Strange but true. Our interest, our fascination is for the shadow and not for the substance. We have never really questioned what time is. Or what it is to end it or to find a way to stop its ticking away. When one reads the questions in the ‘Talks, or in ‘Day by Day’ one can readily see this. A visitor Girdharlal asks Ramana about the classification of time into ages and wishes to know when the ‘Kali Yuga” would end. “I don’t consider time as real. So I do not take interest in such matters” says Ramana but the visitor continues with his own pet theories. Many including ashramites would sometimes wonder why they could not know about their past lives as some yogis are reputed to be able to do. May be they had wanted to be reassured that in their past lives too they had been associated with Ramana. Ramana would joke and ask “Won’t you be puffed with pride if you knew you were a virtuous lot in the previous lives?” Then he would seriously add, “Thank God for his mercy in withholding this knowledge. Even the memories of the past events of this life are a load enough. You will be over - burdened with memories if you were to know the past lives also”. The trouble with all of us is that our interest keeps moving back and forth either wanting to fathom the secrets of the past lives which are so mystifying to us, or we like to crystal gaze into coming events, into future lives. How sad. For the secret of life is in the present, in each moment of one’s life. For all experience can only be in the present. Also, more crucially, the truth behind the experience can be known only when we do not indulge in these habitual thought swings between the past and the future. Ramana made this point when Jivarajani, an earnest seeker, was being carried away by his interest in matters like life after death. He told him firmly, “Find out about your present life. Why do you worry about life after death? If you realise the present you will know everything.”
Again Ramana would stress that both ‘yesterday’ and ‘tomorrow’ are with reference to ‘to-day’. He would say ‘yesterday’ was called ‘to-day’ in its time and tomorrow will be called ‘to-day’ tomorrow. To-day is ever present”. So absurd is this interest in the unknown past and future and the lack of interest in the ever existing present that Ramana says it is as much a matter for laughter as it would be if one was presuming to count numbers without the number one.
Caught up in the mental movements caused by our insatiable interest in the past and future, we superimpose the concept of time in our sadhana also with dangerous possibilities. We presume the Self-knowledge is something to be attained at some distant future. We also assume that the experience of this state would come to us at some future date. It is something wholly in the lap of future, so we think. Miss Merston gave voice to this undercurrent of thought when she told Ramana that “it would take some years for Self Realisation”. “Why years? The concept of time is only in your mind” was Ramana’s pregnant reply. It is quite on the cards that unless the experience of the inherent joy is there along the way during sadhana one would be apt to lose interest in the joyous pursuit of spiritual practices. Like the lady who had her necklace round her neck and thought it was lost, one would forget that the Self is here and now and that the whole purpose of practice is to reveal it, to make one aware of it.
A.R.Natarajan Founder President, Ramana Maharshi Centre for Learning, Bangalore