Inspiration Letters 19
Time Issue: Lately I’ve been visiting some friends in Florida. The beaches here are white, and I don’t know the names of most of the birds.
I saw a pelican yesterday for the first time; it was perched on top of a small dam, diving and pecking at fish and eating them with wide, slow chomps.
Yesterday I also saw my first grapefruit tree. I’ve loved grapefruit juice all my life. I remember as a kid opening my first box of Tropicana grapefruit juice, and smiling when I got the cap off (actually I don’t). For some reason it had never crossed my mind that those big sour fruits actually come from trees.
I used to think I had hatched; then my parents told me the truth about how kids come into the world, and my ignorance was dispelled. I also used to think that we live only one life, between the blue sky and the good green earth and the freeway, and then my teacher, Sri Chinmoy, came along and explained to me that no, we pass through a series of lives in our journey towards Higher Truth and infinite Light.
I don’t know anything about my previous lives. The first time I heard the Saint Matthew Passion of J.S. Bach, however, it touched a deep nerve in me, to the point that I speculated that maybe I had enjoyed that great masterpiece in a previous life. I particularly love the arioso at the end of the Passion where the bass sings, “In the evening when it was cool, was the Fall of Adam made manifest to all; in the evening does Jesus wrestle with Adam’s sin—and rises victorious. In the evening the dove comes back, carrying the olive branch in its mouth, O beautiful time, O evening hour” (my very free translation).
I am close to turning thirty-five. My family has not really been blessed with longevity at all, so I have started to think about my own life’s evening. Surprisingly, I am not disturbed at all by my family’s medical history. I have accepted the spiritual life and I have received the blessings of a great, great Master. In this life, I have seen the very best that this world can offer. I will be happier in my life’s evening than I was in its morning. This I know.
The other day I walked for a long time along the beach here. I recited a poem of Sri Chinmoy’s that I especially like:
I SAW IN THE SILENCE
In the desert-silence
I saw God the Warrior.
In the forest-silence
I saw God the Lover.
In the mountain-silence
I saw God the Dreamer.
In the ocean-silence
I saw God the Awakener.
In the sky-silence
I saw God the Liberator.
—From Europe-Blossoms by Sri Chinmoy
One of the things I like about Sri Chinmoy’s poetry is his ability to coin timeless phrases, phrases that ring out like mantras and give delight to the ear:
“In the ocean-silence/I saw God the awakener.”
I like that line because what else can remind us of infinity, of our true divine nature, if not the ocean? The waves that fall, crash and recede, remind us of the inexorable, implacable character of time, but also of the inherent gentleness and mercy that is in all nature.
This reminds me of another very short poem by Sri Chinmoy that I like:
God’s first Smile was born
The day humanity awoke
To His Light.
—Poem 1421 from Sri Chinmoy’s Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Tree series.
Is Sri Chinmoy referring to a moment in time, when people first became aware of God, and His infinite Light? Or perhaps he is referring to the actual moment when God evolved human beings out of the animal kingdom; those souls that had once been animals became human. God smiled at His own victory in manifesting the human race. Like so many of Sri Chinmoy’s poems, this one defies pat rational interpretation. You have to meditate and dive deep into your own heart’s well to grasp its meaning.
Joy and happiness are the only reasons we exist here on earth. God created us to find happiness in all situations. I sometimes wish I did not stutter so much. I seek solace through writing and in that way connect with a much larger family, and there my stutter doesn’t matter at all.
Buddha said that to be happy, we have to live in the eternal Now, neither fretting over the past nor worrying about the future. Love each God-blessed moment with all your heart and give yourself away with joy and optimism.
We are spiritual seekers, pilgrims along a vast coil of time and destiny. By practicing meditation, we become more aware of ourselves, and thus we can lead lives that are more authentic to whom we really are in our heart of hearts. Sri Chinmoy once wrote this lovely piece of advice:
Be true to yourself.
The world will receive
Immeasurable help from you.
--Poem 7,631 from Sri Chinmoy’s Twenty-Seven Thousand Aspiration-Plant series.
If we can be absolutely true to our inmost Self, we will never waste a single second, nor ever find any cause for regret.
With best wishes all seekers,
Title photograph: Pavitrata Taylor, Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery
2 hours and 40 minutes - Timeless Time Trek
“When you consciously use time to do something divine, you are entering into divine Time which means timeless Time. When you are consciously thinking of something divine, immediately eternal Life comes and shakes hands with you. Each moment you want to go upward through aspiration, the eternal Time also becomes your friend.”
—Sri Chinmoy, from Transformation-Night, Immortality-Dawn
I got into my car in Rhode Island at 6:50 pm, showered and dressed in a sari for a meditation function starting around one hour later in Queens, New York, 180 miles away. I prayed that if it was God’s Will that I might experience my own taste of timeless time in order to arrive in New York more quickly than usual. If thus blessed, it would be as if I entered into a time warp or that time itself slowed down while I drove. It had actually happened enough times previously that I knew it was entirely plausible. Therefore, I put it out to the universe, meditated for a minute before leaving, put my key in the ignition and got on the highway heading south to New York City.
While driving, I purposely didn’t look at the illuminated clock face inside the car and just concentrated on feeling eager, willing and inspired to share a meditation function with my spiritual brothers and sisters in Queens inside the soul-elevating surroundings of a place we call “Aspiration-Ground”.
Ordering up a time warp? Timeless time? Time is a subject pondered by philosophers, scientists and theologians alike. The question of time begs some of the greatest issues people ever confront. When was the beginning of creation? Can it be measured in years? Does God exist above and outside time? What is Eternity? What is time itself?
Before I became a spiritual seeker, I viewed these notions as the realm of physicists or famous philosophers and my own conception of time was much more pedestrian. I viewed time as a captive of the clock and never imagined a world outside the regular sequence of time as measured by that self-same clock.
As I practised meditation with my spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy, I began to experience time in a way that seemingly defied the clock. Time started to seem more fluid than linear. Time was something that could be stopped, bent or warped. This phenomenon manifested in my life primarily in the time it took to travel between locations.
