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Recently I watched a video of Ananadmayee Ma in which she stressed the importance of ‘giving time to God’. She said: ‘I am neither asking you to sit in meditation for hours and hours, nor am I asking you to perform many religious practices, or undertake difficult austerities, I am only asking you to give fifteen minutes of your time to God, every day of your life.’ This seems a simple ask, but let us read more into Ma’s profound suggestion.

Sitaramdas Omkarnath also made a similar demand of his devotees. He said if we could give four hours of our time to God; God would take care of the rest of twenty. What an equation!
This idea of ‘giving time’ seems rather imperative in spirituality. More importantly, it is the concept of giving the ‘same time’ to God every day that makes it significant. Anandamayee Ma stressed on this. She said, whatever time you have set aside, say nine in the morning to nine-fifteen, make sure when that time (kshana or muhurta) approaches, you drop your mundane concerns and turn to God. Observing mauna during that period is recommended.

A person who can afford to just sit and remember God at that time, must do so; but for someone who is extremely busy, whose time must be given to other pursuit, such as a doctor treating a patient, Ma said – he can simply observe mauna, remember God, and continue with his work.

Why are those fifteen minutes, or an hour, so important?

What is the value this routine, this spiritual punctuality?

In Indian philosophy, this ‘specific time’ is the concept of muhurta. Technically, a muhurta is 1/30th of a day, which is 48 minutes. Half of muhurta (24 minutes) is called ghatika. According to ancient Hindu sages, this time span, say 24 to 48 minutes, a gatisheel or a running thing, when dammed and harnessed, can generate spiritual energy just as a hydropower plant can capture the energy of falling water to generate electricity.

Several recent experimental studies have strongly suggested that the ancient concept of muhurta impacts the outcome of a process or project. No wonder, in India we have people sitting in their puja rooms, at exactly the same time every day, year after year. Our grandfathers and grandmothers were sticklers for morning pujas. Those days, people set their watches by the actions a person who did an activity at exactly the same time every day. ‘Oh, there! He has stepped out for his morning walk, that means it is 6 a.m.’

Nina Martyris in The Most Punctual Man in India writes: ‘Mahatma Gandhi, known to apologize if he was even a minute late, was stringent about his personal regimen. Winding up a letter to a professor, he wrote: ‘I am also being reminded by Lady Watch that it is time for my walk. So I obey her and stop here.’ Apparently, even the British police knew about the Lady Watch. After Gandhi relaunched the civil disobedience movement in January 1932, the Bombay commissioner of police showed up at three in the morning to arrest him, Gandhi, who was still asleep, woke up and heard the commissioner say, “I should like you to be ready in half an hour’s time.” Instinctively, he reached under his pillow, and the commissioner remarked, “Ah, the famous watch!” Both men began to laugh. Then Gandhi picked up a pencil—it was his weekly day of silence—and wrote, “I will be ready to come with you in half an hour.”

In India, an advanced culture where people regulate their lives according to the subtle movements of the cosmic bodies, punctuality has been considered a spiritual virtue.

In the times of our grandfathers, Brahmins, along with the other three classes, observed sandhya at exactly the same time daily. The day was divided into time slots for better living. A time slot (muhurta) for prayer, and a time slot for food, work, leisure and sleep. When one ponders upon that generation of our grandfathers, we realise their life was bound by the clock, it was a life wonderfully hemmed by time. Coming to think of it, it was a life in the current of time, nicely dressed in the wardrobes of muhurtas.

The Indian ancients knew that the bondage of worldly existence is nothing but bondage of time. The paash or noose of kaal made us mortals. They knew every human activity or experience, whether physical or psychological, social or environmental, is inexorably linked with the passage of time. Kaal was therefore a powerful principle. Human life, they realised, was just “some time”. When that time was over, we died.

Kaal (Time) is all. Treated as a deity in Hinduism, Kaal signifies sarva-adhaara, the substratum or the support of everything there is. But this entity called Time is rather difficult to grasp. We can neither experience time as merely objective principle, nor purely as subjective entity. We cannot know it in absolute terms. We know it only as a relative principle –the span between two events.

Our sages reasoned like this: if time binds and makes us mortal, if we can bind time itself in some way, probably we could secure our release. That meant binding our lives in muhurtas. The idea of Hindu calendar and Panchang is an attempt at this transcendence. While western world was sauntering in darkness of time, the ancient Indians had blazed all blind alleys by discovering the relationship between relative time (kaal) and absolute time (mahaakaal). They understood this not from any experiment in a science laboratory, but in the laboratory of the being.

Swami Vivekananda once said, “Time, space and causation are like a glass through which the Absolute may be conceived. There, neither time, space nor causation exists.” The rishis of this land used this glass door. Meditation was their way. It was in meditation that they realised that unstoppable time can actually be stopped. Meditative state, helped by mauna and constancy of muhurta, was the only way in which one could experience timelessness or get a direct glimpse into the nature of time: the near-physical feel of the footsteps of time, its sudden disappearance into an expansive, all-permeating abode. They realised only by expanding awareness beyond time, kaal, one can be established in the timeless, mahaakaal.

Hindu rituals are all worked around this super-scientific metaphysical principle of appropriateness and constancy of space and time. What Anandamayee Ma is telling us by giving those fifteen minutes to God is to pave our way to mahakaal – the absolute time, the timelessness of eternity, abode of all movements.

Yathaakaal Upaasana, doing your prayers or meditation at the prescribed hour, is an inner experiment of greatest significance. It is a process of transforming relative time (antya kaal) into ritual time (mahaakaal). Because it’s only when we live in mahaakaal that we can enjoy the three qualities of time-transcendence: Akarma (action without generating karma), Akrama (no perceived order), and Akaal (going beyond time).

May Kaal bless us all! May our practice of Yathaakaal Upasana, and our steady practice of mauna and pranayama, help us eliminate the mind content and enable our consciousness to attain the Absolute, timeless state.

~ Raj Supe (Kinkar Vishwashreyananda)
Editor, The Mother