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Understanding Concept Of Time In Hinduism


The concept of time in Hinduism is cyclic. Understanding the concept of time is very much essential for spiritual progress and to clear the veil of ignorance.

Time is the sequence of the perceptions and the experiences of one thing after another. The views of Hindu rishis shape Kalavada, the theory of kala (time).

Sage Veda Vyasa propounded the theory of time in the Mahabharata and Bhagavata Purana. In the Mahabharata, after the war between Kauravas and Pandavas, Vyasa consoles a dejected and sad Yudhisthira: “You have not killed any warrior. Kala has killed them. Kala does not bestow any favor upon anybody. Kala has no mother, no father. It observes every good and every bad action. Kala delivers the fruits of all actions.

In another story, Indra, the king of Devas turns into a donkey due to his actions. He meets Bali, the Asura king, who has risen above him. Indra said : “Bali you are not in this post because of your valor. Time is favorable towards you, and because of time I am drawn towards adversity. A man cannot run away from the clutches of time. One who is burnt by time first can be burnt by fire afterwards. One who is killed by time first can only be killed by any other means. I am unable to find the end of time. Five-fold time is known by months and fortnights, days, and nights, seasons, years and age. A man may be scholarly or illiterate, brave or coward, beautiful for ugly, fortunate or unfortunate, the mighty time takes away everybody.”

In Srimad Bhagavad Purana, time is said to be the twenty-fifth phenomenon or entity. Time is not different from purusha. It is said to be one of the incarnations of Bhagavan; it is also the destructive power of Bhagavan.

Inside a living being the Supreme Being lives in the form of individual self and outside the Supreme Being expresses in the form of time. Individuals who are attached with their mortal bodies and worldly pleasures are always afraid of time. Time inspires prakriti and thus prakriti becomes dynamic.

Valmiki describes time poetically in Yoga Vasistha – “Nobody can see it, nobody can touch it, nobody can cut it, and nobody can burn it.”

Though birth, welfare and death all happen in time, people speak of how cruel time took away someone’s son, instead of how kala blessed him with a son. Emphasis is always placed on the role of time as the usurper of pleasant experiences of life. Though the world is full of physical pleasure and pain, time strengthens those who detach themselves from this world. One who respects kala, by not wasting it on unnecessary actions and by being busy in noble deeds, wins time.

In Bhagavad Gita (chapter 11), Sri Krishna declares , ‘kalo’smai (I am Time). 

Source – notes taken from Encyclopedia of Hinduism Volume V – page 399 - 400



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