Part III - Analysis of Time and
Here VP follows the mImAMsaka view of cognition of
time. DA states that even though time is formless (also
includes colorless, tasteless, soundless, etc – i.e.
essentially beyond the field of five senses), it is
perceived by the senses. This means that perception
of 'this is a jar' entails 'I see a jar NOW', since
'is' denotes the present tense. [VP does not discuss
the perception of space here. To include space, cognition
should be 'I see a jar, NOW and HERE'.] VP states that
according to the tenets of Vedanta, when there is continuous
cognition of the same object, there is actually a sequence
of successive cognitions of the object (no
reference is given for this and I am not sure if this
assumption is required – it seems like the digitization
of an analogue signal). Each cognition depends on the
present perception and not on the previous one. Hence,
in the cognition 'I see the jar, NOW', the entailment
of the present tense is not violated for the case of
continuous cognitions of the same object. (i.e. The
above conclusion can be arrived at without the need
for ‘digitization’ of the continuous cognition).
From my understanding, the mImAMsaka view of time is
not appropriate as a pramANa lakShaNa (defining pointer)
for advaita. We can state some objections and discuss
the time aspects later. It must be conceded that we
have now the benefit of modern science, to which DA
did not have access in his lifetime. Hence these objections
are intended to arrive at correct definitions rather
than as a criticism of VP.
1. In the cognition 'This is a jar', the ‘is’ denotes
the existence aspect, which is beyond time, since existence
can never cease to exist.
2. If 'is' denotes the present tense 'Now', the 'now'
is also beyond the time concept, since ‘is’ is
always 'now'. To define time we need two sequential
cognitions involving 'now' and 'then' - 'then' involving
3. At any moment, the senses can perceive only things
progressing in NOW. Hence, the VP account of the tenets
of Vedanta in terms of digitization of the continuous
signal, although not necessary, can still be applicable
not for defining time but for validating perception
at any time.
4. Time cannot be perceived by the sense organs, since
their fields of operation are fixed and do not include
the past or the future. Senses operate only in 'NOW',
which is beyond time. Therefore, the mImAMsaka view
that sense organs do perceive time is fundamentally
incorrect. The mind, in conjunction with memory, is
required in order to define time, based on two sequential
perceptions. The gap between two sequential perceptions
by the same pramAtRRi (knower) is the time gap. If each
perception is related to a vRRitti or thought in the
mind, then two sequential thoughts are required to measure
When there are no thoughts in the mind, as in the deep
sleep state, then there is no concept of time. In addition,
if the mind does not look back but moves continuously
on a single intense experience, I do not 'feel' time,
since I am all the time in the 'now' state, throughout
that continuous experience. (I recognize that we have
a problem with words here. ‘Continuous’ is
a concept of time – but, for the one who is riding
on 'now', even the continuity is not recognized since
the past is not recognized without bringing in memory).
I ride on 'now' when I am fully engaged in some serious
action or enjoying some happy hours, and lose track
of time (the ‘track’ can only be followed
with the memory). Such experiences, where one loses
track of time, show that it is not just the sequence
of thoughts alone that defines the time. The mind has
to track back through previous and current thoughts
or experiences in order to arrive at time. Since only
past and present are experienced, mind can measure time
with reference to these two. Future, of course, is never
experienced. Sometimes one feels that time flies fast
while at other times, particularly when one is suffering,
time moves slowly, even though chronologically there
is no change in pace. The implication is that cognition
of time is not direct and immediate like perception.
It is a mental projection.
We conclude, therefore, that time is not measured by
the senses, as is assumed by the mImAMsaka-s , but by
the mind. Inherently, it is subjective. This is the
reason why I can have a transcendental experience when
I am always in the ‘now’, since 'I am' is
neither past nor future but is a continuous presence
in the present. THE PRESENT ALONE IS ETERNAL. The present
can be thought of as a thin line where the past meets
the future. The gap can be made as small as possible – second,
micro-second, nano-second – until no gap is left.
When in the true present, there is really no time either – what
is there is only NOW. There is, of course, also my presence
since I am the one who is dividing these seconds. Hence, ‘present’ is
just the presence of myself. That is the transcendental
state since time is not there.
One can choose to define time by taking a discrete
objectifiable process, such as the earth rotating around
the sun, as a measure of time that everybody can agree
by convention. But this is our subjective notion – there
is no objective time apart from this. Even so-called
objective events have to be measured or recorded by
the mind. Experiments involving isolation of an individual
for days in a tunnel, where no objectifiable reference
is available, showed that a person loses the sense of
chronological time. He comes to rely on his biological
mechanisms to determine time. Due to the phase lag between
the two, he slowly shifts from day to night and night
to day, subjectively deciding when to sleep and when
to get up, since there is no objectifiable reference
We can formally define time as the gap between two
sequential experiences. This is better than Einstein's
definition where time is defined as two sequential events
measured by an observer who does not change with the
event. The ‘observer observing an event’ is
actually an experience of the observer. When we introduce
experience we are bringing subjectivity into the definition.
When we have one single experience, as in the deep sleep
state, we have no measure of time. Some philosophers
assume that the sAkShi measures time in deep sleep state.
From the advaita point of view, the sAkShi is pure sAkShi – self-illuminating
consciousness – and is not involved in any activity.
It does not do the job of illuminating anything, but
things get illumined in its presence. It is like the
Sun, which does not actively illumine any object, but
objects are incidentally illumined in its light.
The conclusion we can draw from this analysis is that
the time is measured by the mind by considering a past
event and a present event as two sequential experiences.
A continuous flow of vRRitti-s or thoughts does not
itself guaranty the cognition of time. In a continuous
flow of thoughts, the mind may be ‘riding on now'.
'Now' is beyond the time concept – the mind has
to stop and look back in order to note the time.
Cognition of Space is a little tricky, since we have
stereographic vision and stereo sound as a result of
nature having provided us with two eyes and two ears
that are separated. Even the sense of touch can feel
spatial distribution if the sense signals come from spatially
separated parts of the body. Simultaneous perception of spatially
distributed objects provides the perception of space too.
perception of spatially distributed objects provides
the perception of space too. It is again mental cognition
and not direct sense perception. Each sense organ input
is mono or unidirectional. Of course, beyond the sense
and mind perceptions, Vedanta provides an independent
means of knowledge in terms of the creation of space
as the first of the five primordial elements. There
is no mention of the creation of time, as far as I know.
The fact remains that time is not measured by the senses,
but is projected by the mind with the help of the memory.
It is subjective.
Proceed to the next