Why study time?
The usual reasons are curiosity and usefulness of course. But there is also another reason. It is because Krishna said that He is Time. So to Hindus, Time is in and of itself Divine.
How do we experience time?
Our own internal understanding of time is really a never ending present. Now! That is the time of the Self.
Our own understanding of ourselves is the unchanging Self. “I” don’t feel that “I” have changed at all. Yes, my hair is grey and my skin is wrinkling, yes, sometimes my mind is tired and sometimes it forgets things. It is this “I” which does not age, that does not die and is eternal.
But the changeless eternal “I” lives in a never ending “Now”.
The tasty food cooked yesterday is a little insipid today. The hot water of an our ago has become cooler now and in an another hour it will be cooler still.
My senses detect a change of state of my environment. My environment is Ever Changing. “I” am never changing! My mind can remember a state when things were different. It can anticpate a state when things will be different from what my senses detect “Now”.
Using my mind “I” can remember the past and anticipate the future. My mind can only detect time based on environmental state changes detected by my senses. When my environment is as static as can be, or when my mind is engaged in an activity that is unmindful of environmental state changes, “I” don’t know “how much time has passed.”
The time line is the time of my mind.
In this time, the end is not the beginning. “I” know that people enter and leave my environment. Babies and Plants come into the world. Buildings are built. Art, Literature and Knowledge grow. Animals and people die. Buildings fall down. Knowledge is forgotten, literature misunderstood and works of art are destroyed. Species come and go out of the existence that my senses detect and that my mind interprets. My mind learns from other minds how it may interpret things that it cannot interpret on its own. My mind discovers that other minds too have a sense and experience of the time line similar to mine.
Other than the clock itself nothing in the environment repeats, on the scale of my perception.
Yesterday’s butterfly is dead, though the sun has risen again.
Last month’s new dress, is now old and is no longer so bright.
This year’s summer was much warmer than last year’s.
Our Sun himself is a second generation star, and our solar system was once but plasma.
I mark time, by the “events” that have “happened” and “events” that I anticipate. Today is different from yesterday.
Cyclic Events and Time Measurement :
Indians have observed time cycles since the dawn of civilization.
There were sunrises and sunsets, and our own activity cycles matched these. What we did on earth, was in sync with what we saw in the heavens. We were more active in the day time and more restful at night, unlike owls and other “nis’A carAs” (night wanderers).
We celebrated the full moons our own special name for each full moon, and many variants of the celebrations.
We observed that the sunrises swung from north to south, and back again, with respect to a frame of fixed stars that Daksha named, as did the moon rises and moon sets.
We found that it grew warmer as the sun swung north (Uttarayanam, and we liked it better) and colder as the sun swung west, and we planned our divine rituals as well as our agricultural and other activities around this.
We found that ice ages cycled as well as the heavens and understood the concept of s’RSTi (creation) and pralaya (dissolution). We developed an elaborate and increasingly accurate calendar with more complex cycles involving the alignment of more and more luminary bodies. (How yugas grew in length.)
We also developed sundials as well as water clocks (A copper pot weighing six palas has a hole bored in it by a gold probe weighing 4 masas, measuring 4 angulas.The time it takes to fill up with water is a called a prastha : Bhagavatam)
The sundials still depended on the movement of the sun, but the water clock depended on other “local (terrestrial) things”.
Western Science introduced new clocks to us based on springs and crystals and new calendars too, which we use extensively today for all our social activities. (For our divine/religious activities Hindus still use the Indian calendars. )
Time Cycle :
A specialty of Ancient Indians is that we believed that just as various celestial events were cyclic, so was time cyclic. Events happened and happened again in a cycle, but with slight variations in the actual details. If, in one yuga, Gautama forgave his harassers, then in another he cursed them, but the basic event of their harassment and his finding/causing the Godavari repeated in every tretha yuga.
That means that there is a Satya Sarada in every cycle doing the same things as she did last time with slight differences. (How boring , the very thought makes one yearn for moksha. :) )
Time Squiggles :
Stephen Hawking tells us that time is all squiggly like a tangled thread or spaghetti.
Modern physicists view time as a dimension closely connected to space and think of loops and wrinkles and worm holes etc in time. Einstein once asked someone ”does station X stop at this train?” Godel said that the present could influence the past.
- Time is Not Linear.
- Time is not independent of Space.
- There may be many universes.
- All times co-exist just as all space co-exists, because time and space are variants of one another.
For a person who thinks of time as Now, just the idea of the past and present co-existing is mind boggling. If all times exist “all the time”, then what in the world is the meaning of Now? Can then past influence a future? Can smoking ruin your lungs? Or too much writing now cause your back/hands to pain later?
Authorship and Copyright Notice : All Rights Reserved : Satya Sarada Kandula