Time I am, the greatest destroyer of all the worlds. – Bhagavad Gita 11.32
We speak of time in measurements: seconds, minutes, hours, days, years. Bhagavad Gita, however, does not speak much of how time is measured; instead, it refers to time as a power that pervades the entire creation – like a commanding force pushing us ever forward.
Power of time
Nothing can alter the influence of time even for a moment. It is all-powerful. Conquerors cannot defeat it. Beauty queens cannot seduce it. Billionaires cannot bribe it. Scientists cannot manipulate it. Champions cannot win over it. Geniuses cannot trick it. Military arsenals cannot stop it. A time piece may stop but time won’t. When bored, we may want to kill time. But it is Mr. Time who kills all without discrimination.
How do people perceive time as they grow?
Young people often find it difficult to grasp the devouring nature of time. They are impatient, always looking ahead at future opportunities: When will I grow up? When will I get vacations so that I can roam around freely? When will I enter a college? When will I graduate and develop a career? And then, they are waiting to get married with the hope to enjoy life.
Inevitably, some of them grow old – the fortunate ones (because many die young) – and they reminisce the good old days. Their expectations are now flattened and all life-mysteries demystified. They become apprehensive as death begins to stare into their eyes.
New York’s cemetery, with tombstones lined over miles, looks remarkable. The dead are buried in an attractive casket that costs around $5000. The tombstone is made of granite or marble. The dates of birth and death, along with a message, are inscribed on the tombstone. A few friends drop by once a while to remember the dead person. This tombstone business will never go bust because there is always a market demand.
But devoid of its glamour, it’s a sad reflection of the real world. The insects feast on the body buried seven feet below the ground. The only thing that remains is our name and the duration of years we spent. Eventually we become an insignificant statistic in this world.
“Our life is like a water bubble tottering on a lotus leaf and can burst at any moment,”says Govinda Dasa, a Bengali poet.
How to utilize time? – A spiritual perspective
The body undergoes transformation from childhood to youth followed by old age and death. But the soul remains unaffected. Bhagavad Gita teaches that the soul is beyond the effect of time, even beyond birth and death. True wisdom is to appreciate the potential of every moment by grounding ourselves in the reality of the timeless soul.
In the Bible, it is said “Be wise and build your house on rock but not on sand.” A saintly person sees human society, however developed it might be, as foolish children building their little empires in the sand of material existence. The rising ocean of time will eventually send its fateful wave of death and wash away everything. None of us will be exempt.
The Bhagavad Purana gives us warning, direction and hope: “With every rising and setting of the sun, we are one day closer to death. But for those who spend their life absorbed in service to the Supreme, every sunset brings them one day closer to their own eternal life.”
We have to make a choice – to either be devoured by time or use every moment in remembering, worshipping or serving the Divine: Sri Krishna. We can make time an enemy that destroys us or a friend that enriches us. This is the most serious choice a human being could make at every moment.