I often go by car between my home in Rhode Island and Jamaica, Queens, New York - a hub of community for the Sri Chinmoy Centre meditation group to which I belong. Because this distance is only several hours away by car and it always renews my inner life with inspiration and sincerity, I average a trip to New York about once a month. I even have a regular place to stay once I arrive and I enjoy attending meditation meetings and other Sri Chinmoy Centre activities there in Queens.
The average shortest time for the 180 mile trip by car is usually 3 hours. Many times it takes longer than 3 hours depending on the volume of traffic, accident delays or the need to make short stops along the way. And then there are those times when it takes less time than ought to be imaginable, let alone possible. Sometimes this familiar trek to New York and back seems to expand and contract time in a manner that facilitates an easy commute convenient for the itinerary and obligations waiting on either end.
As recently as a month ago, I decided to make the trip to New York even though I was traveling alone and not leaving Rhode Island until shortly before the Saturday evening Queens meditation was scheduled to begin. I rarely go to New York on weekends when I work 9-5 on a Saturday such as this one but it included a Monday holiday. The trip would still last a couple of days even without a full Saturday included.
Circumstance favored me and while I did not drive like a speedster, I was able to make the entire trip without any stops, major interruptions or traffic slowdowns. I sailed through the Throgs Neck Bridge toll, exited off the Grand Central Parkway and successfully found a place to park around the corner from Annam Brahma, a vegetarian restaurant run by Sri Chinmoy’s students. I stopped the car and meditated for a minute, offering silent gratitude for the ease of the journey.
As I walked into Aspiration-Ground, I looked at my wristwatch—it was exactly 9:30 pm. I had arrived at a meditation function in progress and as it turned out still far from finished for the night.
I purposely chose not to do the math right there and then but I knew without a doubt that I had been blessed with an answer to my prayer. I had entered “timeless time” and made it to New York in an amount of time that should have been impossible unless I had been speeding the whole way at a breakneck pace. I knew that rather than speeding hurriedly down the road I had just merged into a flow where it is possible to step outside normal clock time.
My heart was awash with gratitude as I stood outside a glass door to a tent through which I could see an audience of seekers sitting in the dark while a meditation video played on a large portable screen. Out of deference to this meditation segment in progress, I waited until it finished to enter the tent. Once inside, my inner being danced in a current of spiritual intensity inextricably connected to this place where I have attended countless meditations in the last 25 years.
While I will never be the one to easily explain lofty philosophical concepts about time or the layperson’s approach to the real meaning of E = mc2, I do know first-hand that time is not as straightforward as the clock makes it appear. In my own life, the transformation of time into something magical and flexible is linked to eagerness, willingness and aspiration. These qualities open a door to a manner of time that transcends ordinary perception.
Sri Chinmoy speaks of this different kind of time in the following selections from his writings:
“There are two kinds of time. One is earthbound time and the other is eternal Time. The earthbound time is what we have created, but eternal Time cannot be created. It is within us and without us. When we live in eternal Time, we cannot separate one second from another second. When we live in earthbound time, we know that it is one o’clock and then it is one minute past one. They are two separate minutes. But in eternal Time, we cannot separate the minutes or hours. In eternal Time one o’clock, two o’clock, three and four o’clock are all together. This is the difference between eternal Time and earthbound time. We can see the present, past and future perfectly housed in eternal Time, and this eternal Time we can easily possess when we are Self-realised.”
—Sri Chinmoy, from Transformation-Night, Immortality-Dawn
“Time is limited, energy is limited, opportunity is limited, capacity is limited—everything is limited. But the moment we go deep within, we feel that we are freed; we are enjoying Heaven-freedom. When we meditate we soulfully establish an access to something unlimited, ceaseless, eternal and immortal. It is only through proper meditation that we can free ourselves from the limited time that has been assigned to us. There is no other way. In sublime, deep, profound, high meditation we see that there is an eternal Time, which is without limits and without sections, and we can grow into the very current of that ever-flowing eternal Time.”
Eternal Time without limits as a place where the present, past and future reside together feels quite out of my league at first glance. Then I stop and remember—2 hours and 40 minutes door to door from my house to a meditation function 180 miles away without any logical external explanation. 2 hours and 40 minutes. Yes I do believe in a kind of spiritual magic called timeless time.
Photo from Sharani's Sri Chinmoy Centre Gallery
New York Interludes
By: Jogyata Dallas
It is interesting how, as a disciple one’s sense of time changes. Reincarnation and a growing comprehension of the soul’s long journeying; the quest of God discovery and it’s great canvas of aeons; impositions of karma; the growing urgency of the soul to manifest and serve; the intensity and velocity of a spiritual path; these and other things confer a different perception of time and how to best use it. In the ‘only-one-lifetime’ culture of Western thought, time can seem like an enemy—youth’s springtime giving way to the sickness and infirmity of age; the race to gather, nest build and succeed before frailty descends; time dominated by ambition, outer goals; achievement measured by materiality and gain—but in the spiritual life time is more about process than productivity, a God-given gift, something eternal and something to wisely use than be used by. And its empty spaces, times of purposelessness or non-clarity, conceal other realities, prepare us for what lies before us and other processes of growth and change.
Time can be poetic—rhythmic or cyclic—and there is creative time, dream time, down time, joy time, meditation time (non-productive timelessness!), the soul’s non-temporal time, eternal time—‘wasted time’ too, though what constitutes this will also differ according to one’s capacity for insight. And perhaps too the great illusion of time itself, for as Ramana Maharshi observed—and Guru seemed to share this view—time is only a construct of human consciousness and has no independent reality. Extraordinary!
