Time and Nature
IV.13 te vyakta suksmah gunamanah The three phases of time intermingle rhythmically and interweave with the qualities of nature. They change the composition of nature’s properties into gross and subtle.
A single moment is pure. As it moves into the next moment, creating a chain of moments reaching into the past and the future, it is affected by the gunas and time takes on the qualities of sattva, rajas, and tamas.
Growing up in Montana these huge, black, cumulonimbus clouds would build up over the mountains in the morning and come into the valley we lived in late in the afternoon. There was always a quiet calm that would settle in with the arrival of the clouds as everything seemed to stand perfectly still. In that moment of stillness there was purity and the potential for anything. It was only when that moment went into motion and moved into the future that the storm would suddenly break lose in a cacophony of thunder and lightning taking on the wonderfully rajasic and tamasic qualities of a thunderstorm.
Any moment has the capacity to absorb any combination of the qualities of nature, but will only do so when put into the movement of time. This relationship links the three phases of time and the three qualities of nature eternally.
III.53 ksana tatkramayoh samyamat vivekajam jnanam By samyama on moment and on the continuous flow of moments, the yogi gains exalted knowledge, free from the limitations of time and space.
I will start the discussion on this sutra with a very logic based preface; Einstein’s theories of relativity, specifically the concept of time dilation. This theory explains that the passage of time depends on the motion of the observer. The example often given to illustrate this theory is of an astronaut traveling near the speed of light then returning to Earth to find that more time had passed there than he had observed on his journey. In a similar way, when engaged in meditation, or samyama, an hour can pass by in what seems like a few minutes. I would propose that the ‘motion’ of the mind has come to a stand-still, thus arresting time in the gross world and allowing the consciousness (the observer) to ‘travel at light speed’ through the subtle world.
By samyama on this concept, the yogi can learn to live only in the pure moment of the present, unaffected by the past and the future and thus unaffected by the qualities of nature. No longer limited by time and space, the yogi attains samadhi.
IV.32 tatah krtarthanam parinamakrama samaptih gunanam When dharmamegha samadhi is attainted, qualities of nature come to rest. Having fulfilled their purpose, their sequence of successive mutations is at an end.
IV.33 ksana pratiyogi parinama aparanta nirgrahyah kramah As the mutations of the gunas cease to function, time, the uninterrupted movement of moments, stops. This deconstruction of the flow of time is comprehensible only at this final stage of emancipation.
As ‘the three phases of time intermingle rhythmically and interweave with the qualities of nature’, they are interdependent on each other. Stopping of the flow of moments and living in and observing the purity of the now will eliminate the effects of the gunas, so it must also be true that the cessation of the gunas will result in the arrestment and destruction of time. In dharmamegha samadhi, the yogi no longer lives in the movement of moments, but in the moment itself. He has gained control over the qualities of time and nature and can use them when necessary because he is no longer affected by them.
The Bhagavad Gita chapter 14, verses 22-25 describe the yogi who is no longer under the influence of the gunas, “The Blessed Lord said: O Pandava (Arjuna), he who does not abhor the presence of the gunas – illumination, activity, and ignorance – nor deplore their absence; Remaining like one unconcerned, undisturbed by the three modes – realizing that they alone are operating throughout creation; not oscillating in mind but ever Self-centered; Unaffected by joy and sorrow, praise and blame – secure in his divine nature; regarding with an equal eye a clod of clay, a stone, and gold; the same in his attitude toward pleasant or unpleasant (men and experiences); firm-minded; Uninfluenced by respect or insult; treating friend and enemy alike; abandoning all delusions of personal doership – he it is who has transcended the triple qualities!”
Time and Nature