’s teachings. So absorbed are we by life’s attractions, and sometimes its pain, that we postpone our daily meditation until we’ve completed something (ostensibly) more important. However, Kabir warns us:
Time is draining away like water held in the palms of your hands, but mind takes no heed. Like a moth it flies into the flame of passions and in the end is burned. O mind, why do you rejoice at the sight of pleasures? Don’t you see the fire that will consume you? You are hugging the serpent of sense pleasures and squandering the wealth of human birth. Says Kabir, mind is vile and capricious; one learns this through the knowledge given by the Master. Mind, without devotion, will keep burning wherever it goes.
We will leave our body the very moment we draw the last of the finite number of breaths allotted to us, irrespective of whether we’ve fulfilled our spiritual purpose or not. Unlike in work assignments, negotiating an extension is not an option. This is exactly why devoting at least some time to meditating each day is essential; otherwise our soul will not be released from the cycle of birth and death. As Baba Jaimal Singh wrote to the Great Master in Spiritual Letters:
You should do your bhajan and simran every day, whenever you have time. You are not to waste your time.… This human body you will not get again. The great object of being born as human beings is that one should listen to the Nam Dhun with attention… Always keep in mind that we have to leave this world. And whatever we do here according to the dictates of the mind, we will have to suffer for it. Insist on the mind remaining within the orders of the Satguru.
Upon our demise, we will face the king of judgment, who will mete out justice in absolute fairness. As per karmic law, each action will need to be accounted for. If we have neglected our spiritual practice, who knows where we’ll end up? Where our final destination will not be, that is certain; with little or no spiritual wealth supporting us, the doorway to the Divine will remain closed.
In the fifteenth century, the Christian mystic Thomas à Kempis wrote:
Very soon your life here will end; consider, then, what may be in store for you elsewhere. Today we live; tomorrow we die and are quickly forgotten.…
Therefore, in every deed and every thought, act as though you were to die this very day. If you had a good conscience you would not fear death very much. It is better to avoid sin than to fear death. If you are not prepared today, how will you be prepared tomorrow? Tomorrow is an uncertain day; how do you know you will have a tomorrow? …
In the morning consider that you may not live till evening, and when evening comes do not dare to promise yourself the dawn. Be always ready, therefore, and so live that death will never take you unprepared. Many die suddenly and unexpectedly, for in the unexpected hour the Son of God will come. When that last moment arrives you will begin to have a quite different opinion of the life that is now entirely past and you will regret very much that you were so careless and remiss.
The present is very precious; these are the days of salvation; now is the acceptable time. How sad that you do not spend the time in which you might purchase everlasting life in a better way. The time will come when you will want just one day, just one hour in which to make amends, and do you know whether you will obtain it?
See, then, dearly beloved, the great danger from which you can free yourself and the great fear from which you can be saved…. Try to live now in such a manner that at the moment of death you may be glad rather than fearful. Learn to die to the world now, that then you may begin to live with Christ.…
Keep yourself as a stranger here on earth, a pilgrim whom its affairs do not concern at all. Keep your heart free and raise it up to God, for you have not here a lasting home. To him direct your daily prayers, your sighs and tears, that your soul may merit after death to pass in happiness to the Lord.