Regarding ‘wasted time’, Guru corrected my erroneous perceptions of this early on in my disciple life when on two occasions he requested my wife and I to stay in New York through to the following celebrations, a 4 month and later a 6 month layover requiring a total abdication of all ‘normal’ responsibilities, a discarding of EVERYTHING (along with my ‘productivity’ notions of time). So we were to discover another dimension of time, a reality that only values time for the soul’s unfoldment. We protested of course: “But Guru, we have new jobs in New Zealand, we’ve just found and paid for a newly rented Centre, there are six new disciples to take care of, classes are organized for the next three months, a relative is undergoing surgery.” Guru waves his arm airily, dismissively, no need to even reply, and you know even then with your neophyte’s tiny comprehension that he has seen deeply into something measureless and universal, taken you into another chapter of your God discovery. We all have these stories.
In hindsight and all those months later you would be overcome with gratitude, since this long time spent around a great master has been a golden time, days and weeks bathed in light, immersed in processes of great change that, though unknowing, you were deemed ready for, catapulted from that rung in your evolutionary ladder way up to THIS rung! How memorable, this love and overreaching concern of our teacher who prized our God-realization so far above all other worldly considerations.
In the great spiritual and religious traditions in all of time, time itself is most sacrosanct when given over to the search for God, this ultimate and highest purpose. “You shall seek me and you shall find me” says God in one of the old Christian texts. “Because you seek me with all your heart, I will let myself be found... I will put a new spirit in you, I will remove from you your heart of stone.”
By Rathin Boulton
I had a cool friend at art school. His name was Stefan and he played guitar and sang: 60s and 70s rock only. He was tall and thin and moved with feline grace. Was he a hippy in an age of grunge rockers? You bet. One night his band played at the James Cook Tavern, a local blues rock haunt. Somehow they were a little off, not quite as groovy as they sounded at the parties they liked to play at. The first song of their set was Time, by Pink Floyd. After a few intro bars, Stefan stepped up to the microphone to sing the first ragged, desperate lines: “Tickin’ away / The moments that make up a dull day”... Suddenly he was motioning the band to stop. “No, no, I can’t do this one tonight. Sorry.” Was the band not getting it right? Were they playing out of time? Or was it just the wrong time? Were those lyrics simply too heavy for Stefan’s delicate artistic temperament that night?
“You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.” These lyrics come a little later in that same song. I remember hearing them when I was eighteen, at a friend's place. Life was long, and there was time to kill that day. But suddenly I felt shockingly aware of my own mortality. The lyrics struck to the core of my being, and I felt alone and afraid. The reality, the inevitability of the passing of time pressed in on me, and with it the sure knowledge that one day my life would come to an end. The passing minutes and hours that the clock marks never come back, and we only get so many of them in a lifetime. I don't know if I had ever really thought much about my own death before. When you are eighteen, death is usually something that happens to other people, older people—people not clever enough to be teenagers.
Now, some years later, I look back at the decade just gone, and wonder where it all went. Ten years have got behind me. Just when I was getting into it.
It seems that, on the whole, most people resent time, if not fear it. We’d like to remain in our prime forever, enjoying ourselves, and our friends, and life in general. Time often brings with it a gradual deterioration of our condition, until we are in no state to enjoy anything. What kind of a friend is time?
But where would we be without time? If we enjoyed immortality here on earth, would we ever get around to doing anything? What would be the point? It is our very mortality that compels us to try and knit the universe into some kind of garment we can wear. What is the meaning of this candle flame of existence we have been given? Have been given, along with the knowledge that the flame will be extinguished? And who is the giver and taker of the flame? How do we make sense of the Everything all around us—and the Nothing we fear may follow it, at the end of our “time”?
Here is the root of all humanity’s philosophy and faiths, and most of its -isms. We are mortal, and don’t really care for this inescapable fact. We struggle, and have always struggled, with the apparent monumental injustice of it all.
“Let us not waste time.
If we waste time,
Time will not only waste us
But also destroy us.”
And the terrible thing is, time-wasting is all many of us do. How does one truly “seize the day”, as the Roman poet Horace exhorted us to?
“As a spiritual seeker, you should always regard time as a great friend of yours and always try to be worthy of your friendship with time. If you appreciate, admire and adore the illumining and perfecting capacity that time has to inspire you constantly, to increase your aspiration-flames and brighten your surrender-light, then you will run the fastest toward the ultimate Goal.”
So time can be our friend after all. Just so long as we don't waste it! Too often we are just “passing the time”, instead of using it properly.
“To the unaspiring man time is a plaything; to the seeker it is something that he counts upon; to the advanced seeker it is something that he longs to transcend; and to a God-realised man time is something he uses to manifest God in God’s own way.”
I haven’t seen Stefan for many years now. I wonder if he is still in love with the same music, and wearing paisley print shirts. I guess I'll never know why he stopped playing that song that night. But I fancy it was because the words filled him with the same unwelcome awareness of mortality as they did me. I hope he has learned to appreciate time as a friend, and not something to fear, or merely squander. I hope we all can.
Moments in Time
Time has its moments—and the most memorable of these moments have made history, the plethora of events and trends that have shaped the world over the millennia, seem far simpler than it really is. In the opening days of the new decade, Time magazine had a new, special edition on the shelves: “The Decade that Changed the World”. It reflected on the more memorable, vivid moments of the previous decade, that cluster of ten years between 2000 and 2009.
So that was the decade that changed the world? The decade, mind you. Not just one of the many. That was the decade that left the world a different place, which had apparently never happened before.
Of course, every decade of the past century has stood out, leaving the planet a different place (though hardly an unrecognisable one). While earlier centuries—the twelfth century, the seventeenth century—invoke certain moods and images, now it is each and every decade that has its own unique ambience. The twenties, the sixties, the eighties, all invoke a few notable images.
A year, however, is a slightly less eventful period. One-tenth as eventful, strictly speaking. Only a few embody a “world-changing” mythos, thanks partly to pop historians in the mass media, infatuated with anniversaries and nostalgia. In the past fifty years, perhaps only 1968 (“the year that everything happened”) and 1989 (“the year that,” as you can probably gather, “changed the world”) have reached that apex. A few others have achieved some heightened sense of prestige, perhaps within limited circles. Even I have added to this, writing a book called 1975: Australia’s Greatest Year. It was not a stand-out year in most places, but in my homeland, it was—politically, artistically, dramatically, culturally—so full of nation-changing events to be worthy of its own volume, three decades later.
