“Shrimad-Bhagavatam and, primarily, the Bhagavad-gita are both meant for delivering a person from the misconception of ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ and Shrila Vyasadeva transcribed them for the deliverance of the fallen souls. The living entity has to be situated in the transcendental position where there is no more influence of time nor of the material energy. In conditioned life the living entity is subjected to the influence of time in the dream of past, present and future.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 2.9.3 Purport)
Wouldn’t it be great if you could forget time? Not that you forget to feed your children or take a shower before going to work, but actually getting involved in something where you’re not constantly looking at the clock. Wouldn’t it be nice to engage in something where the time seems to fly by, where you are not constantly in angst?
Wouldn’t it also be great to be free of space restrictions? When someone does something very bad, society puts them in jail. This is the punishment and it involves a restriction on space. Instead of getting to go anywhere and everywhere, the convict must remain in a small cell. Perhaps they get to go outside for a few hours during the day, but they can’t leave the prison compound. Wouldn’t it be great to be free of such restrictions all the time?
Interestingly enough, both conditions can be met in spiritual life. Whereas the clock is ticking in terms of the time left within this body, and whereas space is limited with residence in this present body, in the constitutional position neither is an issue. Indeed, the best way to regain that constitutional position and remain in it is to find an outlet for service that removes the time factor.
Imagine this situation. You’re trying to lose weight. Not that you are obese, but from recent pictures you’ve noticed that you could stand to lose a few pounds. Your face looks too puffed up, and you definitely have more fat on you than you did previously. The change happened through bad habits. A single time eating dessert turned into a daily habit. One outing to the pizza shop turned into a regular occurrence, where the person behind the counter knows your order as soon as you walk in.
To lose weight you try exercise. You hop on a machine for cardiovascular fitness. You’ve heard that to lose weight properly, you need to be on this machine for at least thirty minutes. Hence you are bound to time. The first attempt is very difficult for you because you can’t stop peeking to see how much time is remaining. “When will this end already? I’m going to have to do this every day? I won’t make it.”
The next time around you bring music with you. You put your favorite songs on your smartphone and you listen to them through headphones while exercising on the machine. This time the experience is much more pleasant. You played the songs in random order, so this way you were able to forget time even more. With this forgetfulness, you felt liberated. You felt free to exercise, which you considered to be good for you.
We can take this same example and apply it to spiritual life. Bhakti-yoga can be likened to exercise for the health of the soul. The diseased condition is the false ego, which we assume at the time of birth. False ego is a subtle element attached to the body, which we can perceive through its collection of gross elements: earth, water, fire, air and ether. The cured condition is the real ego, where we know that the “I” refers to the spirit soul, the atma. “Mine” means that which the soul temporarily uses, sort of like on lease from the heavenly father.
Bhakti-yoga is the best way to transform the false ego into the real ego. Exercise in bhakti-yoga involves adherence to regulative principles, the primary of which are avoiding meat eating, gambling, intoxication and illicit sex. Imagine going through the day trying to not eat meat. Imagine constantly having urges for intoxication on your mind but having to block them out. Imagine wanting to gamble so bad but knowing that you can’t.
As these are regulative principles to adopt for a lifetime, each day becomes difficult. One day of following the principles is not enough; you must repeat the same the next day, and the one after that. Therefore time becomes a major factor. It’s like being on the cardiovascular exercise machine and seeing that there are many days left until you can get off.
The way to forget time is the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. This is the positive side to bhakti-yoga, accounting for hearing and chanting, two of the nine methods to the discipline. The restrictions are the negative side and chanting the positive. His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada urges the chanting of this mantra for sixteen rounds a day on a set of japa beads. This means that around two hours of each day can be occupied by chanting. Two hours of chanting means two hours of avoiding the previously mentioned sinful activities.
But what about the rest of the time? How do we steer clear of those activities which keep our ego false? The secret, not surprisingly, is to find an outlet for service where time is no longer a factor. Find that one thing you love in bhakti-yoga that you will want to do repeatedly. What makes you forget time? Is it chanting? If so, then you can continue that after the sixteen rounds are completed each day. Is it cooking? If so, you can prepare so many dishes for the Supreme Lord, offer them with love, and then distribute to any and all. Is it talking about God and the science of self-realization? If so, then find as many people to talk to as possible. Find as many outlets as possible so that you’ll always keep talking. No one likes a “motor mouth,” but if your words help others transform their false egos, then your constant talking is a benefit to them.
In the liberated state, time and space lose their influence. Time no longer matters since bhakti-yoga is the eternal occupation. Every day is like an adult Christmas, where the gift unwrapped is a newfound adventure in service. In the highest spiritual planet of Goloka Vrindavana, each day brings new joy in association with Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead. The space is wide open too, the playing field where the cows and the young boys enjoy. The space of Vrindavana cannot be measured, for if there is ever a lack of space, Krishna simply creates a new area. Time exists, but it has no influence since the residents never have to leave Krishna’s side. He is described as nava yauvanam, or always young. The same property belongs to devotion to Him, and so in bhakti-yoga one finds the only way to escape the pressures brought on by time and space.
No matter how hard you may try,
On ticking time to always keep an eye.
How then can there be peace?
Filled with worry is day each.
Better when in work time to forget,
Then more easily to completion to get.
In bhakti-yoga that one activity find,
Where time to remain far away from mind.
Gone are influence of time and space,
In Krishna’s home, topmost spiritual place.