Telling Time

[Rama holding bow]“Mind, why are you not worshiping Shri Rama, whose bow is like time, with weapons of arrows representing the different units of time, such as paramanu, lava, nimesha, barasa, yuga, and kalpa?” (Dohavali, 130)

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लव निमेष परमानु जुग बरस कलप सर चंड।
भजसि न मम तेहि राम कहँ कालु जासु कोदंड।

lava nimeṣa paramānu juga barasa kalapa sara caṃḍa।
bhajasi na mama tehi rāma kaha~ kālu jāsu kodaṃḍa।

Starting at the age of five or six, you can find some sort of established standard for instructing children. This is their introduction into formal education, and so there is an agreed upon set of topics, subjects, and points of interest to cover. One of those topics might be time. Beyond what a person learns in a formal setting, Goswami Tulsidas gives the most in-depth understanding of time, through a comparison to the Supreme Lord and one of His famous weapons.

Within the informal setting of the home, the child of a similar age might start noticing the effects of time on their own. For a while, they have been referring to all past events as occurring “yesterday.” Their birthday party was “yesterday.” The family put up Christmas decorations “yesterday.” The child asks the father if they remember how they went to the library “yesterday.”

These events might have taken place over a period of months, but the child has yet to learn the ins and outs of time. When they gradually get an idea about the division known as days, they might use the period of sleeping at night as the benchmark.

“Oh, so we will visit my friend in three days? Does that mean if I sleep tonight, wake up tomorrow, sleep again at night, wake up again, and then sleep again, the next morning we will go?”

Within the classroom setting, the teacher will go over the days of the week, the months, and perhaps the concept of years. For understanding the different times of the day, such as morning, afternoon, and evening, the children might learn how to read an analog clock, with its moving hands.

The Vedic tradition provides the most precise understanding of time possible. Time is known as kala, which is a Sanskrit word that also applies to death. With respect to maintaining what we have, preserving our possessions, both associated with the body and external, time only destroys. Nothing can remain forever. Time is always operating.

At the most basic level, we can understand time based on the movement of the sun. Vedic literature presented atomic theory long before it was discovered by scientists in the modern day. The atom is known as paramanu. This might even be smaller than the atom; whatever concept we can imagine that is the smallest in its existence, that is paramanu.

Paramanu also represents a unit of measurement for time. The time that it takes for the sun to move across the smallest particle in the material existence, that is known as paramanu. We take the smallest unit of measurement and build our way up, in the manner that seconds form minutes, minutes form hours, hours form days, and so forth.

imageFrom paramanu we get to lava, nimesha, and year, which can be referred to as barasa in Hindi. Thousands of years taken together gives us a yuga. The single yuga has its subdivisions, which are also known as yuga, such as Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. A single yuga is a vast amount of time, wherein the conditions of the population gradually decline and then reset at the onset of the next cycle.

One thousand yugas taken together form a kalpa. The kalpa is one day in the existence of Lord Brahma, who is the creator. Another kalpa is his night, so from two kalpas we have one complete day of Brahma. A person really understands time when they are familiar with this extension of the concepts of day and night.

अहर् यद् ब्रह्मणो विदुः
रात्रिं युग-सहस्रान्तां
ते ऽहो-रात्र-विदो जनाः

ahar yad brahmaṇo viduḥ
rātriṁ yuga-sahasrāntāṁ
te ‘ho-rātra-vido janāḥ

“By human calculation, a thousand ages taken together is the duration of Brahma’s one day. And such also is the duration of his night.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.17)

The measurements are like different ways that time strikes. Tulsidas compares them to arrows released from the bow belonging to Shri Rama. That bow is like time itself, and the arrows are extensions of the bow’s potency.

A wise person would choose to worship the person who controls time in this way. Everything that we do is dependent on time. Every future plan that we make, everything that we hanker after, all of our lamentations – there is a relationship with time.

[Rama holding bow]Worshiping Rama will be for the highest benefit. If He controls time, the nature of His arrows can change from debilitating and destructive to auspicious and beneficial. The many years that were previously spent in ignorance and hopelessness can now be used for worship. The movement of the sun over the collection of atoms is like renewing opportunity, for connecting with the source of everything, for making the most out of an existence.

In Closing:

Was debilitating and destructive,
Not benefiting and constructive.

Because time always to strike,
Whether something hated or liked.

Different units as weapons to flow,
From Shri Rama’s illustrious bow.

Wise worship of the wielder choosing,
So that never auspiciousness losing.

Categories: dohavali 121-160

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