But even in a “normal” year, certain events ring out. It is the Hollywood style of history. Like any great movie, history is now recalled by its most powerful scenes. The hero triumphs. (Washington becomes President. Macarthur leads the troops to victory. Ali defeats Frazier.) The hero dies tragically. (The assassinations of Lincoln or JFK. The death of Diana. The murder of John Lennon.) Moments of terror. (The Titanic. Hiroshima. 9/11.) Moments of beauty. (Michelangelo paints the Sistine Chapel. Mozart composes his Clarinet Concerto in A K622.) Moments of excitement. (The Roaring Twenties. Beatlemania. The fall of the Berlin Wall.)
Of course, these were simply the turning points, the moments when various quieter or more humble moments come together, leading to a climax. While 1989 might have had more thrills, many smaller events in previous years had provided equally significant times. How could the Berlin Wall have fallen without the series of forgotten moments preceding it? Moments that, a few years earlier, placed Mikhail Gorbachev in charge of the Soviet Union. Moments that inspired the citizens of East Germany to demand their freedom. Moments that gradually caused the world order to change.
In our life stories, like world history, the most significant moments are not always the loudest ones. Consider all those times that we are overcome by emotion, leaving us forever affected. In hindsight, these moments… well, they usually make no difference. Consider the time spent with close friends, the ones you assumed would be your friends for life. In how many cases have those friendships ended—not usually in a stormy or tragic fashion, but almost unnoticed, fading away quietly as you grew apart. They have not been sad farewells, but logical, organic separations.
Look back on the decisions you have made, the ones that seemed most essential. Did they make a difference? In many cases, yes; in some cases, no—however momentous they seemed at the time.
Then look back at the moments in your life that, in hindsight, were truly significant. Did you even notice them at the time? Did they seem like they would change your life?
For this writer, one such moment was the day I walked nonchalantly into a meditation class, half a lifetime ago. I wanted a positive change, but had no way of knowing that it would be perhaps the most important day of my life. It would lead me to the spiritual life. Most previous ideas of life were soon replaced. I would never experience those moments that I had expected—but never really wanted—to witness in the future. Getting married, starting a family, starting a mortgage… That’s what everyone does, right? No, not everyone. Once I walked into that class, my life took another direction. I remember enjoying this class on the day, but it was some time before I even began to understand its significance.
Indeed, while I’d like to wax lyrical about what a magical day it was—how it lifted me to the heavens and made me feel a joy that nobody had ever felt before—I’m afraid that such a reminiscence wouldn’t be sincere. As I said, I enjoyed it. I even saw it as something very special. But it was hardly the fall of the Berlin Wall.
At the time, it was simply a nice, quiet moment. One of many that changed my world.
I was born early, so why am I always late? Attempts to reconcile this paradox have so far failed. Perhaps, unconsciously, I have attempted to make up for my premature enthusiasm to crawl the earth with a never-quite-arriving-on-the-dot form of post-punctuality. It is often said that New Zealanders (or ‘Kiwis’ to those in the know) are habitually late to their appointments—“yeah, sure mate, I’ll see you at 7” actually means 7.30 bordering on 8 o’clock. You see, ‘lateness’, like time itself, is entirely relative—especially this far south of Greenwich.
To demonstrate my complete apathy towards clockishness (a made-up word meaning excessive adherence to the artificial, anthropogenic construct known as “time”) I threw away my watch during a recent holiday at the beach. Vowing never again to be restrained by the ruthless straitjacket of alarms, chimes, beeps, ticks and tocks, I spent countless summer days surfing, running and lounging in complete abandonment of all earthly responsibilities.
Here I found that nature has its own rhythm, quite oblivious to the metric measurement of the machine-mind. Surrounded by water and forest, one becomes acclimatised to the ceaseless dance of the sun, moon and stars—the drum-beat of the waves and the almost invisible, but perfectly timed growth of floral abundance. The sun sets, the moon shines, the tide dances back and forth. These are the moments, hours and days of nature’s clock.
Do we waste too much time worrying about time? Is it possible to be too early, thus accruing large amounts of ‘dead’ time? What if I really am late to my own funeral?
“Watching the clock” is synonymous with boredom, while an atmosphere of fun and relaxation does away with the need for measurement, calculation and comparison.
Yet isn’t each second wonderfully important? One second can turn a billionaire into a pauper. One second can be a gold medal in the sprints. One second can embody a lifetime of enraptured bliss during a wonderful meditation. One second can be the difference between life and death. In one second, all can be revealed.
The scientists reckon that each creature experiences time in a radically different way. Philosophers claim that, when you get right down to it, the passage of time is only in our heads. My favourite spiritual teacher, Sri Chinmoy, spoke of dimensions beyond time that human beings could grow into—yet he, as a master of dynamic activity, knew the immense value of each moment. There is a phrase long hallowed in spiritual literature, and one which Sri Chinmoy often used, the “Eternal Now”. It evokes a sense that each tiny moment contains within itself all that is, was and will be. When I try to identify with this lofty realisation, I can feel myself becoming freed both of expectations from the future and regrets from the past.
What I thought would be a throw-down,
I cannot reconcile on paper.
Time is too elastic
Wander in and out of its threads
Finding ourselves here or there
Late, early, or perfectly
Stretching the ultimate
Decisions made by impulse
Decisions made by thought
Decisions made by others
Decisions made by fate
However so, we arrive
The ending of our lives
However so, we arrive
The impact was violent and sudden. Pea size shards of green light floated fascinatingly in the air. The marbles were approaching slowly at a staccato like speed. I could count them. My head had already bounced off the driver’s window and was travelling to meet the peas when the car snapped left and slid sideways into the slushy snow.
