Dare to give up the Illusion of Time

A dialogue with Swami Krishnananda

This article is from What is Enlightenment? magazine (vol. 4, no.2, 1995).

Swami Krishnananda (to Andrew Cohen): There are many people sitting here and they want to listen to you.

Andrew: So the message for today is: dare to give up the illusion of time. Give up the belief that there is any distance or gap between oneself and one’s true Self, and between oneself and the rest of life, the rest of existence. This takes a lot of courage. It takes a willingness to die absolutely and unconditionally right now. So my message for today, and for every day, for every moment, is not to wait one second longer. That’s my message.

K: So short! Please expand it with a little bit more detail.

A: Expand it? Okay. Well, many many seekers believe with fervor and with great conviction that it will take them a very long time and much hard work to bridge the gap between where they are now and where they want to be. But it is this belief and conviction that there is this gap in the first place that creates the illusion of separation. Now if we have the courage to give up the illusion of separation, then we will find that we have no place to stand. And as we look and look we will not be able to locate ourselves. Everywhere we look we’ll see nothing. We’ll see nothing, and we’ll see everything at the same time. So to come to this point, it takes great courage. Because if we want to know that much and see that much and be that much, we have to be willing to let go of every thought, notion or idea that we have about who we are, or about what’s true. In order to do this we have to be willing to die unconditionally to the Absolute, and we have to be willing to give everything–and everything and everything and everything–to that and that alone; even our sadhana [spiritual practice], even that which we hold most precious and most dear to us. So that we’re left empty and naked, and we have nothing and nothing and nothing at all.

K: You said one sentence that was very beautiful: we should remove the idea of the distance between what we are and what we ought to be.

A: Yes, time.

K: Ah, that is called time. Is there a distance/time process between what we are and what we ought to be? There is this belief that there is a long, long time. “I would like to be an emperor,” one might say, “and how long will it take for me to become one?” One doesn’t believe that it is timeless, gapless. We wish to become an emperor. The wish is in the process of time itself, and therefore it appears that there is a long distance temporally from the present condition to the one we want in the future.

All that we seek in this world is like moments inside a dream. So what is the value or worth of anything in this dream world? One may be a beggar or one may be a king in a dream, but both the beggar and the king in the dream are made of the same meaningless substance, of what we call the dream stuff. Even though you are a king in a dream and another person is a beggar in a dream there is basically no distinction between them. They are made up of the same substance. I shall bring an elephant made of sugar and a rat made of sugar. Do you find any difference between them? A rat made of sugar and an elephant made of sugar: there is a great difference indeed, yet there is no difference.

So this little sentence that you said–about removing the distance between what we are and what we ought to be– is difficult to grasp. Time-bound as we are, and limited as we are by the process of thinking only in terms of time, we cannot understand what it means to say that there is no distance between what we are and what we ought to be. For example, we are mortals and we want to be immortal. How much time will it take in order for the mortal to become immortal? Endless ages of births and deaths, people generally say, in the scriptures at least. The unfortunate or fortunate thing is that what you ought to be is exactly what you are. What you ought to be already is hidden in that which you are just now.

You mentioned also the lower self and the higher self briefly. For many of us there is the higher self and the lower self. What you are is the lower self, what you ought to be is the higher self, and both are in the same place at the same time. So how much time will you take to transcend the lower self and become the higher self? It is like, to give a small humorous example, the distance between foolishness and wisdom; how far is wisdom from foolishness? How many kilometers away? There is a tremendous distance, isn’t there?

It is said that “great wits are sure to madness near allied.” But can you say great wit, or genius, is deeper than madness? Because of the unsurpassable quality of genius, it looks as if it is not a normal condition. Can anybody think like Albert Einstein for instance? E=MC2 is his great equation. To some extent you can make sense out of this equation, but there are things about it out of which no sense can be made. For ex-ample, there is no such thing as past, present and future. In a realm far, far beyond the gravitation of the earth where time does not exist, you cannot know which was yesterday, which is today, which is tomorrow.

In the Bhagavad Gita, the great war of the Mahabharata was about to take place. It had not yet commenced at all. No one had lifted a single weapon. The battle had not begun. The great cosmic vision, which we call the “Vishvarupa,” or Krishna in the form of the Absolute, was standing before Arjuna. He is supposed to have said, “I have already executed this war. It is finished. Now we are only to be an instrument, and the thing that it is necessary to do has already been done.” How could Sri Krishna, the Absolute incarnate, tell us that that which has not yet begun is already over? These are transcendental issues. They look transcendental because they are above the limitation of time. What makes us look foolish, silly, finite, idiotic and anxious is the bondage of time. Has anybody seen time? Have you seen time?

Student: No.

K: Does it exist? You are believing in a thing that does not exist. What makes you feel that time exists when you cannot see it anywhere? At least space you can see, there is a vast expanse. But have you seen time? Yet time conditions the whole world. “Your destiny is in the hands of time,” as they say. How could you accept such a thing called time which cannot be seen with the eyes. How is it that it cannot be seen? The reason for this also must be known. An existent thing must be seen. People say, “There is no proof that God exists, because he can’t be seen with any available means of experiment or perception.” But have you seen time? And yet you believe in time.

Imagine that you were going to be executed tomorrow. What will you be thinking in your mind today? Your soul will tremble and nobody knows what it will do. Tomorrow you will know.

When you are drowning and there is no hope of survival, the true self comes up and sees what can be done. When you have lost everything and nobody wants to look at your face, you will develop a great strength.

A: So the question is then–it’s difficult for people to realize that they are drowning.

K: Who will believe that tomorrow is the last day of man?

A: Exactly.

K: Will anybody believe? There is a whole world of illusion, maya, as they call it. Is it true that tomorrow we shall realize the truth?

A: Nobody knows, nobody knows.

K: One quake on the earth, the earth shakes, and what happens to the king, the emperor and the wealthy man? What happens to them? Look at the pitiful conditions after the earthquake in Japan. And nobody will believe that tomorrow that could happen.

Today you can be a powerful minister. Tomorrow you can be walking on that little street outside of here. I have seen people like that: a minister, important with an entire country under him, and tomorrow he comes and sits here.

So the higher self is not merely inside us, it is us. But we are not allowing it to manifest itself on account of greed and negative habits and the idiocy of the lower self. The lower self is caught up in the time process, and wants to grab the world of perishability. Everything that you want to grab in this world is perishable, and the body which is trained to enjoy those perishable objects also is perishable. The perishable is asking for the perishable. Wonderful wisdom of humanity!

A: This is the greatest challenge I think for the true seeker: to give up time, to give up the future.

K: There is no such thing as the future. When time is gone, the future also goes. There is eternity. In eternity there is no yesterday and tomorrow, it is just here. And if you believe that God exists and God is eternity, it is impossible to conceive what the state of affairs is. The supreme Absolute is dancing in our hearts and we are closing our eyes to that dance.

Thank you very much. Hari Om.

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