The Truth Beyond Space and Time – A benedictory discourse delivered by Sringeri Acharya

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha

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Here is a transcript of a Vedantic discourse delivered by the 35th Jagadguru of Shringeri,  Sri Abhinava Vidyateertha Mahaswamiji. The video of this discourse can be found at www,jagadgurus.org (http://www.jagadgurus.org/medias/audiovideo – clip2_256k.wmv) . A large portion of this transcript is borrowed from the book “Exalting Elucidations”. A few additions has been made by me to complete the transcript as well as add more context if possible.

Greetings,

Prasad.

____________________

दिक्कालाद्यनवच्छिन्नानन्द चिन्मात्रमूर्तये।
स्वानुभूत्यैकमानाय नमश्शान्ताय तेजसे॥
dikkālādyanavacchinnāananda cinmātramūrtaye|
svānubhūtyaikamānāya namaśśāntāya tejase||

In the Upanishads, we come across a statement –
न अल्पे सुखम् अस्ति
na alpe sukham asti
(‘Small things cannot bring us happiness’).

Another statement in the Upanishads is,
यो वै भूमा तत् सुखम्
yo vai bhūmā tat sukham
(‘That which is Big, that is happiness’).
[This bhūmā, is also called Brahman by the Upanishads. The Achāryā further elaborates on the nature of Brahman].

Every object in this Universe has a delimitation of the form, “It is found here, but it is not found there”. However, Brahman, which is bhūmā (‘big’), is devoid of any spatial delimitation. Whatever place you conceive of, it is there. Therefore, there is no area where it is not. It is beyond dik or spatial direction. Strictly speaking, spatial direction cannot be specified in an absolute sense. For a man in Madurai, Madras lies in the northern direction. However, for a man dwelling in Vishakapatnam, Madras lies to the south. If it be asked, “Per se, does Madras lie in the northern direction or in the southern direction?”, the answer would be, “It is neither. It exists. That is all”. If we proceed to Vishakhapatnam, relative to us, Madras is in the south. On the other hand, if we were to go to Madurai or Tirunelveli, the direction of Madras, relative to us, would become north. Therefore, dik or spatial direction is something that is relative. Even in a relative, rather than an absolute sense, Brahman cannot be specified as existing in the northern or southern direction.

The case of time is similar to that of spatial direction. With respect to some specific delimiting factor (upādhi) , we speak of a day. What exactly is a day? It is something we determine with reference to the movement of the sun. We now see the sun rising. The time interval between our current and next sighting of the rising sun constitutes a day. When the rising sun is next seen, the next day begins. If this be the case, what is the position if we do not sight the sun? In other words, what is time, measured in terms of a day, independent of the observed movement of the sun? Time exists but the question, “What time is it?”, cannot be answered without reference to something like the movement of the sun. Hence, a measure of time, such as a day, loses its significance without reference to some delimiting factor. A day is thus something relative and not absolute. Thirty days, counted like this, constitute a month, and 365 days, a year. As other measures of time, such as a month and a year, are based on a day, they are also not on a firmer footing than a day; they too have meaning only with reference to some delimiting factor.

Time, space and objects are all conjectured by the mind (manaḥ kalpitam). After all, but for our defining temporal terms, such as day with reference to the apparent movement of the sun in the sky, time would not be discernible as it is now. Similarly, but for our defining directions, as for instance, north with respect to the pole star, spatial direction would lose its value. As far as the objects of the universe are concerned, the answer to the question, “Are they limited by time?”, is, “Yes”; everything is limited by time. For instance, we make statements, such as, “We were born on this day. One day or the other, we will die. At present we exist”.

If we consider the case of the body or some other object, it is clear that it did not exist prior to its origination at a certain point in time and that on some day, it will perish; thereafter it will cease to be. It is only between its origination and destruction that it appears, to an observer, to exist. That is to say, all objects are delimited by time.

What is consciousness or Brahman like? Before the birth of Rāma, there was the Kṛta Yuga. Now the Kali Yuga is in progress. Brahman is not limited by any such periods of time. It exists and that is all. The question, “When does It exist?” is inapplicable to Brahman, which is beyond time. Whatever point of time you conjecture, Brahman does exist at that time. Did It exist before the Kṛta Yuga? It did. It was there at the time of Rāma, It is there now, and It shall be there even tomorrow.