The alarm clock is set for 3:45 am. I got home about 10 pm after working 15 hours. I have to do laundry before leaving the house at 4:20 am to get to work on time the next day. Before I know it, it is well after 11pm. I barely close my eyes and the alarm is ringing.
I start one thing, get distracted, start another, check e-mails, a website or two, pay a bill, or wash the dishes, look at the clock and only a half hour has passed. Why won’t that important call come through?
For children time goes so slowly, and as they age it speeds up.
Speed skaters thrust their feet forward to meet the finish line. Races are won and lost in hundredths of a second. Hundredths.
The recent 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile changed time by 1.26 millionths of a seconds according to new computer-model calculations by geophysicist Richard Gross of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
Governments artificially decide what time it will be and where. For example, the Aleutian Islands in Alaska that are over the International Date Line, are forced into a time zone making it a mere 6 hours later than the Eastern U.S. Time Zone when earth time should be more like 8-9 hours later.
Jump into a jet, fly 12 to 14 hours and, zip, you find yourself on the other side of the planet, seriously jet lagged, however.
Some stars in the night sky are already extinguished, but their light continues to speed toward our range of vision. As we look out to the universe above us, we are actually looking back in time.
Yogis and meditators expand time. After sitting in meditation they are surprised when an hour or more has passed claiming it seemed like five or ten minutes. They say they don’t know where they go, but are aware, not asleep and definitely not riding in an airplane.
And there are the time warps, out of body experiences, astral travel, and, yes, missing time.
What is it with time? When the need is there to go fast, it drags, when more is needed, it dances lightly, laughing brightly, mocking desperation.
Have you ever played with time? It’s fun to experiment. Time is its perception. If late, deliberately slow down, stop thinking, manage the anxiety. This seems to make the perception of time slow down making more time. It works, occasionally. In trying to make time speed up, well, that is another story.
That’s the elasticity and relativity of time. Time at this moment is dragging as I try to absorb a single sentence of research as to what Albert Einstein calls “time dilation”, incredibly small, and astoundingly measurable increments of time, say a millionth of a second. Einstein predicted and it has been proven that time slows even when flying in an aircraft. The faster you go, the slower the time. Ah, so that’s why the airline pilots and flight attendants look younger and airplane interiors never seem to change.
Before Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was proven, poet A.H. Reginald Buller cleverly wrote:
There once was a lady named Bright,
Who traveled faster than light.
She set out one day,
In a relative way,
And returned on the previous night.
Time. Without it, our clocks and watches, the world as we know it would be at best disorganized, at worst, chaotic. It is the glue that keeps the world from being random. It makes it so families can have meals together, friends can meet for coffee, students can attend classes, and organizations and governments can waste endless amounts of it attending meetings.
And, frankly, that is about all I can take. My brain hurts and there is more, much more, so many concepts to explore. But that is for another time.
(Image by Pranlobha, Sri Chinmoy Centre Galleries)
By: Purnakama Rajna
Ding! Ding! Ding!
The 9 o’clock bell, homeroom, the National anthem, and I’m on.
Every half hour, on the bell, one group of 25 smiling faces enters, and another leaves me; no break, no chance to regroup, focus, or breathe; thus my day begins.
Ruled by the almighty bell and strictly scheduled time, both hunger and calls of nature must succumb to it, for there is no opportunity for the natural flow of time in this world.
Change of scene; a brief long weekend in New York, a mere 2 and a half days.
At the airport my clock and bell consciousness is griping, “What are you doing? You’re flying all this way for 2 days! You’ve got so much to do at home, you don’t have time for this!”
I argue with myself as I wait for my luggage, and as I wait in line for the taxi, listening to other people gripe about time, or the lack thereof.
Then, finally in my taxi, I see the Parsons turnoff from the Grand Central Parkway, and something begins to change. I feel a softness, a gentleness settling in, and all of my mental arguments cease. My soul knows that I’ve done absolutely the right thing, and I am home. No bells, no rush, no time, just being.
In the morning after I arrive, I rise, and do all of the necessary things to get myself ready for my 6:00am meditation. Then, I read, exercise, have breakfast, do laundry, do some selfless service, and when I look at my watch it says that it is only 9:30am.
I shake it, thinking it must have stopped. It must be wrong. How can I have accomplished this much in such a short amount of time?
Such is Guru’s world, and Guru’s flow of time. It is a river that flows ceaselessly and effortlessly, and when you are caught up in that river it is all joy and peace, and a constant flow of activity that is never painful or forced.
When I go to New York I allow myself to be fully immersed in this world; the world of living by heart and intuition, not by artificial segments of time imposed by an outer world institution, which is counter-intuitive.
So then, my greatest challenge is to bring that flow into my rushed and segmented world. I know it is possible, as I do have moments, sometimes even whole days when I can tune into that flow, and resist being pulled by others demands, and the demands of bells, and strictly enforced schedules.
Perhaps this is part of my sadhana, to remain strong, focused and in the flow no matter what the outer circumstance; bringing that little bit of New York river consciousness into my otherwise concrete and immobile world.
Ten Days to Learn About Time
In 1984 at Canterbury University I was studying philosophy simultaneously in the Classics Department, the Religious Studies Department and the Philosophy Department. It was an interesting experience of cross-pollination allowing me to impress my tutors with unexpected insights gleaned from their unknown colleagues down the corridor. The epistemology of Titus Lucretius Carus in De Rerum Natura illuminated surprisingly the theories of the Samkhya school of Hindu philosophy, and both could be used to good effect in the rambling discussions in my Metaphysical Topics class.
But ultimately, eighteen years of age is far too old to be studying philosophy. It is small children who are the natural philosophers. Plato’s dialogues I am sure would be more usefully studied, more perceptively understood, and more thoroughly appreciated by preschoolers rather than by lanky, greasy-haired university students.
I remember as a small child sitting on my stool at the corner of the dinner table in my assigned spot to Dad’s left and looking around at the faces of my family members, completely perplexed as to how my conscious awareness was distinct from theirs. How could I perceive this apparent event, this dinner, only from ‘my’ point of view? Did this perception reflect a reality? How did it vary from anyone else’s?
