“No one knows where time began and where it ends, and it is time only which can keep a record of the creation, maintenance and destruction of the material manifestation. This time factor is the material cause of creation and is therefore a self expansion of the Personality of Godhead. Time is considered the impersonal feature of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.10.11 Purport)
In spite of millions of dollars poured into scientific research and the ensuing studies, no one is sure about the origin of the creation. Even if someone says they are certain, there is no way to prove their claim. As they rely on perception alone, since no one alive today was alive during the purported time of the origin, the claim has to be accepted on faith. The limitation is due to the time factor, which in the Vedas is explained to be a representation of the Lord, an impersonal one at that.
What is the difference between a personal and an impersonal representation?
If I stay over your house for a weekend, when you see me for those few days you get my personal association. My words and activities tell you that I am in front of you. Though in actuality these are only part of the material covering on my soul, for the sake of discussion we’ll say that this is the personal representation.
Upon returning home, I realize that I left some things at your house. I forgot a shirt and a pair of pants. When you find these in your home, you get my association, but in an impersonal way. The shirt and pants are dull and lifeless. They don’t have the ability to move, speak, grow, or die. And yet the clothes bring me to the mind since they belong to me. This is an instance of the impersonal representation. The object of interest is somewhat related to me, but it is not me.
The Supreme Lord can be understood through the various objects that belong to Him. The earth, the sun, the moon, water, air, fire, etc. all originate in Him. This is part of His definition, that He is the origin of everything. For this reason the wise always thank God for their good fortune. They know that they require sanction from a higher authority in order to enjoy any outcome. Even something as simple as getting up in the morning and taking a shower requires the cooperation of higher authorities. The temperature must be right, the shower in the bathroom must dispense water, and the alarm clock has to function properly. If the alarm clock is on a smartphone that suddenly won’t turn on, it will be difficult to wake up in the morning, even if there was no problem getting up for the previous hundred or so days.
All objects originally come from God, and the word “origin” implies time. The changes we see around us are an indication of the time factor. Time causes things to change. As these changes are used for analysis, to cause both happiness and sadness, time is a very powerful force of nature. That time factor is also an impersonal representation of God. It is a factor that cannot be changed, removed, or defeated.
“The Blessed Lord said: Time I am, destroyer of the worlds, and I have come to engage all people. With the exception of you [the Pandavas], all the soldiers here on both sides will be slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 11.32)
The person who doesn’t believe in God must still adhere to time. They must suffer the changes to their own body. There is no reason for these changes to occur other than time. Why can’t the body remain forever youthful? Why can’t the pizza pie you baked tonight remain fresh tomorrow morning? Why can’t your smartphone work forever? Why can’t the smartphone you have now be the newest version for years and years? These “can’ts” are all due to the time factor. Time affects everything in its wake, and thus it is a superior force that deserves the utmost respect.
The person who claims that there is no God completely ignores the time factor. If they say that at the origin of the creation a bunch of chemicals collided, where did the chemicals come from? There is an origin to the origin, as that is how time works. You can say that the chemicals were just sitting there, but how did they get to that resting state? What caused them to come into existence?
The human mind, which is itself subject to the time factor, is incapable of grasping this concept. The infinite nature of time and space is too difficult to grasp. Indeed, the mind takes pleasure in any activity that allows it to lose conscious awareness of time. “I played video games for hours the other day. It was so great. Suddenly it was nighttime; the time passed so fast.” “I love my job. The time flies when I am there. It’s not really work if you enjoy what you do. I never look at the clock when I’m at the office because there is so much to do.”
The personal is superior to the impersonal. This only makes sense. My shirt and pants that I left at your house can’t really do anything. They can’t tell jokes, go to the movies, or drive a car. My personal representation can do all of these things, and so to my friends and well-wishers this personal representation is preferred. In the same way, the personal representation of the Supreme Lord is preferred to those who wish Him well. Though He has everything already, the pious souls look out for His benefit. They cherish His all-attractiveness, a feature which rightfully earns Him the name Krishna.
These same souls look to help other souls gain the same personal association. They know that will make others happiest. It is said that the time factor is absent in the spiritual abode. Time, of course, is still measured but it has a different effect. It doesn’t destroy; it instead creates renewed opportunities for association with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The body and spirit are identical for each individual in the spiritual abode. As this is the original home for all, we see that every individual’s real form is a spiritual one, where the outside covering is not susceptible to the destructive time.
Thus the personal representation is also more benevolent; its influence is always beneficial to the individual. The impersonal time doesn’t act in the same way. Sometimes it creates, sometimes it destroys, and eventually it must destroy everything. That is the nature of something that is created; there must be destruction. Not so for the spiritual consciousness that is reawakened through the chanting of the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare,” and then maintained by the personal representation of God, Shri Krishna, in the spiritual realm.
If God’s nature like to know,
No further than time to go.
Create, maintain and destroy,
All in hands of time just a toy.
Representation of God but incomplete,
Personal is Lord Himself, full and complete.
Since blissful sounds from flute in His hand,
Time no influence in enjoyment in His land.