Appendix (Part 12)

This article is part 137 of 138 in the series Jīvana-dharma-yoga

In our country, it is not difficult to find instances where extreme religiosity makes one forget worldly duties. It is quite common to find educated people who,in the garb of renunciation and devotion, have shut their eyes to filth in society and country. If our śraddhā in dharma had been seen in our contemporary societal and political life, our country would not have to suffer from perpetual famine and fear of enemies[1]. Bhajans and festivals are quite commonly observed among us. Lectures on purāṇas and other religious texts endure. News about harikathas and religious discourses are published in the newspaper everyday. Along with that are seen countless accounts of corruption and inappropriate and immoral dealings in the administration. How can there be religious zeal on one side and moral decrepitude on the other? How can they go together? If śraddhā in the divine and dharma is truly prevalent among people, why do we see such incongruences?

The reason for this is not religion, but the misplaced sentiments that our people have in religion and dharma. If dharma should apply to all aspects of our life, we should observe that it acts in four domains:

  1. Ritual worship
  2. Familial
  3. Societal
  4. Political

Our people consider only the first one as bhakti and accept the second one as somewhat inevitable. They have kept the third and fourth out of the realm of dharma. Thus, the relationship between worldly life and dhārmic feeling in people has broken down. This is the reason for continuing disasters in our society. Music in bhajans and kīrtanas and the taste of naivedya and other celebrations are endearing to the mind. Societal obligations require hard work. Political duties can bring in harshness and resentment. Therefore, societal and political dharmas have remained away from our people. This is not the sign of a people who possess discernment about dharma. Just as dharma expects devotion for the divine, it also expects alertness and efficiency in performing one’s public duties. Those who neglect this are performing serious omissions in dharma.

Once, a great speaker came to Bengaluru and delivered twenty lectures about the Gītā. People were attending the lectures in hordes, in hundreds of cars. There were thousands of women also. Who knows how many among them had come to flaunt their finery and jewellery! Everyone had a copy of the Gītā in their hand. If their enthusiasm were to be considered sincere, Bengaluru would not be a destination of urbanites but a hermitage indeed! On the concluding day, a laukika gentleman of eminence was invited as the chief guest. In his speech, this chief guest challenged the speaker thus:

“Svāmin! There is an accountant in an office I know. He seems to be a pious person. He wears a dhoti with kachche. His forehead is smeared with vibhuti, and he keeps uttering statements from the Gītā always. He keeps saying “Rāma, Rāma, Śiva, Śiva”. But when asked to bring his documents, he can never find them. He makes mistakes in accounting. He does not remember anything. If asked why, he replies “Rāma will set everything right”. He regards office work as contemptible because it is just for livelihood. He does not respect the job that is paying him his salary. He is not dexterous in his work. But he is devoted to the Gītā.

In the same office, there is a typist. He may or may not be a Hindu. There is no mark on his forehead. He wears trousers and sometimes a hat also. He is always clean shaven. I have not heard the names of either the Gītā or Rāma from his mouth. But he is efficient in his work. He writes down dictations correctly. He types them beautifully, and prepares documents in time. Many a time, he finishes extra work after office hours in the night or early in the morning. Let us say that he is devoted to his work.

Whose devotion to the Gītā is greater among these two? The one who utters statements from the Gītā, or the one who does his duty?”.

If our people deliberate upon this question, then their devotion to the Gītā might become meaningful. Shouldn’t the quality of dharma be reflected in the lives of the people who claim to follow it?

Mahatma Gandhi effectively demonstrated that societal and political duties are suitable domains for the practice of dharma as instructed by the Gītā. It was his zeal for dharma that brought him to politics. He had understood that if there was no dharma in politics, it would not be there in the lives of people as well. Because of his śraddhā in dharma, politics became a necessary duty for him. The prayer meetings that he held every day were also political meetings. The most important aspect of his dharmic practice was to discuss important public matters and advise people and the government[2]. The devotees of dharma among us should keep this in mind. From no aspect of life should dharma be kept out.
 

The Nature of Time


kālo’mśaḥ paramātmanaḥ ॥

-MB, Śānti Parva  238-25

kālo’pi tanmayo’cintyas-triguṇātmā sanātanaḥ ॥

-Ibid. 43

kālātmanā tvidaṃ bhinnam-abhinnaṃ śrūyate hi yat ।
anādyantam-ajaṃ divyam avyaktam ajaraṃ dhruvam ॥

-Ibid. 44


All of us use the word ‘kālā’ or Time. Our minds understand the nature of time, or we interact as though we understand it. But, do we really understand its nature well? Is it possible to reveal its definite nature through mere words? That effort is now necessary for us, because at every moment, we behave as though we accept that the universe is subordinate to something called time. We say, “All this is due to the influence of time”, “This anomaly is because of time”. Therefore, let us think about some characteristics of time.