This was the time that I needed a helping hand grappling with philosophical issues—when they were real and immediate—not years later when the whole thing was just an interesting intellectual exercise.
So, if we are to investigate the mysterious concept of time, to probe its subtleties, uncover its inexplicable nature, delve into its profound control over our existence; the person to turn to is probably someone who is currently playing with their Lego, and not someone older, and certainly not a 45 year old.
At age 45 I am well past the inclination or the capacity to engage in abstruse philosophical speculation. I approach time as an experience to be lived, not as a concept to be thought about.
And yet this perspective may have value just as the ideation of our hypothetical child philosopher.
Perhaps I can explore the experience of time. There is one particularly good way of doing that.
It was the man from the Bern patent office—Albert Einstein—who pointed out that there is a relationship between time and space, between time and speed—that we can alter time by moving through space.
Have you ever run without let for . . . ten days?
There is a race held every year in New York City which goes by the improbable, yet highly accurate, name of the Ten Day Race. In this race, competitors run as far as they can in the period bluntly indicated by the name. I have run that race twice.
Nothing better exposes the peculiarities of the experience of time.
At the end of that week and a half, the whole race seems to have taken only the twinkling of an eye. I think this is because doing only one thing—putting one foot in front of the other—for so long deludes us—for our perception of time seems to be based upon observing one thing happen and that being succeeded by another thing happening. When we do only one thing, time seems to cease.
And yet despite this apparent pause in time, the runner of this race can have a simultaneous and precisely opposite experience of time. In the depth of the night—tired, exhausted, frail and blank-eyed—a mile can seem to take the better part of a year to run.
Having run this race twice in the past, I have made the inexplicable decision to run it again. It is thus that I find myself now in the throes of a long and rigorous training programme such as is necessary to undertake this race. I run long miles now that I may be better able to run in the course of the race. I am taking the current time and using it as servant to future time.
I am fortunate to have a special place in which to do this training. I run not down drear city streets but across green and rugged hills and along the ever-changing sea. This place is a waahi tapu—a sacred site, holy ground, and one can feel the spirit beneath one’s feet.
My route varies with the time of day and the flight of the moon. If the tide is in, I will run over the hills and along dusty tracks between riotous barberry hedges. If the tide is out, I will carry on down to the shore and run through the black, oily mud of the mangroves and out along the tidal flats—scuttling crabs and tiny fish darting from my footfall.
On any given day I turn around a rocky headland and a hundred huge black swans will rise in flight around me with a great thrumming of pinions; or a hundred matuku moana will be standing like silent, prehistoric, blue-grey sentinels in the shallows. Sometimes the ground will shake and fifty large, black and white cows will stream over the hills following me on my course. I will stop and sing for them and they will gather around, a huffing yet attentive, wide-eyed throng who will lick me with their great, rough and slobbering tongues before lowing a farewell as I carry on my run.
Twenty thousand years ago this place was an inferno of flying molten rock. Two volcanoes dominate the landscape—Otuataua Maunga and Puketaapapa tanga a Hape: holy mountains as Sinai or Kailash. But do not imagine soaring Javanese peaks emerging from the mist with caldera of boiling rock and an attendant plume of theophanic smoke. From foothill to summit —though to actually stand on the summit would be impiety—would take rather less than a minute to run, and in the craters—placid cattle graze and the occasional hare may dance his special, lunatic devotion to the moon.
Time and tide, they say, wait for no man. One day, misjudging the dance of the moon and sea, I found myself engulfed by a fast-incoming tide. By the time I was wading knee-deep through seawater I was cursing myself regarding bad timing and the inadequacy of slow wading in a training programme which called for, if not fast running, at least running of some sort. But my grumbling turned to delight as hundreds of fish, each one a scintillant flash of the brightest silver began to dance around me—breaking the surface in a progression of ebullient quicksilver.
In instants such as this, delight renders time an irrelevance.
And so the Earth revolves, invisible flakes break from hard volcanic rock, the feather from the tail of a cock pheasant—barred, beautiful, sepia and black—blows across the grass to be caught against a dry-stone wall.
Time passes. Not long till the start of the race now.
For The Times They Are A-Changin'
I am 18 years old, walking through the streets of Amsterdam where I have just started university. An old man passes who is whistling happily. In passing he looks over to me. “You better stay cheerful, son,” he says. “Life is over before you know it. I still remember the time I was your age like it was yesterday. And now I’m sixty-five years old!” It’s more than 13 years ago, but I still remember the incident so clearly. Indeed, like it was yesterday. The old man’s wise words prove themselves as I recollect the memory.
He was right of course. Time is a funny thing. So is memory. Scientific research among elderly people has shown that we remember the years around our twentieth year best, because that is the time when we usually experience the most change. We move away from home, start a new life and leave the last lingering remains of childhood behind to face our new role as adults. Those changes leave the deepest imprints on our memory. And unless we become ardent world travelers or adventurers, the wheels of our life again find the grooves of habit and the rest of our life passes by in a rushed blur—or so it seems to our memory, as it did to the old man I passed in the street.
Time is always intertwined with change. Although time itself is invisible, change is its visible footprint. We notice time’s passing by the changing positions of the hands of the clock. Time makes itself known as day changes into night and night into day. As winter’s cold abates and trees grow back their leaves. But time itself is ever elusive. It works secretly, a noiseless force shaping fate. We only notice it when it has completed its task.
Can we ever catch time red-handed? Right in the middle of its life-changing work, when its agile hand pulls the levers of the universe? I have concentrated on the minute hand of a church clock to see if I could catch it moving, ever so subtly. I couldn’t, although I stared for minutes. But when I looked away for five minutes and then looked back the hand had suddenly moved. Such conspiracy!
