Sri Bimal Mohanty
SPIRITUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF PAST PRESENT AND FUTURE.
Based on the lectures by Sri Bimal Mohanty
Generally speaking, we are all familiar with the three terms; past, present and future or bhuta, vartamAna and bhavishya. For common people ‘bhuta or past’ is memory, ‘present’ is being experienced and bhavishya or future is what we know nothing about. As The Bhagavad Gita implies them as past that has gone into oblivion, present that is in the zone of perception and the future which is yet to be cognized.
Is it really so simple? A fact which chronicles our very continuity of existence, could it be regarded as a mere time base with no direct influence on the process of our movement through srsti, sthiti and bilay- coming into being, existence and mutation?
The sanatan philosophy, true to its character, is never satisfied with any surface explanation and tries to understand the very progress of the jiva or soul through interpretation of this phenomenon of ‘time’ or ‘kAla’ as we name it.
To begin with, there are some established truths in sanatan philosophy that has to be firmly kept in mind.
Firstly irrespective of the multiplicity of name, form, physical characteristics (nama, rupa, gandha) etc all beings are essentially ‘souls’ or jivas. The jiva only travels through all these forms in its journey.
Secondly the souls by virtue of their being extentions of that one and only Brahman are eternal in character, not subject to extinction of any kind until their final liberation. They all existed, exist and shall continue to exist through multiple births and deaths of their bodies. The passing stages of births, deaths, re-births (remember Sri Sankaracharya’s words – punarapi jananam punarapi maranam punarapi janani jathare sayanam) one after another through which the soul progresses to its final goal, is an ongoing process. Every one without exception is subjected to it as a part of evolution.
Those who do not comprehend the concepts of continuous development, essentiality of births (punarjanma) and the finality of Brahman are always at a loss to understand the ‘eternality’ of life and the process of dynamic creation around us. (as referred in the Kathopanishad)
Time or kAla is the backdrop against which this changing scenario can be perceived. Like the process itself, time has no discontinuity whatsoever. It is co-existent with creation itself. Only for our own understanding, we term this receeding phenomenon as ‘past’, the yet to arrive stage as the ‘future’ and the juncture or sandhi between the two as the ‘present’. The kAla as a moving string or an endless measuring tape has no beginning and no end. The ‘present’ (vartamAna) rushing to become the past (bhuta) and the future waiting to follow suit.
The eternal nature of time or kAla is synonymous with the eternality of Brahman. Agreeing with Sri Aurobindo, space is an extension of motionless reality of Brahman and simultaneously time is the extension of the same Brahman in its dynamic expression. The entire creation is balanced between space and time. Space provides the stage for soul’s eternality and time its movement.
How do all these concepts have relevance with life, our journey from here to eternity? That is a fascinating subject to be contemplated upon.
Pause a while to think.
People will often tell you that ‘present’ is everything. Past is gone and lost. Future is still unknown. And therefore, according to them, make the most of the present and enjoy life that you have. This is a very narrow view of the great phenomenon of life. People subscribing to this view have very little understanding of the divine ways of Brahman and the very purpose of this creation as well as the individual lives. We have discussed these in some details in our earlier discussions especially in the first seven chapters of AHWAN.
What is our ‘present’? It is nothing but what the womb of the past has delivered. Past is the mother of the present. Can any one in life forget his source and can go through life by ignoring what his past has taught him? One remains ever influenced by the sanskAras acquired from the past. Drawing from that experience, strengthened by the lessons learnt, the yogi shapes his ‘present’. Why only the enlightened yogis, even the lesser-conscient objects are also under the influence of their continuity from the past. A flower eventually turns into a fruit, having held the fruit in its womb. The fruit is the past of the tree and the tree is its inevitable future.
All past actions of ours turn into knowledge and get etched in our subtle subconscious mind. (Sarvam karmAkhilam pArtha jnAne parisamApyate. – Gita). When situation demands, they rise as our inner voice to assist viveka or our intellect. Fools ignore this inner voice but the wise listen. A true siddha (realized person) or even an aspirant has all (or partial) events of the past in his memory, held within him. He knows their usefulness and how to use them to refine his present. Repeated mistakes in life after life are indications of a weak mind and hence a weak memory of the past, of unlearnt lessons. That is not a characteristic of a yogi. The strength of a yogic mind is represented by the expanse of one’s awareness of events in time that includes past, present and future too. When the yogi succeeds in reaching a certain stage, even the events of the past lives get revealed to him.
The essential character of our spiritual journey- our evolution – makes it imperative that after acquiring the assistance from each stage we move on to the next. At no stage we are supposed to stagnate in enjoyment and waste away. The single purpose of present is to ensure a better future. Brooding over the past, remaining stuck to the present and even day dreaming of the future, all are equally fruitless. Both the experiences from the past as well as the aspirations of the future have to be translated into action in the present. Action is the key. No progress or liberation is ever possible until the jiva is in action. Yoga or the intelligent act of engagement is the other name of action, the right action. In spiritual context passive sadhana that entangles with meaningless rituals and ego driven engagements is in no way different from wasting away life. A true yogi is ever active, ever conscious of his progressive movement drawing heavily from his past, putting action into his present and constantly reshaping his future. That is sanatan dharma for you.
The present indeed has to be ever aware of the glory of the future. The single purpose of the ‘present’ is to ensure a ‘better future’. The present is to lead you to a better future- raising you from a comparatively lower ‘being’ to a higher being. Animals do not have these considerations developed in them. If the humans also do the same, it is a wasted human life.
Narajanma durlabhatama said Sri Sankaracarya. The human birth is most difficult to acquire, and therefore, only a fool would waste it away without properly using it. Who knows whether in my next birth I shall again be a human or not? Whether the conditions under which I shall have to live my next life will be better or worse?
But what is the significant difference between narajanma and pasujanma(animal birth)? It is this desire to raise oneself to this higher being. It is called mumukshyA- the intense desire to reach out to the highest. Without mumukshya a human being is not a human.
To reach progressively higher and higher states is life’s future. The ultimate destination of this progression is the highest of all ‘beings’ which is Brahman. Brahmatva or brahmahood is the jiva’s future.
If that future is not constantly held in front of you, you may as well be leading an animal existence. In animals mumukshya is yet to take shape.
Can you then remain without being conscious of your future even for a moment?
Only when you are fully conscious of the lessons learnt from the past, constantly build upon it and strive for a better state of being in your present, and aware of the future goal in front, you can justify your human birth. Do not brood in the past- analyse and move on. Do not get stuck in present. Look ahead. Let not the future catch you unprepared. Do not day-dream the future. Anticipate and prepare yourself to welcome. Past, present and the future are the facets of the same Brahman. Each extends you a helping hand.
Remaining contented in any particular state of one’s existence is myopic. To expand the vision covering past, present and future, is to raise yourself to a higher plane. The practical benefits of such an attitude does not require elaboration.
Continuous progress is sanatan philosophy’s central theme. The individual soul’s only goal is absolute perfection – The Brahman and its associated benefits, satchidananda.
Brahman is your future. Let Brahman never be out of your conscious mind lest you lose sight of your very future.
Thus the SamaVeda sang:
MAham Brahma nirAkuryAm
Ma ma Brahma nirAkarot
AnirAkaranamastu anirAkaranam me astu
May I not ignore Brahman. May not Brahman abandon me. Let there be no rejection between me and Brahman.
Om shantih shantih shantih- There indeed is bliss.