  • Time is an external thing that we experience internally. It is not physically perceptible to our eyes and hands, but only to our knowledge.
  • Since it does not have any form, it is only perceptible when it is associated with a physical object or activity. Just as we cannot isolate and show the characteristics of world-objects — white, red, sweet, spicy, thin, thick, goodness, badness, etc., — from the objects that possess them, we cannot separate out time from the physical objects or activities it is associated with. Adverbs such as then, now, when, today, tomorrow, and yesterday denote time.
  • Every part of our lifespan is time. Time is a fragment of one’s duration of life.
  • There was time before our lifetime, and it will be there after that. Our lifespan is a small part of eternal time.
  • Thus, time has always been there; it will exist forever. It is hidden, and also shows itself. Wherever there is existence, and wherever there is knowledge of existence, time exists. The feeling of time is in the universe. Where there is no universe, there is no time. The universe is action! The feeling of time is inevitable for any activity. The understanding of the expanse of existence is itself a measure of time. The mental experience of the vast canvas of existence is time. Existence is the nature of Brahma, and this existence is experienced by the jīva. Brahma existed before the universe was created. The energy that experienced the universe was, then, not separate from Brahma. Therefore there was no talk of time.
    • We can describe time in two ways:
    • Related to our lifespan 
  • As something that exists within and beyond our worlds.
  • The first is limited time, or transactional time. The second is unlimited time, or time beyond the universe. That is pure time or eternal time. Human life is limited. Bhagavān’s greatness is unlimited.
  • Something that is limited can be measured. Something that has a beginning and end can be counted or measured. Aspects of time such as second, day, month, year, yuga and kalpa are all understood this way. Of similar nature are words such as then, now, when, and feelings of time such as past, present, and future. Natural activities such as the blinking of our eyes, breathing through the nose, sunrise, sunset, and change of the seasonal cycle are all fundamental measuring sticks to measure time. These belong to the realm of worldly time.
  • The entity that is not amenable to such divisions and yardsticks is Bhagavān or paramātmā. He is infinite and therefore immeasurable. Therefore, in the context of Bhagavān, time is unlimited, eternal, and infinite. It is non-transactional. “sarva-svarūpī bhagavān anādimān” (“All forms are manifestations of Brahma, which does not have a beginning”). Brahma does not have any concept of time.
  • There is an aspect of ‘becoming’ associated with ‘being’. There is a spark; it becomes a flame. There is water, it becomes steam. There is a raw fruit, it becomes ripe. There is a baby; it will become a parent eventually. ‘Becoming’ is a result of ‘being’. When the qualities and energy that are hidden within an object gradually flow out, it ‘becomes’. Time is the continuity of existence that is required for this. The internal qualities of an object ripen as seconds, days and months flow and pass. “kālaḥ pacati bhūtāni sarvāṇyenātmani” (Mahābhārata, śānti). Thus, we can say that time is the opportunity for the external manifestation of the internal qualities of the universe. When we say that time causes everything to mature, it means that it softens and tempers the insides, hardens the soft parts and brings them out. Change is another form of existence. That is action.

To be continued...

The present series is a modern English translation of DVG’s Kendra Sahitya Akademi Award-winning work, Bhagavad-gītā-tātparya or Jīvana-dharma-yoga. The translators wish to express their thanks to Śatāvadhāni R Ganesh for his valuable feedback and to Hari Ravikumar for his astute edits.

Footnotes

[1]This was the situation in the 1960s.

[2]Since Gandhiji was a highly influential figure in those times, DVG might have cited him as an example.

Author(s)

About:

Devanahalli Venkataramanayya Gundappa (1887-1975) was a great visionary and polymath. He was a journalist, poet, art connoisseur, philosopher, political analyst, institution builder, social commentator, social worker, and activist.

Translator(s)

About:

Engineer. Lapsed blogger. Abiding interest in Sanskrit, religion, and philosophy. A wannabe jack-of-all.

About:

Mother of two. Engineer. Worshiper of Indian music, poetry, and art.

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The Best of Hiriyanna is a collection of forty-eight essays by Prof. M. Hiriyanna that sheds new light on Sanskrit Literature, Indian...

Stories Behind Verses

Stories Behind Verses is a remarkable collection of over a hundred anecdotes, each of which captures a story behind the composition of a Sanskrit verse. Collected over several years from...