Brahman is beyond the limiting influence of spatial direction, time and objects, thus – dikkālādi anavacchinna. However, though beyond space and time, it is not a void or an inert entity. It shines in the form of consciousness (jñāna svarūpam). If one were to get the direct realisation (sākśātkāram) of this entity, one will attain the summum bonum of life. This is what the scriptures say.

Experience (anubhava) too is like that. The more absorbed we become in Brahman, the more does it seem, “So many things take place in the universe. All this is a mere illusory sport (līlā)”. If the world be a mere līlā then what object is good and what is bad? For a person who has desire for the objects of the world, any object will seem to be good or bad depending on whether he sees it a source of his joy or sorrow. On the other hand, for one who is devoid of attachment and aversion and whose mind is focussed on the Self, the position is, “I am the witness. That is all”. If such a person were asked, “Do you get happiness or unhappiness on account of the world?”, he would answer, “I see no reason to either laugh or weep over anything. I merely witness what comes before my eyes and do not even make an effort to experience anything”.

We hope that this state, that of a jñāni, comes to all of us. For this, we have to become a disciple under a traditional Guru (gain the Sadguru Sampradāya), gain the teaching of Brahman from such a Guru, and then practise the corresponding disciplines (sādhana). If we do all this, then we will also become such a jñāni, Bhagavatpāda Shankarācāryā has said so.

You are all blessed with steadfast faith in the tradition of Bhagavatpāda. You have all prayed very sincerely to see the Shringerī ācāryā in the place where you reside. You have chose to bear the difficulty of hosting the ācāryā with the hope that if He stays here for a few days at least, all of us can get the benefit of such a divine experience. Therefore you have sent Me the invitation to come here.

These days, I had decided that I will not go for any more yātrās (tours for the sake of teaching Dharma), and therefore the occasion to visit any place on a yātrā has become very rare. Even if I do go to some place on a yātrā, I used to remain there without proceeding further. If someone asks Me whether I can come to another place, I say, “I am staying here for now. I will see what to do depending on what comes to My mind”. Then I am asked, “Would You stay there for some time after coming?”, to which my reply is, “After coming there we will see”. Some are perplexed at My replies and wonder how it will be possible to transact in this world with such a mindset. Well, I am reducing My transactions with the world (vyavahārā) more and more, but vyavahārā does not seem to be stopping. Then, [people may think], “Won’t people who are making the arrangements for Your vyavahārā be put into difficulty due to this?”. That is something I will never allow. I will somehow manage Myself so as to not provide any hindrance for those who make the arrangements for My sake.

So, like this I am still going yātrās to various places. At each place I say that I will not give any discourse. However, the devotees are very much interested in listening to at least a two minute discourse. Well, I can definitely give a two minute discourse, so I don’t say no to that. Mr. S_, who has great śraddhā in the Shringerī Guru paraṁparā, had requested Me to come here (Tiruvananthapuram) with lot of devotion, and so had his kin. This gave Me good reason to come here. Moreover, many people who had requested Me to come were from Abhinava Vidya Teertha Nagar, this strengthened the intent to come and grace this place. This is another cause of ahaṁkāra [laughs]. Even if we are meditating constantly on the nameless and formless Brahman as our own identity, when it comes to transacting with the world, it seems that names and forms have their own importance. So even though I don’t have any name in reality, for the sake of transactions I do have a name, and I do feel the kinship with a place which is named after Me. Most importantly, when people address Me with devotion, I am most obligated to grace them. Therefore I have come here.

Svāmijī [the 36th Jagadguru] will do pūjā here tonight and bless all of you. I will also come here tomorrow morning and bless you all who have ample devotion. Then, as and when nightfall comes, I have to retire to My place. It is said – एकवृक्ष समारूढाः नानावर्णा विहङ्गमाः (ekavṛkṣa samārūḍhāḥ nānāvarṇāvihaṅgamāḥ) – if nightfall comes, all the birds go and rest on a tree. In the same way, for this bird (Me), there is a tree [laughs]. I retire to that tree. Later, when morning dawns, I roam around here and there, just like the birds.

Seeing your bhakti and śraddhā, I am very pleased. May the Lord bless you with all kinds of wealth and protect you always.

हर नमः पार्वतीपतये हरहर महादेव
hara namaḥ pārvatīpataye harahara mahādeva

जानकीकान्तस्मरणम् जयजय राम रामा
jānakīkāntasmaraṇam jayajaya rāma rāmā

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