Just as I could not catch the hands of the clock moving, I also cannot catch my life changing. Still it does change continuously, as one firm look into the past proves. The years tell what the days withhold, as an old German saying goes. In matters of our human life time also proves itself a humble worker, never to be seen or heard. Does it really exist then? According to spiritual philosophy only the present is real. Sri Chinmoy speaks of the ‘eternal Now’. The past and the future are mere railroad tracks; the present moment is where the train really is. But because it is so difficult to be in that present moment we have created the past and the future and put solid labels on them, almost as excuses for the restless nature of our mind so helplessly attached to anything but the here and now. But really we are talking about illusions. Only the here and now is real.
What a blessing is meditation then, for teaching our mind to sit still and enjoy the fullness of that eternal Now. In my best moments seated on my meditation cushion I feel like a child again, safely anchored in the heart where the Now abides. Not a care or worry in the world—they belong to the past and future. I am a child again, rowing my boat on the gentle stream of life. With next to me my mother, showing me how to steer the boat. This is how life should be. A safe and happy journey on the ever-changing river of time.
By: Arpan DeAngelo
Many are the comments and analyses that can be made about the concept of ‘time’. Perhaps there is not even enough time to talk about the endless thoughts on the topic of ‘time’. As a matter of fact, I have run out of time to even attempt to write about it, as this essay was due yesterday. But if you are now reading this it means I was lucky, this time, in getting it printed here.
I would hate to say anything redundant or trite about ‘time’. Any timely comments on ‘time’ can come from many better sources at any time, so I will not attempt to comment on it any further. What I do wish to offer here though are some poems and comments about ‘time’ that Sri Chinmoy has offered over the years. His experience of time, his approach to time, and his unique expression of time through poetry mostly, can give us a better understanding of time and how to use it wisely.
The following are just a few of the many illumining and inspiring expressions of time that Sri Chinmoy has offered during the precious time that he had spent on earth with us.
Don't laugh at time!
Time will devour you.
Smile at time!
Time will bless you.
Cry for time!
Time will reward you.
Stay with time!
Time will treasure you.
Go beyond time!
Time will fulfil you.
Excerpt from Immortality's Dance by Sri Chinmoy
"Time wants to push me into the future. I want to pull time into the past. When time pushes me, I say to time that I am not ready. When I pull time, I get no response from time. It is long dead. Let me not allow myself to be pushed by time. Let me not pull time either. Let me just place my earthly existence in the Lap of Universal Time."
Excerpt from Meditations: Food For The Soul by Sri Chinmoy
Who has time? God. God has time to love me.
Who has time? I. I have time to perfect myself.
Time is the colleague of happiness and the fever of laziness.
The laziness in man usually hates the promptness of time. The divine in man sleeplessly loves the readiness, steadiness and promptness of time.
My failure-life is not the fault of my lack of time. My failure-life is the fault of my mind's lack of awareness, my heart's lack of wakefulness and my life's lack of soulfulness.
Excerpt from Four Hundred Gratitude-Flower-Hearts by Sri Chinmoy
Question: How can I best utilise the physical earthbound time that I am living in?
Sri Chinmoy:There are two kinds of time. One is earthbound time and the other is eternal Time. The earthbound time is what we have created, but eternal Time cannot be created. It is within us and without us. When we live in eternal Time, we cannot separate one second from another second. When we live in earthbound time, we know that it is one o’clock and then it is one minute past one. They are two separate minutes. But in eternal Time, we cannot separate the minutes or hours. In eternal Time one o’clock, two o’clock, three and four o’clock are all together. This is the difference between eternal Time and earthbound time. We can see the present, past and future perfectly housed in eternal Time, and this eternal Time we can easily possess when we are Self-realised....
Excerpt from Transformation-Night, Immortality-Dawn by Sri Chinmoy
Having given the burden of explaining the concept of time to my own timeless Guru, Sri Chinmoy, I now offer gratitude to him and to those who were able to take the time to read this and appreciate the spiritual nature of time. Knowing that we are approaching what Sri Chinmoy calls the time of ‘God’s Hour’, it is comforting as we deal with all the challenges of our relatively short time on earth. In this way we can be more patient with time as our days, months and years seem to pass quickly before our very eyes and we try to age gracefully with time.
By: Mahiruha Klein
I sometimes wish I could pull inspiration out of a hat, like some of my friends, and write beautifully and elegantly all the time.
Writing, alas, does not come easy to me. I have to work at it.
Pushkin, the great Russian writer, took Mozart as his model, and endeavored to hide how hard he worked, claiming that for him, as for Mozart, writing was like play. But the truth is, he worked very, very hard on his poetry.
Mozart died at thirty-five. I think it’s ludicrous to think that overwork did not contribute to his collapse. He worked at a feverish pace for years and years.
Artists try to compress reality, squeezing out from it everything but what’s most precious, its real essence and truth. This reminds me of a poem by Sri Chinmoy, from his book, Transcendence-Perfection:
The Mother Of Time
Time itself has fallen asleep
Who will wake you up?
No, not even the Mother of Time:
Truth Reality's satisfaction-dawn.
—Poem 412 from Transcendence-Perfection
Time is an instrument, or maybe a field through which karma and the other big cosmic forces work out their aims and resolve their pressures. But according to this poem, the very source of time, its ‘Mother’, is “Truth Reality’s satisfaction-dawn.”
I do not know what ‘Truth Reality’s satisfaction-dawn means. But if I can break this phrase down, maybe it will be easier.
The first half of the phrase reads: ‘Truth Reality’s’. I feel that the phrase ‘Truth Reality’ is singular for a reason. A Chinese expression states that you should always tell the truth, so that you will never have to remember anything. Truth is always simple, single, and irrefutable. It just is. So, there may perhaps be many illusory false cosmic realities, but there is only one Truth Reality.
‘Satisfaction dawn’ is also an interesting phrase. Dawn implies the very beginning of some process. Therefore, perhaps this phrase has some inner link with the ancient Vedic chant:
Asato ma sade gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrityur ma amritam gamaya
Lead me from the unreal to the Real!
Lead me from darkness to Light!
Lead me from death to Immortality!
