“Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada; among subduers I am time; among the beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda, the feathered carrier of Vishnu.” (Bhagavad-gita, 10.30)Download this episode (right click and save)
So many perplexing aspects of both this world and the experience through it. So many unanswered questions. This doesn’t mean that the attempt is absent. I try to figure out how to cope with the changes, as that is one of the benefits to being a rational adult. The problem is that there is a key factor overlooked. It should be obvious, as its influence is all around.
1. Loss of ability
I am getting slower. I used to run a mile in under six minutes. Now I am getting tired more easily. When I wake up in the morning, I feel soreness in my legs. It must be my diet. I need to eat better. I remember at my peak performance I was strictly following a specific eating and sleeping regimen. If it works for yogis, it should work for me.
“There is no possibility of one's becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.16)
I hadn’t gotten sick in over a year. Now suddenly I have this horrible cough. It started with your typical cold. What is going on? It must be other people. I caught this disease from another person. That is strange, because it’s not like I have been a hermit for the recent past. I have taken airplane trips and travelled to heavily populated areas. My wife has even been sick a few times, but I never caught anything. Anyway, let me make some alterations to prevent this from happening in the future.
I won the championship the last three years in a row. More significantly, the margin of victory increased each time. They thought I would never lose. What happened now? As much joy as I felt during those times, the pain of losing is worse. Why did this happen? I followed the same training. I prepared exactly the same way. I even played pretty well. It was a tough opponent for sure, but so were the ones from the past that I defeated.
I am so upset at the passing of a loved one. Their departure from this world happened suddenly. The cause was illness, but a few months before they were totally normal. They were advanced in age, for sure, but why did they have to leave so soon? I understand that death is guaranteed for every person, but there had to be a way to prevent this.
In each of these instances the actual factor causing the change is time. Known as kala in Sanskrit, it is synonymous with death. Kala is the great subduing agent. It is undefeated; it has yet to lose. It can strike at any moment, and sometimes without warning.
More significantly, nothing can be done to stop its onslaught. Scientists have made strides at curing diseases and thus prolonging the average lifespan based on available statistics, but nothing has been done to slow the onset of old age. You can live until you are one hundred years old, but the same issues arise when you hit your sixties and seventies. The body begins to break down.
From the spiritual science that is the Vedas we learn that time works in concert with other important factors in the material world. There is the material nature, prakriti, which shifts. Birth and death are nothing more than the changing of prakriti. There is karma, which is work with consequences. Karma can be something as complicated as being reborn in a higher species in the next life and something as simple as feeling pain from deciding to put your hand in fire.
Without jiva none of this would matter. The living entity inside is what animates the otherwise dull and lifeless body. The jiva is the one who overlooks the influence of time. And without Ishvara, none of these things would exist. In the Bhagavad-gita the personality that is Ishvara explains that He is time.
As the Supreme Lord is kala, only He can control it. It is an external energy, something not actively managed. For the devotees there is an exception. Time acts in ways to help sustain the devotion, allowing it to thrive going forward. The highest reward is birth in the spiritual world in the subsequent life. Time also exists there, but it lacks a negative influence. The bliss continues to increase, as there is direct association with the person who is all-bliss and all-pleasure, Shri Krishna.
To wipe away every gain,
But devotees to sustain.
Time having nature dual,
Subduing over all to rule.
But with Krishna actually the same,
For atheists God of different name.
For surrendered souls joy increasing,
Lord from karma’s cycle releasing.