[Advaita-l] Knowledge and the Means of Knowledge -2

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Fri Feb 8 23:22:15 CST 2008

                             2. What about Time and Space?

[We are following the Vedanta ParibhASha (VP) text and are presenting the topics in the
order described by Dharmaraja Adhvarindra (DA), but in the way that I understand. The
book is concerned about the epistemological issues in advaita Vedanta. ]

Cognition of time: Here VP follows the Meemaansaka’s view of cognition of time.  DA
states   that even though time is formless (also includes color less, tasteless,
soundless, etc - essentially beyond the field of five senses), it is perceived by the
senses, in the sense that perception of ‘this is a jar’ involves ‘I see a jar NOW’, since
‘is’ denotes the present tense.  VP does not discuss the perception of space here. To
include space, cognition should be ‘I see a jar, NOW and HERE’. VP states that according
to tenants of Vedanta, when there is continuous cognition of the same object, there is
actually a sequence of successive cognitions of the object (no reference is given for
this, also not sure if this assumption is required –looks like digitization of an
analogue signal). Each cognition depends on the present perception and not on the
previous one. Hence in the cognition, ‘I see the jar, NOW’ involving the perception of
the present tense is not violated for the case of continuous cognitions of the same
object. (The above conclusion can be arrived at without the need of digitization of the
continuous cognition). 

>From my understanding, Meemamsaka’s view of time is not appropriate as pramaaNa lakshaNa
for advaita. We can state few objections and discuss the time aspects later. I must say
that we have now the benefit of modern science which DA did not have access at his time.
Hence these objections are intended to arrive at correct definitions rather than any
criticism of VP. 

1. In the cognition ‘This is a jar’, the is-ness denotes the existence aspect, which is
beyond time, since existence can never cease to exist. 
2. If ‘is’ denotes the present tense ‘Now’  the ‘now’ is also beyond the time concept,
since it ever remains ‘now’. To define time we need two sequential cognitions involving
‘now’ and ‘then’ – ‘then’ involving memory.
3. At any time, senses can perceive only things progressing in NOW- Hence VP account of
the tenants of Vedanta in terms of digitization of the continuous signal, although not
necessary, can still be applicable not for defining time but for validating the
perception at any time. 
4. Time cannot be perceived by the sense organs, as their fields of operation is fixed
and they do not include the past or the future as senses operate only in ‘NOW’, which is
beyond time. Therefore Meemaansaka’s view that sense organs perceive the time is
fundamentally not correct. Mind with memory is required to define time, based on two
sequential perceptions.  The gap between the two sequential perceptions by the same
pramaata (knower) is the time gap. If each perception is related to vRitti or thought in
the mind, two sequential thoughts are required to measure the gap. When there are no
thoughts in the mind as in deep sleep state, then there is no concept of time.  In
addition if the mind does not look back but move continuously on a single intense
experience, I do not ‘feel’ time, since I am all the time in ‘now’ state, in that
continuous experience. (I recognize that we have problem with words here. Continuous is a
concept of time –but the one who is riding on ‘now’ even the continuity is also not
recognized since past is not recognized, without bringing in memory). I ride on ‘now’,
when I am fully engaged in some serious action or enjoying some happy hours, and loose
track of time (track can be followed only with the memory). These experiences, where one
looses the track of time, show that it is not just the sequence of thoughts alone that
defines the time.  Mind has to track back previous and the current thoughts or
experiences to arrive at time.  Since only past and present are experienced, mind can
measure the time with reference to these two.  Future, of course, is never experienced. 
Sometimes one feels that time flies fast while other times, particularly when one is
suffering, time moves slow, even though chronologically there is no change in pace.
Implication is cognition of time is not direct and immediate like perception. It is a
mental projection. 

We conclude, therefore, that time is not measured by senses as assumed by Meemansakas,
but by the mind.  Inherently, it is subjective.  This is the reason why I can have a
transcendental experience when I am always in Now –since ‘I am’ is neither past nor
future but is a continuous presence in the present. PRESENT ALONE IS ETERNAL.  Present
can be thought of a thin line where past meets the future.  The gap can be made as small
as possible – second – micro second- nano second .. till no gap is left, where in the
true present there is really no time either – what is there is only NOW. There is of
course my presence since I am the one who is dividing these seconds. Hence present is
just the presence of myself. That is the transcendental state since time is not there. 

One can make an objective definition for time by taking a discrete objectifiable process,
such as earth rotating around itself or around the sun, as a measure of time that
everybody can agree by convention. We are making a subjective notion to objectifiable
measure by convention, as chronological time. There is no objective time otherwise.  Even
the so-called objective events have to be measured or recorded by the mind.  Experiments
involving isolation of an individual for days in a tunnel where no objectifiable
reference is available to compare with showed that a person looses the chronological
time. He slowly relays on his biological mechanisms to determine time. Due to phase lag
between the two, he slowly shifts from day to night and night to day, and subjectively
determines when to sleep and when to get up, since there is no objectifiable reference
for him. 
We can formally define time as a gap between two sequential experiences. This is better
than Einstein’s definition where time is defined as two sequential events measured by an
observer who does not change with the event.  Observer observing an event is actually an
experience by the observer – His mind should observe the events. When we bring experience
we are introducing subjectivity in the definition.  When we have one single experience as
in deep sleep state, we have no measure of time. Some philosophers assume that saakshii
measures the time in deep sleep state. From advaita point, saakshii is pure saakshii,
self-illuminating consciousness and is not involved in any activity. It does not do the
job of even illuminating any thing, but things get illumined in its presence. It is like
the Sun who does not really illumine any object, but objects get illumined in its light. 

Conclusion we can draw from this analysis is that the time is measured by the mind by
bringing past event and present event as two sequential experiences.  Continuous flow of
vRittis or thoughts itself does not guaranty the cognition of time. In the continuous
flow of thoughts, Mind may be riding at any instance on ‘now’.  ‘Now’ is beyond the time
concept. Mind has to stop and look back to note the time.  Cognition of Space is little
tricky since we have stereographic vision and stereo sound provided by nature by having
two eyes and two ears that are separated. Even the sense of touch can feel the special
distribution if the sense signals come from spatially separated different parts of the
body. Simultaneous perception of spatially distributed objects provides the perception of
space too. It is again mental cognition and not directly by senses. Each sense organ
input is mono or unidirectional. Of course, beyond the sense and mind perceptions,
Vedanta provides an independent means of knowledge in terms of creation of space as first
of the five primordial elements that are created. There is no mention of creation of
time, as for as I know. The fact remains that time is not measured by senses, and is
projected by the mind requiring the memory. It is subjective. 

Hari Om!

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