In other words, satisfaction existed from the very dawn of creation, but God created the universe to enjoy and to manifest ever-transcending, ever-heightening and ever-deepening satisfaction. What we call ‘sin’ or ‘evil’ or ‘darkness’ is only light and goodness and perfection in their incipient forms. Maybe that’s why great spiritual Masters like Sri Chinmoy come down to this humble earth-planet in the first place. According to Indian spiritual teachings, only this planet is in evolution. It is only here that we can embody a conscious, constant hunger to go beyond ourselves in every possible way, and also, at the end of our teeming battles and struggles, to shake hands with God Himself on His own terms, but also as equals.
To combine the phrase: “Truth Reality’s satisfaction-dawn”, implies that Truth is the only reality, that we are moving from lesser to greater and greater satisfaction, and that in time we shall discover that satisfaction and truth are one. In other words, the supreme Satisfaction will one day be found at the Feet and in the Heart of the ultimate, incontrovertible and unique Truth, God.
I am not an old man, but I am thirty-four, and I am slowly stumbling into middle age and I do not like that. But, that’s the way it goes. I don’t fear getting older, as I once did because I have become a conscious seeker. That means that I feel each second of my life is precious; my life has a goal, and that goal is to achieve infinite Light. I may not achieve that goal in this life, and that’s ok. Goals give meaning to our lives. Why not choose the absolutely highest goal if you want the richest and most meaningful life?
For some reason I’ve had a lovely poem of Andrew Marvell on the brain. I can excerpt some lines here:
“But at my back I always hear/ Time's winged chariot hurrying near;/ And yonder all before us lie/ Deserts of vast eternity…
“Thou by the Indian Ganges' side /Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide/ Of Humber would complain. I would /Love you ten years before the Flood, /And you should, if you please, refuse /Till the conversion of the Jews.”
(The only ‘meat’ dish I occasionally pine for is gelfite fish. I wonder how Mr. Marvell would have put that into verse!)
I feel a similar sense of urgency in some of Sri Chinmoy’s late poetry. Take for example this poem from one of his last Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Tree volumes:
You must complete your journey
To God’s Heaven Kingdom
In this life.
I have a little more poise than in earlier stages of my life. I worry less, and enjoy myself more.
Somehow I feel that the greatest gift that Sri Chinmoy gave me are my memories of him. Whenever I feel frustrated or confused, I will think of my Guru, and I get the sense that things will be fine.
Sri Chinmoy wrote the following comments on the power of his smile:
“But for my disciples, my smile has tremendous power. When I smile, it comes from the soles of my feet to the crown of my head. Believe it or not, my smile has even cured the fatal diseases of some disciples. Only by remembering my smiles- at which place I smiled at them, on what occasion and so forth- they have had miraculous results. They knew it was not the medical world, but my smile, that cured them” (Sri Chinmoy Answers, volume 37, page 5).
Recently, I’ve been living in a Centre that has few members, and we do not live very close to each other so I have been spending more time alone that I would absolutely like. Sometimes when I get the blues, I just go to the lip of the Gulf of Mexico, look at the slow tides, and I think of the many times that Sri Chinmoy smiled at me, or just the times that I saw him smile at other people. I remember in the autumn of 2006, when an old lady presented Sri Chinmoy with a very high award. She shed tears of joy when she gave the award to him, and Sri Chinmoy gave her such a sweet smile that I will never be able to formulate it into words.
I think many of my personal experiences with Sri Chinmoy do not belong to me alone; they are stored in the universal consciousness. Anyone who loves divinity and light can get compassion and joy from a Master like Sri Chinmoy.
This reminds me of another poem by Sri Chinmoy, from his Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Tree collection. I am quoting it unofficially as I don’t have the source book in front of me:
God-Smiles blossom not only
In the Heart of time,
But also in the Heart
Of the ever-transcending Beyond.
With gratitude to my ever-expanding world-family,
Leaving Some Time Behind
By: Suchana Cao
“How do you benefit from the meditative life?” I was asked this question in an informal meeting with a few colleagues during a school training session last year. At first I explained to them briefly about my own quest for a more peaceful life within and without and then—it was definitely the most difficult topic to digest—I told them how happily a person can value his daily life if he stops thinking and starts feeling with the spiritual heart. Unfortunately, the urge for the submission of a final paper by the group would not allow me to speak at length on my personal experiences.
After midday the training session was over and as the weather was getting warmer and warmer, I decided to have something delicious to eat at a nearby ice-cream shop before coming back home. I was sitting down next to the refreshing shadow of a huge magnolia tree and I felt my inner and outer being relaxed and fully satisfied. “How lucky we are now to have ice-cream shops open at any time of the year!” Just two decades ago you did not have the chance to buy ice-creams except in the summer season or when they were ordered for special occasions like parties or banquets. “We have overcome”, I said to myself.
I could add that many other material things we have overcome—all kinds of flowers, fruit and vegetables are sold from January to December—along with some new cultural aspects which include a more multicultural or international community.
“But what is it about in my inner being and inmost feelings?” My own personal belief in “Turns, turns, turns,”—do you remember by chance this famous song reproduced in different albums by different singers since the 70’s?—was spontaneously discarded years ago. I realize this is the most significant thing I have also overcome thanks to my meditative life: there is no more dichotomy but only a time of life, a time of joy, a time of hope, a time of love, a time of oneness, a time of give.
Now, how could I have achieved this inner transformation by myself? Impossible!! This kind of inner miracle can only come from the delicate touch of a higher source who is the Supreme Master’s Love-Light and Concern.
In my next meeting with these colleagues I’ll try to deep still down and if they are inspired, we are going to share some of Sri Chinmoy’s writings on the spiritual meaning of earthly time and its friendly aspect.
As I am writing these last sentences, a short poem of his is emerging from the very depth of my heart:
"Never grow old!
God is a shining example."
Being marvelled at how far inspiration and reflections can fly, I ordered a second ice-cream and went back home just singing gratefully in the rainy sun.
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