Saturday, April 11, 2015

Trikāla Drishti

The following is one of the famous soliloquies by Shakespeare that appears in the play Macbeth
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

The above soliloquy appears towards the end of the play Macbeth and is spoken by Macbeth when he hears about the death of his wife. He is lamenting how time gradually takes people towards the end (death) of (most often) confusing lives. This way of experiencing time (as an entity that continuously flows from past to future creating history in its flow) is the default way most humans experience time. The common term used is linear time and this is the first drishti (way of seeing) time. A similar sentiment is also expressed by Thiruvalluvar
நாளென ஒன்றுபோற் காட்டி உயிரீரும்
வாள துணர்வார்ப் பெறின். (குறள் எண்: 334)
Appears like a day, but the wise see it as a sword
that is cutting through ones life! (Kural 334)

One experiences this continuous flow of time by the changes that we see in the world around us. These changes affect us and give us both pain and pleasure. Consequently, anything that gives us the ability to influence these changes so as to maximize pleasure and minimize pain is keenly sought after. Naturally then, money, power and skill are keenly sought after entities for people operating with this view. This breeds competition and forces the individual to experience oneself as a completely separate entity from other human beings and the biosphere.

As young adults live life more and more out of the first drishti mentioned above, a sense of dreariness usually sets in (despite expensive foreign vacations and the like). Though many different jobs may be taken, essentially one may be doing the same thing of earning more money so as to spend them in increasingly more avenues! When the same patterns in life start repeating, one starts to suspect may be one is missing somethings. That's usually when the wise statements made by rishis and munis of India starts to make sense. If this second drishti never dawns, the dreariness of life will hit one as is exhibited by Macbeth.

Then, one starts to see the cyclical patterns of behavior all around - that pleasure and pain keep coming and going in waves. The jains describe this using the ideas of utsarpini and avasarpini! In other places, it is called the kalachakra, or the cycle of time. This is the second drishti of time - wherein one sees patterns of repeated behavior. Only then, one starts to understand the natural processes. Natural processes are completely dependent on periodic behavior. The zen masters say, 'Spring comes, grass grows!'

Traditionally in India, there were more people who were strongly rooted in the cyclical drishti of time. This does not preclude the first drishti. But, this shapes it such that the first drishti does not violate many key understandings that arise out of the cyclical drishti. Unfortunately, today the situation is not the same. The world (sadly including India) is dominated by people who look for market share and do not worry about externalities. Naturally, it has lead to utter destruction of the biosphere, severe poverty, intolerance and violence all over. People rooted in this cyclical drishti will naturally try to eschew violence as they know that violence will only cyclically breed violence. They will also be able to see clearly that though one may get short term profit by reducing a mountain to rubble, the price of loss of biosphere has to be paid subsequently.

Whole of life was seen as a cyclical pattern leading to ideas such as rebirth in India. Bhaja Govindam, the famous work by Adi Sankara, says

पुनरपि जनानां पुनरपि मरणं
पुनरपि जननी जठरे शयनं ह् .
Again and again one is born
Again and again one dies

Valluvar also opines the same

உறங்குவது போலுஞ் சாக்கா டுறங்கி
விழிப்பது போலும் பிறப்பு. (குறள் எண்: 339)
Life and death are like sleeping and waking up (Kural 339)

The above assertions by our revered ancestors may appear like childish assertions to the modern educated mind. Unfortunately the modern mind, relentlessly chased by to death by the physicists entropy increasing arrow of time, is not psychologically free to analyze these statements. IMHO, Indian civilization does not ask people to accept these assertions. Instead, the invitation is to be free from ones biases and to explore these with respect. These are deep assertions coming from beings deeply immersed in the cyclical nature of time and the third and even more elusive drishti of time. In the cyclical drishti, while one also experiences oneself as a separate entity, one also sees oneself as a part of continuum of various natural processes that have been going on from time immemorial.

The cyclical sense of time gives rise to ideas of equilibrium. Indians, IMHO, discovered ayurveda simply because of this view of time. Ayurveda is all about equilibrium. Health is understood as equilibrium and disease as the absence of the same. Hence, all intervention is about reinstating the equilibrium. This is starkly in contrast with allopathy that goes in hunt of the cause. Clearly, allopathy is rooted in linear time of cause and effect. Ayurveda does not denounce cause and effect - that is also accepted. Just that, IMO, it subsumes cause and effect as minor parameters of the cyclical sense of time. Restorative justice, unlike criminal justice, tries to reinstate lost balance in society also stems from this view of time.

This idea of cyclical time gives rise to the idea of a central equilibrium around which things move. The movement causes some disturbance but eventually things subside back into the center and then may be they will move in the other direction. This idea is also seen clearly in Indian art forms that talk about the sthayi (unchanging centre) and the sanchari (that which moves around the centre).

Lesser said, the better about the third drishti of time - the timeless sense of time. It cannot be communicated by words. It can only be communicated from one heart to another via silence of the mind. The great rishis of India have been doing the same for many thousands of years. Invitation is for one to explore their lives and anchor oneself at their feet (this again may cause discomfort to modern educated people who may find this idea obnoxious). For the linear sense of time is immensely powerful and will keep dragging one all over the place. All genuine practitioners of Yoga who try to anchor themselves in the cyclical sense of the same would attest for the same. Only anchoring oneselves in the immovable, the ultimate, will help one maintain the cyclical sense of time as ones home. For this anchoring oneself with the masters who have manifested the timeless in them becomes essential.

Questioner: What is the best time to meditate?
Ramana: What is time?

All details about timeless are ultimately futile to someone who has not even tried to discover the cyclical sense of time! Only when one has put in sufficient effort by oneself to stay there, one will start to seek out the help of these timeless masters and cultivate the same in oneself. The great masters say ones separate sense of identity is completely dissolved into the ultimate in this view. One has to explore this to figure out the details of this drishti.

The yogis are those who are equally at ease in all three drishtis of time - linear, cyclical and the timeless! India, and the world at large, is in serious shortage of such people. IMHO, only such people will have the needed ability to redirect the movement of humanity away from self destruction. Skilled in linear time, rooted in cyclical time and with a profound acknowledgement of the timeless, they will have the potential to impact the world in positive ways.

IMHO, the human breath is an entity that possesses a nature that is similar to the mystical nature of time. It is also linear, cyclical and timeless. Regular training of the same will make it deep and subtle. Such a breath will help the individual move between the various drishtis of time at will! Patanjali says in the sadhana pada of yoga sutras,
prayatna-śaithilya-ananta-samāpatti-bhyām ||2.47||
When the right effort becomes effortless, the individual becomes one with endless!

1 comment:

Raghu said...

Good Perspective Partha. Made me think.